Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Results of the Green Tomato Ripening Experiment

As you may remember, Hubby Dear and I decided to try two different ways of ripening the green tomatoes we were left with when frosty weather set in last month. We wanted to see which method, if any, could extend our harvest of fresh, ripe tomatoes into the winter months.

October 18: Green and under-ripe tomatoes saved from the frost

The first, most tedious method, involved picking the remaining tomatoes from each plant, dipping the tomatoes into a bleach water solution, allowing them to air dry, and then placing them in a single layer inside a newspaper-lined cardboard box. This took a while to accomplish and then I had to find an out-of-the-way place to stash the cardboard boxes.

At first, the bleach/cardboard method seemed to work just fine, but after a few weeks, the tomatoes started shriveling up as they ripened.

November 19: Something doesn't smell so good...

By mid-November, things had taken a decided turn for the worst and we had to throw away the remaining tomatoes.

October 18: Fresh from the garden

The other procedure we tried involved uprooting an entire plant and placing it upside down in our garage.

November 26: the foliage is brown, but the tomatoes are still ripening

This couldn't be easier. All we have to do is pick the tomatoes as they ripen. I don't think they taste quite as nice as your typical backyard tomato, but they sure beat anything you'll find in a grocery store. Every so often, one of the tomatoes will shrivel, but not to the extent of the other ripening method.

The winner by a landslide is obviously method two. Unless a tomato plant is simply too large and unwieldy to bring inside without mutilating it, this is going to be our go-to procedure.

Homegrown tomatoes during the Christmas season? I'm loving it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bouillon Cubes vs. Veggie Broth Mix Taste Test

After I posted about an interesting alternative to bouillon cubes that used nutritional yeast, I quickly ordered a can of the mysterious substance. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it so I could put it the supposedly-delicious broth mix through its paces.

When the nutritional yeast arrived, I have to admit that I was blown away by just how much nutritional yeast lives up to its name.

Nutrition facts for KAL nutritional yeast.
I'd like to see you match that, salty, junk-filled bouillon cube! I took a tentative taste of the yeast flakes and found that they actually taste pretty good. It has a savory, almost cheesy taste.

I measured out 1-1/2 cups of the yeast and followed the recipe as written in my previous post. All of the other ingredients for the broth mix are common pantry ingredients.

The finished mix 

The next step was to see how the broth mix fared in a test with that most basic of survival foods - rice.

The cast of characters: bouillon cubes, chicken broth, a rice cooker, broth mix, and white rice

Here's how it worked: I cooked 2 cups of rice in 2-1/2 cups of liquid - chicken broth, reconstituted chicken bouillon or reconstituted veggie broth mix. I didn't add any additional salt or seasonings. I used my rice cooker for all batches for consistency's sake.

After all three batches of rice were finished, I turned my crack team of taste testers loose (ie. my children and husband) and asked for their honest feedback.

Clockwise: Chicken broth-cooked rice, bouillon rice, veggie broth mix rice

The verdict 

The rice cooked in chicken broth was the winner. It was well-seasoned and tasted chicken-y. It was a definite improvement over plain rice.

The rice cooked in bouillon was the big loser! All but one of us put it in last place. It didn't taste anything like chicken and was overwhelmingly salty.

What about the rice cooked in the veggie broth mix? Well, it was definitely tasty. The problem was that I had a hard time looking past the textural problems. If you look at the photo above, you can see that the rice came out mushy and a bit over-cooked. I'm not sure why that happened since cooking rice in a rice cooker is usually foolproof. The rice didn't taste like chicken, but it was definitely flavorful. Hubby Dear said it kind of tasted like Rice a Roni, which is NOT a compliment coming from him. Besides the funny texture of the rice, my major issue with the veggie mix batch was that it lacked salt. That's an easy fix. I'll just add more salt to the broth mix than is called for in the original recipe.


Chicken broth was the overall winner, but it is bulky and relatively expensive. The cheaper alternative, bouillon cubes, produced results that were deemed unpalatable. The veggie broth mix is a viable alternative to bouillon cubes. It tastes good (when you tweak the recipe a bit), is healthy, and has an equal storage life to bouillon cubes.

I think I'll stick with chicken broth for my everyday cooking but kick the bouillon cubes to the curb. My food storage just got a little healthier. :)    

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Birth of our Survival Orchard: Planting Pecan Trees

We began our survival orchard by planting pecan trees.Why pecans? I'm glad you asked! I think nuts are really important survival foods because of their protein and fat content. We are at the northern most part of the country where pecans can survive, which violates my principle of choosing only trees that are unfailingly hardy in our area. Walnuts (among other nut trees) would have been a better choice.

Well, Hubby Dear detests walnuts and most other nuts besides pecans. As I needed his help planting and maintaining the trees, pecans it would have to be. Besides, I spent a couple of years of my life living in the midst of a pecan grove down in Louisiana and I have been a fan ever since of the graceful, productive pecan tree. We chose the most cold-hardy varieties we could find (Starking Hardy Giant, Stark Surecrop, and Colby) and are crossing our fingers that they like our chilly hilltop homestead.

How could I resist the opportunity to have my own mini pecan grove?
Image from

The other issue with pecan trees is that they take a long time to bear fruit. It can be anywhere from 5-12 years to get a crop of pecans and 20 years for a pecan tree to reach its full size (and they do get BIG). Pecan trees grown in containers tend to transplant better than bare-root trees and grafted pecan trees tend to produce nuts earlier, so keep that in mind if you're looking to add one or more of these fruitful giants to your landscape. And don't make the mistake that we did. We procrastinated and did not place our order for special "Select" pecan trees from Stark Bros. until they had already been for sale for two weeks. By the time we placed our order, they were sold out of Select trees and we had to settle for the runts of the litter. Our procrastination cost us at least two additional years before we'll see nuts.

A view of the southwest corner of our property

Pecan trees get large, but luckily we have lots of space to fill. They need to be about 40' apart and well away from any power lines. We selected this space at the southwest corner of our 5 acres. We decided to be responsible citizens for a change and call to get our utility lines marked before we planted the trees. Hubby Dear gave a very specific description of the area we would be digging in when he filled out the online form for One Call:


Seems straightforward to me.

I'm glad to know my backyard is OK... 

Apparently not. This is what ended up getting marked - the area between our house and the chicken moat! Oh well. At least we were able to scavenge the flags the doofus left behind to mark the spots where we wanted to plant each tree.

We crossed our fingers that we wouldn't hit anything, marked out positions for the three trees and got to work. Thankfully we had gotten 3-1/2 inches of precipitation over the previous week and it served to loosen things up slightly.

See the line of demarcation between topsoil and clay?

I have a long history of bemoaning our poor soil. I was surprised to find that this portion of our property actually has several inches of topsoil. This is MUCH better than in our backyard garden area. I was excited to find lots of earthworms as we dug.

One hole down...

The goal is to get a hole that is roughly 2' across and 2' deep. We dug down to 18" pretty easily, but past that point the clay was impenetrable to our shovels. Oh well, it would just have to do!

We took the topsoil and the best bits of the clay and mixed it in a wheelbarrow with some peat moss and compost. We used this mixture to fill in the holes. The addition of peat moss and compost  will help loosen things up a bit for the trees. The trees themselves were tiny and came in 4"x10" pots. By the time they grow enough that their root systems fill the hole we dug, they should be strong enough to contend with the unamended soil that surrounds the place they were planted. That's the theory, anyway!

Our teeny tiny Colby pecan tree. Don't be fooled by the much larger bamboo support stake!

We tamped down the soil mix tightly around the tree, eliminating air pockets that could cause the tree to dry out and die. Then we watered, watered, watered. Pecan trees really need a lot of water but unfortunately, these trees are far away from any faucet or hose. I'm comforting myself by the thought that lugging 5 gallon buckets of water around all summer is sure to build up my biceps.

We used some of the most dense pieces of clay to create small berms around the planting site. They work nicely to keep water around the trees and prevent it from running off downhill before it can soak in.

Stark Surecrop Pecan Tree with Typar weedcloth circle and mulch

The next step was to lay a circle of landscape fabric around each tree and cover it with several inches of mulch. This will help to retain soil moisture and make mowing and trimming easier.

The finished product. As you can tell, it took us all afternoon to complete the job. 

The final step was to place a tree guard around each tree. Tree guards are white plastic coils that protect trees both from rodent damage and sunscald.

That's it! Hopefully the little trees will thrive and grace us with beauty, shade, and lots of pecans.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Planning a Survival Orchard

We've made a lot of progress towards self-reliance on our little homestead this year. We converted our vegetable garden to a square foot-type garden and had our first successful growing season since we moved to this location. Good thing, because it was a lot of work building all those boxes and filling them with 1,000s of pounds of Mel's Mix! We're also set up to get chickens in the spring. The next step is to begin planting our homestead's orchard.

I know not everyone lives on acreage in the country, but that's not a reason why you can't plant something. If you live in an apartment, why not try a window box of strawberries? If you have an average-sized suburban yard, you have lots of options. Many fruit trees come in dwarf varieties. Or you could train them against a fence, put a colonnade-type fruit tree in a pot on your deck, or even fill your flowerbeds with gorgeous, edible landscaping. Have you seen The Prudent Homemaker's garden? Wow! Talk about inspiring! Also, check out the book Landscaping With Fruit by Lee Reich for lots of great ideas.

You can train fruit trees against a sunny wall
Image from

When considering what types of trees to plant in a survival orchard, you may want to keep these things in mind:
  1. What can I plant that will give me the most vital nutrients? 
  2. How easy will it be to care for?
  3. How will I use the fruit?
Vital nutrients - fruit and nuts as survival food

Many of us today are over-fed and under-exercised, myself included. In the future, instead of counting calories for weight loss, we might be trying to scrape together enough calories to survive. A survival orchard would be very useful in such a scenario. Take pecans, for instance. One cup of pecan halves contains approximately 700 calories, 71 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. Pecans also have a decent shelf life, particularly if you store them in the shell. Or you can shell them and then freeze or vacuum seal them. This makes the pecan - or any nut, for that matter - a great survival food. Check out this post on Survival Blog for someone else's take on the apple as the ultimate survival food. 

Ease of care

When it comes to fruit trees, there are so many choices. Take apples, for instance. My favorite nursery, Stark Bros., sells well over 30 varieties of apples. The selection is mind-boggling. 

Once you select the kind of apple you want to grow, then you have to consider how large you want your tree to be. Dwarf fruit trees generally run 8-10 feet tall, semi-dwarfs are 12-15 feet, and standard sized trees are about 18-25 feet. Dwarfs are obviously smaller and therefore easier to care for, but they also have a shorter lifespan and do yield less fruit per tree. A standard sized tree has a long life span and will yield a ton of fruit, but you have to contend with harvesting and pruning such a large tree. We have decided to go for the best of both worlds and get semi-dwarf trees when we have that option.  

Semi-dwarf apple trees
Image from

Yet another consideration is disease-resistance. We try to garden organically, so selecting disease-resistant varieties is really important for us. Even if you don't garden organically now, when TSHTF, you may be forced to. A survival orchard is best served by selecting varieties that thrive in the weather conditions of your area and that are resistant to the prevalent pests.   

Fire  blight - a major pestilence around here
Image from

Don't forget to plant pollinators, if necessary. Some fruit and nut trees self-pollinate, others must be pollinated by another tree, and still others bear more fruit if they have a pollinator nearby.

How will you eat it?

Lastly, think about how you exactly you will be using the fruit. Have you ever noticed that some apples that taste like ambrosia when eaten out of hand sometimes taste like nothing when baked in a pie? Certain varieties of fruit are best for canning. Others are great for drying, stay fresh even after months in a root cellar, or are best appreciated fresh off the tree. Decide how you will be eating the fruit now so you will not be disappointed later.


With all these factors in mind, we've created a general outline for building our orchard here in USDA Hardiness Zone 5.

Our Existing Perennial Fruits:
1. Blackberries - 3 Chester and 3 Triple Crown. This is just about the right amount of blackberries for our family.
2. Raspberries - Heritage.  The raspberries we planted this spring to add to our existing patch didn't make it. We'll try again in the spring.
3. Strawberries - Earliglo (June bearing) and Tribute (everbearing). The majority of our strawberries mysteriously died, but they will be replaced next year. The strawberries that survived produced fruit that tasted amazing.
4. Sour cherry - Montmorency. This freebie has never gotten the TLC it deserved. I'm going to pamper it next year and see if I can't get it to do something.

Triple Crown Blackberries, Raspberries in the background, May 2011

Orchard Planting Plan (Type of plant, varieties, date of planting): 

1. Pecan trees - Starking Hardy Giant, Stark Surecrop, and Colby, Fall '11.
2. Apple - Goldrush, Enterprise, Jonafree, Crimsoncrisp, Honeycrisp, Spring '12/Fall '13
3. Blueberries - Bluecrop, Blueray, EarligloJersey, Spring '12/ Spring '14
4. Almond - All-in-One Almond, Fall '12
5. Pear - Maxine (aka Starking Delicious), Seckel, Fall '12
6. Plum - Stanley,  2-N-1 (Shiro/Redheart) Spring '13/Spring '14
7. Peach - Intrepid, Contender, Spring '13/Fall '13
8. Cherry - Surecrop, Starkrimson Spring '13/Spring '14
9. Nectarine - Sunglo, Spring '13
10. Apricot - Harglow, Fall '13
11. Walnut - Stark Champion English, Lake English, Spring '14
9. Lemon* - Meyer Lemon, Spring '14

*The lemon tree is the one plant we've selected that is not hardy in our area. I am a true lemon lover, however, and cannot imagine a world without lemons. We plan on planting it in a container and bringing it indoors in the winter.

Fruit and nut trees do take several years before they will bear fruit. Ideally, we would get all the trees into the ground now so they would be productive ASAP. We have to balance that desire with reality. We are expanding our homestead rapidly and are likely to crash and burn if we don't pursue moderation.

We broke ground on our orchard over the weekend. I'll post all the hairy details in an upcoming post.

Do you have any fruit or nut trees? Plans to plant some? Do tell! :) 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Possible Replacement for Bouillon Cubes in Your Food Storage

I hate bouillon cubes. First of all, I can never open the stupid foil papers they are wrapped in. When I finally get the cube out and pop it in my soup or whatever I'm cooking, I'll usually find stubborn pieces of foil floating to the top. Even worse, the ingredients in most bouillons are scary. Here's the list of ingredients in the Tone's Chicken Bouillon I have in my food storage:

Salt, sugar, partially hydrogenated palm oil, monosodium glutamate (MSG), cornstarch, and less than 2% of onion powder, chicken fat and meat, garlic powder, turmeric (color), disodium inosinate, spices, TBHQ (preservative).  MADE ON EQUIPMENT THAT ALSO PROCESSES WHEAT, MILK, EGGS, SOY, SHRIMP, AND FISH.

Does that make you hungry? No? It practically gives me an anaphylactic reaction to think about eating all that junk, and I don't even have any food allergies! Not exactly the feeling I want to have when I'm preparing food for my children.

Yet it can't be denied that bouillon is one of the cheapest, most versatile seasonings that you can have on hand. If I was living on a diet of beans and rice, I wouldn't care how much sodium or MSG was in that bouillon cube; I would be thankful for its punch of flavor.

There are other alternatives to the humble bouillon cube, of course. You could store cans of chicken broth. The problem with that is cans of broth take up much more room and are more expensive per unit. You could also buy some of the premium chicken bouillons that are out there. I have had people tell me good things about Shirley J's Chicken Bouillon. It does have only about 1/2 the sodium of standard bouillons, but it also contains hydrolyzed soy protein which is a source of MSG. What to do?

I went ahead and stocked up on cheap bouillon cubes during my Food Storage Blitz Month, but I haven't felt good about that decision. Then a friend shared this YouTube video with me. It seems there is a quick and easy alternative to canned bouillons and broths that is very food storage friendly!

Here's the recipe shared in the video: 

Veggie Chicken Broth Mix
1-1/2 c. nutritional yeast
3 T. onion powder
2-1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. salt
1 t. celery seed
2-1/2 T. Italian Seasoning
2 T. dry parsley

Mix in ingredients in blender and then store broth mix in an air-tight container. Add 1 T. of mix per cup of water and use as chicken or veggie broth in recipes.

So what is nutritional yeast anyway? 

Nutritional yeast is the same kind kind of yeast that you use to make bread, but it has been subjected to a process that renders it inert. It adds a lot of nutrition and flavor to food. You might be able to find nutritional yeast in your local health food store, but if you are like me and live in a place where you can't dependably buy high-class food like boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you can order it on here. The rest of the ingredients are items I always have in my pantry. 

Nutritional yeast has a shelf life of about 2 years if you store it in an air-tight container in a cool location - approximately the same shelf life as a bouillon cube! 

And how does it taste? 

My friend reports that it is delicious! She used broth made from this mix in French onion soup and her family raved about it. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm going to order some nutritional yeast, whip up a batch of broth mix, and report back. 

What place does broth/bouillon have in your food storage? Are you bothered by food additives or could you not care less? 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ask the Readers: How do you keep frozen bread tasting fresh?

Homemade bread - including my successful Sun Oven experiment

Please allow me a bit of a brag: I have stopped buying bread at the store altogether. Between my NutriMilland my Bosch mixer,making bread with wheat from my food storage couldn't be easier. I bake four loaves at a time (the Bosch can handle six, but I only have four bread pans!) and freeze them.

Here's the problem: my frozen loaves just aren't as moist and tasty as they are when fresh.I have experimented with the type of sugar I use in the bread - white sugar, honey, or brown sugar. I have experimented with the type of wrapping I give the bread before freezing it - a freezer bag, foil, or a layer of plastic wrap, then foil.

Nothing I've tried seems to make much of a difference.

So I ask you, gentle readers: what are your best tricks for freezing bread so that the taste and texture when it thawed is like freshly baked bread? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some Not-So-Sweet News About Honey

Honey is a major part of most food storage plans and for good reason. It is versatile, has a very long storage life, and is a compact source of a lot of calories. (It sounds funny to think of a time when the fact that something has a lot of calories would be a good thing, doesn't it?) The LDS church recommends that each family store 3 lb of honey per adult and 1 lb per child.

I came to the conclusion that we need to store much more than the recommended amount of honey for our family. The main reason is because I prefer to use honey as the sweetener when I make bread from my stored wheat. I calculated how much honey it would take to make bread for a year and that led me to the amount I have stored - around 45 pounds. (Check out my post on what types of sugar I have in my food storage if you missed it the first time around.)

With that much honey hanging around, it isn't surprising that this article posted on Facebook caught my attention:

If you read through the article, you'll find that Food Safety News tested massive amounts of honey from all over the country. They bought honey at the places the average citizen is likely to frequent - grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and even the individual serving packets found at fast food restaurants. The vast majority of the samples didn't have even a trace of pollen. 

You might be wondering why the absence of pollen is a problem. There are several reasons to be concerned. First of all, to quote the Food Safety News article, "In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey." Comparing natural honey with pollen to ultra-filtered honey without pollen reminds me of the differences between dark chocolate and white chocolate. Both dark and white chocolates are sweet products that contain parts of the cacao plant, but white chocolate is missing the cocoa solids of real chocolate. The cocoa solids are what provide that delicious, chocolate-y flavor I depend on to make it through my some of the traumatic moments in my harried life. White chocolate is OK, but it definitely is not the same. Following this analogy, why would I choose to buy honey that was missing all the good stuff?

Next, the pollen in honey is what provides all those wonderful health benefits to those who consume it. It also gives each type of honey (ie. clover, tupelo, etc.) a distinctive taste. It is pollen that keeps honey from being just another sugar syrup.

The last thing pollen does for honey is give scientists a way to track where the honey originated. Without the pollen, a honey distributor can mix together honeys from different regions or nations and it will all pretty much taste the same. That cheerful plastic bear hiding in your pantry might very well contain honey from China. Chinese honey is NOT something you want to have as part of your diet. It is common for Chinese honey to contain dangerous antibiotics that are banned in the USA or to be diluted with corn syrup. As the article relates, Chinese honey is making its way into the US in massive amounts and the government isn't trying to stop it.

I have been buying my honey in 5 lb bottles at Sam's Club. No more! That honey is on the list of pollen-free honeys cited in the article. I'm going to look for a local source of honey and may get into beekeeping myself someday. It may be a bit more expensive and require some effort to find local, less-processed honey, but at least I'll know it will be chock full of pollen and poison-free!

Read more about Chinese honey here. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Conflicted Mind

Sometimes I feel like I live between two different worlds and I can't tell which one is reality.

The first world is the one explored in books like Patriots, Survivors,and One Second After. The end of the world as we know it is discussed as fact on many of my regular Internet haunts and, increasingly, in the mainstream media. In this world, it is apparent that the old ways are passing away and something new - and quite possibly sinister - is approaching.
One Second After still haunts me
The second world is optimistic and sparkles with cheerful consumerism. According to this version of reality, there may be slight bumps in the road, but life will always be good in the US of A. Nothing really bad can ever happen here. The comfortable lifestyle that my family enjoys is secure because we have plenty of that green paper stuff that passes for wealth.

One world urges me to focus on preparedness. NOW. The other entreats me to stop being a killjoy and start planning my next vacation. Which world reflects the true reality?

My guess is that reality is somewhere between those two visions. I pray that we never have a total breakdown of society such as that depicted in the aforementioned books, but I do believe that harder times are coming. I feel led by the Holy Spirit to prepare, specifically in the area of food storage. That is reason enough for a Christian to venture into prepping, however, it's not always easy. It gets very tempting to give up when I think that I could be remodeling my kitchen instead of buying MREs!

Do any of you struggle with conflicted feelings regarding preparedness? Why do YOU prepare? 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Using Your Food Storage: Wheatberry Salad

When I saw this recipe in the American Profile insert in our local paper, I immediately knew I had to pass it on. Not only is it based around wheat berries, something most preppers have in abundance, but many of the other ingredients are also commonly found in people's food storage. I store things like Dijon mustard, pecans, and Worcestershire sauce as part of my three month supply and I grow both sage and thyme in my herb garden. I'm sure you could even use dry celery and apples in place of fresh. I can't wait to try this recipe out!

Wheatberry Salad

2 c. wheat berries (ie. wheat kernels)
4 qt. water
1 c. diced celery
1 lb roughly chopped smoked turkey or rotisserie chicken
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. chopped pecans
3 T. walnut or corn oil
2 T. cider vinegar
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 T. chopped fresh sage or 1 t. dried
2 t. fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 t. dried
1 t. salt
1/2 t. coarsely ground black pepper

Place wheat berries in a large pot; add water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Drain in a colander and cool.

Place wheat berries in a large bowl; stir in remaining ingredients. Serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 10.

Friday, November 4, 2011

In Which I Make Tasteless Pumpkin Puree

I bought The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe several months ago. Right away, I knew that I had discovered a true gem for those of us with a preparedness mindset. I just wish I had made it to the chapter on squash and pumpkins before yesterday.

This is what I found on page 199 about Cucurbita pepo, the squash species that includes the "Baby Pam" pie pumpkins we harvested in September:

 "...pepos require only seven to fourteen days of curing.... The pepos are prime right after the curing period 
and deteriorate from there, with the flesh getting stringier, and the sugar and flavor going downhill."

Ack! I should have processed our pumpkins long ago! Well, now I know, and if you grew up in the 80s you'll remember that knowing is half the battle.

Part of me wanted to just forget the whole idea of pumpkin puree and to simply enjoy the pumpkins as fall decorations. Well, that wouldn't make a very exciting blog entry, would it?

Washing the pumpkins

I picked through our pumpkins and selected the six pumpkins that felt heavy for their size. They ranged from 1lb 5 oz to over 2 lb in weight. They got a quick wash.

Oiled up and ready to bake 

I rubbed their skins with a little oil and placed them directly on the rack in my 400 degree oven. I was very glad that I remembered to put a baking sheet underneath the pumpkins because several of them definitely oozed as they baked.


It took about 45 minutes for the smallest pumpkins to cook completely and over an hour for the largest one. I removed them from an oven when I could slide a paring knife into the pumpkin without any resistance.

Halved and ready to scoop out the seeds

It was very easy to slice the pumpkins open. I'm so glad that I chose to roast the pumpkin first rather than slice the pumpkin while it was still raw. I like having all my fingers, thank you very much!

After I scooped out the seeds and stringy business, it was a simple task to remove the pulp from the pumpkin skin. Easy peasy!

At this point, I gave the pulp a tentative taste. It certainly didn't smell like the pumpkin you get from a can. It also didn't taste like canned pumpkin. It didn't taste like much of anything, in fact.

I proceeded on and pureed the pulp in batches in my food processor. Then I froze the puree in 1 cup portions in FoodSaver baggies.

So now I have 5 cups of tasteless pumpkin puree hanging out in my freezer. I'd call this experiment a big FAILURE. The process was certainly easy, but end result was poor. But you can bet I'll never forget to process my pumpkins on time!

Please tell me I'm not alone when it comes to kitchen failures! I feel like I've had more than my fair share recently.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October in Review and November 2011 Preps

Is it just me or did October go by in the blink of an eye? I can hardly believe it is November and that Christmas is just around the corner. 

I don't feel like I did very much to prep this month. I bought a few new books to add to our survival library and added some odds and ends to our food storage (another gallon of oil and a few canned goods) but that's it. Hmm... I'll have to do better in November! 

I did have my first successful culinary experience with a Sun Oven.It makes me feel a lot more secure to know that I can bake bread without electricity - assuming that the sun is shining!

We also harvested the last tomatoes and peppers of the year. Both of the methods we are using to ripen green tomatoes are working well. It feels luxurious to have so many delicious tomatoes on hand when it is so cold outside.

Last, but certainly not least, we completed our chicken moat. I've wanted chickens for at least five years and I'm so excited that I finally get to buy chicks this spring! 

For November:

  • We still need to plant the seed garlic we bought last month. Gotta get that in the ground soon.
  • Our three pecan trees are due to be shipped soon so we'll be planting them as well.  
  • I plan to process my pie pumpkins and freeze the pulp. The last of our cayenne peppers should finish drying this month and I'm planning on grinding them up for ground red pepper. We shall see if I can accomplish both of those objectives without chopping off any body parts or suffering wicked chile burns. 
  • I've been using a borrowed Sun Oven for my solar oven experiments. I think I'm going to bite the bullet and buy one of my own. It is definitely an investment, but I think it is worth it. Yes, I've had some less than successful experiments, but I'm finally figuring out how to make the Sun Oven work for me. 
  • I plan on taking advantage of the holiday sales to stock up on food storage items. I'm going to focus on chocolate chips, brownie mixes, sugar, flour, and other baking items. 
  • Speaking of baking, I have a problem that I need your help with. It's time for another "Ask the Readers" post. Stay tuned for that later this week.

How did you prepare in October? What are your plans for this month?