Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Braid and Store Onions

This year's garden production has been absolutely outstanding and our crop of storage onions was no exception. Here's a quick tutorial on how to store your harvest to use for months to come.

We had onions in both a double box and a shorter box. This was taken in mid June,
 about a month prior to harvest. 

Before you go to the trouble of braiding your onions for long(er) term storage, make sure your onions are a variety that will store well. Some onions keep for up to a year, but others (think Vidalia and many other sweet onions) only last a few weeks. We grew Patterson yellow storage onions this year and with care, they should keep into next spring. You can start onions from seed, from sets, or with plants. Onions started from sets do not store as well as those grown from seed or plants, so keep that in mind as well.

You will know your onions are ready to be harvested when the tops start to flop over and go brown. As long as the weather is dry, we let them stay in the the garden for a few days beyond that and then bring them into our garage to dry out some more. 

A batch of onions newly harvested from our garden.

If you are not going to braid your onions, you might want to allow them to dry for up to three weeks. That lets the foliage dry out completely, preventing mold and letting you cut the leaves from the bulb with ease. Since we were braiding ours, we let them set for about 3 days or so, just enough to begin the drying process but not so long that the leaves would be too brittle to braid. 

The Process

Here's how to do it. It might take you a few tries to create a neat braid, but it really isn't too hard. Even sloppy braids will store well.  

Crisscross three onions together just like you were braiding hair. 

Tie the onions tightly together with a piece of twine. This string will become
 part of the braid, so make sure you cut it nice and long. 

Put the long end of the twine in with the center onion's leaves. 

Begin to braid, making sure to braid the twine along with the onion leaves.

Put another onion in the center, adding its leaves to the existing strand. 

Braid the onion in to secure it. 

Add two more onions, one on the left and one on the right. Make sure you line
up their leaves with the existing strands. You will always have three strands of leaves and
you just keep adding more onions and their leaves into the braid. Note the twine is still part of the braid.  

Keep on braiding. 

Keep adding onions and braiding until you have run out of onions. If you have lots of
onions, stop while your braid is still a manageable size/weight. Once you have added
your last onion, keep braiding the remaining leaves.

Double the leaf "handle" over.

Tie it securely using the end of the twine. 

Viola! Your braid is now ready to be hung up. When you want an onion, simply cut one from
the braid. Our first braid is on the left. You can see that it took us a
 little practice to make a nice, tight braid.  

The ideal storage conditions for onions are 32-40 degrees F and 65-70% humidity. I don't have any place like that available to me at the moment, so we simply hung them up to a rafter in our basement storage room. A root cellar would be ideal. If you keep the onions in a cool dark place, they will last up to a year.


Harvesting and Storing Onions  

Do you grow your own onions? How do you store your onions? 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

In Case You Missed It...

I have a sidebar on the right side of my blog page where I keep a running tally of our harvest totals. I know many of you access this blog through a feed reader and you might have missed it, so here ya go! 

Our 2013 egg count as of August 10:

1863 chicken eggs & 1076 duck eggs

Needless to say, we have lots of extra eggs and have been selling them to help recoup our costs.  Keeping poultry is not by any means a money maker for us. We estimate that it costs us about $3.25 for each dozen eggs produced and we sell our eggs for less than that. Still, it is something.    

We've sold a few ducklings and duck hatching eggs, too. 

Garden Harvest and Preservation Totals 

Current as of August 7:

- 81 Radishes
- 192.9 oz Swiss Chard
- 40.6 oz Mesclun Salad Mix
- 31 heads of Lettuce
- 149 heads and (mostly) side shoots of Broccoli
- 2.3 oz Spinach
- 992 Strawberries.
      - I canned 18 half-pints of jam and we ate the rest.
- 61.6 oz Pod Peas. I froze most of these.
-4 bunches of Thyme
- 102.6 oz Kale
- 16 heads of Garlic
- 109.7 oz Shelling Peas
- 22.6 oz. Blueberries
- 11 Cherries
- 77.7 oz Raspberries
A bowl of blueberries and raspberries

- Nearly 27 POUNDS Blackberries, which has been processed into:
      -10.5 pints of Raspberry/Blackberry Jam
     - 11.5 pints of Blackberries, frozen
     - 6 qt. Blackberry Fruit Leather
- 68 Cucumbers:
     - 7 pints Bread and Butter Pickles
     - 2 qt. + 1 pint Sweet Icicle Pickles
     - 6 qt. Dill Pickles
     - 2 gallons Deli-Style Dill Pickles, currently fermenting
Flavoring Agents for Deli-Style Dills
- 2 pints of dried oregano leaves
- 213.2 oz Green Beans. I froze these, too.
- 7 heads of Cabbage
- 100 Carrots
-160 Beets
     -We ate some and I pickled and canned 3 pints.
- 4 Zucchini
- 2 Watermelons
- 19+ Pounds of potatoes
- 171 onions, dried and braided for storage (Expect a post on this soon.)
- 15 peppers of various kinds
- 17 tomatoes
- 2 ears of corn
- 1 cantaloupe

Harvest Basket

We still have room for improvement, but have been much encouraged by the bountiful harvest we've had this year. How is your garden growing? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: The Prepper's Cookbook

I was browsing through the other day and came across a new book that intrigued me -The Prepper's Cookbook: Essential Prepping Foods and Recipes to Deliciously Survive Any Disaster

Weirdly, I was contacted by the book's publisher the very next day and was offered a copy of the book to review. (Please note my review policy and disclaimer at the end of this post.)

The Prepper's Cookbookby Rockridge Press is available as either a print or an e-book. To me, a kindle is what you do to start a fire, so needless to say, I got the print edition.

This book is not exactly what I expected. I thought from the title that the book would mainly be recipes that utilize food storage; there is some of that, but not as much as you would think. The book is divided into four sections: Preparing Your Supplies and Food Stores, Water-Bath and Pressure Canning , Drying and Storing Your Food, and Quick and Easy Prepper Recipes.

The information included in the first section is very basic. You will not get a lot of guidance on what food you should be storing. The author seems focused on short-term emergencies and recommends that you keep 3 days to a week's worth of food for each family member. I did like the chapter that discussed various powerless cooking options.  The contents of the canning and dehydrating sections will be found (and in greater depth, at that) in any canning/preserving cookbook. It quickly covers canning jam, pickles, fruit, vegetables and meat, as well as drying fruit, vegetables, and jerky.

The Quick and Easy Prepper Recipes section reminds me of a Girl Scout camping cookbook. The recipes are mainly prepared in a Dutch Oven and rely on home-canned produce and meat. These recipes would work well in a short-term emergency or camping trip. The recipe for Apple Fritters perplexed me because it contained absolutely no apples; I know lots of us store dried apples, so that would be an easy ingredient to incorporate. Other than a bit of dried milk and eggs, you will not find recipes that use much of the food that you are storing if you follow the LDS recommendations (wheat, dried beans, etc.).

If you are just starting and need guidance on the first steps toward becoming prepared, I would recommend the book Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient when the Unexpected Happens instead. If you'd like recipes that use traditional food storage, Cookin' with Home Storage or the Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook will better serve your purpose. The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving has a wider array of information on home canning and freezing and I haven't found a book on dehydration to beat Preserve It Naturally , the manual that came with my Excalibur Dehydrator.

In summary,The Preppers Cookbook is not horrible, but probably not worth purchasing unless you have to have every prepper-themed book on the market. Borrow this one from the library.

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Callisto Media and sent a free copy of The Prepper's Cookbook. As always, I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my own.