Archive for the ‘The Stockpile’ Category

We move across the continent in 21 days, My Man is completely immersed in finals, and I am suffering from some kind of severe back problem. Considering the circumstances, what do you think I was doing last night? Packing boxes? Resting the shooting pains in my back after a 14 hour day of full time parenting? Watching stupid movies with My Man in attempt to escape our workload? Sleeping?

No. I was canning strawberry jam. Is this a symptom of something more serious? Inability to travel without carefully packed jars of preserved local bounty? When we moved here from Alaska I flew with 70 pounds of frozen wild game and fish, packed into two enormous coolers, and I sent 5 boxes of home canned smoked salmon through the mail to meet us.

I will not return empty handed. Or empty jarred.

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Apron Stringz is two years old! Over that time, the content has grown like a nursing baby with knee dimples. While much of what I write is just day-to-day flotsam, I do sometimes crank out a useful and, I feel, enduring post. And I hate that blogs (at least, free ones like mine) don’t support any decent kind of index for these posts. Blogs are ephemeral, meant to be enjoyed hot off the presses, I guess. But it bugs me to no end that our hard work, one week after publishing is more or less lost to the world.

So here is a directory of posts on the wide subject of food. These are all posts with a more practical edge, those that you might reference. There’s an equal number of my more journal-style posts which I have left out, particularly on the subject of gardening. They make an interesting read if you like that sort of thing (and if you read this blog, you probably do) but seemed less in need of reference-able indexing. If you’re going for the journal aspect, try the archives. A few brave souls have apparently read start to finish.

How to Make Home Cooking Work:

Kitchen Efficiency

Real Life Kitchens: Part One

Part Two: The Sink

Part Three: Work Zones

Part Four: Microzones

Cooking Efficiency

Not Menu Planners — solace for the rest of us

Dinner in Real Life

If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen — summer cooking


Cast Iron Cookery

Rescuing and Seasoning Cast Iron

Cast Iron for the Rest of Us — taking care of your pans

What and How to Cook in Cast Iron


Caution: Martyr in the Kitchen

Sourcing Good Groceries:

Responsible Consumerism: How to Make it Work

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Part One

Part Two

Fair Trade is Fair

A Trip to the Grocery Store — peeping Tom my cart!

Whole Wheat Pasta Rises from the Grave

Punk Housewife Tip: Oil and Wine

Home Food Production:


Gardening for the Table

Harvest First, Cook Second

Planning an Efficient Garden — it’s all about follow-through

Self Irrigating Planters Made Easy


Just Wing It — build a half-assed coop and get by, if you need to

DIY Chicken Waterers

Egg Shells to Egg Shells

Preserving Local Bounties:

Bringing Home the Basil — how to make, store and use pesto

Monastery Marmalade — scavenged fruit and citrus pectin

Marmalade Redooo — note to self: it is entirely possible to make too much marmalade

Truly No-Nonsense Tomato Sauce

Ghee: Frying Local



Bread Evangelizing — the perfect cherry-popper bread recipe

Bread Every Day, Part One: Ingredients

Part Two: Techniques

Sprouted Wheat Bread: an exploration

Mastering Sprouted Wheat Bread!

Perfect Whole Grain Biscuits


Homemade Grape-Nuts — they’re just caramelized bread crumbs!

Grrr-nola: Make Your Own Breakfast Cereal and Stick it to Kellog Corp (from the old blog)

34 Times Round and a Recipe for German Pancakes

Bouquet of Choice: A Recipe for Swiss Chard Muffins

Anything But the Kitchen Sink — leftover granola muffins

Slow Cooker Leftover Granola Bread

If You Can’t Beet ‘Em — pink pancakes win major mama points

Leftover Easter Eggs to Savory Breakfast Pockets!

Food to Go (a well packed snack bag = less emergency food purchases)

Chewy Granola Bars

Surprising Kid Snacks — no recipe, just a plug for seaweed

A Problem of Sandwiches


Stop Buying Salad Dressing NOW

It’s What’s Fer Dinner — favorite quick meals

Baking Bonanza — home cooking in the real world, plus a recipe for easy lasagne

Good News For Half Beer Lovers — meat and/or mushroom carbonade

Green Tomato and Turkey Enchiladas

Swiss Chard Ravioli

Dinner Deconstructed: Ground Meat Patties, Brown Rice and Glazed Carrots — thorough instructions for beginner cooks

What to Feed Kids When You Really Need Them to Eat — at our house it’s macaroni and cheese’n’fish’n’peas

Sunday Dinner Any Day of the Week — pot roast your local grass fed carbon-neutral meat to melt-in-your-mouth perfection

Value Menu: Whole Chicken — get the most out of your $4/lb farmer’s market bird

Chicken an’ Bisket — my favorite roast chicken and what to do with the leftovers

Of Stock and Bullion (from the old blog)

Making Your Own “Canned” Soups (also the old blog)

Leftover Queen — savory vegetable pie

Empanadas: A Confession

Dinner Every Night: Pasta with Lentils

Not So Goaty Enchiladas

Dessert (which is to say mostly chocolate)

Chocolate: Cures What Ails Ya — the easiest way to stretch $9+/lb fair trade chocolate chips

The Best F***ing Brownies Ever

HOT Hot Chocolate — turn your thermostat down 5 degrees and whip up a batch!

Holiday Baking Party — German Christmas bread and super easy truffles

Food Recycling: Lickety Split Leftover Apple Pie — with the easiest ever pie crust

Flaky Whole Wheat Pie Crust — not the easiest, but so good


Do let me know if you find this index useful, it will help motivate me to keep it updated!

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Brianne over at the ever hilarious Real Mountain Values issued a plea for help yesterday. She is growing (her first?) garden and facing an oncoming glut of tomatoes. On the one hand I want to slap her, what with my own apparent inability to produce tomatoes. On the other hand I want to help a girl out.

Here’s the deal. That whole blanching and peeling business? I understand that some people feel it’s necessary, but I suspect they don’t have little squealers underfoot. In my personal, cowgirl Calamity opinion, blanching, peeling and seeding tomatoes in the hot of summer sounds like a curse akin to serpents and apples.

If you want some nicely peeled tomatoes for canning, save out your bigger babies and lavish them with the extra care. Then throw the rest of the sons-a-bitches in a big pot with half cup of water, stick a lid on, simmer until very soft, then blender the shit out of them. I love my stick blender for this, but a regular old blender will work fine so long as you let the ‘maters cool first to avoid explosions of boiling hot tomato all over your kitchen (seriously).

pesky little cherries and bigger tomatoes with a blemish on one side are prime candidates for this no-nonsense sauce

Make sure you process until they’re very smooth. I do find little bits of skin in my sauce, but it doesn’t bother me near so much as standing over a pot of boiling water for 40 minutes, dunking tomatoes three at a time. And the seeds have just never bothered me, though if they bother you, seeding fresh tomatoes is easy– cut in half across the equator, hold over your chicken bucket and squeeze. There, done.

As far as storage goes, you can freeze tomatoes whole, as in– throw those suckers in a bag and stick it in the freezer to process later. It works surprising well, but I don’t recommend it (unless you’re 9 months pregnant) because in my humble experience “later” is a faulty concept in homesteading endeavors. Like armagedon, “later” just never seems to come.

But what I do recommend if you have the freezer space is freezing the processed sauce. You can use plastic tupperware containers, straight sided jars (leave about 3/4 inch of space at the top for expansion) or even zip lock bags. I use wide-mouthed pint jars. I will admit to thawing them in the microwave when I’m in a hurry for dinner, but you can also stick them in a bowl of warm water to quick thaw. The advantage of tupperware is that you can pop the big square tomatosicle right out into the pot when you want it. Still, I feel funny about storing acidic foods in plastic, even though I apparently feel no compunction about the microwave. Go figure.

One last note, this no-nonsense sauce probably won’t be as thick and strongly tomato flavored as what you might be used to. An extra hour of simmering the puree will concentrate it, and a little spoon of sugar is never a bad idea with tomatoes. But if the tomato flavor still isn’t blowing your skirt up, and you aren’t yet producing your family’s entire yearly tomato supply anyway, why not just scrap the hard core ideals and stir in a can of store bought tomato paste? I’ve done it.

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You aren’t even reading this. You’re skipping right down to see if you won, aren’t you. Bad girl. Don’t you know, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game?

You all played your hearts out. Many a sad story was told. Many a project promised. One shameless reader posted a second comment to see if she could up her odds by pleading 50 pounds of frozen plums and eight months pregnant.


And yes, Anisa, I’ll bite. I do love me a shameless dame. You win.

The other 9 winners are: Kylie, Terri, Heather, Amanda, Inner Pickle, Jill, Holli, Kelsey and Jenn. Email me your addresses, ladies. scarletfevir (at) yahoo (dot) com

For the rest of you. Harriet gave out a whopping ten dvds. Can her commitment to the Hallows of Preserving be questioned? Go buy her damn video already. It’s only $35.

And here is a link to an old pesto making post. To get your juices flowing. Pesto is a great beginner project, it stores beautifully in the freezer, no canning involved. Like the fridge pickles, nothing whatsoever to worry about. Except using it up! I will admit to you that the massive pesto expedition described ended somewhat anti-climactically with an overly strong tasting pesto, because the basil was past it’s prime (fully flowering). I’ve used it up slowly, but I do believe there’s still one jar left in the freezer.

Not remotely incidental to the subject of preserving is the subject of failure. Read up on that post too, before you get into the kitchen. Not to intimidate you, on the contrary. Let the reality of failure embolden you! Yes, you will fuck up at some point. Better get on with it, so you can discover how and when.

And if you really want to waste some time, err, learn more by video, search youT*be for Sandor Katz. I know there’s at least one saurkraut how-to on there.

Now, let’s get hot in the kitchen.

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Wow. Nothing makes folks line up like a free anything, really smokes ’em out of the dark corners. Where have all you people been? I have to give you something (besides wise ass mama wisdom) for you to make yourselves known? Note to new commenters: stick around. Don’t be a stranger.

So far 24 of you poor sops have lined up with your cute little ‘pick me, pick me’ stories. Lucky for you, Harriet Fasenfest is a terrible capitalist. The whole point here was to promote her dvd so that you people would go out and buy it. As in, spend your hard earned money on it and make the world go round. But she left a note in amongst the pleas, err– comments, that she would donate 10 dvds to the greater cause of Getting Folks into the Preserving Kitchen.

Harriet. You need to go watch some F*x News. Money, and the exchange of it in a competitive capitalist system, is what is going to save us from economic catastrophe. Are you trying to sabotage America? Go now, do your due penance.

I thought I’d leave the comments open on the giveaway for a few more days, in case there are some worthy mamas too busy wiping noses, asses and floors to check in here.

In the meantime, since you all seem to be clamoring for some spark in the preserving department, I thought we’d do a little excercise. Refrigerator pickles. Just about the easiest preserving project I can think of, and a good gateway drug.

Not to taunt anyone, but summer is here in New Orleans– the cucumbers I planted along the front fence at our new fantabulous house are starting to come on. I’m so excited! The 3YO is a pickle fiend, and so naturally I planted a pickling variety of cukes. But don’t be put off, you can pickle any kind cucumber or any other vegetable for that matter.

Eventually you’ll learn how to make pickles fermented the old fashioned way or canned with vinegar. But for a first timer, refrigerator pickles are the easiest of all. There is nothing whatsoever to fear. You can make a single jar if you just want to test your meddle. No sterilization is required. The results are pretty predictable. This is basically just like marinated cucumbers, and they last for months.

So. You. Print this page out. Go buy some thin skinned cucumbers, or asparagus or whatever your fave pickled veg is (brussel sprouts anyone?) and a big jug of apple cider or plain white vinegar. Find a jar with a lid in your cupboard, any old jar. Maybe two.

Cut your cukes however you like, I do lengthwise quarters. Pack them, cold and raw, into your jar. Peel two cloves of garlic and throw those in along with some fresh or dried dill weed and pickling spices if you have them. Boil 1 cup vinegar, 3 cups water and 1/4 cup non-iodized salt and pour over cukes.

That’s it.


You can taste one after a few days if you want, no harm, except that they don’t taste like much right away. They’re overly salty and not sour enough. I suspect some small fermentation is happening because they get sourer over the next month or so.

There! You’ve made pickles! See? Thus emboldened, aren’t you ready to take over the world?

There were a few comments about fermenting, so I feel compelled to offer what I think is an essential piece of advice. I haven’t done all that much fermenting, but sometimes beginners give the best beginner advice. So here it is– Taste your ferment every single day, no cheating. Ferments are living things, constantly growing through their own lifecycle. My beloved Sandor Katz might like his sauerkraut at every age, but it took me some failures to find out that I myself only like it fresh out of high school. Bright, slightly tart, perky, thinking it knows everything. The window is narrow, and if I don’t taste my kraut every day, or even twice a day, I’ll miss it. Once it gets ripely satisfied with life, and humbles down to a softer, skunkier flavor, I just don’t like it anymore. Another day or two in this heat and it’s a disgusting mess. Fermenting is easy, getting the flavor you want out of your ferment is a bit trickier. Timing is everything!

As far as canning, I’ve done it all. I even wrote a two part zine article on it, back in the day. I wrote a post on canning jam the super easy way on my last blog Subsist/Resist. Apart from figs and tomatoes, there’s nothing to worry about when canning fruit. The worst that can happen is you lose a jar to mold. Really. Go fuck around. Have fun. You can break a lot of the rules if you want, so long as you’re canning fruit and don’t mind risking a botched jar. But if you follow the rules, you’ll definitely be fine.

Pressure canning is certainly more complicated, and important to get right. But those things are gold! If you have one, the world is your oyster. Low acid foods are not the place to wing it, but follow the instructions and you’ll be completely safe. Believe me, the USDA has made sure the rules cover all levels of intelligence. If you have any questions, ask me! Really! Email me at scarletfevir (at) yahoo. If I had my pressure cooker here in New Orleans I’d do a big post about it.

Culinate has a more thorough refrigerator pickle recipe, if you want more details. Non-iodized salt is easy to get at any grocery store. Pickling salt, kosher salt or sea salt are all good. Though there are some iodized sea salts. It will say right on the label, no tricks. Pickling spices too are easy to find in any spice section.

Cut! Boil! Pour! Refrigerate! Enjoy!

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On Tuesday, still half sick and under the constraints of my No-Frills Five, I went to the farmer’s market. List in hand, I dutifully got eggs, milk and beets. As for a treat (I’ve cultivated the bad habit of always getting us a treat there) The Toddler got a free sample of chocolate milk from the dairy folks.

I was quaffling on strawberries, in my head, knowing they’d be there. My No-Frills concept does not exclude grocery shopping, but it does limit me to things that are on my list of staples. Fruit is a staple. Local, in-season fruit is even noble, right? But we did already have tangerines and a pineapple (not local, but fair trade! was on sale at Whole Foods) at home to use up….

Then I saw the strawberry stand. My eyes instantly lit to the price sign, I’ve been waiting for the price to come down, end of the season style. Uh-oh. $12 for a flat?! Last week it was $28! Holy Shicksa baby!

Can’t pass that up, and why should I? That’s why I don’t believe in strict rule following. You’ve got to be open to opportunity!

In addition to the whole flat, I also finally got to do me some dumpster diving, of sorts. One of the stands I regularly buy from had a tub behind the counter, obvious culls. I asked if they were throwing it away, and whether I could take them. “Still good for cooking!” I said brightly. I offered to pay a small price, but they just let me take them. Sadly, they didn’t seem very happy about averting their waste stream. Oh well. Enthusiasm would be nice, but hey–I’m not proud, I’ll settle for permission. I dug out all the strawberries, and even a big bunch of green onions and a rutabaga.

Home, still half sick remember, I surveyed the contents of my compulsive hoarder larder. Entire flat of strawberries, plus a few extra pints. Onions needing cleaning. Heap of collards still in the fridge from the garden needing cooking, maybe even some for freezing. Beets for roasting for salads. Eeep. I’m gonna go take a nap.

Fortunately the strawberries needed a day to ripen up. Then I took two days to complete the jamming project. Wednesday I cut ’em all up (pureed half, diced the other half) and yesterday I set out to Jam.

Now. Citrus is all new to me. Marmalade might have me confounded Sunday through Monday. But berries, I know. It felt nice to do something I know. And, praise somebody-er-other, Whole Foods even had my beloved Pomona’s Pectin, which I hardly want to jam without.

The magic about yesterday though, was the kiddlets. The Toddler slept till 10!!! She normally gets up at 8. Not sure why this happened, but hey, why look a gift horse in the mouth? The Babe did his part by taking a two hour nap in the morning. There wasn’t much overlap there, but that’s okay. The Babe is the main speedbump anyway, Toddler is usually good to play at my feet for hours in the kitchen. Especially if I figure ways to let her help. She loves measuring stuff, turning the mixer on and off, and eating dough.

In my classic way I had thought it through like so, “Okay, gonna make jam. So, well, I might as well make granola, cuz we’re out, and then the jars can sterilize in the oven while the ‘nola bakes. And, I guess since the oven is on, I may as well make bread, cuz we’re almost out, and it’s getting so hot lately, this might be one of the last days I can really run the oven. But before I do anything, I’d better clean up the kitchen….”

So, by noon I was sitting down to lunch. I had made a shit-ton of jam, strawberry syrup, a double batch of granola and two loaves of bread. Now before you go thinking I’m some kind of One of Those People, let me inform you that the house, and especially the kitchen, were a complete disaster. It looked like a hurricane had hit, And I don’t mean that figuratively. I don’t mean like, oh I haven’t mopped yet, and there’s a sink full of dirty dishes. I mean, every single square inch of counter space stacked three things high. The floor a pathway through precarious piles of toys, laundry, empty boxes, pots and pans pulled out by the Toddler, shredded toilet paper. The sink was full of cooling jam (where else was there to put it?) amidst dirty dishes. The stove slopped with sticky bright red cooked on goo. The counter, and floor beneath, a roach trap of spilled granola thanks to the Toddler’s “help.” The dining room was also breaking into Aisles Through Piles territory since I had moved all the crap out of the kitchen to make a space to work in.

(Our kitchen has lately developed an ‘island.’ I don’t mean a useful variety, with a nice bench-top or a bar sink or anything, I mean a line-up of the Babe’s excersaucer, the Toddlers kitchen stool, and a variety of toys. They all get shoved into the middle of the room, so’s us “groin-up” folks can get to what we consider the useful kitchen stuff around the outside. Needless to say, our kitchen is not properly sized for an island…)

I surveyed the hurricane wreckage around me, and counted my jars. 17 half pints of gorgeous red gold. Plus two pints of syrup, and two pints of berries in the freezer. Screw the house, I feel victorious.

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When To Buy Organic

Of course, it would be great if everything we bought was organic. But if you’re short on cash, and aren’t we all, there is a significant difference between crops. This chart is awesome for sussing out you fresh fruits and veggies. I first discovered this two years ago, and was especially interested in the apples being second. Yikes! They seem so innocuous. Potatoes are at about the midway mark, so I make an effort to get them organic. I was surprised to see broccoli and cabbage so low on the list, because they’re prone to a lot of disease and things in the home garden, so I expected they’d be high. And it’s a relief not to worry about onions, we go through tons of ’em! I had remembered carrots being low though, and they’re not. I had been buying those at the Winn-Dixie, and I guess I’d better knock it off.

1 (worst) Peach 100 (highest pesticide load)
2 Apple 93
3 Sweet Bell Pepper 83
4 Celery 82
5 Nectarine 81
6 Strawberries 80
7 Cherries 73
8 Kale 69
9 Lettuce 67
10 Grapes – Imported 66
11 Carrot 63
12 Pear 63
13 Collard Greens 60
14 Spinach 58
15 Potato 56
16 Green Beans 53
17 Summer Squash 53
18 Pepper 51
19 Cucumber 50
20 Raspberries 46
21 Grapes – Domestic 44
22 Plum 44
23 Orange 44
24 Cauliflower 39
25 Tangerine 37
26 Mushrooms 36
27 Banana 34
28 Winter Squash 34
29 Cantaloupe 33
30 Cranberries 33
31 Honeydew Melon 30
32 Grapefruit 29
33 Sweet Potato 29
34 Tomato 29
35 Broccoli 28
36 Watermelon 26
37 Papaya 20
38 Eggplant 20
39 Cabbage 17
40 Kiwi 13
41 Sweet Peas – Frozen 10
42 Asparagus 10
43 Mango 9
44 Pineapple 7
45 Sweet Corn – Frozen 2
46 Avocado 1
47 (best) Onion 1 (lowest pesticide load)

What I haven’t been able to find out about is dry goods. Wheat flour, rice, oatmeal, beans. I’d really like to know, so if anyone out there has any info on the respective “bad-ness” of said crops, please let me know. I’ve been buying non-organic wheat flour lately, because I don’t have a bulk source available, and 5 lb bags are so expensive!

If you eat much soy, check out this Soy Report from the same folks who did that organic dairy review, The Cornucopia Institute.

Buying Bulk

Back in Cordova, I used to order from a company called Azure Standard. They carry most everything that you’d find in a health food store. If you live in the Pacific Northwest they deliver for free (the minimum order is $500, but that is surprisingly easy to fill, especially if you get a few friends in on it). If you live anywhere near to, you might be able to have your order shipped for a reasonable price, via a trucking company. Living in Alaska I had my orders shipped up by barge and even though for heavy stuff like flour the shipping almost doubled the price, it was still worth it. A 50 lb bag of organic high protein whole wheat flour cost $25, add on (for Cordova) $30 for shipping. That’s still only about $1/lb, which was cheaper than the local health food store that only sold flour in 5 lb bags.

I haven’t gotten myself together here yet. There is a food co-op that does bulk orders, I really need to sign up. I asked around and the prices are usually slightly cheaper than Whole Foods. If you have an opportunity to buy bulk, even if the savings do not appear much, they add up. Often if you’re willing to get a ton at once, you can get the organic version for the same price as a little bag of standard stuff at the grocery store. It also instills a different way of thinking about your pantry, and your cooking, which cuts down on trips to the store and impulse buys. These bulk ordering gigs are usually called “Buyer’s Clubs.”

I have to admit, Costco has a very large selection of organic stuff. Of course, I wouldn’t trust ’em farther than I could throw ’em, but it’s gotta be a bit better….?

Lastly, if you’re just starting out buying in bulk, a word of caution. Do not buy 50 lbs of something unless you are sure you’re going to use it! This sounds obvious, but I myself have occasionally wasted some food buying bulk. Just be careful, and plan it out.

I have one last offering for this topic, coming soon:

Solace and Support for Non-Menu Planners!

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