Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Some Reviews

5/13/08 - 3rd Day - Midday. Ok boys and girls, time for some reviews. The first thing I want to review is My Homemade Wild Perennial Vegetable Dish AKA Itchweed Greens with Agarito Berry Sauce. I wanted to make a dish for the Lord's Day fellowship and I wanted to make it almost completely from wild edibles. So I spent several hours on Sunday morning harvesting Itchweed (Stinging Nettles). I first learned that Itchweed was edible when Judy (TableTop Homestead) came to visit. As we walked the land she pointed out several edible plants. I should have taken better notes (actually ANY notes). Anyway, when I got my Perennial Vegetables book, it sang the praises of Stinging Nettles as one of the most nutritious and tasty perennial vegetables. We have quite a bit of it on the land, so I had no problem harvesting enough for a good sized meal. I would say in about 2 hours I harvested three large bowls, probably enough for two large meals for my family of 6. At the same time, I had the children picking the Agarito Berries (or as I call them to Brother Kelly Sustaire, who first pointed them out to me.. Aunt Jemima Berries). They picked probably a quart or so of berries. So here is my recipe, though I don't measure anything, so trying to cook what I cook may be difficult.

You cut the leaves off of the Itchweed with scissors. Make sure to wear gloves while harvesting and while preparing them. I took about 90% of the berries and I chopped them pretty good in our little hand blender with a little water. Then I put them through a sieve thing (don't know what it is called, but this is one in the pic to the left) and smooshed them real good to get all the juice out of the berries. This yielded probably 4 to 6 ounces of juice. I put this in a small pot on the stove to thicken. When it thickened down in about half, I added about 2-3 big dollops of some peach jam that we made last year (for sweetness). Mainly I just added the peach jam juice, not much fruit at all. In a frying pan I fried up maybe 8 ounces of bacon ends that we bought from the Siffords a week ago. I forgot to say that I sent Danielle down to a nearby creek to pick some wild onions that turned out to be like Rosy Garlic. There is a ton of it growing near that creek. So I chopped that up, with a couple of small onions from my garden and added them to the bacon ends/grease. Meanwhile, I put the Itchweed in boiling water, and boiled it for about 4-5 minutes (about 1 minute destroys the toxins). I added the Agarito Berry syrup mix to the bacon/onion pan and turned the heat down. Then I took the 10% of the berries that were left and put them through the hand mixer. Then I crushed them in the strainer/sieve thingy, but this time I kept the mashed up seeds and skins and not the juice. I scraped the seeds and skins into the pan with the bacon/onions/berry mix and stirred it up really good. It tasted incredible. This made a really nice sauce (almost Teriyaki like), which I poured over the greens after I had strained them. The result was purely heavenly, and I was glad to take it to the fellowship to share it with everyone. I think everyone liked it, and I got a lot of good comments, but I guess I was a bit disappointed that more people weren't excited about the notion of getting such a wonderful meal - and almost all of it growing wild on the land. Even the bacon, etc. came from the land. Oh well, maybe I haven't been preaching on the value of this kind of thing enough.

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

This book is considered the "Bible" of Root Cellaring. I hate it when something is considered the "Bible" of anything, but it is really the only book of its kind out there. For what it is, it is a great book, and I highly recommend it. However, for my situation - and for all of you who live in the deep South, there are some shortcomings to the book. For the most part, the book is written for Yankees, by Yankees. The overall gist? How to keep your veggies from freezing and being destroyed
during the winter. I know that this is why people have Root Cellars up north, but that is usually not why we have them down here. We could keep most root vegetables and storage food in an above ground insulated shed most of the time during the winter. Though it does freeze here, it has only once or twice gotten cold enough to freeze anything in our cabin, which is insulated. We have Root Cellars down here to keep things from freezing in the winter, yea, but mainly to keep things from melting, rotting, or cooking during the rest of the year. In fact, we have quite a few days in the 70's and 80's during the winter when it would not be good to have some veggies above ground. The book has great advice on storing individual types of vegetables, and some great plans for building root cellars. Believe me, the book is worth the money. What would have made it perfect would have been a section on Root Cellars for the South, and some comments in the vegetable sections on growing, picking, and storing root crops in the South. For you wannabe writers out there, here is a book that would sell, and would sell good... just write a good book on Root Cellaring for Southerners. Anyway, do buy this book. It's a good one with good info, and I've already used it quite a bit.

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation

This book with the really long name, is one of those books that I demanded be written (in my head) and then I found it. I was sooooo frustrated after months and years of reading books on preserving food, etc. Let me tell you what is wrong with almost every book, every website, or every blog EVERYWHERE when it comes to preserving food...

Every one assumes (nay demands) that you have access to electricity -
freezers, refrigerators, etc. The whole idea of food preservation came from people who did not have modern/industrial electrical appliances. Why can't someone (ANYONE!) think about that when they comment or teach about preserving food. I mean, I decide... "Hey, I don't have grid electricity, and I want to store pork, and I've read where bacon and ham were invented as ways for long-term storage of pork by those who did not have freezers/refrigerators, etc.... so I'll make bacon and ham!". Then I find that 100% (YES) of the people who teach or write about making bacon and ham, insist that you use freezers and refrigerators. They say, "This process will allow you to store hams for up to 2 YEARS without refrigeration". I say, "Cool". Then they say, "After you apply the cure, put it in the refrigerator for 2 months". What? That is the way it is with almost every bit of preservation information out there. So I was busy inventing this book in my mind, when I found it online. This book is about preserving all types of food WITHOUT freezing or canning. What is wrong with canning? Nothing really, but canning is a relatively new thing, and it is expensive, and it uses fuel, and it kills many of the good bacteria and vitamins that are in the food. Canning has its place, but in our plans - we are moving away from it as a main type of food preservation. So, long story short, get this book today. Don't wait. I've already read mine through twice, and I will be using it regularly.

Alright, I have a review to write for the movie Speed Racer... but I don't want to overload you today. Maybe I'll post it tomorrow. If you might go tonight.. GO! see Speed Racer, GO!

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Michael Bunker


Andi said...

Thanks for the review of the book. I've been wanting a book like that. I shall be ordering it as soon as I have some extra $$$. For those of us still on the grid (although I'd like to be off it and am slowly moving in that direction), there may come a day when we simply don't have it anymore or can't afford it, so it's best to be prepared.

P.S. Do you have a favorite book on preserving seeds? I think that's going to be one of my next steps. Thanks.

Manette said...

Thanks Michael,
I've ordered both books and even got free shipping. Thanks for the reviews.