Saturday, February 22, 2014

How To Make your own Vinegar (it's easier than you think)

The first week of December 2013 we were talking about things we do not store and Donna Hoaks shared: “Learn to make vinegar, etc. also. NO matter how much you store, if a bad situation lasted long enough, you will run out. True self reliance means having the ability to renew supply. Learn to make lye, compost tea, etc. Challenge yourself to use every ounce of every thing. 
PPG, vinegar was something I thought about for years, and this is the first year I have done it. Like everyone else, I am on a journey. Here is the info I used.“So, true to my word I am making my own ACV (apple cider vinegar) & sharing my results.
Here is the first day for “making vinegar”. Made with organic Fugi apples & raw honey. I started it on December 10th. Quart jar with an apple, 1/4 cup raw honey and the filled the jar with water. TIP: I figured out real quick, instead of a rubber band to hold the cheese cloth on, I simply used a canning ring.

Stored in a warm, dark place. The jar(s) were wrapped a thick dish towel with a rubber band and storing it on a shelf near my back door. Next batch will be placed on top of my fridge.
"Stir the jar every day or so and check to make sure the fruit is submerged. Don’t worry about yeasty white growth on top; scrape off any other colors of mold and toss that into your compost bin."

When it started to smell like booze (this would be hard cider), I strained out the fruit through cheese cloth & put that in my compost bucket. Then continued to allow the vinegar to ferment. Leave undisturbed if possible. Again; don’t worry about yeasty white growth on top; scrape off any other colors of mold and toss that into your compost bin.

It is taking longer than I anticipated.  Still cloudy. Note the Mother of Vinegar floating around near the bottom. 
Interesting note: While I was in the process of making the vinegar, I was talking to the mom of my 7th grandchild. They had been discussing acetic acid bacteria in home school that week. Which is exactly the ubiquitous bacterium in the air that enables this process of fermentation to occur. Pretty neat.
This is what it looks like today 02/22/14. At this point I removed all the yeasty stuff on top, strained it & poured it into another jar, placed a lid on it to see if it will clear up...

I took the Mother of Vinegar at the bottom and started another batch today.Here we go again.

For more simple DIY projects: Perky Gramma's DIY
What you see here, is what I actually do. If you liked this article, please feel free to like me (Perky Prepping Gramma) on Facebook & keep up to date on things I post. Simply sharing my journey of preparedness. Remember if you are prepared, it isn't an emergency. 
~Perky Prepping Gramma~
Thank you Donna. I used the reference that Donna suggested from the Rock Farmer Blog

Top Three Picks (associates links)
When it comes to the items that I use the most, it would have to be my All American Pressure Canner, FoodSaver and Excalibur Dehydrator. I use at least one of these each week in my preparation for emergencies. I only recommend items that I use personally.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meals for 12 in a box(es)...

“Meals in a Box” Storage
I tend to store things separately so I will have some flexibility when it comes to making meals later down the road. I don't want to be “boxed in”. 
But, when it is a meal I know we like I “box it in”. I will then store it “12 meals at a time”. The reasoning behind this came from a wonderful post “The Magic Number 12”  on Preparedness Pro's blog. After I hit the goal of one years food supplies stored for DH and me; I am now working on storing meals for 12 people. 
Basically when you have a specific meal you like, work towards buying enough for 12 meals (one meal, once a month for 12 months). Do that 30 times & you have one year of stored food. Simple, huh? Here is one example:
So, if this is one meal, I need to have 48 pints of chicken, 48 cans of coconut milk & 48 packs of the Thai peanut sauce, plus rice.= one meal, 12 times in a year. To expand that:

This is what it looks like on paper:12 (people preparing for) x 12 (once a month for 12 months) x 31 (one month) x 3 (meals a day) = one year of storage.
Note: Currently of the 12 people I am preparing for, 6 are children. When I am storing for the children, I am storing an adult portion for them. While they are young now, if something happens say in five years, they will be teenagers. I want to insure that I have enough to feed them at what ever age.
 I often store these meals in these banana boxes, good movable size for this gramma. I label and date the boxes. 
You may modify it, based on your goals. For example, when I got started I modified it to “6 meals” so I could attain my first goal of 6 months storage goal. Don't forget to add water to your storage as needed.
I will be slowly working on these boxes and will share more as I go along.

Going bananas...

Early on I started using banana boxes for storage. Mostly because it is a handy size for me to lift & I get the boxes for free at work.
Having a portable system was very important to me from the beginning. I knew that if SHTF scenario happened, I would be moving everything possible. It has also come in very handy as I add and move my storage around.Moving 10 boxes compared to 100 jars or cans had been well worth the effort.
These pictures are from November 2012.
My November Goals focused on “Meat & other items that I use at Thanksgiving. So you will see whole cranberry sauce, pineapplemandarin oranges, olives..Various items that are on sale in November & items that I use for the various holiday dishes that my are traditional for our family. I also did a lot of sweet potatoes, since I make at least 10 sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving. I also canned turkey.
Plus I was storing canned soup and Hormel Chili for simple meals. Most of these items were purchased when they were on sale 10 for $10. 
So, I simply put the cans in the box (upside down), mark the “best used by date” on each can. I store them upside down so the tops don't get dusty. I filled each box.

Added a little food grade diatimacious earth (DE) in the box, just in case some little critters think they want to munch on the cardboard.
Write the the appropriate information on the outside of the box. I marked the item, how many cans were in the box and the best by date.Then store it on the shelving unit. Ta! Da!

I am no longer really adding new types of canned food bought from the store, with the exception of “use one, buy two”. Honestly I just don't use a lot of canned food. After I started growing a garden last summer, I am now working more on dehydrating and canning my own home grown veggies.
I saw another tip on using empty soda boxes for storage. i made one up, but that doesn't really work for us, since we don't drink a lot of soda. But, the concept works well.

TIP: Later I went back through and removed all the "pull top" cans. The concern was that those cans had a weaker seal. I dehydrated those fruits and veggies.
Do you have any helpful hints for storing items efficiently? Why not share them back on Facebook?

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Friday, February 14, 2014

What does the USDA really say about Canning Milk?

We are going to have a gentle discussion of the topic of pressure canning milk. I have always recommended that you do the research & determine what is best for you & your family. When I decide to do something, generally I will read as much as possible from “reliable sources”. So I am asking you to read the following information first, before making a comment.
When I first heard of canning milk I oft “heard” that the USDA doesn't recommend canning milk.
 I felt at that point that I must add that same disclaimer that is isn't recommended by the USDA. Because I had seen it written by “other people” so often.  
Well, today I spent several hours reading and re-reading the USDA and National Center for Home Food Preservation and this is what I found: This is the type of research I do for myself. Here is what I found.

From the USDA website Link posed in 2011, there was a link to the
You are able to read & off print all 7 publications from 2009. These guides included the following CompleteGuide to Home Canning, Guide 1: Principles of Canning.
I paid particular attention to page 6 and the discussion of “Growth of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum in canned food may cause botulism—a deadly form of food poisoning”.
This bacterium “survives harmlessly in soil and water for many years”. 
Botulism is dangerous.  Please read these links. It explains why using the proper pressure canning guidelines are needed to "to ensure the destruction of the largest expected number of heat resistant microorganism in home-canned food."
In my opinion, if this is the basis for not canning milk, then it would apply equally to vegetables which are actually gown in dirt. 
If you look at the chart on page 7, there is are notes on the chart: 
At 212 degrees: “Temperatures are used to destroy most bacteria, yeasts and molds in acidic foods. Time required to kill these decreases as temperature increase,”
Then you will note at 204-250 degrees the “canning temperatures for low acid vegetables, meat and poultry in a pressure canner.

Then on page 8: “Low-acid food have pH values higher than 4.6 They include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk and all fresh vegetable except for most tomatoes.”
The same document includes this chart...

USDA Chart
Please enlarge this chart so you are able to see the entire chart, including milk at the bottom..
What I did find was this caution in a document about How Do I Can...Soup.
Caution: Do not add noodles or other pasta, rice, flour, cream, milk or other thickening agents to home canned soups.” In another publication "These ingredients can slow down the rate of heating and these process times have not been tested for use with soups containing these ingredients".

Which included links to Using a Pressure Canner and Principles of Home Canning (listed above) I could be wrong, but I believe that people are extrapolating their stand from this one single line.

What I am asking is to show me a recognized document from the USDA or NCHFP that states it is unsafe to pressure can milk & why. I could have missed it, I am human. 

That is how I made my decision that pressure canning milk was safe for my family. 
Let me be real specific here: If you choose to use this method for storage:


And yes I am shouting, all caps, bright red letters because I want to make sure you understand what I am saying. That being said: if you want to know how I pressure can my milk here is the link: White Stuff From Cows

Just another note: a
lso, on the National Center for Home Food Preservation, under FrequentlyAsked Questions, there is an article (it's the last question on the page) I read which dealt with canning butter, and it only referenced not water bathing butter. It didn't address pressure canning. Here is my research on canning butter: What Does the USDA Really say about Pressure Canning Butter

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My "perks" storage...

As you know I work for a famous purveyor of coffee. Honestly I don't drink a lot of coffee.
One of the great benefits we receive is a free pound of coffee (or tea) each week. I have several large bins of coffee saved & stored. I also give a lot away, simply because it brings joy to people.
Plus we get a 30% discount of everything else. We also receive free drinks when we work, that we need to mark out. Usually each day I will mark out a latte and a glass of milk. It adds up. That is how I get the milk that I pressure can and the lattes that I dehydrate.
When items past their "best by" date, we have to mark them out. Now often, I donate these items to a local food pantry. I really like to support the pantry and my manager thinks it is good also.
When promotional items (i.e. Christmas Holiday) reach a certain date, they get marked out & we share the items among the workers. This was my recent haul.
The "instant coffee" is for bartering and in a pinch is an excellent home remedy for poison ivy. You simply make a paste with a tiny bit of warm water & instant coffee and apply it to the poison ivy. Let it dry completely, pat off with a warm wet washcloth . It usually works in one or two applications.I will keep the peppermint mocha coffee, cause I really like it.  *grins* 
The "refreshers" on the right are an instant green coffee drink that doesn't taste like coffee. I have them in my purse and my bug out bag. The ones on the very far right, I caught on sale last week. They were 50% off and I got my discount. 
Here is some tea that I will be vacuum sealing for medicinal storage. More coffee for bartering and these nifty storage containers with vacuum seal lids. 
I received two of these fancy coffee tasting kits. I probably will be bartering with them later down the road. Though I like the boxes, we will see/ We are not allowed to sell items we receive.
I also got these nifty burlap bags and wooden containers. We also got a couple iced travel cups and extra straws.

Two more years and I will be able to "retire" & get my free pound of coffee every week & a discount on all other items for life. Such is the life as a "perky barista".

Pressure Canning Milk
Dehydrating Lattes

Property “Must Have” List

The Homestead
The commitment to establishing a homestead has taken a lot of planning. It started with getting out of debt. First was the elimination of credit card debt, which we were already well on our way to accomplishing.
Then we cashed out our retirement 401 and stocks. That was a tough step.
The last piece in the puzzle is this move. Thankfully, we have a home with equity, which is helpful for all the plans of establishing our new homestead.
We do have a location to bug out to, that is a self-sufficient location; with a core team of people.
We already know that in an extreme scenario, we would simply load up our vehicles and leave what we have already established.
When we started looking for our retirement home we had the basic list* most of that list involves the land itself. Honestly, the basic list was the most important consideration. Everything else is icing on the cake, since we can add anything else.
LAND NEEDS: We need to be able to...
Raise our own food to sustain us, store for the future and have more to give, barter and sell.
Raise animals (at the very least chickens).
Small enough that we are able to maintain as we grow older.
Must have it's own water.
The current place we looking at has a completely fenced in yard.
That helps since we have three furbabies. We will need to shore up the fencing.

It has multiple outer buildings. Some we may be able use and some we may need to tear down.
The land we are looking at has several established fruit trees and possibly a nut tree and elderberries already growing on the property.
We needed enough room to add at least a large two car garage. DH's work space.

Then we have a revolving list. Having a place to live in the property is a bonus. With items like a fireplace, enough room to include storage and a place for my mom to move in with us.
The places we are looking at all need work. So we also are taking into consideration how much work we are able to do, how much we will contract out (hopefully very little). It all has to fall within a defined budget.
Alternative to electricity. Honestly that is simply a possibility. We are fully preparing to not use any electricity if needed.
That being said, there were a few items that we liked in the property we are considering.
A fireplace with a wood stove insert.
Fairly large rooms
My All-American canner will fit on the stove. LOL.

When all is said and done, this isn't a fancy place. But, fancy isn't important. It will be completely ours. We will be self-sufficient on our own property.
And that my dear friends is the most important consideration.

*Basic List
1) Our biggest goal is to be completely out of debt after we sell our current home.
2) Based on what we are able to buy, not have too many neighbors close at hand.
3) Closer to our Bug Out Location.
4) The property must enable self sufficiency; living off our own land and it's own water source.

Monday, February 3, 2014

One Pomelo: 6 uses

I really enjoy trying new foods. I did a lot of reading and did all of this on Sunday with my new friend the pomelo fruit. First I cut the top off.
Then I cut into the skin and through the pith, scoring it about 6 or 7 times.
Then you dig your fingers into the top, into the fruit and open it up.
Look how nice that looks. Then I took the sections of fruit out. Then I made a pomelo hat. Evidently this is what you are supposed to do. No, really. Try goggling "pomelo hat", it may surprise you. So, here I am in my first pomelo hat.
Next, I ate some. I really like it. It is similar to grapefruit and sweeter.
Then I got busy. I cut out some of the pith to freeze for use on poison ivy. I probably will give it to someone else, since I don't seem to react to poison ivy. LOL.
Prepared the skin for candying. Sliced the skin into strips. This time I removed almost all of the pith,next time I may leave a little more on. To prepare the skin, add it to a saucepan and cover well with water, boil for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat the same step two more times.
Then I took half of the strips and left it plain (on the right) The other half I candied. TO do that simply add about equal amounts of water (and skins) again to the pan. After reading several recipes and knowing I like things tart, I only added about 1/4 cup of sugar to the saucepan. You slowly boil way the water, stirring as you go.
Then I dehydrated the skin for about an hour. I waited until I thought it looked right. 
The ones cooked in the sugar bath, I shook in a baggie of a little more sugar to coat the pieces. 
The ones without the sugar bath, I laid out in a pan and broke up a dark chocolate bar on top and heated it in the oven until the chocolate melted.
After the chocolate had melted, I stirred it up and let it cool.
Here are the results. Dark chocolate cover pomelo skin and candied pomelo skin.
I also added some of the skin to a jar and covered with vodka. I am going to see if I am able to make some essential oil from it. I will keep you posted.
There you have it. Pomelo 6 ways. 1) to eat, 2) as a hat, 3) remedy for poison ivy, 4) chocolate covered, 5) candied and 6) essential oil. I forgot to tell you, both of the candied skins are wonderful! They are almost gone.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Honestly, Tea Tree Oil from the Melaleuca Tree is one I have been hesitant to try.
I am very interested in using this oil because of it's analgesic properties.
I have sensitive skin and I am very sensitive to smells; especially if they are not pure essentials. So, first I did a sniff test. The scent lingered for about 5 minutes and didn't cause a reaction for me. I chose not to try this oil neat. 
I used gloves when mixing this up. I used about a teaspoon of coconut oil, melted the oil & added 5 drops of Tea Tree essential oil with a wooden stir stick. I applied this still using the glove, I used this on my knees and lower back.
Well, it passed the test. Yippee!
Then I also tried applying it before I showered and then another time after I showered. I did this because I have had some other products that have caused a very uncomfortable burning sensation on my skin when using them close to the time when I have showered. I didn't have any problems with this Tea Tree Oil.
Overall I am pleased with the results. The smell is still strong for me, but I am able to use it on locations not close to my face (nose). I noticed that it does relieve some pain for me. This is one I will use and share.
WebMd has a few cautions about using Tea Tree oil.
Now with all that said, I choose to use Plant Therapy Essential Oils.
Perky Gramma's Store/Essential Oils
There are many options out there that are good quality. Do your research and make up your own mind.
Now share how you personally use Tea Tree Oil back on the Facebook page.
Thanks you all!