PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR THE HOMEMADE LIFE SINCE 1893
WHAT DO FOOD LABELS REALLY MEAN?
ORGANIC, GRASSFED, NATURALLY RAISED
MUST-HAVE TOOLS FOR THE COUNTRY KITCHEN pg. 22
WALK IN THE WOODS SPENDING TIME IN NATURE
SIX MUST-HAVE GADGETS GUARANTEED TO SAVE YOU TIME AND MONEY.
ecently, I asked the homesteaders who read my blog, “What is the next tool you plan to purchase?” Almost half of them listed kitchen tools. No doubt about it, because homesteadrs produce large quantities of food, kitchen tools are just as important to them as farming implements. Most cooks have an ample supply of gadgets to perform various tasks. Items like knives, thermometers and wooden spoons find themselves in kitchens on and off the homestead. But homesteading homemakers need a set of tools unlike many others. These tools are needed to process the large amounts of food that homesteading brings to the kitchen. However, homemakers new to homesteading often don’t know where to begin. Grandma’s pressure
cooker blew up, and a new meat grinder costs $400. How do you know the equipment you want is safe touse and necessary enough to warrant the financial investment? Understanding what a tool can and cannot do, having a thorough knowledge of its parts and safety features, and knowing what to look for in aused appliance will help you make the decisions you need to make before purchasing anything for your homestead kitchen. If you don’t feel safe operating any of these tools, as a friend to come over and walk you through the process the first couple of times. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as shelves and freezers full of your homestead bounty. So let’s take a look at six kitchen tools that will help you get the job done.
In order to kill botulism spores when canning lowacid foods, the contents of the jars must reach 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Since boiling water only reaches 212 degrees, no matter how long you boil it, a pressure canner is essential to safely preserve foods like green beans, meat or potatoes. Many homemakers are afraid of them, though, because of the horror stories they’ve heard from their elders. “There is a big trend moving back toward canning,” says Chaya Foedus, owner of Pantry Paratus, a selfsufficiency store that supports consumers in the art of food preservation. “I think Internet technology is helping folks rediscover and learn that canning can be done safely.” Modern pressure canners are nothing like your granny’s. They now have dial guages to show when the pressure approaches an unsafe range, and more than one pressure release valve so that one allows steam to escape if the other becomes clogged. In addition, the modern range delivers a more consistent heat and is safer to use for canning than our forebear’s woodstoves.
Once you begin baking your own bread, you may want to add a grain mill to the kitchen counter. Grinding your own grain produces a superior product with more nutrients than the flour thatâ€™s been sitting on the grocerâ€™s shelf. Grain mills come in two basic types: the electric mill and the hand-cranked variety. The Wondermill or Nutrimill are examples of electric burst mills. They produce flour from grain in a matter of seconds. For the homemaker without a lot of time on her hands, this is a great option. However, you canot use oily grains like corn or coffee beans in a burst mill. Also, a burst mill only produces flour. If you want grits or cracked grains for hot breakfast cereals, you will need a burr mill. Country Living and GrainMaker are two examples of hand-cranked burr mills. Donâ€™t let their construction fool you. With a little ingenuity, these types of mills can be attached to a motor for easier use, making it possible for you to grind any type of grain, whether you have electricity or not. Some hand-cranked varieties like the GrainMaker can even be adapted to a bicycle for larger volumes and easier peoplepowered use.
Nothing beats drying your foods for convenience and saving space, but not all food dehydrators are created equal. According to Foedus, dehydrators with an element in the bottom and a stack of trays you rotate throughout the day are a dime a dozen. She explained that the tray closest to the elements gets dry, but when you rotate it to the top, the fan blows the moisture from the bottom trays back up through the unit onto the driest tray at the top. This makes it difficult for even drying, and it prolongs the drying time. “The back to front, square unit is the preferable design,” she says. This shape holds more food, as well. “We chose the rectangular Excalibur,” says Tessa Zundel of Utah, “because you can fit a lot more into that area than you can into a circle. Geometry doesn’t lie.” You don’t need to rotate the Excalibur trays, as it has an adjustable thermostat and timer. Whichever brand you choose, these are the types of options you’ll want to compare.
I first saw a vacuum sealer in operation at a hog butchering day. While I struggled to stuff chops into zipper-lock bags, the gal working next to me had all her meat packaged, in coolers, and was heading home before I could get her name. “Wow,” I thought, “Do I need one of those?” It depends on who you ask. Zundel, who’s trying to use less plastic, said if she had to ditch one appliance, it would be the vacuum sealer. “The fact that it uses plastic bags is less appealing,” she says. Jo Rellime of Ohio says she couldn’t live without her vacuum sealer, and she doesn’t even use plastic. Using a special attachment, she vacuum seals foods she dehydrates herself and staples she buys in bulk in canning jars. Both women usea FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System. If you prefer to shop around, Foedus recommends you look for a product designed to protect the motor from moisture, as that is the most common cause of malfunction in these machines. Likewise, if you find one secondhand, test the motor before purchasing.
At the same hog-butchering event, I saw a commercialgrade meat grinder in action. Several families were processing hogs that day, and the grinder was in constant use. Karen Beachy of Virginia uses a Cabela’s commercial-grade food grinder with various attachments purchased separately to make applesauce and hamburger patties, and to stuff sausage. “When we butcher our chickens,” she says, “we grind all the scraps and bones in it to make our dog food. If anyone is doing homesteading in a big way, I strongly recommend this type of machine.” But according to Foedus, if you just want to grind meat, there’s no need to spend $400. “It is a major score to find an old Enterprise grinder/ chopper at an estate sale,” says Foedus. “If you find one, you found a gold mine.” Why? After more than 100 years of manufacturing food grinders, Enterprise is still in business as Chop-Rite Two. The company manufactures its cast-iron, handcranked grinders using the original design, and still sells parts for them. But don’t let the hand-crank part scare you. Some well-built hand-cranked models can be adapted for motorization, just do your homework on specific model first. Hand-crank grinding deer meat, with the cartilage and sinew, is quite a chore, and so are a of other meats.
I bought my first Bosch mixer about 25 years ago, used, from an add in the newspaper. After a couple of years, it started sqealing. A local appliance repairman told me the bearings were bad and to use it until it stopped. So I did, then I scrapped it. Now I know you can purchase the bearing assembly for that Bosch model for $25. By purchasing optional attachments to some mixers, you can replace other appliances in your kitchen. The Bosch has a blender, food processor, meat grinder, citrus juicer, and berry press attachments. The KitchenAid mixer has attachments for making pasta and ice cream, and for grinding grains. It can also grind your meat, juice your oranges and vegetables, and grate your cheese or carrots. What more could a homemaker ask for? I have purchased three Bosch mixers secondhand that worked perfectly fine. Before purchasing any used mixer, run it and listen to the motor. Ask the seller if he’ll give you a couple days to try it, then take it home and knead dough in it. Kneading dough is the hardest action on the motor, and if it’s going to balk, that will be the time