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A big part of becoming more frugal along our path to freedom is making things at home and building things ourselves instead of buying them elsewhere. Today’s project was making juice from a friend’s crop of crab apples. The lowly crab apple is often not even harvested these days. Most people have them simply for their ornamental qualities as a landscaping tree. My friend with the crab apple tree agrees with me about their value, but didn’t have time to juice them herself and offered them to me. So…homemade crab apple juice (destined for crab apple jelly) was produced at home. One year, for my birthday, I received a wonderful tool for making quick work of producing fruit juices – a Stainless Steel Juice Extractor. Stainless Steel Juice Extractor It is great for extracting juice from fruits without all the normal mess. It has a stacking set of components: the bottom holds water; the middle collects the extracted juice; the top layer holds the fruit. Cleaned, halved crab apples After cleaning the fruit and placing in the top section, you assemble the unit (filling the bottom component with water), heat it up and let the juicing begin. It takes about 45 minutes to get the juices flowing, a couple of hours to complete the task. Today the crab apples made the most beautiful juice.* Crab apple juice Lovely, pink crab apple juice! *Crabapple juice tastes something like cranberry juice when prepared in this way. Since I added no sugar, it had a very tart, slightly bitter taste.
The Urban Guerrilla “Hops, it is from more than just BEER” By Michael Jordan A.K.A: Freyr MOJ, the Crimson JUGGERNAUT Hops, world renowned for the use in beer, is making a big comeback for gardens and baking. I was asked what I do with hop, well I make starts every year. Hops is getting expensive, so, over the last 10 years, I have been growing my own. Yes, I do brew beer, but there may things hops is good for. Hops are primarily used to reduce tension and aid in sleep. As a sleep aid, hops can be used in a sachet inside of a pillow. The aromatic properties of the herb will help one to fall asleep. For tension, hops can be taken to help relax the muscles and soothe anxiety. As a digestive aid, hops can help to relax spasms of the digestive system and aid in digestion Dosage: As an infusion, drink one cup in the evening to aid sleep. As a tincture, take 20 drops in a glass of water 3 times daily for anxiety. Take 10 drops with water up to 5 times daily for digestion. As a tablet, take for stress or as a sleep aid. As a capsule, take 500 mg, 3 times daily before meals, to help increase appetite. A sachet may be made and placed in your pillow to aid in sleep. Safety: You should not use hops if you suffer from depression. Consult your health care provider before beginning use of any herb. The shoots that corkscrew up out of the ground in the spring are quite tender and can be sautéed like asparagus. Combs stuffs hop leaves with hop flower petals, cheeses, and aromatics before tempura-frying them to make a cheesy-herbal beggar's purse. One of my favorite things to make with hops is bread. The hops give the bread a distinctive, though not very pronounced, hoppy aroma, and also, as I thought it might, a bitter finish, which is quite nice, once you get used to it. You probably need to like hops a lot though. The crumb is relatively heavy for a white-flour loaf, but soft and moist; the crust is soft and chewy. The flavor and aroma is awesome. This bread helps me with sleep and tension. Soft Hops Yeast Equipment: 3-quart sauce pan 1 quart glass jar with lid small sieve Ingredients: 1/3 cup dried hops 6 cups quality water 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast or 1/3 cup good soft yeast from the previous batch Process: Simmer hops in water for 1/2 an hour letting the steam escape, to make a strong tea. The water will boil down to about 3 1/2 cups. Sterilize jar and lid in boiling water. I do this by pouring boiling water into the jar and over the lid. Place flour and salt in sterile jar, and strain boiling tea over the flour. Stir thoroughly. It is important to scald the flour to keep the yeast from souring. Cover loosely and allow to cool. When it is cool (not cold) add yeast and stir to incorporate. Cover loosely and keep at room temperature. It will bubble and ferment, producing a quality yeast. When it has fermented (6-12 hours), cover tightly and store in a cool place. Yields: 3 1/2 cups soft yeast. Keeps 2 week, properly stored. When the yeast has a strong tart smell and watery appearance, it is too old for use. Soft Hops Yeast Bread Ingredients: ¼ cup corn meal 1 teaspoon salt 1 ½ cups water 2 ½ cups milk ¾ cup soft hop yeast 10-12 cups flour, divided Optional Glaze: 1 egg 1 tablespoon water Instructions: In saucepan, combine cornmeal, salt and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer ten minutes, to form a thin gruel. Transfer to a non-metal mixing bowl. Stir in milk, to cool the mixture. Add yeast and 4 cups flour (I use whole wheat) to make a thick batter. Mix thoroughly and cover. This is called a sponge. Let sit in a warm (room temperature) place 2 – 12 hours. It can be worked again when the surface appears somewhat watery, though it is best to mix the sponge in the evening and finish making the bread the next morning. Stir in 4 cups all-purpose flour, to form stiff dough. Turn out onto a heavily floured surface, cover with more flour and knead to incorporate ingredients (10-15 minutes). Leave dough on the work surface, to rest while you clean out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead dough for twenty minutes, to develop the gluten. Return dough to mixing bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm area until doubled in bulk. This rising will take 45 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how long the sponge was allowed to develop. Knead again, divide and shape into loaves. This recipe will make three 4” x 8” loaves, or two 5” x 9” loaves. It can also be divided and shaped into rolls or hamburger buns. Place the dough in greased pans, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. This rising should take no more than an hour. Mix glaze and brush on loaves or rolls. Bake loaves at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, for 50-60 minutes, or until the bread comes away from the sides of the pan and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. - Rolls and buns are baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 25 minutes. When bread has baked, turn out of pans onto a wire rack to cool. For a softer crust, cover loaves with a hand towel while they cool. Note: This dough tends to rise up and not out, so make the base of the loaves or buns the desired size of the final product. Yeast Cakes from Hops 1 cup mashed potatoes 1 cup potato water 1 cup flour 1 cup dried hops 2 Tbsp. sugar 4 cups corn meal (approx.) 1 dried yeast cake (optional) Boil 3 or 4 peeled potatoes in unsalted water. When done, drain the potatoes and mash them well, but save the potato water to use later. Cover the hop blossoms with water and bring to a boil. Drain off the water and save it, too. (Ella's mother dissolved a dried yeast cake left from her last batch into this water as a booster.) Put flour in a pan and slowly stir in the potato water you saved. Be careful not to use too much water. Mix slowly so that the flour won't be lumpy. If the mixture is too runny, it might be necessary to cook it until it is a thick paste-like dough. Add mashed potatoes and sugar. Mix well and then slowly add the hop water until you have a medium soft dough. Let rise double. Then punch down and work in enough corn meal to make a stiff dough. Roll out the dough on a board to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into cakes. Let the cakes dry, turning them often to make sure they dry evenly. When you think they are good and dry, hang them up in a muslin bag for a few days to make sure they won't mold. After this you can store them in fruit jars or however you wish. We followed this recipe using the called for amounts of ingredients and found it made two large pans of yeast cakes. Whereas this amount would be fine in a large family where bread is made often, it was much more than we needed. You may want to cut it down some, especially the first time you make it. So then next time you plant something, try some hops. Not only will you have a great vine plant to weave in and out of your trellises, you have a plant that you can use to make something more than beer with.
Why Homesteading? The idea of homesteading has been one that I have entertained for many years. I have always loved the idea of living off the land, tending to a flock of chickens or a herd of cattle. My head was full with the romanticized notion of living off the land and producing everything I could ever need. My garden would never wither, I would never be plagued with pests, my goats would never think to kick and buck as I milked them...I had no idea of the rude awakening that was coming my way. Don't get me wrong, the past five years have been wonderful, but it has been full of disappointments and hard work. These trials make even the smallest success that much sweeter. You reach a point at which every small victory is something you crave. Learning to put up a fence, watching that first tomato grow, learning to milk a goat, collecting that first fresh egg. All of these first moments that we work so hard to reach are truly wondrous. I truly believe that we are all meant to enjoy these moments. I believe that there is a part of us the needs to be in touch with the Earth. I don't mean in a hippie sort of way, but I think there is something in us that needs to work in the soil, to get our hands dirty, to accomplish things truly meaningful and valuable in our lives. Things that last. So many of us work our lives away in cubicles and offices because we are taught that is what is expected of us, and that is what normal people do. How many of you have worked away the days in a windowless box not knowing if the sun is shining? How many of you have worked for years in a job that makes you successful by society's standards and yet you feel miserable? How many of you work hard, but you know that if you didn't come to work tomorrow it wouldn't make a bit of difference? I've been there too. Today we are told that happiness resides in the shiny and the new, in the expensive and the extravagant, in deeper and deeper debt. Yet deep down we know that we are not happy. We need something real, something meaningful, something that will still matter when we are gone. We won't be remembered for the car that we drove or the clothes that we wore. My beginnings The path to creating a homestead is not always easy, but once I began, I immediately knew that I was finally heading the right direction. My therapy became pounding in t-posts, rolling around rolls of fence, and raising barns. Once the infrastructure was complete, we brought out the four horses (2 miniature horses, 1 mule, and 1 quarter-horse) and our six potbelly pigs. Seeing them out in the pasture as I cam home every day gave me a profound sense of accomplishment, and I wanted more. Soon we added four goats in with our pigs, and three livestock-guardian dogs to look after them. I never knew that watching a goat browse could be exciting, but I was fascinated with trying to learn what they ate and what they didn't. This lead me to try and identify the plants and trees on the property. I still don't know half of them out there, but I know more than I used to. I started a garden (it's pretty pitiful as you will soon see) to start producing some food on the farm. There are few things as rewarding as starting plants from seed and seeing them grow so quickly. I have even learned a few things about making my own jerky. There is a good redneck story behind that. One of my wife's coworkers saw a deer struck by a car, and she called my wife to tell her about. She called me to tell me all about it and I said, "Get that sucker!". So my wife ended up field dressing this dear with a scalpel (she's a vet) and taking it to the butcher shop. One hell of a woman, I know. Anyway, so we wound up with a freezer full of deer and I learned how to make jerky from ground venison. If you have never had it, it's amazing. So this post is getting a little long. In the future I will address many of the skills and ideas that I have mentioned here in far greater detail. My hope is to show you how important homesteading has become in my life, and how fulfilling it can be. I had no idea what I was getting in to when I started, but I have acquired so many new skills, and I owe it all to the wonder of homesteading. Until next time, take care!