Want to learn skills but don’t know where to start?

I was pleasantly surprised when I received the course catalog for our local community college the other day. There are tons of great courses offered. You should look up the courses offered by your local community college, you might be as surprised as I was.

Butler Area Community College “Lifelong Learning”

Among the courses offered:

Fresh Cheese – Cheese Making Class
Wilderness Survival
Fishing Fun-damentals
Intro to alternative medicinal practices
beer brewing
knife making
basic mig welding
river kayaking
kayaking rescue techniques
herbs for ailments
biological incident response
cyber security

I want to take them all, but there is only so much time in my schedule.

How to install mail order packages of bees

Getting bees in a “package” is the most common way to start your hives off in the spring. As we learned in the Barefoot Beekeeper interview package bees aren’t the optimal way to start a hive, however for some people it is the only option to get your hive started.

If you are using a top bar hive the process is exactly the same, except obviously you won’t have to worry about crushing bees with your frame

Hiving two packages of honey bees from Jason Morgan on Vimeo.

An introduction to braising

This past week my article on cast iron cookware seemed to be among the most popular items I have posted to the website. I figured I would follow up on that with an article about braising, which will allow you to maximize your cast iron dutch oven.

You can purchase very expensive Le Cruset cookware, or just a simple plain cast iron dutch oven from lodge logic. I personally own this one and it works quite well for my purposes: Lodge Dutch Oven, however it seems like the people on my facebook page think plain cast iron is the best, so this one might be a great option for that: 7 quart dutch oven. You can also get a dutch oven that can be held over a camp fire via a tripod of sticks, which is a cool way of cooking outside.

Braising is a very old technique of cooking. Traditional braising is when you sear a piece of meat and then cook it slowly in a cast iron dutch oven. A crock pot (slow cooker) is a modern form of braising. I like both methods. Traditional braising is when meat was cooked over top of a bed of chopped vegetables. Little to no liquid is needed since the meat provides it’s own juices and the vegetables provide the rest of the moisture.

Is this making you hungry?

Braising is a great technique for cooking gamy meat, or lean meat is it imparts a lot of flavor into the meat and renders it very tender.

Typical cuts of meat used in braising are pot roasts, rumps, shanks, ribs, and vegetables such as brussel sprouts or radicchio, however it is pretty much possible to braise any sort of meat, including fish.

Here are the steps involved in doing a basic braised roast. You can adapt this technique or recipe for other types of cuts, or even cube the meat to make a nice stew.

Credit for this recipe goes to my Dad who introduced me to this method of cooking.

Ingredients
3 to 4 pound top round or other roast
4 to 5 large onions (chopped)
4 to 5 large tomatoes (quarter and then chop each piece in half)
5 cloves of garlic (minced)
Bay Leaf
Oregano

  1. Salt and pepper the meat on all sides
  2. Add a bit of oil or some lard to a dutch oven
  3. Add Beef.. sear on all sides (including ends)… make sure the dutch oven is nice and hot so it will quickly sear the meat
  4. Set meat aside for now
  5. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent in the beef juices
  6. Remove from heat
  7. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano
  8. Add meat on top of the layer of vegetables
  9. On top of that add root vegetables
  10. Put dutch oven, with the lid on, into a 350 degree oven for 3 to 4 hours, beef should be falling apart

Alternative
Sear the meat in a normal frying pan and then place it in a crock pot. Cook your onions and garlic in the same frying pan and deglaze with a bit of wine and then add it all to crock pot. Add all other ingredients to the crock pot. Cook on low for 8 hours. I prefer the dutch oven if time allows, however the slow cooker is great for a weekday. You can prep the meat and sear it when you awake and then just leave it cook all day while you are at work. Most modern crock pots will have a “keep warm” options so if the pot is on for an extra few hours it will be nice and hot for you to eat when you return from work.

The large quantity of tomatoes and onions will cook down and provide the enough liquid to properly cook your roast. I’ve made this with canned tomatoes. I find 4 cans of stewed tomatoes will work nicely, however I still use fresh onions.

Here is one of my favorite braising recipes: Fall off the bone short ribs. I loved making the slaw this past year with fresh ingredients from the garden. One alteration I made is replacing the mayonnaise in the slaw with plain yogurt to make this dish a bit healthier, and I doubled the jalapenos to increase the heat.

Once you get the hang of it you can start making more fancy dishes such as Coq au Vin, a classic braised dish.

If you want to learn more about braising then I suggest this book All About Braising

You will be hard pressed to eat a bad meal if you use that cookbook.

Episode 12- A random collection of money saving tips

I had a nice outline for today’s show, however I left it on my home PC. Today’s show is all about money saving tips for living a more frugal lifestyle. It is sort of a random mishmash of a podcast without any organization, so I hope it wasn’t too annoying. I hope everyone got at least one tip. Please add your own tips in the comments.

When searching through tips online and in books some of them might sound ridiculous to you. When I was first exposed to this type of thinking I thought people were nuts if they made their own cleaning supplies, now I am a firm believer in doing so. It’s a shift in your thinking, one which I am still making myself. Not every money saving tip you find is right for your lifestyle. Take the ones that work for you and run with them.

I did finally remember the name of the hardware store, it was Ace hardware! (If you have listened you’ll know why I say this) and this is the link to the washing soda: http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3549579. If you order it to the for store pickup you can get free shipping.

Here is a link to my cleaning supplies thread on the TSP forum http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=13602.0;topicseen My post is the second post, it got merged with another topic and pushed down.

I’ve got an update. Having made my own laundry detergent now I find that the recipes being by volume in the book makes it hard to make a lot at the time. It is much easier to do it by weight. Having measured out everything here is my revised recipe for laundry detergent.

1 – 3.75 or 4 pound box of washing soda
1 – 4 pound box of baking soda
7 – grated bars of unscented ivory soap
60 drops of essential oil

use 1/2 cup per load

Cleaning, Seasoning, and Cooking with Cast Iron Cookware

I love cast iron. You can spend a fortune on all-clad cookware that probably won’t work as well or last as long as a cheap cast iron skillet. I got my skillet at Dick’s Sporting goods of all places.

I was talking to my friend the other day and he was talking about how he gingerly cares for his cast iron cookware. He was telling me some of the problems he was having with his new cast iron pans. I’ve been using cast iron cookware for many years now and thought I would share with everyone some of my tips for cast iron cooking and seasoning

Cleaning

It is always best to clean the cast iron when it is hot.

To clean your hot pan I use just plain hot water and a plain sponge . If your pan is nice and hot you won’t need to apply very much pressure to clean it off. Never try to clean a room temperature pan.
If you have let food cake on your pan for days, as I sometimes do… it is no problem at all to clean it off. Just fill the bottom of the pan with water and bring it to a boil for a minute or two, then dump the water and clean it immediately.

Dry off your pan with a towel as soon as you are done cleaning it. Put your pan back on the burner on a very low heat for a minute or two to ensure that it is 100% dry.

If you haven’t been cooking fatty foods on your pans you might need to apply a bit of oil, lard, or bacon grease at this point to the pan to maintain the seasoning. Just put a dab in the pan and spread it around to coat the pan. Now just heat it up on very low heat until the grease gets to the smoke point and then remove it from the heat. Let the pan cool down and then just wipe off the excess grease and store it away.

If you want to be safe you can do this every time, however the key times to do it are when you are cooking with high acid products such as tomatoes or vinegar. If you just cooked a pound of bacon you probably don’t need to add any more lard to the pan!

Seasoning is something that gets better over time. Cast iron cookware is one of the few consumer items that really gets much better with age. When your children inherit your cast iron cookware it will be really humming!

Seasoning and Re-Seasoning

Occasionally you may end up wrecking the seasoning on a pan by accident or maybe you got a new pan off craigslist that needs some help. I’ve done this twice before by accident. I have left pans on the burner unattended and all of the seasoning has burnt off. Unlike an aluminum pan that would have been ruined, my cast iron pan just needed to be re-seasoned.

  • Heat up the oven to 500 degrees
  • Coat the pan in lard or grease such as bacon grease
  • Put the pan in the oven upside down on top of something such as some foil
  • Remove from heat 30 minutes

There are other ways to re-season the pan, but as long as you have access to a stove this is the method that seems to work best.

After you season your pan, plan to cook something greasy like bacon in it initially and this will help to reinforce your seasoning.

If your cooking stuff, such as hash browns or eggs, and it is constantly sticking to the pan then you need to re-season your pan.

Cooking

I, unfortunately, have an electric range. The trick to success with cast iron pans on an electric range is to preheat them slowly. I keep the heat at a medium to low heat until the entire pan is warmed and then I can raise it from there. No matter what type of heat you are using you should make sure that your pan is up to temperature before cooking, it is going to take longer to evenly heat up your cast iron cookware than it would your steel or aluminum cookware.

Removing Rust

My grill’s cast iron grates tend to get rusty here and there. The first winter I had that grill my grill cover had a leak over the winter and when I pulled the cover off in the spring the grates were 100% rusty. Luckily knocking out rust is pretty easy to do.

Just put your cast iron in your oven and set it to “self clean” cycle. Once they have completed this cycle just wipe the rust off with a bit of hot water and a steel scouring pad. It will wipe right off. Be sure to do this while it is still hot, and be careful not to burn yourself.

If you come across some old cast iron cookware that you want to restore this method will work well for that.

Once your cast iron has cooled to room temperature coat it down in lard and season it as per the instructions above.

Misc tip

Avoid those burnt hands! The handles can get quite hot while cooking and sometimes we forget about it. Be sure to have handle covers for all of your various skillets.

These are available online or even at big box stores

Did I get it correct? Let me know in the comments.

The Complete Guide to Barrelponics

A simple 3D animation to show the relative size and layout of the Garden Pool Barrelponics design.
Aquaponics is the future of food production on my homestead. I’ve been scouring the net for a good set up plans it is not surprising that Dennis from GardenPool.org came out with a killer set of PDF downloadable plans and videos.

I personally would have paid at least $40 for this information and he is putting it out there for free. Dennis is truly passionate about his mission to help ensure food security for the average family. I have a ton of respect for that.

He just released these so I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but if there is anyone I trust about aquaponics it is Dennis.

Get the goods:
The complete guide to Barrelponics via GardenPool.org