Review: The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers

Walking along the book aisle in Costco the other day, I came to a rather sudden stop as a specific books caught my eye. With a name like The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers, can you blame me?  This was obviously a book stocked for a local audience, so I hope our non-Utah readers can find a copy.  Author Caleb Warnock is a local (Alpine, Utah) writer, year-round gardener, and teacher of “Forgotten Skills” classes.  It also helped when I noticed one of the people listed in the special thanks section is a friend of mine, and local sci-fi author (how’s that for a tight-knit Utah Valley).

Walking along the book aisle in Costco the other day, I came to a rather sudden stop as a specific book caught my eye. With a name like The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers, can you blame me?  This was obviously a book stocked for a local audience, so I hope our non-Utah readers can find a copy.  Author Caleb Warnock is a local (Alpine, Utah) writer, year-round gardener, and teacher of “Forgotten Skills” classes.  It also helped when I noticed one of the people listed in the special thanks section is a friend of mine, and local sci-fi author (how’s that for a tight-knit Utah Valley). Also at only $11 or so, any tidbit that might help will likely pay dividends well over the purchase price of the book.

This book also stood out to me, because I often wonder *how* my family managed to get enough food to live.  My mom’s side of the family was that oft-discussed “hearty pioneer stock”.  However I have noticed that while many farmed to live, I have a long history of blacksmiths and military.  There is no hiding that this must be because I inherited a really lousy black-thumb, they took up other trades because of this family curse. I’m one of those people who has to work really hard to make part of his garden succeed.  I enjoy blaming my heritage on this, as it cannot be some failing of my own, right?  So I felt driven to read this book, and find out how they managed to live, despite my inability to grow enough of the right foods in the wasteland of Utah.

Continue reading “Review: The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers”

Super Easy Currant Jelly

Our currant bushes finally put on enough currants this year that the kids couldn’t keep up with eating them all, so we had currants left to make some currant jelly.

Our currant bushes finally put on enough currants this year that the kids couldn’t keep up with eating them all, so we had currants left to make some currant jelly.
This is super easy jelly to make and one of my favorite flavors because it’s a nice combination of tart and sweet.  Here’s what you’ll need:
red currants
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Making Canned Milk Products from Powdered Milk

sweetened condensed milkWhen I started storing food, I thought it would be a good idea to store forms of canned milk like evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.  I bought quite a few cans and have used most of them over the years.  However, I only have two recipes I regularly make that call for evaporated milk, and one that calls for sweetened condensed milk, so I did not use every can I purchased before they expired. 

sweetened condensed milkWhen I started storing food, I thought it would be a good idea to store forms of canned milk like evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.  I bought quite a few cans and have used most of them over the years.  However, I only have two recipes I regularly make that call for evaporated milk, and one that calls for sweetened condensed milk, so I did not use every can I purchased before they expired.  Continue reading “Making Canned Milk Products from Powdered Milk”

Making Better Char Cloth

When starting a flint and steel or striker type of fire, char cloth makes all the difference in being able to actually get the fire started or just making a bunch of sparks that never catch anything on fire.  Char cloth (sometimes also called charred cloth) is one of those amazing mountain man items that is still very useful today.  Char cloth is pieces of blackened fabric that easily catch a spark and burn similarly to the way steel wool burns–no big flame, but a nice ember burn that doesn’t blow out once it’s lit.  The spark lights the char cloth and the char cloth is used to light the other tinder.  I’ve been wanting to add char cloth to my fire kits and having used all my char cloth made by others, I decided to make a batch of my own.

When starting a flint and steel or striker type of fire, char cloth makes all the difference in being able to actually get the fire started or just making a bunch of sparks that never catch anything on fire.  Char cloth (sometimes also called charred cloth) is one of those amazing mountain man items that is still very useful today.  Char cloth is pieces of blackened fabric that easily catch a spark and burn similarly to the way steel wool burns–no big flame, but a nice ember burn that doesn’t blow out once it’s lit.  The spark lights the char cloth and the char cloth is used to light the other tinder.  I’ve been wanting to add char cloth to my fire kits and having used all my char cloth made by others, I decided to make a batch of my own.

100% cotton jersey fabric
100% cotton jersey fabric

I had some basic directions to go off of, but had never made it myself, so here’s how the first round went.  I got some 100% cotton fabric–I used jersey fabric (an old T shirt) and cut it into approximately 2″ squares.  Mine was kind of a natural color, but you could probably use any color you have, just avoid screen-printed designs, etc.  I cut the ribbing off from the neck and sleeve ends as well as the seams.  You just want the fabric.

Next, I got a metal can–I used an old cookie tin.  I punched a vent hole in the can lid with a hammer and nail.  You can use whatever metal can you have–I’ve seen it done with smaller tins as well as cleaned out food cans with foil for a lid.

Char cloth cooking tin
Char cloth cooking tin
Cut cloth in the tin
Cut cloth in the tin

I put the cut up fabric squares in the tin, put the lid on, and put the can on my grill on low and let it cook.  You definitely want to do this outside–burning fabric doesn’t smell all that good.  My instructions said to cook it until it stopped smoking.  I had the tin fairly full, and cooked it close to 3 hours before I decided to turn it off.  It never smoked a lot.  When it cooled, I opened the can and only the bottom 3-4 layers were black, the rest of the fabric was brown.

I turned the pile over and put it back on the grill on Medium this time and cooked it another close to 3 hours.  This time it was all black when it was finished.  However, it didn’t catch a spark very well.  I could light it with a flame, or an occasional large spark, but it was very frustrating to work with.  Nothing like the char cloth I’d had before that a friend of ours made from terry cloth (old towel).

Cooked jersey char cloth
Cooked jersey char cloth

So I put it back on the grill again, this time I only filled the can about 1/3 full and cooked it on high another 3 hours or so.  Now it was a little more fragile and easy to tear (as char cloth generally is), but it still didn’t catch spark well.  I had no more ideas to make it better, so I decided to start over.

Cotton monks' cloth (quarter for scale) and smaller cooking tin
Cotton monks' cloth (quarter for scale) and smaller cooking tin

The second and far better batch of char cloth I made started with 100% cotton monk’s cloth I got at Walmart.  Notice the loose weave and air holes.  Those made a huge difference.  I cut it a little smaller this time–about 1 1/2 inch square as 2″ was a little larger than necessary.  There is some shrinkage as it cooks, but not that much.  I wanted to see if it would work straight from the store without washing the fabric first, so I only cut 5 squares of it.

I put it in a smaller tin which also got the hammer/nail air vent in the lid.

Feeling like I’d spent enough of my grill gas on this project, I opted to do this round real mountain man style and build a fire and toss the tin in the fire.  I pretty well buried it–it’s in there somewhere.

Real mountain man char cloth cooking method
Real mountain man char cloth cooking method

It did not cook long in the fire–maybe 15 minutes (of course it was in a smaller tin than the first round, but I’m guessing even a large tin wouldn’t take 9 hours in the fire).  I couldn’t tell when it stopped smoking since it was in a fire with all the rest of the smoke, so I just guessed at when to pull it out.  It wouldn’t matter if it stayed in there until the fire burned out as long as no sparks got in the airhole and caught all the fabric on fire in the meantime.

Cooked monk's cloth char cloth
Cooked monk's cloth char cloth

I fished it out, let it cool, and opened it to nicely blackened monk’s cloth.

This second round of char cloth lights up with minimal spark from a firestarter or flint/steel.  It is more fragile than the jersey char cloth, but works much better.  I’ll have to post on flint/steel firestarting another time :)

Char cloth burning
Char cloth burning

So, to recap, to make better char cloth, start with a 100% cotton fabric with texture and a fairly loose weave.  Use a fire pit if you can to save on gas.  Cooking on higher heat and cooking a smaller batch help speed up cooking time.  Happy firestarting!

Solar Cooking Challenge and Special Price

A while back, I did a post detailing the unboxing of my Solar Oven Society Sportster solar oven. I’ve been meaning to do a post where I showed how easy it is to use, but haven’t been able to get around to it.

My wife and I have been using the oven pretty frequently and are very pleased with it. When we first got it, we did a side by side comparison of it and my neighbor’s Global Sun Oven which costs just a bit more. Without getting into too many details, I think that the build quality of the Global is better, which translates to faster heat up times. The Sportster oven on the other hand is a bit larger and can handle two small pots where the Global is restricted to just one. Since a meal often consists of more than one dish, cooked in a different pot, this can be a real concern.
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Easy Gourmet Pressure Cooking: Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

This was posted by Kellene over on the Preparedness Pro Blog.

Have you been dying to learn how to utilize your pressure cooker to the fullest? Join Kellene as she teaches an Easy Gourmet Pressure Cooking workshop at the Orem, Utah Macey’s.

* Macey’s Food & Drug @ 880 N State St, Orem, Utah
* Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 from 7:00 – 8:30pm
* Call (801) 225-6010 to register
* Cost: FREE (Priceless)

Taking Stock

One of my secret, very un-prepper-like joys is getting the call from my wife on the way home, stating that I need to pick something up.  Who knows the reason, but usually that means I’m going to stop by Costco to pick up one of their roasted chickens.  Then again, we tend to pick up one of these pretty often.  Getting a whole chicken works out well, giving us several meals already largely prepared.

One of my secret, very un-prepper-like joys is getting the call from my wife on the way home, stating that I need to pick something up.

Making some stock
Making some stock

Who knows the reason, but usually that means I’m going to stop by Costco to pick up one of their roasted chickens.  Then again, we tend to pick up one of these pretty often.  Getting a whole chicken works out well, giving us several meals already largely prepared.

But whether you are like us, and just addicted to that rotisserie chicken, or you like to cook your own.  There lies the question of what do you do with the *rest* of the chicken that you don’t eat?

Continue reading “Taking Stock”

Shelf Reliance Recipe Contest

Do you have a favorite recipe for using your food storage?  Maybe a comfort food your family wouldn’t want to go without, or something that makes excellent use fo the basics?  Well here’s a good chance to show your stuff, and have a chance to win some *awesome* prizes.  Our friends at Shelf Reliance are having a recipe contest this month.

Do you have a favorite recipe for using your food storage?  Maybe a comfort food your family wouldn’t want to go without, or something that makes excellent use fo the basics?  Well here’s a good chance to show your stuff, and have a chance to win some *awesome* prizes.  Our friends at Shelf Reliance are having a recipe contest this month.

shelf_reliance_contest

There’s some seriously nice prizes too:

Entries can be emailed to [email protected].  For more information, such as the rules and details, go check out their page.

Also, go ahead and send along your favorite recipe to me, and we’ll post them up on the site here.  Of course, just watch out because I’ve got a few recipes up my sleeve, and I’m gunning for that #1 prize myself :)

SOS Sportster Solar Oven

I ordered a Solar Oven Society Sportster Oven with optional reflectors on a Monday and it arrived on my door step a precisely one week later. My neighbor has a Global Sun Oven, but hasn’t used it. Not having any experience with this subject, and not knowing anyone who had used one, I performed some research online.

I ordered a Solar Oven Society Sportster Oven with optional reflectors on a Monday and it arrived on my door step a precisely one week later. My neighbor has a Global Sun Oven, but hasn’t used it. Not having any experience with this subject, and not knowing anyone who had used one, I performed some research online.

One of the best reviews I read was by Cook’s Illustrated based on the number of models, the breadth of tests and overall quality of the written review. My wife swears by their advice and their reviews are generally spot on, so I ended up going with the model they recommended most highly. I’ll freely admit that it didn’t hurt that the oven was similarly priced with its closest competitors but also included two pots, a water pasteurization indicator and a cookbook.

A post reviewing the performance of this model (SOS Sportster Solar Oven) as well as a comparison with the Global Sun Oven is on my list of projects. If all goes well, I will be able to perform those tests this coming Saturday.

So without further ado, Unboxing the Solar Oven Society Sportster Solar Oven:
Continue reading “SOS Sportster Solar Oven”

Fun With Food Storage

Several local ladies (each with their own great blogs on different aspects on preparedness) have gotten together and launched a site today that looks to be an excellent resource for preppers.  Head on over and check out Fun With Food Storage.  Looks like they’ll have some great information on how to get and use your food storage as part of your normal routine, and who wouldn’t want to accept help with that?

Making it Yourself: Cheese

One of my favorite comfort foods to have around is cheese. While I do not consider myself any kind of cheese-snob by any means, I do have several varieties that I like to have on hand, and really care about the flavor and texture of those cheeses. These cheeses make up a very important part of my regular diet, and having to go without them would not only cause me and mine to feel the lack of something, but our bodies would probably quickly notice it, and our digestion would likely suffer.

One of my favorite comfort foods to have around is cheese. While I do not consider myself any kind of cheese-snob by any means, I do have several varieties 180px-emmentalerthat I like to have on hand (Cheddar, Jack, Gouda, to name a few), and really care about the flavor and texture of those cheeses. These cheeses make up a very important part of my regular diet, and having to go without them would not only cause me and mine to feel the lack of something, but our bodies would probably quickly notice it, and our digestion would likely suffer.

Continue reading “Making it Yourself: Cheese”