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While I’m at it, I’d better share my love of home sprouting for humans too!

Sprouting is an easy and incredibly cheap way to keep yourself supplied with fresh, live food through the winter. Without supporting the use of copious fossil fuels to bring Chilean head lettuce to New York, or wherever the hell you are.

Alfalfa are the most popular sprouts, the kind you see at the store. But I adore radish sprouts too, for the flavor kick! I sprout a mix of the two, and sometimes add in lentils too. Any seed will sprout, but since they take different amounts of time, they won’t always all work in the same jar…

All you need is the seeds and one of those nifty little sprouting lids that screws right onto a wide-mouth Mason jar, so you can drain the jar (cheesecloth will work too). Many stores carry both the seeds and the lids in their health food section.

Simply put your seeds in a jar, let sit overnight, then pour the water out and rinse thoroughly once or twice a day. Keep the jar upside down so it can drain, like in your dishrack. Soggy sprouts equals rotting sprouts.

I use a half Tablespoon each alfalfa and radish, and a Tablespoon lentils in a pint sized jar. When the alfalfa seeds have grown to about an inch long and greened up (4 or 5 days), they’re ready to eat! Put ’em in the fridge and start a new batch!

Sprouts make an awesome addition to  sandwiches. But they’re also great in salads, omelettes, stir-frys, tacos– be creative! Throw ’em in at the end of cooking though, so they stay fresh and crunchy. Yum for fresh foods!

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stock-potI am a huge fan of stock, I can dozens of jars of salmon and deer stock every year, and I use it all the time. Stock is the ultimate thrifty person’s food, there’s probably as much nutrition in the bones of an animal as in the meat, and different stuff too– like loads of calcium, and gelatin (which comes from the cartilage and is supposed to be real good for you). All I know is, I can’t hardly make soup anymore without cracking a jar of stock. Seems on a par with onions. And, hey, I don’t want to brag, but my soups are good. A friend visiting recently became obsessed with some soup I’d made the day before. It was just a bean, veggie and macaroni “oh-this-ole-thing?” kinda soup, but she said she’d never had anything like it. “It’s not my cooking prowess,” I told her, “it’s the stock.”

If you’ve never made stock before, there’s little easier. Just cover bones with cold water, bring to a simmer, and continue simmering for a few hours (just 30 mins for fish, too long gives it a weird flavor). When you’ve cooked all the goodness out of the bones, they’ll look sort of bleached, all the meat will have fallen off and the cartilage dissolved. Then just fish out the bones and strain the stock. That’s it!

You can reduce it to make a concentrate if you want, just return to the pot and keep a boil on it until it cooks down by half or so. But I never bother, I just can it straight up. You have to have a pressure canner to can stock, follow the manufacturers directions and process at 10 lbs pressure for 20 mins (for pint jars). If you don’t have a pressure canner, you can freeze stock beautifully. Pour into straight-sided pint jars, tupperware, or even zip-locks. Slightly less space efficient, but way more handy is to freeze the stock in ice cube trays or any small plastic containers (like yogurt cups) overnight, then pop them out into a big zip-lock for storage. That way you can just grab however much you need, and throw it straight into your cooking pot.

Here in Cordova it’s easy to get bones, everyone here puts up a home-pack of fish, and many more of deer as well, and I’m one of about three people that uses the bones. (I’ve always felt something of a heretical evangelist when it comes to making stock…) But I suspect, with a little research, you too could track down a good bone source. For one thing, butchers usually give ‘em away for free or near to it. Is there any kind of hunting in your area, maybe contact a hunting association…? Or you could just save up bones from your own kitchen.

I ought to mention a few refinements, not at all necessary. One that I’ve never tried is adding vinegar to your bones, before you cook ‘em. Somewhere in the ballpark of ¼ c. for a big stock-pot. It’s supposed to help draw the minerals out.

Another thing, which I sometimes do and sometimes don’t depending on how pressed for time I am, is cracking the bones. Unless you’re getting cut bones from the butcher, all that marrow goodness needs a way to get out. Be forewarned: raw bones are hard to crack, take ‘em outside to your chopping block and use your maul if yer gonna do it.

Lastly, if your stock looks very fatty, you’ll probably want to let it sit somewhere cold overnight, so you can lift the fat off before you freeze or can the stock. I’m usually a big fan of fat, but since it goes rancid relatively quickly it decreases the shelf life of your stock. It also seems to carry flavors in the stock that are less desirable.

Now that we’ve gone over making stock, what about making bullion?

I recently read an article in Backwoods Home by Selina Rifkin about making bullion and I just had to try it. It was a great article, and might be a great idea for somewhere else, but after trying it here I can unhesitantly say, I can’t fucking believe I just did that.

When you make bullion you pretty much just boil the hell out of your stock– boil it down, she said by three quarters, but that was still nowhere near done. I started with about 3 gallons of stock, and ended up with about 2 cups of bullion. That means I just put 2 and 7/8th gallons of water into the air in my house!!!! Considering our humidity in this coastal rainforest is already almost 100%, I might as well have just taken a bucket and poured 2 and 7/8th gallons of water all over everything! What the hell was I thinking?!

In addition to cultivating more mold and fungus in our house than ever before, making bullion took more of my time, and way more stove energy than just canning the stock. I tried it on the woodstove, but it wasn’t hot enough. It took 6 or 7 hours of medium-high heat to turn that much water into steam and distribute it to the nether reaches of our home. Not even remotely worth it.

If you live somewhere really frickin’ cold, keep your woodstove crankin’ and get chapped lips and static-y hair in winter, then it would probably be awesome. If you do, look up her article in Backwoods Home, Issue 114.

I must admit– the finished little cubes of brown, rubbery bullion are cute as hell. And I haven’t tasted it yet, but it smells like it got a nice carmeley-roast flavor.

And now, I’d better go mop my carpet.

Oh, I do love me some cabbage salad.

Raw cabbage is one of those foods that tastes viscerally right to me, like it’s filling some deep hole in my body that nothing else fits. When I feel I’ve really been neglecting my health, I’ll start munching on a head of cabbage like a giant apple.

You don’t have to love cabbage that much to love this salad though. Almost everyone loves this salad, even non-salad eaters like my husband. Up here in the cold of winter, just the idea of a lettuce salad could freeze yer tits off. But I still hanker for something fresh, something raw and crunchy.

Enter a nice, spiritually warming bowl of cabbage salad.

Slice up a pile of cabbage, real thin. It’s really awesome with kale too, if it’s nice tender homegrown stuff.
Shred a carrot or two.
Now, some red onion, or even leeks. Just a little though.
And half an apple, something tart-sweet like braeburn, or fuji, small slices.

On to the dressing.
Mash a clove or two of garlic into a half pint jar.
Fill jar one third with white balsamic vinegar*
and another third, or a little more with your best quality olive oil.
Then, fresh ground black pepper
and some salt (1/2 t. for a half pint jar of dressing).

Shake it up real good and let it macerate while you do the magic part of the salad.
Don’t skip this, it’s what makes this salad acceptable to eat in sweater season.

Chop a good handful of walnuts and toast in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Don’t let them burn! Just nicely golden-up. At the end, stir in a tiny pinch of salt, and if you’re feeling fancy, a pinch of sugar too, and a shake of cinnamon.

Now dress the salad, and top with hot nuts.

* If you’ve never had white (or sometimes called “golden”) balsamic vinegar before, you’re in for a real treat. Like regular balsamic vinegar it’s aged in wood, but it uses white, instead of red wine. It’s flavor is not so overpowering, but still that alluring sweet balsamic-ness. People always ask for my dressing recipe but, as you can see above, it’s nothing unusual, no secret ingedients. Except this vinegar. This stuff is truly fantastic. You’ll never go back.

“It’s a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to be a decent man.”

-David Harris

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