Category Archives: food preservation

Helping kids deal with rocket attacks on Israel

rocketrange[1]I got a worried email from my sister a couple of days ago, who has been following the latest news in Israel.

The latest news is that the internationally recognized terrorist group, Hamas, has been shooting hundreds of long-range rockets into Israel.  As I write this morning, 365 rockets were shot into Israel in the last 72 hours.

This began with southern Israel and is spreading throughout the country, to the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv area.  As of yesterday the first warning sirens were sounded in the northern part of the country as missiles reached the Haifa area; in the past missiles to this part of the country came from Lebanon further north of us, but for the first time these are being shot from the south.   We’re seeing  rockets with a very far range.

Miraculously, no one has been killed.  Truly a miracle.  However, there have been people who were seriously injured.

Hamas terrorists are using their citizens as human shields, deliberately encouraging people to flock to buildings that the Israeli army has warned them in advance to evacuate (this link is to a video in Arabic by terrorist leader clearly saying this is their strategy); the Israeli army aborted the planned strike as a result of the presence of civilians.  This article in Slate details Israel’s effort to spare Gaza civilians and calls it ‘exemplary’.  Meanwhile, the social media is being flooded with images of Arabs who were killed in Syria with claims that these are current pictures of the work of the Israeli army in Gaza; the notoriously anti-Israel BBC has said these are fake.

As for the millions of Israeli citizens who are being targeted…you won’t hear much about them in the media outside of Israel.

I’ve been thinking about how to present the rocket attacks to my kids – which I didn’t do an especially good job about so far – and now how to prepare them in case rockets are shot into our area.  It’s a balance to give them information but not to unnecessarily frighten them.

Here’s a song that was created by someone who saw that thousands of children in southern Israel (which has been targeted with rocket attacks for years) were very traumatized.

I’m impressed with the simple genius of this song, to turn a terrifying situation into something a child can deal with, and to help them release the fear and anxiety.  If you’ve ever heard one of these warning sirens, you know that just hearing one of them makes your stomach drop and your heart begins pounding.  That’s aside from waiting to hear the ‘boom’ of the rocket when it hits and then the all clear.

I’ve practiced drills with our kids a couple of times and hope that going to the bomb shelter won’t be necessary.  But for those in different parts of the country, this is already a reality and particularly for those who are experiencing rockets landing in their close vicinity, it’s terrifying.

This morning I saw this list of 7 positive group bomb shelter activities.  (Some people have homes with specially built safe rooms but our apartment was built a couple of years before this became standard building practice.)  These can just effectively be used with your children as with a group of strangers in the bomb shelter; they are all activities that encourage a positive energy and focus on something good.

I think the best thing for kids to have is a calm parent or teacher since they take their cues from us.  Easier said than done, right?  So helping our kids deal with this means finding a way to deal with it ourselves.

I like the above song because it gives a parent a concrete tool to help a child deal with the situation.  I decided that telling or reading a story would be most centering and grounding for me and my kids, after saying some tehillim (Psalms) together.  If we had to stay there for longer, then games would be helpful in spending time together in a relaxed way.

Our kids need us to help them stay calm, to give them the message that they’re safe and we’re there for them.  Listen to them talk, encourage them to draw or write down their feelings.  Don’t minimize this because you’re uncomfortable or so afraid yourself that you think that letting them share their feelings will make them more afraid.  Remember, they’ll take their cues from you.  The message you want them to get is, it’s scary but they are safe, that whatever happens it will all be okay.  You’re taking care of them.  This is our job especially at times like this, to be the emotional rock for our kids to lean on.

My ds15 heard a rocket land near where he was at the time and he told me he can’t believe how Israelis go on with their lives as if everything is normal.  Well, unfortunately for our beleaguered little country, being attacked by hostile Arabs is normal.  Israelis have developed the attitude that we have to go on with our lives, that to live in fear is letting terrorists win.

If you’re in Israel:

  • Do NOT share details of where you hear a rocket land.  We don’t want them to know where they are landing because this helps Hamas shoot more accurately.
  • Do NOT mention hearing planes going overhead.
  • Do NOT talk about where our soldiers are being deployed.

You know the saying from WWII, “Loose lips sink ships”?  It’s like that.  PLEASE – I know it’s scary and you want to share with your friends, but tell them in person, not on FB or other social media.  They are being monitored for this information and we don’t want to give information to people who will use it to hurt us.

Friends of ours in Baltimore began the Shmira project, where people around the world are paired with active combat soldiers in the Israeli army to pray, do good deeds or learn Torah as a merit for safety for that soldier.  Sign up here.

If you  have a smartphone there’s an app called Red Alert: Israel that you can download.  It will notify you when a rocket is being shot, giving people in communities closest to the danger zone just 15 seconds to get to safety.  For those of you not in Israel, you can use these seconds to pray for the safety of those being targeted that no one is harmed.

The Israeli army has just called up 40,000 reservists, which means that many, many young children are saying goodbye to their fathers right now.  So much courage from so many people in such a tiny country – our men, their wives and mothers and their children – we’re all one big family.

It’s hard to talk about this conflict without feeling frustrated and confused that regardless of how much terror is inflicted on the Jewish state, it is painted as the aggressor.  Why would people support evil when the facts are so clear, my older kids want to know (and what most adults are trying to wrap their heads around)?  To be very simplistic, it’s hard to deal with bullies when they control the world’s oil and everyone is dependent on it.  Better to look the other way so you don’t see what they’re doing, so you don’t have to take action.  Because ignoring evil makes it go away, don’t you know?

When I begin to feel upset or fearful about the injustice of the world, I take a deep breath and remind myself Who is running the world, and remember what we’ve seen time and time again – and I pray that we continue to merit this protection in this latest wave of attacks on Israelis.

Hodu laHashem for being our iron dome and protecting us constantly from the incessant life threatening rockets that continually rain down us. We are aware of your constant guidance and thank You with all our heart! Please continue to be for us a shield from harm and forever protect us from evil. Aliza Gable Lipkin

 

Please pray for peace, for safety and for a quick end to this most recent war of terror on Israel.

Avivah

Frugal option to buying canning jars

>>I have a son’s bar mitzvah coming up for which my mom is coming, and she is going to try to bring a small number of canning jars with her – maybe a dozen…they sell basic canning supplies from Ball right in the grocery stores, at what I considered to be very reasonable prices. However, I have never canned and wondered if you might have suggestions as to brands of jars, lids, etc., and also what other canning supplies are necessary for water bath canning and where I might purchase them cheaply (in the US). I assume I need to purchase something that the jars rest on to keep them off the bottom of the pot?<<

As many of you know, I was an avid canner in the US and had a huge collection of canning jars (about 1000) but downsized my collection along with everything else when we moved here.

The reason I felt able to do this was because I had an alternate plan for canning supplies when I moved to Israel .  This is a good tip for anyone interested in canning, wherever you live, but for those in all countries but in countries where you can’t get canning supplies, it makes the difference between being able to can food or not being able to.

Here are the jars that I use – below they are filled with rendered beef fat, but I use them for just about everything – like storing foods in the pantry and refrigerator as well as for canning.

beef fat

These are glass jars recycled from store bought products – in my case, marinara sauce.  You can use jars of any height or width, small or large.  The main thing is that they have pop top lids.  You see these safety seal jars everywhere – the lids pop up when you open the jar.  The lids operate as a vacuum – and these lids can be resealed again and again if you’re canning (the heat of the rendered fat in the photo above also caused the jars to seal).  The lid will be indented when the seal is strong, popped up when the seal is broken.  If you don’t buy foods that come in this kind of packaging, then ask friends to save jars for you – I have one friend who has been the source of all of my jars; I probably have about fifty jars thanks to her!

It does take some preparation to use these jars.  If you’re a religious Jew, they will need to be toiveled, and completely getting the sticky residue off of the outside of the jars so you can do this is where the real work comes in.  What I do is put the jars in boiling water to loosen the labels, peel the labels off, pour a bit of oil on the outside of the jar on the residue, then scrub it off with steel wool.  I usually save up a bunch of jars and do them all at once.  Fortunately it only has to be done once!

Foods that can be waterbathed include jellies, jams, chutneys, fruits, juices, and pickles.  All of these are high acid foods which means they are low risk and easy foods to can.  I believe that it would be possible to safely pressure can with these jars – assuming you have a pressure canner and follow proper safety guidelines – but I don’t have a pressure canner anymore so I haven’t tried.  Pressure canning requires a lot more knowledge and caution since you’re dealing with low acid foods, so my recommendations right now are just regarding waterbath canning.

If you want to buy canning jars, it doesn’t really matter what company you buy.  Most of mine were Kerr or Ball, which are the name brands, but honestly I don’t think there’s a qualitative difference between the generic jars.  They are all a standard thickness and the same size.  So go for whatever’s cheapest.

The other things that you’ll find helpful are a funnel (to get the food in the jars neatly), a canning jar lifter (to lift the jars out of the pot of boiling water) and a magnetic wand (to lift the lids out of hot water).  You can buy these as a set online; I’ve also seen them sold at Walmart. I bought a new set of these before moving, but one of my lovely children took it out of the box it was packed in and I’ve never seen it since.  It probably ended up in a box of things that were given away – along with some other new items that were purchased for our move and didn’t make it into the boxes – and whoever bought these things at the thrift store wondered why anyone would have given away those brand new items!  When you get a canning jar lifter, if you’re planning to do a lot of canning I strongly recommend getting a good quality one that is solidly constructed and will last.

>>Also, where could I purchase kosher pectin – the low sugar variety, specifically?<<

I bought the low sugar pectic made by Ball, which had a kosher certification.  I remember a reader emailing me information about buying pectin in bulk but don’t remember the specifics.

Avivah

Canning when you can’t buy canning supplies

>>Do you know where I can get canning supplies in Israel?? Can’t find any in my area! A lady gave me a couple dozen jars and a few lids but no rings! Have been looking and not finding anything.<<

Back when I was the owner of over a thousand canning jars, many dozen lids, and endless rings, I decided to move to Israel, land of many things but canning supplies weren’t one of them.

So I agonized over what to do with my canning supplies (including my heavy duty shelving units which could hold the weight of dozens of full jars), which I had acquired with much time and effort.  I very much enjoyed being able to fill my pantry with shelves of beautiful jars of food bought at great discounts and home-preserved for the long term.  I primarily canned real food (eg chicken, ground meat, vegetables and fruit) versus specialty items or jams, so I had jars I could pull off the shelf and heat up for an instant meal.

This was mentally a hard thing to let go of, but it became obvious that I couldn’t justify the cost of an overseas container just to take my canning supplies – though there are lots of other things that would have been nice to take, those were the main things I was having trouble letting go of.  How did I make the decision to sell all of my canning supplies?

I was able to let go of this because I had a backup plan for canning that I could do in Israel.  When I began canning, I read several books to fully understand the science of canning, the safety issues, how to prevent possible bacterial contamination, etc.  As a result, I felt I understood why each step was taken and realized there were different ways to get the same end result – a safe product.

What was that?  Factories don’t use canning lids and rings, but rather suction lids.  Many foods you buy come in these jars, and can be used to safely water bath high acid foods (this is a very important detail).  This was my plan when I moved here, and I’ve gradually accumulated several dozen jars (thanks to one particular friend who graciously saves her jars for me!).  I bought a new canning jar lifter before I left and packed it with the things I wanted to take on the flight so I’d have it right  away, but one of the littles found it and played with it, and when I found it the boxes for the flight had been sealed.  So it will come whenever my few boxes of books arrive.

The problem I have with these jars is that they aren’t very large, and I preferred canning in half gallon jars.  So when I canned fruit compote, we could easily use two jars for just one breakfast.  Knowing the work that goes into processing the fruits, it’s a little discouraging to see it disappear so quickly!  However, it does offer me a workable option and one that I’ve overall been satisfied with.

Avivah

How to render beef fat

Five jars of cooled (white) fat, jar on right with melted fat still hot

Some things are so easy you feel almost foolish posting instructions on how to do it, and how to render beef fat (or chicken fat) is one of those things!

But since Chanukah began just last night and it’s traditional to fry foods in oil during this eight day festival, I’m going to go ahead and share an option for frying that our family enjoys year round!

Firstly, you’ll need to get hold of a good bit of beef fat.  This is also called suet.  There are different qualities of fat; if you have a choice, you want a big chunk of white fat rather than a blob of little pieces.  But either way, you’ll prepare it the same way.  We got a nice slab from the ribs, which is good quality fat.

If you want to make life more involved for yourself, then go ahead and dice the fat up.  Or put it in a food processor, or chop it.  I’ve seen all those things recommended.  But you know me, ‘why make more work than necessary?’ is my motto, so I just put the entire big chunk in a pot.

Put the burner on low, and let the fat slowly melt over the course of time – it might take up to a few hours, depending how much fat you have.  When it’s liquid, it’s called rendered – pour the fat through a strainer into a glass jar or container.  If you are going to refrigerate the fat and don’t care if there are tiny pieces of meat that end up in it, don’t bother straining it.  The beef particles will sink to the bottom of the jar.  I use this up so quickly that it doesn’t matter to me if it’s clarified (strained) or not.

If you have a big chunk, you might find that you can pour off most of the melted fat, but there’s still a chunk left.  Go ahead, pour off what’s melted, and keep melting the remainder – that’s what I did above, which is why one jar in my picture was in the hot melted stage while the others had already cooled off.

When the fat is liquid, it will be a lovely golden brown,  but when it hardens, it turns a pure white.  You can see that in my picture above.  (You can also see the little food particles at the bottom of the jar of melted fat on the right, if you look closely. )

You might be left with some tasty cracklings at the end of this – if you are, save them and use them to season another dish – it’s delicious!

Now, how do you preserve your rendered fat?  Assuming you’ve strained it, you should be able to keep this at room temperature for quite a while.  What I’ve liked doing in the past is rendering a large batch of fat at a time, pouring the hot strained fat into glass canning jars, and then immediately closing each jar with a new canning lid and ring.  It will seal as it cools, and will stay shelf stable for many, many months.

For those of you wondering why in the world I’d want to use something as artery clogging as beef fat, it’s because it’s not saturated fat that causes heart problems, but processed vegetable oils (yes, like the widely touted canola and soy oils).  They’ve done analyses of the stuff they’ve scraped out of arteries and it’s not saturated fat.  There’s lots of fascinating research about this and if you’re interested in reading some articles, here are some to start you off:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/01/does-dietary-saturated-fat-increase.html

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/08/saturated-fat-consumption-still-isnt.html  (This blogger has a PhD in neurobiology and has a number of excellent articles on different aspects of the research on saturated fat – you can do a search on his blog if you’re interested in reading more.)

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/ (This is an excellent site and is filled with high quality information, but you’ll find a little bit of off-color language from time to time – just a warning for those who would be bothered.)

http://www.drbriffa.com/2010/01/15/two-major-studies-conclude-that-saturated-fat-does-not-cause-heart-disease/

The benefits in terms of cooking with beef fat are that it has a high smoking point, which makes it good for frying and baking.  Flavor-wise, I prefer to use coconut oil or palm shortening for baking, but find the beef fat adds a nice flavor to most other things.

Avivah

(This post is linked to Make Your Own Monday, Monday ManiaHomestead Barn Hop, Real Food 101,  Traditional TuesdaysReal Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesdays, and the Real Food Hanukkah Blog Carnival.)

How to preserve eggs

Have you ever had an abundance of eggs, or seen a great deal on eggs and wished you could stock up, but didn’t because you thought they’d go bad before you could use them?  I have!  Here’s an alternative that can be helpful.

Crack your eggs, slightly beat them, (edited to add – and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt in), and pour them into ice cube trays.  (Pay attention to how many you use so you can do the math on how many eggs are in each cube.)  Once they’re frozen, pour them into a zip lock bag.  Put them in the freezer until you need them.  When you’re ready to use them, defrost the amount of cubes you need in your fridge, and use them in whatever recipes you want to make.  And here’s where the math comes in: one cube equals – xxx eggs.

Do you have any other practical and easy ways to store eggs long term (except for keeping them in the fridge!)?  Have you ever used this strategy or something similar for eggs?  

Avivah

Tattler reusable canning jar lids

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been steadily selling off canning supplies, including a couple of days ago when I sold all of my fantastic Tattler canning jar lids that I never got around to telling you about last year.  

Though I’m not using them now, I still want to share about them since even in the canning community, many people don’t know about them and they’re a great option to be aware of. 

Tattler lids are made of BPA free plastic, and have a separate rubber ring that is fitted onto the lid before the lid is placed on the jar.  After putting the lid on, you put the metal canning ring on to hold it on, then process as usual.  The only difference is how you tighten the lid before processing, and when you tighten the lid after processing (instructions are on the box). 

What’s great about them is that they can be used long term repeatedly – no more having to buy lids and then dispose of them after one use (and though I’m a frugal person, reusing lids isn’t a way I recommend saving money).  That means that one dozen lids can be used continually for many, many batches of canning!   The other big advantage is there’s no concern about BPA leaking into your food. 

The big challenge is the upfront high cost of the lids – about $7 – 8 dozen (not including the rubber rings).  That means you have to can about six batches of food to break even (compared to the cost of buying disposable lids).  For me, I was able to purchase a large number of these lids for a super price through a private seller – I bought about 60 dozen lids that included the rubber rings (all unused) and paid about $120 for all of them- I was really excited about this when I found them.  

I passed on my savings to the person who bought from me – I know I could have made a nice profit by selling them at a higher price (which would still have been less than 50% of retail price, but that’s not what I wanted to do.  I was so grateful to have found these at a price I could afford and wanted someone else like me to be able to have the same experience.  She knew what these lids were and appreciated what an amazing buy they were; she told me she had been asking G-d to send her these lids since she really wanted them but didn’t have a budget for buying them at the regular price, and as I told her, “G-d provides!” 

Parenthetically, the buyer of these lids was Mormon.  Mormons are advised by their religious leaders to have  a year’s supply of food stored in case of emergency, though I’ve read only 10% of practicing Mormons do this.  She wanted to know how I could sell off all of my canning supplies at a time when it seems there is tremendous instability, and many are afraid that massive inflation and all that comes along with that is coming down the road for the U.S. in the not so distant future.  At this time, more people than ever are interested in canning, buying in bulk, and being prepared to weather at least a part of the financial storm by creating a pantry ‘hedge’.  We had quite an interesting conversation!

You can find these lids online , but as I said, there is a high upfront cost (though there’s a bulk option that lowers the cost).  These lids have been around since the 70s and so there’s a long term record for them holding up for decades (though the rubber rings will need to be replaced at some point if they get stretched out – they’re not expensive), so if you can often, even at the retail price you would still end up saving in the long run.  And it’s a nice to have a reusable option rather than constantly buying and discarding lids.

Avivah

Questions about purchasing/storing bulk foods

>>Where do you buy grains in bulk?<<

I used to buy grains in bulk directly from a bulk distributor that had an option to sell to private individuals (at a markup from what they charged the stores), until I found a store that also ordered from them that allowed me to place my order with theirs, and pick it up when I do my shopping there.  This has been much more convenient for me, since the distributor was three hours from my house and then another hour-plus to any other place I was doing shopping.  And I’m a very good customer of that store, so they were happy to do it for me – but it’s not something they generally do so something like this has to be worked out with the store manager personally.   (I had another store that also agreed to do this for me, so I’m sure this is an approach others can try). 

>>Do you have suggestions on where to find stores or food wholesalers or distributors from whom to buy in bulk?<<

I started looking for suppliers by asking local health food stores who they ordered through, then contacting them to see if they’d sell directly to me.  Those suppliers wouldn’t but I knew someone was out there who would, so I kept nosing around the internet and making calls until I found my supplier.  I had to pick my order up locally, but another company I spoke to said they’d deliver if my order was above a certain amount, and we had access for their large delivery truck.  There are also co-ops you can purchase through who have either local drops or will deliver – Azure Standard comes to mind, but there are others.  If you know others in your area who are frugally minded, they might know of other local options or would be willing to share costs if you organized a large order. 

>>how do you prevent bug infestation of your bulk grains?<<
 
You prevent infestation by freezing your grains for 24 hours before repackaging them into buckets.  I love how easy this is in the winter – I can just leave the things in the van overnight after our shopping trip and transfer the stuff to buckets afterward.  But honestly, I don’t bother with freezing in the summer; I just don’t have the necessary freezer space.  However, I’ve almost never had a problem with infestation from my bulk food suppliers; the problems I’ve encountered usually came from discount grocers and sometimes from regular supermarkets – I quickly glance at the plastic packaging at beans/grains purchased in small amounts to check for signs of bugs since realizing that I couldn’t assume it would be clean.  I check all of the grains we use (except wheat) before using them. 

>>How do you store them (bulk items)?<<

I store everything in buckets.  I used to stack the buckets 2 or sometimes even three high, but then it got to be too many buckets for the small area I had available.  At that time, I made a platform using a free pallet to keep them off the floor.  So last year I bought very heavy duty shelving units that can hold a lot of weight and that has made it very easy to find space, since I can use the space vertically all the way up.  Very nice, and I always have plenty of space now.  It’s lots more organized, no more stacking buckets.

>>Where do you get your storage buckets usually?<<

Restaurants often have these for free since the bulk foods they purchase come in them; you may have to wash them out, but they’re generally happy to give them to you if they have them.  You can also approach bakeries, who get frosting in large buckets.  These are all (obviously :)) food grade buckets.   I prefer square buckets, which are harder to get hold of, but I find they’re much more space efficient – you lose a lot of space with round storage containers (this is true of refrigerator storage containers, too – I try to stick with square or rectangle shapes for this same reason).   Also, the lids on the round buckets are often different sizes and it can be a chore to match the right lid with the bucket it goes to.  But I still have to use them since I don’t yet have enough square buckets for my needs. 

(This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.)

Avivah

Traditional food preparations for Passover

>>I’ve been starting to plan meals for Passover, in the hopes that better planning will mean we eat more than matzah spread with whatever.   I was wondering if you could post a bit of about creative passover meal ideas.  And also I was wondering what you know of sprouting, lacto-fermenting, etc during Passover.  What can be sprouted that isn’t kitniyos?  All I can think of is sunflower seeds, and perhaps quinoa could be sprouted.  We like fermented green beans best (dilly beans), but that is kitniyos.  I’m not sure what other options there would be, that we would like.  Can a person make kefir, or kombucha, or… for Passover?  Do you worry about soaking grains when you are eating matzah?  You can’t exactly soak matzah, right?
And also, I’ve been wondering, when you soak nuts and grains, if you don’t have a dehydrator, how do you get them back to normal?  Particularly, if you soak grains, can they be ground for flour in that state? <<

I haven’t yet planned my Passover menu (I’ll do it on Thursday next week, after I see what I get for a very good price that I want to integrate into my planning), and I don’t know if it will be very creative!  But I’ll be sure to post about it once I have it basically worked out.

I don’t think there’s much you can sprout for Passover, since it’s generally beans, seeds, and grains that are sprouted, and we don’t eat any of those!  I suppose you can try to sprout quinoa, but I’ll just do an overnight soak with an acidic medium in a warm location.  Nuts can be soaked and dehydrated, but I’m not planning to bother with that for the week of Passover- I generally use my dehdrator for that; the times I tried to use my oven to dry nuts that had been soaked and grains that had been sprouted, it didn’t turn out well at all!  (My oven doesn’t go low enough and the result was slightly scorched.)  (In answer to your last question, grains that are sprouted are ground after being dried if you want to use them for flour.)

Lacto fermented vegetables are a cinch for Passover – just shred the vegetables (I make up combinations all the time – try napa or cabbage with onion, garlic, carrots and some curry powder – this is an easy one that always turns out well), add some sea salt and water, and let them sit on your counter until they’re ready.  (The salt I use throughout the year for table use is Real Salt, which is certified kosher for Passover – this would be a very good addition to fermented vegetables.)  The hardest part is that some vegetables like cabbage will take more time than a week to be ready to eat!  You can minimize the time needed to ferment cabbage by chopping it very finely. But most vegetables can be ready within 2 – 3 days.  Most hard and crunchy vegetables can be effectively fermented – have fun experimenting!

Last year I asked about using the kefir grains and was told that I shouldn’t use them on Pesach (Passover).  Realize that in virtually every situation that I’ve asked a question like this, the rabbi I approached had to rely on my detailed description to make his decision, since these kind of questions aren’t common.  So it’s possible that it being an unknown food was a contributing factor to the decision and it was cautionary rather than kefir grains being problematic in and of themselves.  I don’t know and it doesn’t matter to me – I was told not to use it for this one week a year so I don’t.  I don’t find it hard to enjoy raw milk without culturing it for a week, so not having kefir is no hardship for me!

If you do want cultured dairy, you can easily make yogurt by buying a kosher for Passover plain whole milk yogurt starter, then following the instructions I gave here.  I usually use a dehydrator but explained in the post that I just linked to how to use a cooler as the insulating box, with a heating pad/hot water bottle on top – since I don’t have a Passover dehydrator, that’s what I would do.

I don’t use kombucha, so I can’t share any tips with that – I tried to make it about three years ago and I think I killed my scoby.  😆 Maybe it wasn’t dead but it was so unappetizing looking that I threw it away.

Because of the high phytic acid content, I’ll be minimizing the use of matza, but matza meal can be soaked overnight in an acidic medium if you use it for cakes, muffins, or pancakes. You can use shredded coconut and nut flours in place of flours for baked goods – I have a number of recipes in my ‘recipe’ category that will be appropriate for Passover use, even if I didn’t label them as such.

Tonight I’ll be preparing beef liver for the first time (will share more about that another time), and bought a new grill to kasher it on so whatever we prepare will be able to be used for Passover.  That will be a nice traditional addition to our Pesach menu, I hope!

Someone once commented that her Jewish mother-in-law gave her a Jewish cookbook and the entire book was filled with healthy recipes that work well for a gluten-free diet.  I was wondering what in the world she could be talking about, and realized that she must have been given an older cookbook with Passover recipes!  Once you get past the modern day food imitations that supermarkets are filled with that are marketed especially for this time of year, you realize that this really is an easy time of year to eat well, easier than during the rest of the year when grains and beans may be a staple of your diet.

Stick with traditional fats- extra virgin olive oil, rendered chicken fat (shmaltz), butter, and extra virgin coconut oil.  Then add lots of fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, meat and chicken, along with quinoa, potatoes, and sweet potatoes for the starch, some nuts, coconut, and dried fruits for dessert – there’s hardly anything to miss eating.  And all of it is healthy, simple, and delicious!

Avivah

Taking advantage of vegetable bargains

I think I’ve hit my personal record for buying a huge amount of food for a tiny amount of money and if you’ve been reading here a while, you know that’s saying something.  I spent $45.63 at one store on Wednesday, which included but wasn’t limited to: 4 cases of tomatoes (28 lb each), 7 cases of yams (40 lb each), 19 heads of celery, 150 lb potatoes, and a case of bananas (40 lb).   To be honest, I did have a store credit of $24 from the two cases of yams I bought last month that spoiled in a very short time, so the total would have been a little more had I not had the credit. But I was quite pleased with it.

Note: if you buy something and there’s a problem with it, don’t assume it’s your fault.  I knew that something was wrong when the yams went off so fast (I’ve been buying in bulk and storing in bulk for a couple of years now and this was unprecedented in cold weather), but at first I assumed I’d have to swallow the loss – the store I bought the yams last month from was far away from my home, I no longer had the receipt, and I wasn’t able to return until five weeks after the original purchase.  But I’ve learned it doesn’t hurt to ask, and when I called and explained to them the date I bought them, how I stored them, and what happened, they readily agreed to refund the entire price whenever I’d be back in their area, without having to show any proof of purchase.  It took about five minutes to make the call and get the person in charge on the phone; $24 for five minutes ‘work’ is pretty decent, don’t you think?

Along with my wonderful windfalls came a lot of work!   People often think I’m just lucky that I find so many things so inexpensively, but the truth is that most people walk right past these kind of deals and don’t recognize the opportunity in front of them.  Or even if they realize the price is really low, they don’t know what to do with such huge quantities without it spoiling before they use it.  I never let a concern about quantities stop me from buying (as you see from the fact I bought almost 300 lb of yams :)), I figure somehow I’ll find something to do with it! 😆

The tomatoes were super cheap because they were very, very ripe.  So I had to process them right away.  That meant that I (along with my kids) spent a solid chunk of time yesterday washing, chopping, cooking, and canning.   Was it worth it?  I think so.  We made 15 quarts of tomato sauce, 12 quarts of salsa, and 5 quarts of tomato juice.  Pretty good, since the ingredients for all of it didn’t cost more than $15!  (My kids wanted to know why I didn’t buy all of the cases available at this price.)  It’s a nice feeling of satisfaction at the end of a day to see the counter filled with beautiful jars of home canned foods.  And I like knowing that my kids are developing an attitude of self sufficiency as well as learning real life skills like preserving foods.

I was considering canning the celery but to do that I’d have had to pressure can it.  Though if you look at the actual processing time, pressure canning looks faster than water bath canning, it doesn’t take into account the time needed to bring the canner up to pressure, process the food, then wait for the canner to depressurize before moving on to the next batch. That can add up to an hour to each load.  Since I wanted to get about 80+pounds of tomatoes dealt with in one day (saved some to use fresh), I decided to only can what I could water bath and the celery ended up being dehydrated instead.  Dehydrating celery is so easy – just slice it thinly and put it on the trays.  But it’s honestly almost disheartening to watch sixteen heads of celery becoming so compact that they fit into a quart sized jar – and there’s still room left in the jar!

I’m planning to can a bunch of the yams, since they’re in beautiful condition now but they won’t stay that way forever.  But I won’t get to that until next week, since there’s no rush.  Then I’ll have them in a ready to use form to add to soups, stews, or casseroles.

The bananas were very ripe (had lots brown flecks on them but weren’t turning black), but my kids attacked them so I doubt there will be enough left by Sunday to even consider turning into fruit leather.  Bananas make great snacks since they’re so filling, especially when spread with lots of peanut butter.

An additional frugal perk of canning in the winter is that you really appreciate the added warmth from the hours of cooking and steamy smells wafting throughout the house.

(This post is part of Frugal Fridays.)

Avivah

How to make butter

I got a great buy on organic cream a week and a half ago, and this morning I decided to show the kids how to turn it into butter.  This is a fun and simple activity for  kids of all ages, two and up – it’s like magic to see cream turn into butter before their eyes!

All you need is heavy cream and a container with a lid.  I used a glass jar, but if you’re going to let a two year old do this, use a plastic jar, like an empty mayonnaise jar with a tight fitting lid. You can even use a disposable water bottle – it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s something that will close tightly and be easy for your child to handle.

Pour a cup of heavy cream into the container, making sure not to fill the container more than half way, and tightly close the lid.  Hand it to your child and tell them to shake it until it turns into butter.  That’s it.  :)  At first the cream will become whipped cream – we stopped and let them taste at this point.  Then as they continue shaking it, it will form a solid ball as the liquid separates.  This takes a lot of shaking – great to use up some little kid energy!

If you’ve used a narrow plastic container like a water bottle, cut it open (since the ball of butter obviously won’t fit through the opening); otherwise just open the container and pour out the liquid. Reserve the liquid to use for soaking flour or grains; pour out the butter and put it in a closed container in the fridge.

We gave each of our kids a small container to put the finished butter in, and after smoothing it into the container, they marked their butter with their initial.  I let my ds7 and ds3 make this first, and everyone else was so interested that they asked if they could also make some.  It’s a good thing I bought a lot of cream!  For the first batch we didn’t add salt, but I told the kids who wanted to make it afterwards that they could decide if they wanted to salt theirs, and choose the kind of salt and proportions they wanted to use.

My kids were wondering if it was cheaper to make butter than to buy it, so naturally I told them to figure it out.  :)   But I’ll do the math for you.  😀  A pint of heavy cream yields a half pound of butter.  Since I bought the cream at the low price of .79, our homemade organic butter comes out to 1.58 lb, which is cheaper than regular non-organic butter (which is what I usually buy).

Enjoy!

Avivah