Food & Health Archive


So You Want to be a Small-Scale Dairy Farmer

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

So, you want to start a small-scale dairy. Before you begin scanning real estate ads, buying a set of Carhartts, and pricing out feed, take heed from the advice of acclaimed author and farmer Gianaclis Caldwell.

Caldwell grew up on a small family farm in Oregon, where she milked cows, ran a dairy cow 4-H club, and learned to raise organic produce and meat. In 2005, Caldwell returned to the property with her husband and their two daughters where they now operate Pholia Farm, an off-grid, raw milk cheese dairy. So, she knows of what she speaks (and writes).

TEH SMALL SCALE DIARYIn her new book, The Small-Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market, Caldwell asks wannabe farmers to sit down, take a deep breath, and (honestly) answer a few key questions before diving into the romantic life of a dairy farmer.

  • Does your idea of a vacation involve getting up several hours earlier than normal to finish the chores in time to attend a raw-milk educational conference, then arrive home late, do chores again, and still get up on time the next morning
  • Do you see yourself paying more for animal feed than your own dinner out
  • Do you find inserting your arm into a laboring doe’s uterus to untangle triplet goat kids an interesting challenge
  • Does your idea of a balanced workout include doing squats while working in the milking parlor
  • Does producing wholesome food and feeding your community make you happy

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might be a dairy farmer.

In The Small-Scale Dairy, Caldwell (The Small-Scale Cheese Business, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking) provides the know-how to safely produce nourishing, farm-fresh milk. She also provides readers a balanced perspective on the current regulatory environment in which raw-milk lovers find themselves.

“For both producers and consumers, The Small-Scale Dairy is a must read and a valuable contribution to a growing movement,” writes Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

In The Small-Scale Cheese Business Caldwell tackled the nuts and bolts of running a successful creamery, while in the beautifully designed and written Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, she provided insight into the intricacies of cheesemaking science – as well as tried and true recipes for beginner to expert cheesemakers.

With the addition of her latest book, Caldwell has created a farm-to-plate trilogy for the aspiring dairy farmer and cheesemaker. Pick up any one of her books and learn whether you just might be a dairy farmer, have what it takes to run the business side of your cheese business, or if you’re talents lie in crafting the perfect artisanal cheese wheel. Or, grab the complete set and start scanning the real estate ads and looking for a few pairs of Carhartts.

The Small-Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market is available now and on sale for 35% off until April 11. Read an excerpt below.

Chapter 2: Is the Small Dairy Right for You? by Chelsea Green Publishing

Does it Pay to Keep a Cow?

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Originally published as The Cow Economy in the 1970s, Keeping a Family Cow is the revised and updated Chelsea Green edition of Joann Grohman’s classic homesteader guide to owning a family cow.

In this adapted article below, Grohman – who, at 85, still milks her cow daily – walks newcomers through the economics, and the emotions, of owning a family cow, or two. So, if you’re ruminating this winter about getting a cow this year – read on. Or, start your daydreaming.

* * * * *

Your Cow Economy

Does it pay to keep a cow? For the last fifteen thousand years and more the answer was too obvious to bother asking. Cattle, more than anything else, were synonymous with wealth. Is the world so different now? We certainly do our cost accounting differently today. Once you have your own cow you will modify the following numbers to fit your circumstances.

The chart here can help you get started. In the following example I am assuming 165 days of grazing and 200 days of hay feeding.

Keeping Family Cow Chart

Additional costs for trucking, fencing, housing, veterinary expenses, pitchforks, and so on are important to keep track of, but you will get a clearer sense of your cow economy if you log them separately.

If the cow is on a no-grain regimen you can deduct the cost of the grain, but you will then need to deduct 20 percent of the milk production.

If the cow freshens at five gallons a day, you dry her off after 290 days, at which point she was giving two gallons a day, that’s an average of about 3.5 gallons per day or 1,015 gallons per year. Cows in commercial herds do a lot better than this and yours may too. But at $4 a gallon that’s $4,060 worth of milk. Deducting the costs of the cow and her feed, you are, in theory, $1,035 ahead. In the second year, when the cow is already paid for, your costs are only $2,025. If you have a $600 heifer calf to sell, you may consider yourself $2,635 ahead.

If you are raising a steer you won’t want to butcher before eighteen months. Both butchering costs and what he may bring at auction vary greatly, but you ought to be able to count on 450 pounds of meat if you choose to butcher.

If a family of four uses a gallon of milk a day, there is an average of two and a half gallons a day to sell, make into value-added products, or feed to other livestock. At this point, if you consider value-added products, the cost accounting can get quite interesting.

If raw milk sales are legal in your area, the two and a half gallons can be sold at the farm gate for at least $6 a gallon. Or you can skim the cream and sell it either as cream or as butter, making from $10 to $20. You can make cheese from either skim or whole milk. Skim milk or excess whole milk can be used as a significant part of the diet of chickens, pigs, or calves, or as fertilizer. Clearly butter is what you do with cream that doesn’t sell. But I would never sell much butter. It is too valuable in the family diet. I like to know what my dairy products are worth, but I keep a cow so that we can have all the high-quality dairy products we want.

Don’t forget that the cow’s manure is also valuable, either as fertilizer on your fields or to sell. Where I live, dried cow manure sells for $7 for a twenty-five-pound bag. But as with butter, I consider the manure to be too valuable to sell.

Ruminants make milk and meat on a diet of plant products. On a similar diet, other animals only fatten and make poor growth; they need a true protein source such as milk before they can build muscle and reproduce. The cow is thus an engine capable of driving the entire nutritional economy of a household. She is the ultimate sustainable-energy vehicle.

The cow does not just provide protein for the other critters on the place. The effect of cow manure on the garden is magical. I go to very little trouble with composting, just starting a new pile occasionally and using up the old one. My garden soil is dark and friable and grows strong, healthy plants with a minimum of effort.

Can you put a price on all this?

Maybe. I often read articles, books, and newsletters with suggestions on how to spend less on “lifestyle” so couples can get along on one income. Would home production of virtually all of your food make this possible for you? It will certainly keep you all radiantly healthy.

Feeding CowAnd another thing. Thrift is my middle name, but those suggestions for feeding the family on day-old bread and making bulk purchases of dry cereal I find depressing. Keeping a cow is more satisfying. One popular writer encourages frugality so that there can be savings in readiness for the children’s orthodontia. I do not find this to be an incentive. If your children are young when you get a cow and they grow up with fresh milk, their teeth will be straight, just as all teeth were meant to be. How much we personally have saved on dental or medical bills would be difficult to state because health insurance costs vary. My emphasis has always been on prevention, not cure. Consequently cure has seldom come into it, but when it does it has a better chance in an already strong constitution built on real food.

I cannot discuss the cost and work of keeping a cow without also considering the true long-term investment in the health and appearance of my family. The cost of my labor cannot be counted in this domestic economy. Nothing else I might have done with my time could have matched the rewards I see.

Cows and grass are recession-proof and inflation-proof. In difficult times, the family with a cow is not poor.

Survive the Winter Blues: Save 25 – 60% Off

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

There is no denying it: the days are shorter and unless you planned for a winter garden, fresh vegetables from your backyard have long passed.

But don’t let the winter get you down. There are plenty of recipes to last you through the cold season and into the ‘hungry gap’.

Winter Sale: 25 – 60% Off Selected Titles
Until February 15th

We’ve shared a few easy, DIY recipes: from growing your own sprouts, a new take on flank steak, fermenting, baking, and of course day dreaming (and planning) for spring.

For next year, don’t limit your harvest to summer months. Dive into Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook so you can grow cold-hardy winter crops through the most biting cold.

Happy reading (and eating) from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example.
Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). 


Sprouts: Breath Life back into Winter

Is your root cellar down to potatoes and onions? Fear not – growing sprouts is one of the simplest things you can do to breathe life into the deprivations of winter. Grow it »»
 


The Gourmet Butcher’s Pig in a Flanket

 

Looking for a new take on the flank steak? Let master butcher Cole Ward guide you with this easy and tasty recipe. Make it »»

 


Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait: Four Simple Steps to Making the Best Sauerkraut on Earth

Four easy steps are all you need to turn veggies into a long-lasting, tangy condiment perfect to serve alongside sausage or eggs.

So go ahead, make friends with the microbes in your life. Make it »»

 


Sweet Desserts: Cinnamon Spiral

Warm up your kitchen this winter with this sweet temptation. This isn’t just any bread – the crumb is firm and reminiscent of pound cake, while the crust is soft.

Cinnamon Spiral is comfort food with style.  Bake it »»

 


Start Seedlings in a Cold Frame

Are you ready to get a start on the gardening season? With a cold frame you can jump in now.

Farmer Eliot Coleman is the master of growing vegetables year-round, and he has some simple guidelines for using cold frames to start seedlings right. Build it »»


~ ~ Winter Savings: 25% Off  ~ ~
Gourmet Butcher's Guide (Coming in Jan)Retail $49.95
Sale: $37.46
The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail $40.00
Sale: $30.00
From the Wood-Fired Oven
Retail $44.95
Sale: $33.71
The Sugarmaker's Companion
Retail $39.95
Sale $29.96
The New Cider Maker's HandbookRetail $44.95
Sale $33.71

~ ~ Winter Deeper Savings: 40% Off ~ ~

The Winter Harvest Handbook
Retail $29.95
Sale: $17.97

Wild Fermentation
Retail $25.00
Sale: $15.00
Wild Flavors Cover
Retail $24.95
Sale: $14.97
The Grafter's Handbook
Retail $40.00
Sale: $24.00

Four-Season Harvest
Retail $24.95
Sale: $14.97

Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
Retail $29.95
Sale: $17.97
The Resilient Gardener Cover
Retail $29.95
Sale: $17.97
Slow Gardening
Retail $29.95
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~ ~ Need More? Clearance Selection: 60% Off  ~ ~
Chasing Chiles
Retail $17.95
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Home Baked
Retail $39.95
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Growing Healthy Vagetable Crops
Retail $12.95
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Sharing the Harvest
Retail $35.00
Sale: $14.00
Full Moon Feast
Retail $25.00
Sale: $10.00

Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books
already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or
more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)
 
per inceptos himenaeos.

Reclaiming the Lost Culinary Art of Butchery

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Do you know a butcher? Chances are, the answer is “no.”

True butchery has become a lost art, and many people have no idea how an animal gets from the pasture to their plate.

In The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat, master butcher Cole Ward aims to revive this traditional culinary art that is an often overlooked, but vitally important, aspect of the farm-to-table movement.

“A good butcher is an ethical professional who knows the provenance of his or her meats,” Ward writes in the book’s introduction. “I want to give everyone an understanding and appreciation of my craft and its culinary artists, and I want to celebrate and support our struggling small farmers and quality-meat producers. So my mission is nothing less than to bring back culinary butchery—a craft that we must never lose.”

Throughout the book, Ward debunks ten common myths about meat:

  1. All butchers and meat-cutters are the same.
  2. Eating meat has nothing to do with being human.
  3. The more you pay for a cut of meat, the better it will be.
  4. Farmers are not very sophisticated (they live in the country, after all).
  5. Meat just happens.
  6. If it’s in your supermarket, you can trust it.
  7. Cattle can’t digest grain.
  8. Pigs are dirty.
  9. Sheep are stupid.
  10. Chickens are dumb.

More importantly than busting these common myths, Ward teaches readers how they can butcher an entire animal—a skill that has been lost on many homesteaders and culinary enthusiasts. His book includes an 800-slide CD that provides step-by-step images illustrating how to cut up a side of beef or pork, and a whole lamb or chicken.

The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat slideshow by Chelsea Green Publishing

Written with Ward’s trademark humor and insight, The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat is the ultimate guide to traditional butchery. It includes recipes, a detailed glossary, and information on:

• The real definition, work, and role of a culinary butcher;
• The roots of butchery from prehistory to modern times;
• What goes on behind the scenes at meat markets large and small;
• The truth behind meat-marketing claims of “organic,” “natural,” “free-range,” “grass-fed,” and “pasture-raised”; and,
• Processing your own meat, including what you’ll need in terms of tools, safety training, and preparation.

After reading Ward’s book you’ll not only be able to ask your local butcher key questions to determine the provenance of what’s going on your plate, but what to look for in a cut of meat, and tips on how to start cutting up meat at home for your family.

So, get those knives sharpened up – and get cutting.

The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat (with CD): How to Source it Ethically, Cut it Professionally, and Prepare it Properly is available now and on sale for 25% off until Feb. 15. Read an excerpt below.

 

Chapter One: What is a Butcher? by Chelsea Green Publishing

RECIPE: The Simplest Pot Roast Ever

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Beat winter’s chill with this warm and hearty pot roast recipe from Shannon Hayes’ book Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lover’s Companion for Enjoying Meats, Pinching Pennies, and Living Deliciously.

The simple secret to this recipe is a good sear, followed by time in the slow cooker with very little liquid, resulting in concentrated beef flavor and an intense sauce. With the added benefit of using a low energy cooking method—less than 25 cents per day—this dish is sure to keep your belly and your wallet full.

Simplest Pot Roast Ever

You can download the recipe here >>>

Maple Syrup 101: When Do I Tap My Tree?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

With sugaring season almost upon us, many folks are already setting their eyes on a nearby stand of maple trees and getting ready to set taps, run lines, and collect sap.

If you only have a couple of trees nearby — say in your backyard — author Mike Farrell (The Sugarmaker’s Companion) has some simple advice for you to get started tapping a few trees and collecting the sap by bucket. The following is adapted and condensed from Chapter 5 of his book.

Happy sap collecting!

Backyard Sap CollectionWhen to Tap

One of the most difficult decisions you have to make from year to year in your sugaring operation is deciding when to tap. I always recommend tapping just a few trees in January and February to determine what is going on with sap flow conditions. In relatively cold areas, even when the temperatures get above freezing in January and February, the amount of sap flow can be negligible. The trees are basically frozen, and it takes an extended period of warm temperatures to induce substantial sap flow. In warmer regions where the winter isn’t as severe, optimum temperature fluctuations usually happen all winter and the trees may be producing a decent amount of sap in January and February. If you see this happening in your test trees, you’ll want to tap the rest of your sugarbush to catch the early sap runs.

How to Tap

Finding the Right Spot

The first step in tapping is to find a good spot to drill the hole. It doesn’t matter how nice a hole you drill, what type of spout you use, or what level of vacuum you are pulling if you have drilled into a bad section of the tree. To get a decent amount of high-quality sap, you need to drill into clear, white sapwood. It is important to avoid previous tapholes and the associated stain columns as well as other defects and rotten areas on the trunk. Large seams and wounds are easy to identify and avoid, but it takes a trained eye to locate old tapholes.

Drilling the Hole

Sugaring Tap

Some people advocate drilling the hole directly into the tree whereas others recommend drilling at a slight upward angle. I usually try to achieve a perfectly straight hole but always err on the side of making it at a slight upward angle whenever necessary. No matter how you drill the hole, be sure to use a relatively new, clean, sharp drill bit that is intended for drilling into maple trees.

When you are pulling the drill out of the tree, always examine the shavings to make sure that they are pure white. If you get brown or dark-colored shavings, you have drilled into a bad part of the tree. Your sap yield will be negligible, and any sap that does flow may have a yellow tinge to it and impart off-flavors to your syrup.

Setting the Spout

The final step is placing the spout in the tree. It takes some practice to figure out how hard to tap on the spout to get it nice and snug without overdoing things. Not tapping in hard enough can cause the spout to be too loose, creating a vacuum leak. On the other hand, tapping too hard can potentially cause the wood to split, which in turn leads to vacuum leaks, lost sap, and increased wounding at the taphole. Most sugarmakers use regular hammers to set the spouts, but you don’t necessarily hammer the spouts in. Just a few gentle taps will usually do the trick until you hear a thumping sound. As soon as you can hear the difference, stop tapping on the spout.

Row of Sugaring buckets

Sprouts: breathe life back into winter

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

The following is an excerpt from Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking from Eva’s Farm by Didi Emmons. It has been adapted for the Web.

 

Growing sprouts is one of the simplest things you can do to breathe life into the deprivations of winter. As an urbanite who doesn’t have much space or sun to grow food, sprouts are one thing I can grow at any point in the year. Sprouts are replete with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes. Sprouting is easy, as easy a process as cooking rice. And there is a satisfaction in fostering and watching them grow and prosper. It feeds my maternal side, without the crying and diapers.

Most any edible seed can become an edible sprout, but I like to sprout wheat berries, kamut, quinoa, lentils, and chickpeas. Other possibilities include hulled sunflower seeds, buckwheat groats, spelt, soybeans, peas, brown mustard seeds, radish seeds, broccoli seeds, rye seeds, cabbage seeds, and herb seeds. You can also sprout raw peanuts, black-eyed peas, adzuki beans, green channa, and, more commonly, alfalfa, clover, and mung bean. Tomato and potato sprouts are said to be poisonous.

Growing Sprouts: The Eva Way

There are two main ways to grow sprouts at home: in a jar or in a bag (of any sturdy mesh fabric, whether natural or synthetic fiber).

  • In either case, start by rinsing about 1 cup of legumes or seeds and then letting them soak overnight.
  • Drain, rinse again, and transfer the legumes or seeds to a big glass jar or mesh bag large enough to hold five times the quantity of seeds or legumes that you have.
  • Tie the bag closed or secure cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar to keep debris out and to facilitate easy straining. Hang the bag or store the jar in a dark, humid place if possible, and rinse morning and night.
  • Eventually, after somewhere between two and ten days, depending on the type of seed, you will notice that the seeds have sprouted.

Sprouts in Cloth BagYou may have noticed that there is a lot of rinsing involved here, and watching all of that barely used water head down the drain goes against every fiber in Eva’s body. When she rinses the seeds or legumes the first time, she catches that liquid in a bowl. To rinse the seeds or legumes afterward, she simply dips her bag into the captured water, lifts it up, and shakes the liquid out. Once the seeds or legumes have sprouted and the rinsing has ended, she uses the liquid for a variety of creative uses, from cooking her morning cereal to watering (and nourishing) plants.

Sources

Don’t buy your seeds at a garden center, there is a risk they may be contaminated with chemicals or bacteria. I get my seeds at a local natural foods store and they sprout—no problem. But if you are serious, there are plenty of websites like Sproutman.com that sell seed grown specifically for human consumption. “The Sproutman” also offers a helpful circular sprout chart for $5 that lists an array of seeds you can sprout, with the corresponding sprouting times, the suggested method, the level of difficulty, uses, flavors, and so on. It is worth getting.

Storage

After giving sprouts one final rinse, put them back in the same container you grew them in or in a plastic bag poked with a knife to ensure air circulation. Sprouts are living plants. They last about a week in the fridge in a plastic container, though legume sprouts may last longer.

 

~~~~

What to do with all your new sprouts? Wild Flavors, has a tasty (and easy) hummus recipe using sprouted chickpeas:

 

Sprouted Hummus From Wild Flavors by Chelsea Green Publishing

Holiday Bread Favorite: Learn to Make Pain d’Epices

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

This is an old-fashioned gingerbread-like quick bread—the name means “spice bread” — that is a holiday favorite among bread bakers. I’ve sold it, given it away as gifts, and eaten it at Christmastime for years.

The main leavener is baking soda, which creates carbon dioxide when it comes into contact with the acidic honey. Unlike baking powder, which makes carbon dioxide when it becomes wet and again when it meets the heat of the oven, baking soda creates carbon dioxide only once. Make sure your oven is ready to go once you start mixing this one. Unbaked batter that sits around will lose its carbon dioxide and become heavy.

Like other dense rye breads, this bread has an impressive shelf life. It will become a bit chewier after several days, but I find it delicious toasted and served warm with butter.

Pain d'Epices bread ingredientsYield: 2 loaf pans, 1 Pullman pan, or numerous mini loaves
Prefermented flour: 0%
Wood-fired oven temperature window: 350°F (177°C) and falling
Home oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).

Sift together the rye flour, baking soda, and spices into a large bowl and set aside. Whisk the milk and honey together over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the orange and lemon peel and remove from the heat. Before you add the yolks, you must first temper them so they don’t cook in the hot mixture. To do this, slowly drizzle a little of the hot mixture into the yolks while whisking. Now add the tempered yolks back into the liquids.

Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix gently just until smooth. Divide evenly between two greased loaf pans. Arrange the almonds in a decorative pattern on top of the unbaked batter.

Place the pans directly on the hearth in the 350°F (177°C) zone, and bake for 15 minutes. Then move the pans into a 325°F (163°C) zone in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes more, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The loaves may need to be tented with foil to prevent excessive darkening.

If you’re using a home oven, bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. Reduce the temp to 325°F and bake for approximately 25 minutes more, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The loaves may need to be tented with foil to prevent excessive darkening.

Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then unmold them and cool them completely before slicing.
Richard Miscovich

This recipe was inspired by a recipe in Saveur magazine, issue 30, and appears in Richard’s book, From the Wood-Fired Oven.

How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms Indoors

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Is frost setting in? Dipping temperatures terminating your backyard projects?

The growing season for temperate climate gardeners is pretty much over by this time of year. But we know locavores are hungry all-year-round, and that’s why we love to publish books to help you take control over your food supply even in the dead of winter. From Eliot Coleman’s easy methods of gardening under cold frames, to Sandor Katz’s techniques for turning your kitchen into a bubbly fermentation factory, our authors keep the homegrown fun going.

One of our favorite resources for off-season growing or simply growing food year-round in your urban “homestead” is Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R. J. Ruppenthal. The book shows you how to grow vegetables on balconies and patios, but also how to grow some simple and nutritious foods indoors such as sprouts and mushrooms.

This excerpt explains how to start your very own oyster mushroom farm. Give it a try!

~

Oyster mushrooms are probably the easiest kind of mushrooms to grow. Though they are accustomed naturally to growing in wood, you also can raise oyster mushrooms in a variety of other growing media, including straw or sawdust. The easiest way to begin is with a kit. If you want to experiment on your own, then oysters give you a greater chance of success than other mushrooms. There are dozens of varieties of oyster mushrooms, from pin-sized to trumpet-sized, so check with your kit or spore supplier to see which kinds are available and recommended for your climate. Most grow in an ideal temperature range of about 55 to 65 degrees F.

Most oyster mushroom growing kits consist of either a small inoculated log or a holey plastic bag filled with sterilized, inoculated straw or sawdust. You can make your own kit using any of these materials, but I will recommend one other method that has worked well for many indoor mushroom growers. For this you will need two milk cartons or small waxed-cardboard boxes, enough sawdust to fill them, 2 cups of whole grain flour or coffee grounds, and some oyster mushroom spawn. The basic steps are as follows, but feel free to improvise. If sawdust is unavailable, you could also use straw for this.

  1. Cut out the top of the milk cartons so that their edges are of even height. Punch several small holes in each side of both cartons.
  2. Sterilizing (optional): If you are using sawdust that has already been inoculated with spawn, then do not try to sterilize it or you will kill the fungi. If you are using additional sawdust that has not been inoculated yet, then you may want to sterilize it. The easiest ways to do this are by boiling, steaming, or microwaving it. If anyone else in your household might object to cooking sawdust in the kitchen, then you might want to try this step when no one else is home. To sterilize with a microwave oven, fill a microwave-safe bowl with sawdust, plus the flour or coffee grounds, and wet down this mass with enough water so that it is the consistency of a wet sponge. You may need to do several successive batches to sterilize all of your sawdust. Nuking the sawdust on high for two minutes or until the water begins to boil off will kill any unwanted organisms and leave your kitchen smelling like either a wood shop or coffee shop. You also can boil or steam the growing medium in a pot of water in the kitchen or over a campfire, with or without a steamer basket. After it has boiled for a few minutes, turn off the heat, keep the sawdust covered, and let it return to room temperature.
  3. Using non-chlorinated water, wet the sawdust until it’s thoroughly damp. Then mix in your spores or inoculated material.
  4. Tightly pack this damp growing medium into your milk cartons and leave them in a cellar, garage, storage locker, or dark cabinet. You can put some plastic underneath the cartons and cover them loosely with plastic if desired. If insects are a problem, then spray cooking oil around the plastic to trap them. Keep the sawdust mix moistened regularly with nonchlorinated water, and in a few months your fungi should fruit repeatedly. To harvest mushrooms, twist them out gently so that their stems do not break.

Related Posts:

Buying Meat for the Holidays? Here Are Key Questions to Ask Your Farmer or Butcher

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

As the holiday season approaches, you may be wondering what delicious meats you’ll cook up for roundtable family feasts. But before you buy a cut of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or anything else, there are some things you should research first.

In his forthcoming book The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat, master butcher Cole Ward arms you with key questions you should ask your local farmer or butcher.

Let’s start with what you should look for at your local charcuterie. But first—what exactly is a butcher you ask? We’ll let Cole tell you:

“You may think that the guy or gal who cuts and packages meat behind the glass window of your supermarket meat department is a butcher,” writes Ward. “You’re wrong. Those folks are meat-cutters. In the case of today’s large supermarkets, they’re really what I prefer to call meat slicers. Their training and knowledge are limited to a small set of skills that they repeat over and over. A true butcher—and there are very few left—is someone who can take a live animal from slaughter to table.”

Now that Cole has cleared that up, here are a few things to keep in mind when you visit the meat market:

• Avoid “Manager’s Special” or similarly labeled product
“When a piece of meat is nearing the end of its shelf life, you can bet that it’s suddenly the Manager’s Special,” writes Ward. “’Cause if they can’t sell it fast, they have to throw it out. Probably tomorrow.”

• If they won’t let you smell, don’t let them sell
If you’re considering pre-packaged meats, Ward warns, be sure to ask the butcher to open them up first so you can smell before you buy. “Remember, if you even question the freshness of meat, don’t eat it!”

• Beware of marinated meat in a large supermarket
“I know that many meat markets marinate their old stuff to give it more shelf life,” Ward writes.

If you go with the direct farm-to-table route, you’ll want to ask your farmer these key questions:

• How long have you been raising animals
The longer, the better!

• What is the breed of animal you use? Do you breed your animals yourself, or purchase young animals to raise?
Here, you should do some research on what are the best meat breeds for various animals. Some breeds are good for meat while others are not.

• Do you use any growth hormones, feed additives, or nontherapeutic antibiotics? If so, why?
“No” is the best answer here.

• Are they humanely slaughtered?
First, decide what “humanely slaughtered” means to you. A good first sign is an Animal Welfare Approved facility.

• Is it USDA-graded? If not, how well is it usually marbled? How do you believe it grades?
Prime, choice, and select are the best grades. The more marbling, the higher the quality grade.

Learn more tips and tricks for purchasing the best quality meat in Cole Ward’s
The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat: How to Source it Ethically, Cut it Professionally, and Prepare it Properly. This book – due in stores in February – includes a CD of more than 800 images that provide a step-by-step guide to home butchery of select cuts of pork, beef, lamb, and chicken.


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