It may or may not be a good time to talk about this, but anytime is a good time to consider a well-stocked pantry.
Before staples was an office supply store, it was a word that meant "a main or important element of something, especially of a diet or a main item of trade or production." A common term before people had options for eating out, shopping online, etc., staples were a part of every kitchen.
My dad tells the story of my brother's birth in 1948. It was December 1, when he drove my mother to the hospital in Bismarck to give birth to their first son. Mom stayed in the hospital for a week, and the bill was about $120. Things have changed a bit since then.
When he brought his wife and child home, they did not leave the farm until April. Imagine that? Were it not for "staples," people would have been in dire straits in those days.
At the end of this article, you will find a list of staples. I'm not recommending you run out and purchase all these things. You have to be a bit sensible about the room you have in your pantry. Yes, it's more than the name of a delivery service from Amazon. Everyone used to have a root cellar and a pantry to store non-perishable items for times such as these.
Think about the things that don't spoil. That's what usually fills your pantry. Without divulging too much about my stash, in case my husband is listening, let me begin.
Some essential staples for baking are flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, shortening, oil, yeast, Karo syrup, honey, maple syrup, baking powder, baking soda, baking spices (ginger, cloves, cardamom, anise, cinnamon, etc.), vanilla and chocolate chips.
None of these items spoil in the amount of time you would use them up; unless you never bake cookies, which I cannot believe.
Staples for cooking are oils, kinds of vinegar, salt, pepper, Penzy spice blends or things like cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, cumin, etc., plus things like oatmeal, rice, dried beans, whole grains for grinding into flour, seeds (sesame, sunflower, flax), dried pasta, etc.
You get the drift. A well-stocked pantry means you could find a recipe online and go to your cupboard and create it. It may not be the same, but there are substitutions for things. And, the more you express creativity in the cupboard, the better you become at winging it when you are cooking supper.
It also pays to stock your refrigerator weekly and your deep freeze monthly. Things to have on hand are bacon, sausage, chicken, ground beef, maybe round steak or roasts. You get the drift. The less processed your staple foods, the simpler it is to combine them.
In the canned area of your house, condensed soups for gravies, tomato paste, canned beans, fruit and veggies. You could also do some canning after you plant a vegetable garden. Freezing is fine, but if the electricity goes out, you won't experience mass spoilage.
Potatoes and onions last a long time in the pantry, just not next to each other. Celery, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables hold up well in the crisper draw of your refrigerator. This past Christmas, my daughter sewed up some produce bags. They work wonderfully. You wet them and place your produce in the bags to keep them humid. It works to make things last longer. Also, if you can purchase products at the farmers market, the shelf life is two to three weeks longer because it didn't take that long to transport to our middle-of-the-country state.
Don't forget the eggs, canned milk, dried milk and cheese. We eat a lot of quiche and baked egg dishes. If you don't have a friendly farmer, you will not have access to fresh dairy.
Below you will find a list of staples to begin supplying your pantry with more than three days-worth of good food for your family. Yes, folks, as my travels with my local foods job, it was a common statement that if the interstate system shut down, food in the grocery stores would last about three days. That includes toilet paper.
Why is homemade soap good for you? It’s relatively simple to make, and you can be as creative and colorful as you wish with your recipes. For me, its something I remember from my childhood. I’m sure many of you remember sticking your hand in your pants pockets as a child and finding the last sliver of lye soap that your mom or grandmother used for the laundry.
In addition to making these enormous blocks of soap, they rendered lard to make it. That required collecting the fat from a butchered animal and heating it until it became liquid. The “cracklings” rose to the surface and were skimmed off. The bright white and creamy lard was canned for storage in the root cellar.
Lye is a critical ingredient in soap. Many people are afraid of the process of using lye, but it is necessary for saponification. The lye solution chemically changes the molecular structure of the oils to create the bar and the lather. Yes, you need to be careful when handling lye. Use the proper tools and common sense.
Saponification also creates a naturally occurring glycerin and other good stuff. Industrial soaps are not real soap but instead cleansing bars, meaning that the glycerin (which is good for your skin) has been mined out and resold as a separate ingredient. Real soap is made from lye and oils, including things like lard, coconut oil, sunflower and canola oil. You can also add things like honey, herbs, coffee, oats, natural colors, etc. Real soap leaves behind little soap scum and is very gentle on your skin.
Read the labels, very few bars of soap say it is soap.
Over the weekend, I whipped up a large batch of turmeric-colored lemongrass scented soap. Soap needs time to cure, so when my stash begins to run out, I have to make a new batch at least a month before the last little sliver disappearing down the drain.
When researching Ewiger Saatz, many women I interviewed talked about how their moms made soap. There were several recipes submitted to me, including some scans of handwritten soap recipes. It was a given that you knew how to render. There were recipes for bread and cookies that used he “cracklings” harvested from your render.
Yes, I do render lard. I then use a lye calculator from www.thesoapcalculator.com to enter the amounts of oils I wish to use plus any add-ins and the amount of super-fatting. Super-fatting ratios determine how hard the bars will be when dry.
Here are a few recipes I have collected over the years in researching the Germans from Russia and how they lived. They have not been edited, but remain faithful to the original.
Homemade Soft Soap (This was for white clothes)
Recipe from Joyce Giedt and Jane Giedt Kirby originally from their grandmother Mrs. Jacob (Christine) Wageman from Ashley.
DIRECTIONS: Melt 6-1/2 cups lard or tallow and cool. Fill a 5-gallon crock 2/3 full with cold water.
Pour 1 can lye into crock and stir with wooden stick while pouring. When lye is dissolved, add the lard while stirring.
To this, add 1 cup ammonia and 2 cups Wisk liquid detergent. Fill the crock with cold water. Stir about 5 or 6 times during the day. It will start to set the second or third day; then do not stir anymore. Dip this soap into the washer with a cup or wooden spoon. About 2 cups per washer load of clothes.
Recipe submitted by Carol (Marquart) Mock, Napoleon, Logan County.
6 ½ pounds melted lard
1 can lye
5 gallons water
1 cup ammonia
2 cups liquid soap
DIRECTIONS: Put 2-½ gallons of water in a large container, add lye. Stir until combined. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well for one hour.
Sourdough bread is delightful, good for you and not that difficult if you bake a lot of bread. If you don't it can be found locally from your farmer market bakers such as myself - Root Seller Sue. Shameless plug indeed.
I did an online class in sourdough about six years ago. I recently found it on my YouTube channel and decided to make it public so anyone with flour and a little initiative can go for it. Without further ado. Please check out the videos on the home page by clicking here.
With all the fast talking, you may need some questions answered. Here I am - just comment in the box below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Stay home, stay safe and check on your neighbors.
Oh joy of joy, my peppers look amazing. From out of their little sprouting box, they are being moved to fresh soil with room for roots to grow. It's Monday, March 16.
Following up on my seed starting post, it's time to ensure the seedlings turned plants are given proper light, a little fertilizer, fresh air and lots of love.
My garden begins indoor with these little plastic trays. Measuring about 10-inches square, I can plant seven rows of seven seeds for 49 transplants in a limited amount of space. Keeping those seedlings properly labeled has always been the bane of my existence, but not this year. This year I am attempting to keep my peppers labeled, so all my friends and customers receive properly labeled transplants.
It's also advisable to allow the seedings to "dry out" as it it much easier to get them out of their starting trays and cleanup of dry soil is really much easier than the wet clumpy stuff you see in the photo above. After transplanting and speaking words of love to my plants, I place the trays beneath full spectrum (one warm and one cool) fluorescent lights. As you can see there are two 48-inch shop lights chained to the bottom of my heavy-duty metal shelf. The chains allow you to keep the lights as close as possible to the seedlings and move them upwards as the plants develop. Because we have a cat that eats pepper seedlings I wrap plastic around the shelving unit and secure with clothes pins. So far that has worked, but only because I was home. We will see how many I lose to Walter in the near future. Or whether we lose Walter :).
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.