Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Winter Pantry

I am wanting to write down some ideas for a winter pantry.

I am making my cooking oils this evening. The basil cooking oil and the red pepper oil. Again, all I do to make the herb cooking oils is to bring to a boil the oil and put the herbs in and cap it … it should set for about a week before you use it.

Another thing I plan to make, either tonight or tomorrow, is the Bisquick baking mix. Just take 5 pounds of all purpose flour and put it in a big pan. You could use half wheat flour for this if you wanted to. Like a big dishpan to mix this in? And then add to this flour 2 and half cups of instant milk. Then 3 fourths cup of baking powder … then 2 thirds cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of salt. After you get all this stirred up, just add 2 pounds of shortening. This would be like 4 cups of shortening. I use the butter flavored Crisco or whatever is on sale. So now, just smash the shortening into the dry ingredients. You could use one of those pastry cutters to do this. I just use my hands and smash it all together. This will take some time, like at least 15 minutes. The quick way is to do it with the electric mixer. I just made my mix and used a tall silver spaghetti pan? That worked good.

This mix is for quick breads. Quick breads are breads that you don’t use yeast in, like muffins or cornbread, biscuits, dumplings, and coffee cakes and muffins. The leavening would be baking powder or soda or buttermilk. To get your biscuits and muffins to rise and bake high, make sure your oven is really well preheated and HOT before you put the muffins in.

Now, yeast breads are different and rise with yeast. To make homemade yeast, just ferment whatever you have. If you have some fresh plums, just put them in boiling water and sugar and let them ferment. When they bubble after about 3 weeks, take 2 cups of the liquid and make bread with it. Grapes are good for this and any fresh fruits or vegetables. Just ferment the fruit until it smells like wine. This should take about 3 weeks. Put a cloth over it to keep the flies out. Don’t use fruit from the store — it is sprayed to kill the natural yeast. The yeast is on the fresh fruits from the garden.

You could even ferment dandelions or clover to make a yeast. Just pile clover blossoms in a big jar to half full. Then pour boiling water over this and put in about 2 cups of sugar for a gallon jar. Fill the water to the top and let it sit. When it ferments, then you can use this wine like a yeast. This is like a sour dough. Or just make the sour dough starter. But this is how you can make homemade yeast if you are out in the woods in the warm months, when you can use dandelions or clover or whatever grows in you garden to ferment to make yeast.

In the cold, you can use snow to make a quick bread rise if you don’t have any baking powder. To make pancakes, you can just make them up as usual and then, while the fryin’ pan is hot, run out and get a few cups of snow … stir it quickly into the batter and pour the batter quickly into the pan. The snow creates little tunnels in th batter and makes the pancakes light and fluffy. You could do this with any of the quick breads.

The sour dough starter is nice to have on hand in the winter, too. To make a sour dough starter, just take a glass jar and fill it with potato water, some sugar and some flour and let it sit. Put a loose lid on the top. Let it sit in a warm place in the kitchen. Use about a cup of this to make bread. Then add more water, sugar, and flour after each use. This will go on forever if you don’t let the starter spoil. When it smells like dirty socks, I wouldn’t use it … it should have a fresh yeasty smell. When you first make it, you could add a tablespoon of yeast to get it goin’.

(PART 2 – AUGUST 24, 2005)

Well I know last night when I wrote about homemade yeast, Annie thought I was kidding. But seriously, I wasn’t. Ya know, the reason you don’t hear about homemade yeast is because it is made from a wine or a fermented beverage. Well, back in the old days, it was illegal to make your own brew. Also, the Ladies Temperance Union would have had a fit. The church would have kicked you out. But making a yeast bread is making fermented bread, anyway ya look at it. How all this was so well hidden for many years, I dunno. But through experimenting here at home with making wine and bread, I found out that yeast is yeast? And you can make wine with a bakers yeast but a wine yeast is better. But I like the natural yeast a lot better than any of it.

When ya make sauerkraut, you are fermenting your cabbage. And you could take the juice from that and make bread, if you had to. Not from store bought, but the homemade from your own garden.

Old timers used to make apple cider in barrels in the fall. And, as the cider got older, it turned to hard cider and was alcoholic. And after this brew is done being alcoholic, it will turn to vinegar — or is it the other way around and it is vinegar first? I forget.

And I would bet ya good money that, back in the old days, when Mama’s sour dough died, that she started it again from the still out back. But she would have died before she would have confessed that, even on her death bed. Christian ladies didn’t drink back then and thought it would send ’em to hell if they did. And I quit makin’ wine, too. But I will conclude this writing with “There is more than one way to skin a cat or make a loaf of bread.” And ya know, if you happen to be in the woods and without yeast to make your bread, then it won’t be my fault if you don’t know how to make homemade yeast.

In the fall and winter, my children would eat about twice as much as in the summer. So I liked to have some meat packages made up ahead. I would buy some cheap hamburger in bulk and fry it all at once. To the meat, I would add onions, peppers, garlic, and maybe carrots and bits of tomatoes. I would cook all of this up and package this in plastic bags for the freezer. For quick meals, I would use these packages for chili, spaghetti, vegetable soup, and casseroles of all kinds. Also, to top fried potatoes and melt the cheese on the top. Ya know, the cheap hamburger don’t taste that bad and, with a lot of spices in it, it tastes good. For hamburger sandwiches, I usually get a better ground beef. But the El Cheapo stuff works just fine for Sloppy Joes.

Another thing I would do is to buy a big ham, the pressed ham without the bone. I would have the butcher slice it at the store, half of it very thin for sandwiches and then half of it thick sliced. And with the thick, slices I would take my knife and cube each thick slice up … ya know in squares? Then I would package this up in serving sizes and put it in the freezer. These packages of ham come in very handy. You could add these to fried potatoes and, again, melt the cheese on the top. Also for macaroni and cheese. And you could put the little ham cubes in a frying pan, brown them, and then add eggs and scramble it all up for a family breakfast. Also the ham is good in soup beans or potato soup … or you could brown the ham in your skillet and make a ham gravy to go over homemade biscuits. Also I would repackage the sandwich slices and freeze these in packages, too. Ham will freeze well and stay good for a year, anyway. I used to package this meat in the small sandwich bags then put the little bags in a big plastic bag.

Then I would also buy chicken. The leg quarters are so cheap if you buy them in bulk at the store. I would cut the thigh off the leg and freeze them separately. The thighs are good to cook the meat off the bone for soups and stews and gravy. I used to take the chicken pieces and mix them with a cream soup and some vegetables. Bake in a casserole dish and, when it bubbles, lay the biscuits on the top and put it back in the oven to bake until biscuits are done. Then there is chicken and rice, and many other meal ideas to use with chicken. Our kids always loved to just eat the chicken legs whole with a meal, with mashed potatoes and a veggie. I always made gravy, too, with most of my big family meals.

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