Making Home-Made Products!

Part of the allure to mini-farming is making your own products. Since we have only been at it for a couple months, we can’t make everything with homegrown ingredients yet, but we can still save money by making things like soap, tooth-paste, and seltzer, as we have done. The other benefit is that you know a bit more about what is really in the products you are using; unfortunately lots of tooth-paste and soap have some harmful stuff in there to make them foam.

Tooth Paste

Most recently I made my own tooth-paste, because I am running out of my Ava Anderson chemical free toothpaste, and wanted to save money. The recipe was pretty simple that I found on DIYNatural, but I added my own flare with a couple extra essential oils. Here’s what I did:

In an 8 ounce jar, I combined 2/3 cup of baking soda with 1 tsp. of sea salt which I ground to a powder with a mortar and pestle, so that it would not scratch the enamel. The baking soda is to clean and whiten the teeth, and the salt is meant to re-mineralize the enamel.

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Now, the original recipe called for enough water to turn that powder into a paste, but I took a different route. According to the book The Green Pharmacy by James Duke, chamomile tea is a disinfectant of the gums, which can help prevent gingivitis by getting deep down to tackle the germs stuck in the gums. In fact gingivitis simply means swelling of the gums, and there are varying degrees of the disease, but it is something most of us will deal with at some point in our lives. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.

So instead of water I made a tea of chamomile and green tea. The green tea, because of the tannins and astringent quality, acts to protect the teeth from bacteria that cause tooth decay and gingivitis. I mixed the tea with the baking soda and powdered salt, and then added some essential oils.

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Keep in mind you do not want to swallow essential oils, and even an ounce can be fatal. That being said, I did not use nearly an ounce of essential oils in the entire batch of tooth paste, let alone for each brushing session.

I used 5 drops of peppermint essential oil, which smells nice, and makes for a fresh taste. But peppermint oil is also antiseptic, which means it helps cure the root cause of bad breath, and not just cover the smell.

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I could have stopped there, and next time I might. The reason is, a nice fresh peppermint toothpaste feels natural and leaves my mouth feeling clean. The next to essential oils definitely help with oral hygiene, but they don’t really make the paste taste especially good. Your breath certainly won’t smell bad after brushing, but it won’t have the classic fresh mint smell.

That being said, I added 5 drops of teatree oil because it is also antiseptic. It doesn’t really taste good though, so I think I will save it for a mouthwash in the future, if I feel any swelling in the gums. James Duke recommends swishing a couple drops diluted in a glass of water, and spitting it out to combat gingivitis.

I also added 5 drops of eucalyptus oil, another antiseptic. Again, next time I will probably just stick to the peppermint.

Carbonated Drinks

My sister’s fiance has been making hard cider for some time, and since he already had the equipment, decided to throw together some seltzer as well. He simply filled up a five gallon keg with filtered water, added about a half cup of lemon juice, and attached the keg to the carbon dioxide tank to carbonate. In just about a day, we had five gallons of seltzer on tap, which went surprisingly quickly. Next time I am encouraging him to try making green tea seltzer with lemon.

Soap

My sister Steph and I have made a couple batches of soap already as well. We learned how at PorcFest from Hershel who makes Shire Soaps. Soap making is basically a chemical reaction between lye and fat. So we mixed shea butter, olive oil, and coconut oil as our fats, using an online soap making calculator to determine how much of each. Shea butter is solid, so we microwaved it a little at a time to melt it, and get the temperature up in order to mix with the lye.

Then we mixed the lye with water, always adding the water to the lye very carefully in a well ventilated area, or preferably outdoors, because it creates toxic fumes (and heats up) when it combines with water. Finally when the two mixtures were within ten degrees of each other, both around 110, we mixed them using a handheld blender, and added our essential oils, like lemongrass, rosemary, and lavender. Then, into a PVC pipe lined with parchment paper it goes for 24 hours to set, before we cut it, and let it dry for a month.

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And that is all just the beginning when it comes to home-made. We are getting some various styles of garden beds together to plant, which I will share soon!

 

Single Serve Apple Pie

Thought of this one last night and decided to try it out. I think it is an interesting fall dessert.

I just cored an apple but left in the bottom so that nothing would drip through.

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Then I chopped up the removed apple minus the core, shredded some ginger, and packed that all back into the hollow apple.

Next I drizzled molasses over the top.

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Finally, I threw some granola on top, and baked for about a half hour, at 350.

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It was easy, and actually really good!

You could of course make some changes. Perhaps you would like to use brown sugar and cinnamon instead of molasses. Next time I think I will replace the granola topping with a swedish apple pie crust. The crust is easy, just mix:

  • 3/4 cup of melted butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)

Spread this dough on top of the apple, and bake. Of course this will be enough crust for a whole pie, not just one apple, so adjust in proportion accordingly, or freeze the rest for later!

Deceivingly Easy Meal to Make: Eggplant Parmesan

I almost forwent writing this post, because I was like, this is so easy everyone must know this. Then it occurred to me that a) everyone probably doesn’t know (or just hasn’t given it any thought) how to make eggplant parmesan, and b) this would be a good opportunity to give everyone an idea for something that is actually pretty easy and quick to make, but feels like you are eating in a 5 star restaurant.

So you just start by slicing an eggplant across so you have circles, dripping a bit of olive oil on one side, and placing that side face down on the baking pan. I pre-heated the oven to 350 and this seemed about right. to spread the olive oil I dripped some on one piece, and then rubbed that eggplant section together with another.

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Next, I globbed a bit of sauce on each piece, and spread it around with a spoon. Some people leave more eggplant showing on top, but I prefer to have the whole thing covered when it is done baking, that way it is more moist instead of dry. Just ignore the stained pan, you can substitute a cleaner one if you wish. Either way.

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Next you simply cut up the cheese, and put it on top. Though next time I would probably keep the cheese more centered, because some of it dripped off the side. Then again this made the cheese that dripped onto the pan crispy, which added a delicious crunch. Anyway I know it is called eggplant parmesan, but I didn’t have any parmesan, but I had plenty of smoked gouda. And honestly, it might have been better; it was at least just as gouda. Okay I apologize for that, please don’t stop reading, but I couldn’t resist.

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Pop that in the oven for about 40 minutes, and while you wait, cook up the rest of this phenomenal cuisine! Throw on some boiling water for the pasta of your choice, and throw some olive oil in a pan to cook up some green and/or spicy peppers. I used two types of peppers, one spicy one not, garlic (the more the merrier in my opinion), rosemary, salt, pepper, and at the end I threw in a splash of lemon juice. This doesn’t have to sauté for that long since the peppers are sliced thin. Maybe 5 minutes on medium, or a little longer if you want to keep it lower and not let it get cold before the eggplant is done.

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Alright pasta should be ready, peppers are ready, eggplant “parmesan” is finishing up. Go ahead and make it look pretty. Throw some spaghetti down, drizzle the olive oil/peppers blend over the top, and grab the best looking slices of eggplant and place them on the side. I’m gonna go ahead and pair this wonderful meal with a Pumpkin Rye Ale Shandy. It was brewed with lemon peels, so it matches the lemon in the olive oil sauce. (Is that how that works? I honestly have no idea if that beer went well with the meal. I know it tasted good. Should I have just gone with it, and let you all think I’m some sort of food/beer pairing connoisseur?)

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Voila! Bon apetite! I just like this meal because it was filling, delicious, easy, and actually pretty good for you! Great vegetarian option as well. Now would this go with a red wine, because of the sauce on the eggplant, or white, because of the olive oil sauce on the pasta?

You Can Pickle That!

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One of the easiest and most rewarding homemade food in my opinion is refrigerater pickles. What makes them refrigerater pickles is that a fermentation process takes place during the pickling, and in order to stop that process, they need to be cooled. So if you want to be able to store your homemade pickles for years in your bomb shelter, this method is not for you. But if you are looking to have some fun and create FREAKEN DELICIOUS pickles that you made yourself, try this out.

Sorry, I’m a pickle guy, so I get excited. Half sours might be my favorite, and that is also probably why I like the fridge pickles since they taste similar. The version I make doesn’t include vinegar, which surprised me, it is a mixture of salt, water, and spices. And apparently you want to use sea salt, because the iodine in table salt will have a negative affect on the fermentation process.

This is the original recipe I used, but have since adapted it. She mentions the fermentation process:

These pickles are lacto-fermented, which means they contain the really good, beneficial bacteria (probiotics!). So eating these will help heal our gut lining, provide anti-inflammatory benefits, give us better digestion, strengthen our immune system, and turn us into super heroes.

Last year I grew my own cucumbers and used my Mom’s home grown dill to make the pickles. I have some dill growing this year, but no cucumbers, so this time I am using cucumbers from the farm share. And actually I didn’t use any of my dill for this batch either… so they aren’t dill pickles. Basil pickles?

Ok here’s what I did: cut up a couple small cucumbers and put them in a smaller than average mason jar. They didn’t fill it, so I grabbed some onions (which I was calling leeks in my stuffed zucchini post) threw those in there along with some anise (it was fennel all along), 3 segments of garlic, and an entire sprig of basil. Then I sprinkled some black pepper and red pepper in there (the original recipe also tells you to put mustard seeds and coriander. Well I didn’t have any around, so I skipped this, but most of the fun is seeing the flavor you come up with one your own).

Then I put 2 tablespoons of salt in… and I am expecting some salty pickles. Later I looked up the recipe I used originally, and it called for 1 tablespoon of salt for a normal sized mason jar. Oops! But I also seem to remember using only 1 tablespoon last year at one point, and ending up with sorta soggy funny tasting cucumbers. For a regular sized jar, I’d honestly probably stick with 2 tablespoons of salt. Or better yet, decide whether you want relatively salty pickles or not, and go somewhere in between 1 and 2 tablespoons.

Fill up the jar with water, close tightly, shake until the salt looks mostly dissolved, and place it somewhere that all your guests will see it and compliment you on your culinary skills. Taste them at 3 days, and if you like the taste, refrigerate it! Not strong enough? Keep ’em out. Like I said this is a fermentation process that pickles them (it doesn’t make them alcoholic FYI) so the longer they are out, the longer they will ferment.

And according to the recipe I linked to, you can also throw grape, oak, or raspberry leaves into the jar to keep the pickles crispy. I’ve had some crispy pickles even when I didn’t use those leaves though.

Pick your favorite spices, and use them in your pickles. The dill ones pickled using this method are wicked good though, so if you have access to fresh dill that is a good starting point. And don’t be afraid to put the dill flowers in with it, that’s where some of the best flavor comes from!

But why stop at pickling cucumbers?! Got some leftover celery? You can pickle that! OMG so many leftover green beans. You can pickle that! Got all these vegetables you don’t want to go bad, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, artichoke, peppers, or asparagus? YOU CAN PICKLE THAT!

By the way I don’t really know if pickling all that stuff would end well… I’m just assuming. 🙂