Category Archives: Lifestyle

Sourdough Sally

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Hi folks.  Remember me?  I know, I know.  It has been a bit of time.  But, I’ve been here all along….. just apparently really “messy” over the holidays, as things keep falling off my plate….including this blog.  😦

Today, I’m sharing my pet with you.  Sourdough starter.  This pet (or rather these million pets, a combination of beneficial yeasts and bacteria, if you are feeling technical) is easy to keep.  You just have to remember to feed.  I call mine Sally and she lives in my refrigerator in a half-gallon blue Ball jar.

Here is Sally in all her yeasty glory.

Here is Sally in all her yeasty glory.

I have literally shared Sally by giving some of the starter to guests who had an intense interest in sourdough bread.  But since attempting to send the real thing to you via electronic signal might get a little messy …. especially for my computer … I hope you’ll be ok with sharing Sally via blog.

I’m somewhat of a sourdough snob in that I believe that sourdough bread should be comprised entirely of my own cultured yeast.  Most recipes you find these days call for part sourdough starter and part commercial yeast.

Soon, in this Bygone Basics blog, you will get a recipe for Sourdough bread.  I am giving you time to get your own pet in the refrigerator….ready to make bread.

Ever hear the old adage, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”?  There is more than one way to start your own culture.  Some include potatoes, some take much longer…

Here’s a basic flour and water way:

  1. Make a paste with 1/2 c flour (unbleached/bread if you can) and 1/2 c water.  Loosely cover and leave at room temperature for 1 day.
  2. Stir in another 1/2 c flour and 1/c water.  Loosely cover and leave at room temperature.
  3. On the third day, it will smell a bit sour and be a bit bubbly.  Stir in another 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. water.  Loosely cover and leave at room temperature.
  4. On the fourth day….you may get the drill by now…. Stir in the 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. water.  Cover and leave at room temperature.  You should be seeing some clear evidence of the yeast “working”.
  5. On the fifth day, you should have a bubbly, fermented, pungent mass.  You have just given birth to your own Sally!  If it looks like it isn’t frothy and yeasty, leave it out another day…it could be your home wasn’t warm enough to encourage the growth in 5 days.   Once, I was making it for someone and it took about 9 days at room temperature to get a thick bubbly mass.

Another method…think “Easy Button” to borrow a phrase ….is this:

Mix 2 c. warm water (not over 115 degrees F) with a packet of active dry yeast.  Then stir in 1 1/2 c. flour.  Cover loosely and leave in a warm (not hot) place overnight.  It should be a frothy mass, but will not yet have the pungent, alcohol-ly, smell and depth of quality and flavor (some things are best taking the slow-road for).  At this point treat just as I describe above (as if it was the fifth day).  It is usable as sourdough starter and will develop the same depth of flavor and taste over time as it ferments in the refrigerator.  Don’t forget to feed her!

I just fed Sally.  I leave her out of the 'fridge for an hour to ensure feeding.  I feel better knowing my pet is alive and the little bubbles tell me she's doing just fine.

I just fed Sally. I leave her out of the ‘fridge for an hour to ensure feeding. I feel better knowing my pet is alive and the little bubbles tell me she’s doing just fine.

Regardless of how you start Sally, she will live indefinitely as long as you don’t starve her.  Her flavor will evolve based on the flours you use and even the wild yeasts that are present in your environment.  She will become, one of a kind, YOURS over time.

You can now make bread with her.  It is time to store her in the refrigerator.  She’ll live in there for 7 to 10 days.  Then, if you haven’t used some and refreshed her, you need to feed Sally.  Just take out a cup of the starter to make room for the “feed” and add in a 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. water (sound familiar?)  Every 2 or 3 feedings, I add a tablespoon of honey; and swap the white flour for whole wheat or…another flour every several feedings….but that’s just what I choose to do.

Do you make sourdough bread?  How do your techniques/recipe for starter differ?

Just don’t forget to feed her every week or so…

“I would say to housewives, be not daunted by one failure, nor by twenty. Resolve that you will have good bread, and never cease striving after this result till you have effected it. If persons without brains can accomplish this, why cannot you?” –’Housekeeping In Old Virginia’ Marion Cabell Tyree ed. (1878)

 Soon…..a nice recipe for bread using Sally and no commercial yeast.

To really add depth of learning and wonderful memories, you can come the our heritage kitchen here at Bygone Basics to learn heirloom  bread-making hands-on…and/or many other heritage home arts… http://www.bygonebasics.com.  You can even stay here at our immersion bed and breakfast!  www.amandasbequest.com

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Amanda – The Green Chemist & her Den Adel Community Garden Project

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A guest blog – by Daughter, Jessica.

My daughter, Jessica, is one of my kitchenaire assistants.  I have been known to lovingly and in great fun, call her a scullery maid.  Jessica is in the U.S. Army and a tough gal who speaks Russian.  No scullery maid she.  She is however, a study in conflicts.

She is a pretty, little pixie looking girl – but tough as nails.  She is traveled, even living in Kiev in the past – yet enjoys the small town peace and character.  She has a degree from MSU in Russian and possibly seeks deployment into scary areas of the world – yet happily dons a “Fetching Apron” and becomes a scullery maid for a day.  She reads War and Peace – but is currently helping me write a humorous cookbook.

So….that was a long intro….but I wanted you to know the author.  She writes about Amanda (and Kyle) who have gone from learning from me at Bygone Basics to create a phenomenal project.  At our first session, I actually asked Amanda if she knew how to pare an apple.  (she did)  My comments are italicized in red (my favorite color):

Bygone Basics was sad to lose Amanda Goudreau, but we all must grow up. Amanda was a celebrated Kitchenaire
Assistant in the days when Bygone Basics was still young and living in the suburbs of Whitehall, MI. (Amanda was my “scullery maid” for a long time and helped me build Bygone Basics into what it is and dreamt the dream of Amanda’s Bequest B&B with me as well.  She seems to think I named it after her!!  I am forever grateful for her friendship and assistance). After marrying Kyle, who had just arrived back home from Iraq, (his absence nearly drove Amanda….and those of us around her …CRAZY.  We are so glad he’s back and safe.)  the couple moved to Kalamazoo to attend the university there. To Mom, (Valerie) it must have seemed like one of her chicks was leaving the nest, but I knew that it meant the ideals Bygone Basics was founded on was simply spreading to a new city. And how right I was! ( I really tried hard to talk them into giving up the silly notion of attending University 😉 and having them buy a farmhouse just down the street….)
Kyle and Amanda Goudreau are excited to announce the opening of their community garden. There is a hideous, vacant half-lot directly next to their new house, and a condemned house on the other side of that. Why not make good use of it? If all goes well in their endeavors for the next couple of months, they will be able to use that plot of land to start a community garden….and hopefully they will even be able to remove the mostly-dead tree that stands smack-dab in the center of it. Currently, they are still in the planning stages, but the more community support they gain from the start, the easier it will go for them. Luckily, they already managed to find a supporter willing to fund 100% of their project, and to also help out with any legal matters that may need attending to. (I’m not going to lie, I fought a tear when I watched them find out they weren’t fighting an uphill battle alone.)   We were/are SO PROUD of them.

Amanda.

Local people will be able to secure a plot for a very small fee, which has yet to be decided, and will be provided with every opportunity to be successful in gardening their plot from the very beginning. They are also hoping to get some chickens for the garden, so that local children will be able to hunt for eggs, and will have a better understanding of where their food comes from, in all it’s forms. In addition to the garden, itself, Amanda and Kyle will be hosting several workshops, about one per week. They will, of course, be free to attend, and will cover such topics as: drying out seeds and saving them for the following year, vermiculture – composting with worms, animal husbandry – mainly with raising and breeding chickens and rabbits, and plenty of generic ones about gardening that will be immediately applicable on the plot.  (Understand that this isn’t just a pretty pipe dream.  These two Goodreaus are outstanding and intelligent young people – Amanda is in the Chemistry field and Kyle is studying Medicine.  I have zero doubt they will make numerous impacts on the world as they proceed through life.)

Any surplus crops from the community garden will be donated to local food pantries. The over-arching mission for this project is to promote community cohesiveness, and to improve the surrounding area through inspiration.

Jessica wrote this blog a few weeks ago….(yes, Jessica, I know, I know….it took too long for me to post!  But at least now I can add this good news follow-up…)  A follow-up note from Amanda tells us:

“Well guys, we did it. We’ve been given the green light for the Den Adel Community Garden Project. There are a few last legal details to iron out but we should be breaking ground before the end of the month. That gives us just enough time to get the tree removed, lay the beds, and get a fence up before the ground freezes.”  

There may have been occasional silliness occurring in the Bygone Basics kitchen (with Valerie Hanson, Mary Lynn Rabe, and Amanda (Putnam) Goodreau

If you are in or about the Kalamazoo, Michigan (USA) area and wish to be a part of this very neat project, let me know and I will put you in touch with Amanda.

Do you have a desire to learn some of these progressive AND retro (talk about conflicting words) skills (gardening, canning, baking, raising chickens/ducks, soap making, butter churning, composting…etc)?  Come visit Bygone Basics at Amanda’s Bequest!  Heck….you can even stay here while you learn (true immersion).

CONGRATULATIONS AND GOOD HARVEST WISHES TO AMANDA AND KYLE.

As Easy as Pie


Oh…the joys of Spring and Summer are upon us….no?  It’s Autumn, you say?  Really?  Where’d my Summer go?!!

You might also feel that way…just a bit?

These little 3 to 4 pound beauties make the best pies!

This post really brings me into reality.  I just realized it was time to bake the pumpkins. (still shaking my head that it is autumn)

“Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.” ~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

I usually prefer to bake up actual pie pumpkins and my favorite one is the little “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkin, as smaller tends to mean sweeter.  I get the seeds from the Jung Seed company in Wisconsin.  But since my unofficial motto is (according to my husband) “Can it before it rots” I pretty much put-by food regardless of pedigree.  I rather enjoy carving a huge jack-o-lantern and baking a pie from the face parts I cut out.  It brings a chuckle to any kid in your home to be eating “face pie” on Halloween.  I also will use hearty sweeter pumpkin like squashes like Red Warty Thing and hubbard as pumpkin mash as they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

Pumpkin is the one thing I don’t can.  Instead I prefer to freeze it.  The pure density of squash leaves too much question about whether the pressure canning process brought the center of the jar up to the right temperature and for long enough.  Additionally, I prefer to take it out as ready to go mash.  NEVER, can mashed pumpkin as it is too dense for safe home processing.

So….this morning, my house was 59 degrees.  By George, I am NOT lighting the furnaces in September.  That makes it a perfect day to bake pumpkins.  Here is what I do:

Just halve the pumpkins and place on a cookie sheet to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 (you can do 350 for a faster bake, but don’t go higher).  You want to slow simmer the flesh, not bake it crispy.  Take a long carving knife and slice the pumpkin in half.  Scoop the seedy center our with a spoon and …in my case at least….feed that yummy center to the chickens and ducks!  Lay the halved pumpkin face down on foil covered (for clean-up ease only, foil bottom not necessary) cookie sheets and cover with foil.

Boy…that took all of 5-10 minutes.  Really…this isn’t that hard or time consuming.  I might lose my day-job if people realized how easy some of these very heirloom activities actually are….

Bake for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in your oven and how big the pieces are.  Smaller equals faster.

You know the pumpkin is done when a fork slides easily in all the way to the shell as if warm butter.

You know they are done when you can sink a dinner fork like into warm butter until it reaches the shell.  Take out and let cool a few minutes.  You probably can read half of “Fifty Shades of Grey” during this effortless time and people will thing you slaved to make them a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Your secret.  🙂

After baking let the pumpkins cool just enough to handle. It is easier to work with when warm.

Next is up to you.  At this point the pumpkin is ready to use in recipes.  I don’t like the texture of the occasional strings in the flesh.  So here is what I do:

With a soup spoon I scoop the now soft and warm flesh into my old food mill.  Press it with a few turns of my hand and it deposits into the bowl underneath.  Any strings are strained out by this extra step and it is also not time consuming.  Warmer is better.

If not using it right away, stir and premeasure into freezer containers or bags, writing the amount,date, and of course, contents on a label.  100% pumpkin.

SO EASY.  AND, it is your family food quality control … You know what is in that pumpkin puree and what isn’t.  You may not have read that aforementioned book, but I get a lot done when baking pumpkin and I adjust the oven temp lower if I have to run on an errand that is longer than an hour or so.

This food mill may be old, but it sure does a quick job of sending pumpkin through.

It is very easy to scoop out a baked pumpkin.

Mine almost entirely goes into pumpkin pie.  Which should be another post perhaps.  Equally as easy, but oh so tasty!  My favorite pie.  I actually had it be my “wedding cake” when I married.  I love it that much.

Do you bake your own pumpkin?  What is your favorite variety for it?

Ready for the freezer!

Holy Cow

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Holy cow, it has been a very eventful summer.  My apologies to you for a prolonged absence.

We have had twin grandaughters and a grandson born.

We have also learned of another grandchild on the way, and were saddened by the loss of a grandbaby-in-womb.

Our garden has been prolific lately, but as a result of much tending and watering due to the extreme high temps this summer and drought.

Our bed & breakfast, Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast, in here in Montague, Michigan  www.amandasbequest.com  has been busy.  Certainly for its opening year!  We operate as a farmstay and guests are immersed in a real working farm-stle home.  They collect eggs and can help churn butter or gather food from the gardens for breakfast if they wish.  We have enjoyed many wonderful and diverse guests from all over the world now!!  (How cool is that?!)  One guest, who was a world traveler, rated us as top two B&B’s in all his travels.  Turns out I’m I’m an ok cook.  He couldn’t decide who was better, a B&B in Scotland, or us.  I have to tell you, I was so dumb-struck at the remark.  After all…we are just..us.

Also busy for us has been our Bygone Basics culinary experiences.  www.bygonebasics.com  People are really wanting to know how to go back to the healthy nutritious foods that were on our predescessor’s tables.  I teach them how to use what tools they already have to get that heritage “kitchen is the heart and soul of the home” healthy foods back into their lives and in their “today” lifestyle.

We have had kitchen guests from 7 countries and 44 USA States now.

To top it all off, I’m now a licensed kitchen and am baking and selling heritage recipe and artisan foods.  All made to order and by hand from natural foods and basic ingredients (nothing you can’t spell or say!).

We have grown our little flock of hens from 6 to 12…plus a duck…but don’t tell Daisy, she thinks she’s a chicken.

My loving husband has been amazing as our journey has brought us to this kind of activity.  He just smiles and builds what I need.  🙂  I wish this kind of a husband on all of our daughters.

Anyway….

My niece Jade is now “apprenticing.”  Leaving me with a few hours at the end of the week to blog and do other things that I’ve been too swamped to do.  I taught her how to hoe the other day.  I told her she was going to be a great hoe-er someday.  She laughed.  I realized what I said.  Too funny.  She’s been learning to bake, make pies, artisan breads, hoe, can, make soap…she’s been a treasure of help to me too!

I will “talk” with you soon.  Just needed to catch you up on my busy-bee “holy cow, what changes!” summer.

Yours,

Valerie Hanson

Twins!

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I have been “off-line” lately due in part to the immanent birth of our daughter’s baby.  (And that cooking & canning classes have really booked me up, along with our bed & breakfast.  I am pleased to announce the birth of twin granddaughters!!  Photo to follow soon.

NEATO!

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How neato is this?  kalamitykelli nominated me (icanatbygonebasics) for the Versatile Blog Award.  It sure added a thrill to my day as I was over focused and drenched in paint doing a project (hand-painting a sign for our B&B).

Thank you kalamitykelli.  🙂   (http://kellisretrokitchenarts.wordpress.com/)

As a VBA recipient, I should tell you 7 things about myself:

  1.  I have 8 children (6 daughters and 2 sons), 2 grandsons, 1 baby grand son due in August, and TWIN baby grandgirls expected next month!
  2. I can move my eyes independent of each other (makes me look rather loopy!)
  3. I just opened a heritage farm-stay Bed & Breakfast (www.amandasbequest.com)
  4. I garden every open square inch possible….vertical and horizontal (I have peppers and tomatoes stuck everywhere in the summer)

    This is what I've been doing. Hand painting a sign for our Bed & Breakfast. I covered in paint and am told by my husband that I must roll in paint like a horse in sand. http://www.amandasbequest.com

  5. I am a crazy chicken lady (love my free range “girls”) and they follow me about like ducklings
  6. I teach heritage culinary and farm kitchen skills (soap making, pressure canning, gardening, baking breads and pies old-style…etc) in a 140 year old kitchen (www.bygonebasics.com)
  7. I have a novel pacing across my brain and back, rattling its cage, wanting to get out….

Here are 15 versatile blogs I enjoy (no particular order):

1.  The Soulsby Farm (http://soulsbyfarm.wordpress.com/) who believe in the same lifestyle I do of self- sustainable living and are random bloggers so you get a wonderful view of their lives.

2.  Jen Maan in Amman (http://jenmaaninamman.com/) an ex-patriot from Southern California who is currently in Amman with her husband.  Her blogs are humourous and cultural diverse…and have some interesting recipes too!

3.  Kath Usitalo (http://kathusitalo.com/) has a couple of blogs and a great writing style…and she’s continuously visiting interesting places and sharing them in her blog with great photography too.  You never know what she’s going to share next.

4.  In Toads Garden (http://toads.wordpress.com/) is a wonderful gardener in Denmark with a very natural earthy style that I enjoy.

5.  Yes You Can (http://yes-you-can-can.com/) is a wonderful country girl’s guide and covers sewing, cooking, gardening…lots of basic “how to’s”

6.  thesolitarycook (http://thesolitarycook.wordpress.com/) is all about FOOD!  She knows her stuff and clearly loves the enormous variety of foods she writes about.

7.  wallopingteaspoon (http://wallopingteaspoon.wordpress.com/) is also culinary pro in my book.  Her blogs are thorough and well written.  She blogs about food from tuxedo cupcakes to a good “sammich” to Red Snapper

8.  Rosey Dow Blog (http://roseydow.wordpress.com/) I like her old house blogs and feel an affinity.

9.  hippie itch (http://hippieitch.wordpress.com/) covers a lot of topics from healthy lifestyles to food to animals.  I love her passion for animals.

10.  The Domestically Impaired Guide to Retro Kitchen Arts (http://kellisretrokitchenarts.wordpress.com/) is a great blog on home canning…a KINDRED SPIRIT.

11.  Aquaponic Family (http://aquaponicfamily.wordpress.com/) is a fun blog about aquaponic gardening.  I live vicariously through them as I would like to do what they are….

12.  Farm Country Crafts (http://farmcountrycrafts.wordpress.com/) Pretty well described in the title but goes much further!  A fun blog and you’ll love her Five Reasons to Do Yard Work in the Shade.

13.  domesticateddilettante (http://domesticateddilettante.wordpress.com/ is a well-written and well-rounded blog about family, food, gardening… I love that she is determined to garden.

14.  The Cosy Creative (http://thecosycreative.wordpress.com/) is about a lot of things.  I really like her motto “feel happy, make something”

15.  Linda Stone (http://lindastone.net/) is a thinker and able to transmit those thoughts with good clear writing.  What can I say, I like thinkers!

Keep up the great posts!  And thank you for sharing parts of your lives with me.

Valerie Hanson


The Outhouse Was Good Enough For Grandma…

The outhouse was good enough for Grandma, shouldn’t we still be using them then?

Lately, it seems that nearly every time I tell people what I do at Bygone Basics, a common comment is made by someone in the circle of conversation.  “Oh, my daughter-in-law (or whomever) wants me to teach them how to can.”  Of course that piques my interest and I ask about what they’ll can and which methods they’ll use.  Almost always, the response is peaches or tomatoes to start with and they use the same method that has been in the family for a few generations, open kettle.

If I’m beating a dead horse I do not apologize.  I know I’ve touched on this subject before.

I cringe when I hear open kettle or water bathing vegetables, or many other dangerous methods.  Open Kettle refers to a pot on the stove of the product to be canned, boiled, and then pour hot into clean jars and lidded with no following water bath or pressure canning.  When I let the person know that open kettle is not a safe canning process AND ALSO that meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables should ALWAYS be pressure canned (not water bath canned because water only boils at 212 degrees so the food product never gets hotter than that), the next (sometimes indignant) comment is as predictable as the one that led to it….

 “It was good enough for Grandma, its good enough for us!”

Let’s explore that comment.  Why?  Because I need to get this off my chest as I’m going to explode the next time I hear it as a reason to pass along outdated and unsafe actions.

    • Grandma used an outhouse, the sears catalog for toilet paper, and probably didn’t have a sink with nice hot water and antibacterial soap near it either.  It was good enough for Grandma….how about you?
    • Grandma (and Grandpa) butchered the hog and hung it to dry or cool.  Did they hang it in the clean USDA certified cooler or smokehouse?  No.  That didn’t exist for most homes.  This too, was good enough for Grandma…..would you be ok with this meat today?
    • Grandma got her water out of the ground and used it as it was…..how many plastic bottles or purified water have you consumed or given your family lately?

Home canning is a versatile heritage art.

My point isn’t to suggest that someone is taking the easy road.  My point is that:

Grandma did the best she could with the equipment and the knowledge she had, shouldn’t we? 

Science has come a long way in the last 75 years.  Botulism isn’t the only organism to be concerned about, but it is a VERY serious one.  We now know that botulism actually only grows in the absence of oxygen.  So when a person does an open kettle canning process, they are creating a bit of seal on the jar, but the product inside never reached the temperatures necessary to kill organisms if they were present.  (botulism is killed beginning at 240 degrees F.)  The perfect environment to grow a nice bit of toxin.

How do we know that no one ever got sick from her home food preservation methods? Back then did we do a state-of-the art autopsy on every death?  Did anyone ever just get sick? How do we know it wasn’t from the food they ate hours prior?

I’m sure many, many jars of home canned food was just fine from Grandma’s kitchen.  It was tasty and nutritious.

Were they all?  Probably not.   Why wouldn’t we make the most of science and today’s advancements to make our home prepared foods as safe as possible?

For more information from the USDA on updated home canning recommendations check out this link:

http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/home_canning_guide.html

For other comments on canning safety, check out the Bygone Basics August 2011 newsletter:

http://bygonebasics.com/web_documents/bygone_basics_i_can_news_august_2011.pdf

You can find more information on safely learning to can and read other newsletters at www.bygonebasics.com

Spiced Beets, canned in the Bygone Basics kitchen.

Of course, I’d like you to come to Bygone Basics to learn about safe home food preservation while having a fantastic heritage culinary experience in an 1874 home.   As always, thank you for preserving your heritage through food and fun….because …. You CAN.  🙂