Friday, January 22, 2016

How to Harvest and Process Chaga Mushroom

In this post I discuss how to obtain chaga and get it to a usable point. If you've already done so, check out my post on how to make chaga tincture here.

I am now selling Double Extracted Chaga Tincture! Visit my Etsy page:

We are also giving away a 1oz bottle of chaga tincture to one lucky winner!! Check it out here:

Identifying Chaga Mushroom:
Chaga is easy to identify and does not really have any look-alikes. Chaga almost always grows on birches, so if it's on a different tree the odds are it isn't what you're looking for. It is characterized by its crumbly, burnt looking black outer layer with a vibrant golden-orange interior.

Where to find it:
Chaga mushrooms grow primarily on birch trees (although it rarely can be found on elm, beech, and hornbeam) in the northern hemisphere, including the northern United States, Canada, Northern Europe, and Northern Asia. The easiest way to find it while hiking is to look for the large reddish-brown stains under the black fungus itself. Once you find one tree with chaga on it, look around, often times neighboring trees will have it as well.

How and When to Harvest Chaga:
Chaga mushroom should only be harvested in the winter time after 20 consecutive days of temperatures below freezing. Do not harvest chaga when the sap is flowing in the trees (when the weather is above freezing in the spring, summer, and fall). If the sap is flowing in the tree, the chaga will have a much higher water content, reducing its medicinal value greatly and increasing the likelihood that it will spoil. Chaga should only be harvested off of live trees. Once the tree has died, the chaga also dies and loses its medicinal properties. Only mature chaga larger than your first should be harvested. A good test is to put your palm on the center of the piece of chaga you want to harvest, if your fingers touch the tree at all, it is too small. Overharvesting of chaga has been a serious issue as its use has gained popularity in the last several years. If you are planning on purchasing some be sure that your supplier follows ethical wild harvesting principles. If you want to harvest your own, experts suggest that you leave at least 20% of the growth on the tree. When I harvest I try to leave more like 50% to ensure there will always be a supply of this powerful medicine. If the tree has more than one growth, just harvest one. To remove the chaga from the tree, chip it off with a very sharp knife or hatchet. DO NOT cut into the tree, this will leave an open wound, making it susceptible for disease and pest infestation.
Image that harvesting chaga is like cutting your. You dont want to cut too much off or else the you would be bald; it will grow back but it grows very slowly. Just because you are shaving your legs doesn't mean you should cut all the hair off your head either; you want to leave some so youre not totally hairless. You definitely dont want to cut your skin because it would be a pain to keep clean and bandaged and if you dont you could get a deadly infection. Its best to do it in the winter because then if you mess it up at least you can hide it under a hat until spring. And there's no point in doing it if you're already dead.

How to Process Chaga 
Okay, so you've got some chaga, now what? Well, two things need to happen; you need to dry it out and you need to break it up into smaller pieces. It doesn't matter what order you do this in. It needs to be dried, otherwise it could spoil. I like to leave whole chaga or smaller chunks of it near the woodstove for a couple of days, but you can also use a food dehydrator. You do not want the chaga to be heated too much, though, as this will reduce its medicinal value. Never put chaga in the oven. To break it up, I wrap it in a strong cloth or put it in a canvas grocery bag. Then I put it on concrete and simply beat on it with a hammer until it's in pea-sized pieces. You can also use a mortar and pestle. I then grind it using my great-grandmother's coffee grinder (below), but you could use a vita-mix or electric coffee grinder. If you don't own any of these, you can keep on with the hammer method until it is in very small pieces, but this takes a lot of effort and you will have to boil it longer for tea.

How to Make Chaga Tea
Finely Ground:
If you have finely ground chaga that is in a powdered form, simply put a tablespoon in a tea bag or strainer in your mug and pour a cup of boiling water over it. Allow it to steep for at least 10-15 minutes.

Course Ground:
Boil pea to half dollar sized pieces in water for at least an hour (1 TBS per cup of water). When I have this size I like to make a big pot of it and simply keep it on the woodstove, adding water as I take it out. I find that you can use these sized pieces several times and they will maintain their strength, just make sure that the color of the tea is still dark brown to almost black.

Pro tip: I like to steep conifer needles with my chaga for an extra boost of flavor and vitamin C. You can use any conifer except juniper (aka yew) or larch (aka tamarack).

Looking for some more resources about chaga? Check out these great books!

If you would like to purchase chaga I recommend getting it from Moutain Rose Herbs at this link:

Consult your physician before use, especially if you are pregnant or nursing or are taking blood thinners. Keep away from children. I am not medically trained in any professional way. Use herbal remedies at your own risk.

This post was submitted to Murano Chicken Farm's Saturday Blog Hop. Check it out here:

Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completly accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Easy Heart Recipe

Heart is an excellent source of iron, selenium, and zinc, which are vital for keeping oxygen running through your body, maintaining a strong immune system, building muscle, and aiding your body in repairing itself. They say you are what you eat, well, believe it or not, eating heart is great for your heart. Heart is chock full of B12 vitamins, which prevent fatigue, stress, and memory loss, boosts your mood and concentration, aids your immune system, and slows aging. AND it reduces your risk for heart disease, male infertility, diabetes, sleep disorders, depression, mental illness, asthma, cancer, osteoporosis, and skin infections. I swear I'm not making this up, google it people. People have used B12 for MS, Lyme disease, macular degeneration, and much more. Heart has 10x more B12 than regular muscle meat!! Contrary to popular belief, heart is one of the most delicious and tender cuts on the animal, if prepared properly. It is my personal favorite and I always make sure not to waste any. 

It is true that larger hearts, such as beef or venison, can be tough unless braised for many hours, but chicken or goose (pictured above) hearts are quick and simple!

No Fuss Heart       Serves: 1     Prep time: 1 hour   Cook time: 15 minutes   Eat time: a blink of an eye 
- 9ish chicken hearts or 3 goose/duck hearts
-3 large cloves garlic, crushed
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1/4 cup red wine
-black pepper to taste
-olive oil
-1/4 large onion
- 1 bell pepper
- a generous handful of baby kale or spinach 
Mix the garlic, soy sauce, red wine, and black pepper together in a bowl, add hearts, and marinade for an hour or two or even overnight if you want. While that is marinating, slice the onion and bell pepper. Once your marinade is done, heat the olive oil in a fry pan on medium high heat. Throw everything except the greens in. Cook to your liking, adding the kale or spinach for the last couple minutes. Serve.  
Grilling Variation: After marinating the hearts, grill them with vegetables on skewers, sit back, and watch the impressed but unsure expressions on your friends faces. 
Pro tip- If you have leftovers try it cold in a wrap with goat cheese. 

Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completly accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them.

How to Pressure Can Bone Broth

I recently purchased a pressure canner for myself for Christmas and I can't believe I didn't invest in one 5 years ago. A whole new world of canning has opened up for me; meats and veggies and low acid foods galore! I've been canning more broths and soups in the last four weeks than the wife of a 1930's farmer would have preserved in September and October combined! Okay maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but I've certainly been canning more than any sane person would care to and I've got it down to a science. At least as far as bone broth goes. In my last two posts, I told you about how to make bone broth and all about the history of portable soup. You can find those three posts here and here and here. Now, I'm going to tell you how to pressure can all of this wonderful broth that I know you're definitely swimming in by now.

You will need:
- A Pressure Canner (This is the one I use so the directions are geared toward this type of canner (dial gauge): Presto 1755 16-Quart Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner)
-Bone broth
- Ball mason jars
- Clean rings and new lids
- Canning rack
-Clean towels
-A spatula or butter knife
-optional (but highly advised): vinegar, a jar lifter, a funnel 

1. Sanitize your jars. The easiest way is to use a dishwasher if yours has a sanitize option. If you do not own a dishwasher or just want to get it done quickly you can simmer a large pot of water on the stove and let your jars sit in the water for 10-15 minutes. I highly recommend getting a jar lifter to avoid any broken glass or painful burns. It's definitely worth the $5-6 investment, especially if you're planning on doing a lot of canning. You can find one online here: Norpro 600 Jar Lifter. Contrary to popular belief, you do not want to sanitize the lids this way as overheating them would weaken the gasket and prevent proper sealing, putting you at risk for serious foodborne illness. Instead, take new lid out of the package and simply wash them by hand in warm, soapy water. DO NOT reuse canning jar lids, they will not seal correctly and your food will not be preserved properly.

2. While you are sanitizing your jars you can start heating up the water in your pressure canner. You cannot use a water bath canner to can broth because you cannot raise the temperature of the water high enough. Fill the canner with 3" of water and put the lid on. The jars do not need to be covered with water like in a water bath canner. To prevent cloudy calcium deposits on the jars you can add a couple TBS of vinegar to the water.

3. Pour your bone broth in the jars, leaving an inch of headspace at the top. I like to do this right after I'm done making the broth. This way it is still hot and even if I don't can them right away they are already in jars ready to go in the fridge. Do not can jars of broth that came right out of the fridge; you have to let them heat up a bit first or the drastic temperature change could damage the jar. Once you have your jars filled, run a small spatula or butter knife around the inside of the jar to dislodge any air bubbles. Then, wipe off any broth that may have dripped on the rim with a wet cloth and put your clean lids on, tightening the rings with just your fingers.

4. Once the water in your canner is at least simmering, place your jars in the canner with a canning rack or a jar lifter. Having some sort of a rack in the bottom of your canner is a must as you do not want the jars to come in direct contact with the canner. Most pressure canners come with a rack but if you do not have one you can lay extra rings down to cover the bottom of the canner and then place a dishtowel over them.  Once all of your jars are in the canner, put the lid back on and make sure it is fully locked in place. Make sure your stovetop is set on high heat. Soon, you will see a steady v-shaped flow of steam exhausting out of the vent. Allow this to happen for at least 10 minutes.

5. Once 10 minutes has passed, place the weight on top of the vent and watch the pressure climb on the gauge. Broth needs to be canned at 10 pounds of pressure. I like to keep it at 11 just to be safe. Keep a close eye on it and regulate the heat as needed. Once 10 pounds is achieved, start your time. Pints of broth should be canned for 20 minutes and quarts for 25. If you have both pints and quarts use the longer time, its always better to do it a little too long than not long enough. If at any time the pressure drops below 10 pounds you will have to start the time over again.

If you are a higher altitude than 1,000 ft you will have to increase the pounds of pressure you are using. See the chart below (courtesy of Ball) for conversions:

6. Once the 20 or 25 minutes has passed, turn off the heat and allow the canner to start cooling. You may move the canner if you want but I do not suggest it as it will be heavy and you do not want to risk dropping it. Do not open the vent, do not force the canner to cool down in any way, including running it under cold water. The cool down time is included in canning time and if it does not happen on its own your food may not be preserved correctly. Once the pressure has reached zero, then you can open the vent and remove the lid. Be very careful to lift the lid away from you so you do not get a steam burn as the water will still be very hot. Remove the lid as soon as you can. Do not let the jars sit in the canner as this could lead to improper preservation or loss of liquid. Remove the jars from the water and leave them alone for 12 hours. Once this time has passed, check to make sure the centers of all the lids have popped down. If you can press your thumb on the lid and it moves, it was not sealed properly. Simply place it in the fridge and be sure to use it within a couple of days.

Variation with added meat and vegetables:
You can add meat or vegetables to your broth before you can it. To do this simply make soup like normal, making sure the meat and vegetables are cooked. If you are using the meat from your bone broth, it will definitely be adequately cooked already. Resist the urge to use seasoning, the flavor will be intensified by the canning and you can always add it when you go to use it. I like to use just a little bit of salt and pepper. Do not use any dairy or grains in your soup; these products cannot be pressure canned and may put you at risk for foodborne illness. This means do not saute your veggies in butter first or do not add rice or noodles to your soup. These items can be added later. Simply fill your jars with the hot soup and follow the directions above. IMPORTANT: if using anything except broth, the time at pressure increases from 20-25 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes for pints and 1 hour 30 minutes for quarts. 

Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completly accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The History of Portable Soup

Our ancestors have been making instant, travel ready meals in various forms from jerky or pemmican to powdered grains and vegetables for thousands of years. In the last 500 or so years portable soup, known previously as "veal glew", "cake soup", "broth cakes", "solid soop", "portmanteau pottage", "pocket soup", "carry soup", "soop always in readiness", and "glue-broth", has been gaining popularity. The modern equivalent, bouillon, while flavorful, is a far cry from the life sustaining and convenient portable soup of yore. Traditionally, it is made from bone broth boiled down until thick and gelatinous and then dehydrated. To make your own portable soup, see the recipe I provided in yesterday's post "How to Make Simple Nourishing Bone Broth". You can also learn about why bone broth is amazingly healthy and why I love it here.

While some valued portable soup for its flavor, the vast majority preferred it for its high nutrient value, lightweight nature, and convenience of cooking. And who can disagree when 1/2 cup of it weighs just a couple of oz and makes over a gallon of bone broth in just minutes? In the 17th- 19th centuries portable soup was highly popular among soldiers, travelers, explorers of distant lands, woodsmen, housewives, and sailors. So popular in fact that many famous explorers brought large quantities of it with them. In 1804 Lewis and Clark went over budget to spend $189.50 for 193 lbs of the stuff, more than they spent on instruments, arms, or ammunition. Captain Cook brought 1,000 lbs of it on the Endeavor for his 1772 voyage to Australia. He was said to be a fan because they "enable us to make several nourishing and wholesome messes and was the means of making the people eat a greater quantity of vegetables than they would otherwise have done". Although, the people apparently  did not like eating their vegetables because it is reported that Cook flogged any who refused to eat it.
William Byrd II, the founder of Richmond, Virginia, described it as "a wholesome kind of food, of very small weight, and very great nourishment, that will secure them from starving, in case they should be so unlucky as to meet with no game" and suggested that "should you be fainting with fasting or fatigue, let a small piece of this glue melt in your mouth, and you will find yourself surprisingly refreshed". Even the Scottish poet Robert Burns describes hunters carrying portable soup in their packs.

Portable soup was not just for wars and expeditions, though, it was also a common household staple, prized for its convenience, ease of preservation, and its ability to nourish the ailing. From the 1694 book recipe "To Make Veal Glue" from The Receipt Book of Mrs Anne Blencow to Hannah Glasse's 1747 cookbook The Art of Cookery Plain and Easy to the 1743 Lady's Companion, portable soup was featured in many cookbooks of the era. In 1837 Eliza Leslie advised in her Directions for Cookery, "If you have any friends going the overland journey to the Pacific, a box of portable soup may be the most useful present to them".

Portable soup became commercially available in 1840 when Justus von Leibig, a german chemist, developed "beef extract" to feed the "craving multitudes". Spoiler alert, like a beauty pageant queen von Leibig did not solve wold hunger. Von Leibig did feed Henry Morton Stanley on his search through Africa for Dr. David Livingstone, nourished arctic explores such as Nansen, Amundsen, Shackleton, and Scott, and fed Allied soldiers during WWI. It was later marketed to housewives as Oxo.

Although portable soup has sadly morphed into the artificial, MSG filled bouillon of today, the good news is that you can make it yourself with a couple pounds of bones and a lot of time. You can dissolve a teaspoon in a cup of boiling water for a quick snack, use as broth in soup, beans, or rice, add to salads instead of bacon bits, or mix in with pasta or fried rice for an extra kick of flavor and nutrients. Again, you can see how I made portable soup in yesterday's post "How to Make Simple Nourishing Bone Broth".
For over 300 more pages on bone broth and portable soup, I highly recommend that you check out Sally Fallon's new book Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World (not a sponsor, I just love this book so much).

This much portable soup will make a gallon of bone broth!!

Information for this post from:
- Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel
-National Geographic:
- Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc.

Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completly accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to Make Simple Nourishing Bone Broth

I recently picked up Sally Fallon's new book Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World on a whim and it changed my life. I had read two of her books before, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats and The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care, and both of those changed my life drastically, but her most recent book on bone broth is my favorite by far. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on why you should be eating bone broth, how it has helped me, and why Sally is your new best friend. Update: That post has been written and you can find it here.

You can buy Nourishing Broth here:

I've been making bone broth biweekly for awhile now and have honed down what used to be a long and tedious effort into 20 minutes of pure bliss. I've been experimenting with different types of meat and various parts of the animal. Bone broth can be made from any animal just so long as there are plenty of, you guessed it, bones and some connective tissue. There doesn't have to be any meat on the bones at all if you just want a simple broth but I like to throw some in for extra flavor and nutrients as well as to take one more step out of the process. Some of the best parts to use are marrow bones, knuckles, feet, poultry carcasses, necks etc. Basically, if you'd normally throw it away it's probably good for bone broth. Ideal parts are those that move on the animal because those places will have the most cartilage and connective tissue. The idea is to extract as much gelatin as possible. This gelatin acts as a lubricant in your body, allowing your joints to flow smoothly, keeping your skin and hair strong and elastic (preventing wrinkles!) and helping your body to heal itself. More on that later, though. It's time to start cooking!

Prep time: 20 minutes                Cook time: 12-24 hours
-enough organic, grass fed bones (and/or feet, necks, etc) to fill a large pot or a whole chicken or chicken carcass
- water to cover

-optional: apple cider vinegar, seasoning, or vegetables

Place all of your bones and meaty bits in a large pot. It really is best to use organic meat (or even better wild meat) that has had access to fresh air and grass as it will be much healthier for you, not to mention it is the kindest way for the animal and the earth. I like to use a crockpot because it takes all of the hassle out entirely. I just plug it in and forget about it. Fill pot with water until all of the meat is covered. You may have to add more later if some evaporates and exposes the meat.

Optional: adding a couple TBS of ACV will help get more nutrients from the bones. You can add seasoning at this point if you wish but I find that it is better just to leave it as a plain broth until you want to use it. You can add vegetable scraps for more nutrients and flavor but you have to remove them later and your broth will not be preserved as long. If you do want to add vegetables to your broth remember that it will be cooking for a very long time so it is best to add them at the very end.

In order to eek out every last bit of nutrious and flavorful goodness from those bones they have to be cooked continuously at low heat for a long time. You should keep them at just below a simmer for at least 12 hours, but 24 is even better. Check on it every couple of hours to make sure it is not boiling or too much water has evaporated and to stir. If you are cooking on a stovetop it may be difficult to regulate the temperature; you may have to play around will keeping the lid partially off. It is okay if it does boil, all of the nutrients will still be there but your broth will not gel up firmly (which you may not want anyway). Gelling is good way to measure how much of the all important gelatin is in your broth, though; the firmer it becomes, the more gelatin is present.
After you have cooked the bones as long as you like, you will need to strain out the broth and separate the meat from the bones. At this point, you can save your bones to use again or even twice more, you can compost them, or, if they are large marrow bones, you can give them to your dog. Be very careful to make sure you remove all small slivers of bone (especially if you are using delicate bones, such as poultry bones or necks). You will notice that all of the fat will float to the top of your broth, you have two options at this point:

The yellow layer on top is the fat:

<-- I used 6 canada goose legs and 3 necks for this batch; you can see how the meat has totally fallen off the bones, its a bit like pulled pork at this point


Option 1:
Cover your broth and put it in the fride to cool until the fat on top hardens. This will take a couple of hours. Once it has hardened you can scrape it off and put it in a separate container to render later. You can use this fat in place of oil or butter in your cooking, or if it's lard or tallow (tallow is a harder fat from beef, this is what you get when you use marrow bones) you can use it in soap or candle making.

Option 2:
You can put the meat back in the broth if you want to in a separate container in the fridge or freezer or you can dehydrate it for jerky or instant meal mixes.  I prefer not to separate the fat because it adds wonderful flavor and nutritional value to my broths. Any fat on top also creates a barrier between the broth and the air, preserving it for longer. Put the broth in containers for refridgerating, freezing, or canning. Click here to see my post on pressure canning bone broth. . It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a couple of months. I like to pour it into ice cube trays and then put the broth cubes in bags in the freezer so I can use precise amounts (or hide it in smoothies for a protein packed breakfast!)

Option 3:
If you already have a good gel and you have removed the fat you may decide to make portable soup (fat will make it spoil faster). Portable soup is basically dehydrated and concentrated bone broth which can be used like bouillion. To make portable soup, fill a pot with a gallon or so of bone broth and cook it down, letting it evaporate until there is only a cup or two or broth left. If you want to be absolutely sure that it hardens you can add commercial gelatin to the broth. Take it off the heat and pour it into a mold, wax paper lined pan, or onto a food dehydrator sheet. It should begin to gel up. You can flip it out onto a piece of felt on a drying rack and let it dry for a couple of days until it is hard like leather at which point you can cut it into 1/2-1" squares with scissors. You can put a small electric fan on it to hasten this process and prevent spoilage. Keep it in a cool, dry place. OR you can use a food dehydrator to dry it until it is hard and brittle. Make sure to keep you dehydrator on a low setting so that the gel does not melt. Once the portable soup is hard you can put it in a food processor and grind it into a powder. Mix one square or one teaspoon of portable soup with one cup of boiling water for instant broth. To learn more about portable soup see my post called The History of Portable Soup.

Buy Food Dehydrator Sheets Here:

Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completly accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Switchel! Traditional Treat and Natural Energy Drink

People have been using switchel for hundreds of years to prevent dehydration and to renew the body during hard work or in hot weather. Even sailors used to use this simple recipe to prevent scurvy and drank it daily (often with their daily ration of liquor). Ever heard of grog? A variation on switchel was the main ingredient in this well-known pirate's cocktail. A little more recently,  farm laborers during the 17th-20th centuries drank switchel in order to prevent heat stroke during hard days of work. It is often associated with hay making, as this is often the hardest work on some of the hottest days of the year.