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Modern RootsOne of my favorite parts of homesteading is canning. I love to see my garden in jars during the winter months. Preserving the bounty of summer is great fun, but conveniently storing the jars is another chore.

Our staircase downstairs turns halfway back on itself creating a nice cool space under the steps. It was used mainly as storage for Christmas stuff before I started to set all my canned goods in there. I was getting loads of jars from the garden during the hot summer months. This presented an issue, since floor space was being taken up by all the jars I had. I would tip-toe around stuff and occasionally break a lightbulb that hung down from the low ceiling with my head. However, I did not complain, but Mr. Hunky certainly saw this as an eyesore.

The storage area under the steps has a door so I would just keep it shut, didn't bother me any. A couple weekends ago, Mr. Hunky said he was going to make it into a pine-board canning closet. Pine, keeping it dry and still cool; I thought that would be fantastic. I never thought it would turn out the way it did though.


Usually when Mr. Hunky is going to 'improve' my life in some way, I generally let him go with it. The new closet with shelves and new lighting is economical and space saving. Canning is going to be even more worth it with a convenient, cool, dry place to store my goods for winter. Hopefully, with the added space I can produce enough vegetables for two years worth of canned goods instead of one.

We used pine: tongue and groove, 2-by-2-inch square boards for shelving brackets/wall stabilizers (instead of metal brackets), 10-foot boards in 8 inches and 12 inches for shelves, and pine molding.

Additional supplies include miter saw, nail gun, screws, hammer, and one Mr. Hunky.

Here are some before and afters of the completed canning closet!

before canning closet 

before canning closet 2   lights

without shelves   left

finished back canning closet 


Be sure to checkout more of my homesteading mayhem at my website, and my online natural soaps and body care store here!


Modern RootsRosemary complements venison and eases the gamey taste while sage enhances the overall flavor of this sausage. In addition, I use un-rendered lard to create a happy, juicy, flavorful sausage that marries the ingredients nicely.



rosemary sage venison sausage

Rosemary Sage Venison Sausage

6 pounds venison, cubed and cold (got a roast
     you don't know what to do with?)
2 pounds pork fat (un-rendered lard), cubed
2 tablespoons chopped or crushed sage
2 tablespoons chopped or crushed rosemary
3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (does not give
     heat at this amount, just depth of flavor)
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 cup COLD water

Mix all ingredients except the water together in a large bowl. Let sit 20 minutes.

Run through a meat grinder on the largest dial setting. I prefer the largest because mushy sausage is not as desirable. After running all the sausage mix through the grinder, place in mixer bowl. Add the 1 cup cold water and mix on low for 1 minute EXACT (I use my Kitchen Aid for this, but you can also just use a hand blender or any standing mixer). This creates a beginning emulsion and marries the flavors together.

packaged venison sausageAfter mixing, package in 1-pound 'loaves,' wrap with plastic wrap and place in freezer bags. Keeps up to 1 year.

You can also create sausage links/brats with adapter and hog intestines if you chose to from this point with this recipe.

Enjoy your healthy venison!!





Modern RootsI love this soup because the ingredients follow the gardening calendar, especially for Minnesota and other cool states in the fall. Enjoy!

Zuppa Toscana Soup

1 pound Italian mild sausage - use bulk loose sausage, not in tubes
5 medium garden potatoes - skin on diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large red onion, diced
3 slices of bacon, cut into bite size pieces
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
5 large leaves of kale, middle rib taken out and sliced into strips
1 1/2 quarts best quality chicken broth
1/2 quart water
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh grated Romano cheese

Zuppa Toscana Soup | Fotolia/chiyacat 

Photo: Fotolia/chiyacat

Cook sausage in large soup pot until done. Remove from pot and set aside. I like to leave the pan drippings and fat in, drain if you'd like. The benefits from lard are plenty, very high in Omega 3s, especially if you buy organic or non GMO sausage.

Saute bacon (until crispy), garlic and onions in sausage fat. Add all ingredients EXCEPT cream and Romano cheese to soup pot. Bring to a medium boil until the potatoes are done (25 to 35 minutes). Lower heat, add cream.

Serve in bowls, grate fresh Romano on top. Wonderful served with crusty sourdough bread.

More recipes and homesteading mayhem at my website; and like on Facebook for updates and new recipes.


Modern RootsA super dose of antioxidants in this cucumber salad. All the ingredients are fresh from the garden making it cost effective and easy to put together.

Yields 2 side salads.

2 leaves of kale – core removed, Julianne cut
10 to 15 Sungold, or any grape tomatoes, sliced
5 leaves Swiss chard, Julianne cut
5 leaves purple opal basil – any basil will be great – Julianne cut
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 long cucumber, cut in half moons
1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Toss all together.

1 teaspoon flax oil
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 cup raw apple cider
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt – sea salt is great, too
1 to 2 tablespoons raw honey – I like 2 tablespoons but if you don't like as sweet use 1
2 pinches of pepper

Whisk together until it emulsifies, pour over salad – enjoy immediately! Wonderful with pizza or serve with a grilled chicken breast, salmon, or flank steak for an entree.

Antioxidant Salad - Meg 

More recipes at or click here. You can also get connected with my Facebook page to read about fermenting, heritage hogs I raise, and how to become self-reliant yourself!


Modern RootsFinally, all my pigs/sows are here on the Modern Roots Homestead. Getting the fencing ready, the huts for farrowing, and the specific breeds I wanted all took quite a bit of planning and effort. But they are finally adjusted to their new home and thriving. I love heritage breeds for their abilities to mother naturally, fight disease better than the commercial breeds, and they taste so much better! Therefore, I am raising Tamworths, Berkshires and Mangalitsas. 

Tamworths – our Tamworth's name is Tammy – are long rusty red colored, lean and athletic. Known for the best bacon in the world, they originate from central England. In this region, there were dense forests of oak and beech trees where the pigs were kept to forage in the autumn and winter. Which is why I wanted this breed, to easily free-range. The breed takes its name from the village of Tamworth in Staffordshire. The Tamworth first entered the states in 1882. The characteristics of the Tamworth reflect the breed’s long lived selection for life outside. Pigs of this breed were expected to find their own food. Long heads and impressive snouts enable these pigs to be efficient foragers. Long, strong legs and sound feet give Tamworth pigs the ability to walk for considerable distances. Ginger red coats make the pigs adaptable to a variety of climates and protect them from sunburn. When I raised Yorkshire's, they would always sunburn unless I had a large mud pit for them to coat themselves in. Tamworths have an active intelligence, and they are agreeable in disposition. Sows are prolific, able to produce and care for large litters. The piglets are vigorous and often have 100 percent survivability. Super important for the natural way of raising pigs. I want them to farrow on their own not be put in crates away from their piglets. In nature, sows obviously would need to do this on their own and that's a huge benefit to the heritage purebred breeds.

Berkshires originated in Berkshire England, an English county. They are black with some white-dark colored skin to reduce sunburn. Shorter snout, stockier legs, arched back, and strong feet. Our Berk, Olivia, is quite the character. They are known for being curious and having a great disposition. This couldn't be more true. I really look forward to breeding Olivia next year as she is so much fun now. She especially likes Mr. Hunky. In fact, tries to climb him like a tree?! Yes, she's a pig. I know, it's weird. In 2008, there were less than 300 breeding Berkshire sows in existence and were considered vulnerable. So glad I have one of these beauts. The meat is finely and equally marbled, and prized for its juiciness.

Mangalitsa's are a Hungarian heritage breed prized for it's flavor and fat. Originally descended from a wild boar breed it is currently the most sought after pork in high end restaurants pricing well into the thousands for one raised hog, making it five times the cost of regular pork. One of the reasons for this is they take about twice as long as regular Yorkshire or cross-bred pigs to raise. Therefore, over a year's worth of keeping before they are slaughtered. Just 20 years ago, there were only 198 of these wooly creatures left in existence when a Spanish ham producer starting breeding up the numbers. Super pumped I have one. Mangalitsa's are also known as the wooly pig because they have more hair than what we "Americans" think of a pig having. The hair helps them stay warm and protected in cold climates during winter – hence perfect for Minnesota! All the heritage breeds I want to raise have not had the "fat" bred out of them. When you breed the fat out ... there goes the flavor and great omega's for brain development and maintenance. I am selling 5 of the 7 Mangalitsa piglets I have and am selling them for $275 each. Steal of a deal compared to other states at over $1700 for a 3 month old!

Feeder piglets were/are very hard to find this year as a disease wiped out many young piglets which would explain the increase in cost for your plain ol' Yorkshire at about $120.

Be sure to read more about my natural homesteading at and 'like' my Facebook page for recipes and new product information at my Modern Roots Store


Modern RootsBlackberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake becomes an easy and wonderful pastry/cake to bake in the evening and serve in the a.m. with a hot cup of Jo or tea. This recipe is easy to manipulate to your taste. Want to make an apple butter, strawberry or pumpkin coffeecake? Easy peasy, just insert the sweetened preserves, jams or butters where I have my blackberry preserves listed. Done.

Blackberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white cane sugar, divided

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, divided

1/2 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup blackberry preserves

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/8 cup powdered cane sugar

10 to 15 drops vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan. Yes, you should use this, it will make your life easier.

Fork together flour, 3/4 cup cane sugar and butter until well-mixed and resembles small peas. Remove 1 1/4 cups of mixture, set aside.

To remaining mixture, add baking soda, baking powder, salt, sour cream, almond extract, vanilla extract and 1 egg. Mix until just combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan; be sure to get up the sides at least two inches. You want to create an edge or crust for the filling to sit inside of.

Beat cream cheese, remaining white cane sugar and remaining egg. Spread on top of batter, try to get some up to the edges.

Now spread your preserves on top. Don't mix it in, just lay it evenly on top. And don't be perfect, that's what makes this 'cut' look so pretty. Imperfections.

Combine the reserved crumbs and almonds, spread on top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Top should be a light shade of golden brown.

Cool 15 minutes, then take the spring form sides off. STARE it down and let sit another hour in the fridge. Drizzle top with combined powdered cane sugar and drops of vanilla extract. Delish! Be sure to stun someone with your awesome creation.

Be sure to checkout my natural homesteading blog at and 'like' on Facebook at for more recipes and fun homesteading projects!


Modern RootsI go through a lot of essential oils with the products I make and sell at my Modern Roots Store. I grow my own medicinal herbs and plants to get the best quality and highest yield without the use of pesticides or other nasty who-knows-what 'Big Ag' uses these days. Much of my herbs go directly into my soaps, lotions, conditioners etc. But I want to extract the precious oils from them too. So, on this blistery winter day – with dreams of summer lavender, I came up with a contraption to do so ... and the Modern Roots Essential Oil Still was born.

I was pressure cooking some chicken stock when I was watching the pressure gauges thinking ... the steam that escapes and that's inside the pressure cooker could really be used to steam anything, but what could I attach it to to get the job done – and in a smaller quantity? Simple really. Other than blowing myself up, of course.

What you need:

– 10 feet of 3/8-inch copper tubing. Wound into two coils – you can easily manipulate this or buy it pre-rolled.

– 1 smaller pressure cooker (4 quart to 6 quart); you could use bigger but quality, effectiveness and time are all important so I like to control it in smaller amounts. *NOTE: I LOVE me some thrift shops but in this case I bought a new one to make sure all the safety valves, etc., work well to prevent me and my kitchen from getting blown to smithereens. Of course it would smell lovely, so that would be a positive, but let's try to alleviate problems like this from the get go.

– plastic container, or wash tub for cold water – tall and skinny so your copper coils fit into it. It's better to have your coils at the bottom of the container because cold water is heavier or denser than warm water.

– plumbers putty

– 3/8-inch clear or threaded tubing

– glass jar to catch lavender water and oils

 –Syringe – meat syringe works good

See slideshow below for more in depth descriptions.

Copper tubing

Copper tubing

Plastic tubing – a small piece, about 3 to 4 inches will be needed from this.

Plastic Tubing

Plastic tubing, cut and fitted over one end of the copper tube.

Plastic tube attached to copper

Metal fastener/tightener to tighten down to the pressure cooker – you may or may not need this.

Metal Fastener

3 to 6 quart pressure cooker

Pressure Cooker

Oblong pail (if your copper coils fit into a pail you already have, use that).

Oblong Pail

Lavender buds (or any plant you want to extract oil from).

Lavender Buds

Tea pot – to pour hot water over the plant/buds.

Tea Pot

Jars to catch lavender oil and water


Assembly is pretty straight forward. Attach the tube (there is a video below to watch) – which you've attached to the copper pipe – to the pressure cooker. Cut this to size. It should fit snug and erect but not too long so that it bends over. Tighten with the small clamp. Add lavender or plant you want extracted to the pressure cooker, add boiling water (about 3 times the amount of plant you have – 4 cups lavender = 12 cups boiling water). Keep in mind dried plants or herbs will require more than fresh plants.

Place the coils in the tub of cold water with ice – as this warms you will need to add ice and/or replace the water with cold water as it heats. Place catch jar at the other end to catch the oils and steamed essential water. Set up as in picture below. Cover and set heat to medium high. If it begins to leak once started, seal with plumbers putty around the tube/pressure cooker area. Placing a bit of downwards pressure on the copper pipe attached to the pressure cooker helps it to seal better as well.

Process Set Up

See video on how it works here!

Now you can syringe the oils off the top or siphon them away from the water underneath. The lavender water or essential water you have left is great when used in vinegar for an all-natural fabric softener, as a room air spritzer, or as a sheet and bedroom freshener. Most essential oils are anti-microbial and anti-fungal so they actually kill the nasty in your homes.

When I distill in my house. I know that the air is getting a nice cleanse and it leaves a wonderful scent throughout the house. Talk about some spring cleaning!

Checkout my blog at – like on facebook at

And be sure to check out my Modern Roots Store for all natural body products that I have created!

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