The Texas Pioneer Woman


Grow Your Own Potatoes

The Texas Pioneer WomanI went to take a bag of russet potatoes out of the pantry a couple of weeks ago and noticed they had started to sprout, so instead of cooking them I planted them.

It is quite easy to grow your own potatoes. Potatoes are actually tubers that grow from the stem part of the potato plant that is underground. I cut my potatoes into 2- to 3-inch diameter pieces making sure each piece have several eyes from which to sprout. I then store the pieces in a cool dry location until the seed pieces sprouted and appear slightly shriveled. The key to growing your own potatoes is to ensure that the potato has sprouted before planting. This is called chitting.

Potato Seed Chitting

Once the seed potatoes have sprouted, I dug a trench about 6 inches deep and dropped the seed pieces into the bottom of the hole making sure that the sprouts are pointed up. I spaced them about 8 inches apart and covered them with about 3 inches of soil.

As the plant grows I will keep adding or hilling up soil on the stem of the potato plant making sure not to cover the leaves of the plants with soil. Another key to success for growing your own potatoes is to keep the soil evenly moist, so that they do not dry out. Potatoes will be ready to harvest when the potato plant leaves start to yellow and die.

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Rustic Outdoor Supper

The Texas Pioneer WomanWinter has been cold and gray, but last weekend we finally had a bit of sunshine. I ran outside and got my wood grill fired up to make an outdoor supper. I love cooking outside. Food cooked outdoors always taste so much better! I made rustic cornbread, a vegetable medley and grilled beef steaks. It was a delicious weekend supper!

Rustic Outdoor Supper

Rustic Cornbread
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup homemade lard melted

Rustic Cornbread

Stir together all ingredients until blended well. Pour into greased baking pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake on indirect heat with grill lid closed until knife inserted off center comes out clean.

Outdoor Vegetable Medley
2 medium potatoes
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1/2 onion
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
2 teaspoons homemade lard
Rosemary, salt, pepper, sage to taste
Cilantro to taste
Handful of favorite cheese

Vegetable Medley

Precook 2 medium potatoes over hot coals for about 40 minutes, or until almost done, or microwave on high for about 8 minutes until almost done. Set aside.

Cube zucchini, squash, onion and celery stalk. Grate carrot and add to cubed vegetables. Top with homemade lard, or a bit of oil, to prevent sticking. Season with rosemary, salt, pepper and sage. Top with almost baked cubed potatoes. Sprinkle cilantro over vegetables to taste.

Bake with covered lid over medium hot wood coals with grill cover closed until all vegetables are soft. Remove from heat, top with cheese and replace dish lid until cheese is melted.

Grilled Steaks

Season meat with salt and pepper. Grill on direct heat then move off direct heat to finish cooking until desired doneness. Enjoy!

Grilling Steaks

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School Gardens Teaching the Next Generation of Gardeners

The Texas Pioneer WomanThe art of growing food to feed your own family, the ability to be self-sufficient in successfully providing nutritious meals for oneself and others, and the knowledge of growing these healthy foods is dying with our older generation. Gardening edible foods was once held at the highest esteem; it meant the difference between having food to eat and starvation. We were once independent producers of our family’s food. We grew and tended to plants, knowing, if treated correctly, they would produce food for our family and fodder for our animals. (Read more: Reclaiming Our Food Independence )

Stem Cuttings 

My husband and I, along with two dedicated teachers at a local elementary school in my corner of the woods, are teaching several students how to garden in an after-school garden club. We recently talked to them about making new plants through propagation using stem cuttings. My husband and I brought stock plants from our farm such as camelias, roses, English ivy, wisteria, rosemary, crape myrtle, house ivy, azalea, blackberry, euonymus, spirea and grapes for the students to use.

We taught them that taking a cutting involves removing a piece of a leaf, stem or root and placing it in a growing medium where it then develops the other parts that it left behind. For example, a stem will then grow roots. Stem cuttings have about a 50-percent success rate, so we have to make more stem cuttings than we need because not all of them will survive. We also explained why we propagate from stem cuttings; it is a simple and frugal way to get more plants.

We showed the students how to take a stem cutting by using clean scissors and making sure that each cutting measures 4 to 6 inches long and has at least four leaves. We explained that the cuts were made at a 45-degree angle and should generally be made just below a node, the point at which a leaf joins the stem and the point at which roots form most readily. After cutting, we showed the students how to remove the bottom leaves from the cutting, immediately dip into rooting stimulator and insert it in water or soil depending on each plants' required growing medium.

English Ivy Stem Cuttings

Rose Stem Cuttings

We explained to the students how to care for their stem cuttings, explaining that the soil needs to remain moist and they will need to mist the plant leaves with water. We also discussed the necessity of monitoring the plants and checking for root growth, which could take a few weeks to a few months to develop. The students agreed to add more water to their containers if it dips below the original level and they also will make sure the potting mix in the pots remains moist.

Planted Stem Cuttings

The students enjoyed the stem-cutting activity. When their parents came to pick them up, they eagerly showed their parents what they learned. They even explained to younger brothers and sisters how to do it. I even heard one student tell his mom excitedly, “When we get home let’s make more plants! I know how to do it!”

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Butchering Season

The Texas Pioneer WomanThe weather has been awfully cold in my little corner of the forest, so that means it is butchering season. The children are almost all grown up, and it’s just me and the mister on the farm now, so we just butcher one large animal each year supplemented by poultry every now and then. When the children were still at home, we butchered one pig and one cow every year. Butchering our farm animals is how we get all of our meat for the year.

As I’m writing this, the temperature is 18 degrees outside, which is mighty cold in Texas. The coyotes are howling in the woods, but the farm animals have been fed and are locked in safely for the night. Having a freezer full of homegrown meat sure puts my mind at ease, provides a sense of security, and is a real testament to American farming and independence.

Slaughtering a cow or slaughtering a pig is not that difficult. It just requires a bit of planning and willingness to do a bit of work. After slaughtering and the carcass is cooled down comes my favorite part of butchering a cow, which is cutting up the steaks and making ground beef. My favorite part of butchering a pig is making sausage. I have also made hams and fresh homemade bacon from the pig as well, including rendering lard.

Here is a simple pork sausage recipe you might like to try to make this season.

Pork Sausage

12 pounds combined pork meat and pork fat *
4 tablespoons kosher salt
6 teaspoons dried sage
3 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

* I do a 75-percent meat and 25-percent fat blend. You can control your own ratio but, sausage has to be mixed with sufficient amount of fat to cook properly.

Pork Sausage Making

Directions 

I mix the seasonings in a bowl and then sprinkle the seasonings over the pork meat and pork fat a bit at a time, blending it well with my hands to cover all pieces of meat and fat.

Next I cover the container with plastic wrapping and label. I then place my seasoned meat into the refrigerator overnight so the spices and herbs have time to permeate the meat.

Next day, I freeze the sausage for a couple of hours before grinding the meat. I use an electric meat grinder to grind up the pork to make sausage. I fry up a small sausage patty to taste to see if I need to add any more seasonings. Once I am content with the taste, I grind up the entire remaining sausage. I place a plastic meat bag at the end of the sausage funnel. I then feed small amounts of meat through the electric meat grinder. I pack the bag firmly.

After packing each meat bag, I twist the top and tie off with meat bag tape. I pack the sausage in 1-pound packages, label and date the packages, and place them in the freezer.

Pork Sausage Packing 

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Simple Homemade Lip Balm

“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.”Henry David Thoreau

The Texas Pioneer WomanI love making homemade gifts as well as products I can use daily. One of the homemade items I made this year is lip balm. I made two different flavors: mint honey lip balm and orange honey lip balm. Making lip balm is actually very simple to make and you will absolutely love it!

Simple Homemade Lip Balm

Homemade Lip Balm

  1. After robbing my honeybees this year, I saved the beeswax for this project. If you do not have your own honeybees, you can buy beeswax online, at a local retailer, or from another beekeeper.

  2. One very important reminder is that you do not want to use your best pots and pans to make lip balm because beeswax is difficult to remove. I made a double boiler apparatus by putting water in a saucepan and a smaller saucepan on top of that. I then turn the stove on medium low.

  3. I then put the beeswax in the saucepan and let it melt slowly.

  4. Once the beeswax was all melted, I strained it to remove any other honeybee byproducts. If you bought your beeswax, you may not need to strain it.

  5. Melting Beeswax

  6. I then re-melted the beeswax in my double boiler. I added olive oil. I used about 4 ounces olive oil per 1 ounce beeswax. I also added about 20 drops orange extract to this ratio of ingredients. You can substitute the orange extract for mint or any other essential oil you think would make a good lip balm flavor. Adjust this recipe for the amount of beeswax you are working with. I did not add any honey to this mixture because when I first melted the beeswax it still had a bit of honey clinging to the beeswax. If using store-bought beeswax, I would add 1/2 teaspoon honey to the lip balm ratio above. I stirred this mixture for about 2 minutes until blended well.

  7. I then poured lip balm mixture immediately into containers I ordered from Bulk Apothecary. When the lip balm was completely cooled I covered it with a lid.

  8. Lip Balm Cooling Off

  9. Lastly, I designed a label using 1-inch round labels with a free download template from Avery.

I hope you are tempted to try making your own homemade lip balm. It is actually quite easy, and I am sure once you learn how to make it, you will love it as much as I do.

To learn more self-reliant skills, please visit my website.

Making Cream Cheese at Home

“Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows – and china.” Charles Dickens

The Texas Pioneer WomanI absolutely love dairy products! I love the cold milk, freshly made butter when it is still soft that it feels as if it is melting in your mouth, homemade yogurt topped with fresh fruit and honey, and of course you can’t beat aged cheese served with crackers and a glass of homemade wine.

One of my all-time favorite dairy products is cream cheese because it is so versatile. It can be sweeten to add to a desert recipe or made savory to transform into an appetizer. Cream cheese is also easy to make at home.

  1. Make sour cream.

I make 2 to 4 cups of sour cream at a time, depending on how much I need for the next few weeks. I pour my cream into a saucepan to heat the cream to about 80 F. Meanwhile, I put 1 tablespoon cultured buttermilk per cup of cream I use into a clean, sterilized glass jar. I then pour in the warm cream and stir to mix well. I then screw on the lid and set inside of my oven with just the oven light on. The cream sits in the oven for 24 hours. Afterwards, I place the sour cream into the refrigerator to chill.

  1. After the sour cream has chilled for 1 day, I line a large bowl with butter muslin and dump the sour cream into the butter muslin. I then tie up the four corners of the butter muslin.

  2. I then hang the bag from a hook or from a cabinet door handle and let it drip over a bowl for 12 hours or overnight until liquid has completely drained. I feed the drained off liquid to my pigs or I make a delicious whey drink for myself.

  3. Draining Sour Cream to Make Cream Cheese
  4. v

  5. Refrigerate and enjoy your homemade cream cheese!

Turkey Egg Omelet

The Texas Pioneer WomanNothing says farm cooking more than a breakfast of farm fresh eggs. It is the quintessential essence of farm living; the ability to gather your own eggs from free roaming yard birds. Besides having chickens in my flock of yard birds, I do have some turkeys that have been busy producing eggs and, of course, I decided to put those turkey eggs to good use this morning and made an omelet. The turkey egg omelet was absolutely delicious! I made the omelet with bacon, spinach and mushrooms, and garnished it with a bit of cilantro.

Turkey Egg Omelet

If you ever have the opportunity to eat a turkey egg, I say go for it. You will not be disappointed. The taste of a turkey egg is not so different than that of a chicken egg; actually I think it tastes a bit better than a chicken egg. The only real noticeable difference was that the shell of the turkey egg is harder than the shell of a chicken egg.

Have you ever tasted eggs other than chicken? If so, what kind of eggs and how were they prepared?

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