The Real Know How

How-Tos, Videos, Tutorials — Ramping Up for the 21st Century

Archive for the tag “cooking”

How to Cook Squirrel

Brian of mountnman shows us how to cook squirrel. He says that often people end up with a squirrel dish that is far too tough and chewy. He’s done a perfect job dressing the squirrels. They look like rabbit that you’d see at a butcher’s.

Strangely he didn’t add any onions, garlic, sauces or spices. But I think his aim, anyway, is to show the basic method for stewing the squirrel.

Here’s a ’50s style squirrel stew recipe from the Missouri state government’s Department of Conservation, complete with floured squirrel and cream of mushroom soup:

A recipe from the same folks for Squirrel Country Sausage:

Country101living brines and then deep fries his squirrel:


How to Make Sugar Beet Molasses

Brian shows us how to make molasses sugar out of sugar beets.

How to Make Seitan

“Step by step video instruction on how to make seitan from wheat flour.”

You are washing away the starch in the flour and isolating the gluten (protein) in the wheat flour, so if you have issues with gluten, this is NOT for you.

Note that things will go even more quickly if you use gluten flour (a more expensive option).

How to Make Tofu

“Complete video directions for making tofu at home.”


This video with Jessica Baucom was great because she talks about how to make tempeh (a fermented bean cake) with all kinds of beans (not just soy) and explains in a simple way the critical points in making tempeh.

“Tempeh is a great source of protein (with zero cholesterol!) and easy to digest – it’s also a great meat substitute.”

Here Anna Antaki of the Weeping Duck Farm shows us her commercial tempeh making operation.

Both Anna and Jessica make their tempeh in plastic bags, but you can make it just as easily (without having to deal with plastic touching hot food) in pyrex dishes or cookie sheets. I’ve made it this way before and it came out fine, albeit with thicker white growth on the side of the tempeh not in touch with the dish. Traditionally, in Indonesia, where tempeh first originated they use large leaves, like banana leaves to package the tempeh.

Barrel Cactus Candy

Barrel Cactus - photo by Vegan Feast Catering on Flickr


Take the barrel cactus and cut off around until you get to the white meat. Do not use center of cactus because it’s very hard to slice.

Start by slicing one inch strips of cactus. Soak in cold water overnight. Next morning drain and slice into one inch cubic squares.

Cook in boiling water until tender.
For two quarts of cactus cubes, make the following syrup: 1 c. water 2 tbsp. orange juice 1 tbsp. orange juice 1 tsp. orange peel

Stir and dissolve syrup over low heat until thoroughly dissolved. Put in cactus and cool slowly until syrup is absorbed. Roll in powdered sugar.

Using a Temperature Controller to Save On Kitchen-related Electricity Costs

I was pretty blown away by this project.

Mikey and Wendy live on an off-grid, homestead in New Mexico (see their Holy Scrap Homestead blog). As such, they were looking for more efficiency from their appliances. Mikey has come up with a temperature controller that has allowed them convert a small chest freezer into a refrigerator and so downsize from their full-size fridge that cost them a lot in energy and was underutilized.

The temperature controller can also be used to regulate temperature for stuff like tempeh and yoghurt making, incubation, heat pads, raising bread dough, and controlling the temperature on simple crockpots and on hot plates for tasks like candy-making. There are a lot of possible uses.

The design and instructions on how to build it are “open source” in other words, free, off his website but he also sells kits to build it yourself and already completed units from there, as well.

Here is Mikey talking about the controller and what he was able to do with it. BTW, I don’t know Mikey or Wendy and they haven’t asked me to blog this. Just stumbled across this and thought it should be shared.

Here’s Wendy making yoghurt using the device:

Wendy using the temperature controller to make tempeh:

Mikey raising bread dough.

Besides the temperature controller, Mikey has other useful open source projects.

Making Preserved Lemons

This is an easy process (another lacto-fermented pickle) and a good way to preserve your bounty if you have a lemon tree or to extend your lemon-eating period if you eat seasonally.

Re ingredients, at its simplest, you just need lemons (in Morocco a specific kind is used, but any kind will do), salt and a sterilized jar. In this video, Jules also adds green bay leaves for color and a bit of flavor.

She ferments them for several weeks and says that the preserved lemons will keep in the cupboard, sealed, for about one year. Once open, she stores the jars in the fridge.

Tara shows you what the finished product looks like (she adds spices to her lemons in the jar) and tells you how to use the preserved lemons (you discard the preserved pulp and use the rind cut up finely to flavor dishes) and what they go well with. She says the unopened jars will keep “practically forever, really.”

Sweet Potato Syrup – Homemade Sweetness

Grandpa's Cheese Barn's Sweet Potato Syrup

Grandpa's Cheese Barn's Sweet Potato Syrup


From George Washington Carver’s How the Farmer Can Save His Sweet Potatoes and Ways of Preparing them for the Table (He connected his process with starch making):


This is very easily made, all that is necessary is to grate the potato, the finer the better, put into a cheese cloth or thin muslin bag and dip up and down, in a vessel of water, squeezing occasionally, continue washing as long as the washings are very milky.

Allow it to settle five or six hours or until the water becomes clear, pour off; rewash the starch, which will be in the bottom of the vessel, stir up well, allow to settle again, pour off the water and let dry, keep the same as any ordinary starch.


Use exactly the same as cornstarch in cooking; I am confident you will find it superior to cornstarch; it makes a very fine quality of library paste, and has very powerful adhesive qualities.

In certain arts and trades it is almost indispensable.

By saving the water which the pulp was washed in first, in the starch making process and boiling down, the same as for any syrup, a very palatable, non-crystalline sugar will be the result; this sugar or syrup can be used in many ways.”


From Anoplura at S/he also uses shredded sweet potatoes but instead of rinsing and squeezing them in cheesecloth as Carver suggests she puts the shreds with water into a pot.

“Raw sweet potatoes have a lot of sugar, and even more starch. Cooking them activates enzymes which convert some the starch into even more sugar. You can maximize this enzyme action – and thus the amount of tasty syrup you get – by holding the temperature in the correct range (in the case of sweet potatoes it’s between 140 and 150F) for an hour. In brewing or distilling, this is called “mashing”.

If you simply want sweeter potatoes and more juice, I would cook longer at a lower temp in a covered dish. This gives the enzymes more time at the sweet spot to convert the starch to sugar, and makes the resulting juice less likely to burn.

If you want to go all out and make a pot of sweet potato syrup (which sounds delicious), you’ll need a meat or candy thermometer, some cheesecloth or fine strainer, and a pot or double boiler.

Start by shredding the raw sweet potatoes in a grater or food processor. Then toss them into a pot with just enough water to cover. Less water means better starch-to-sugar conversion. You want just enough so that it doesn’t burn. A double boiler is helpful here, if you have one.

Slowly bring the temperature up to 150F, while stirring, then cover and turn the heat off. Check on it every 10 minutes or so for an hour. Apply heat and stir whenever the temp drops below 143F.

The liquid should be noticeably sweet, and the potato shreds should be soft. Dilute the mixture with 3-4 times its volume in water. (i.e., if you have 1 pint of shredded potatoes and water, add 3-4 more pints of water.) Move to a larger pot if necessary.

Apply heat, and raise the temperature to 170F, stirring as you go. This will stop the enzyme action, and start to free the sugars trapped in the shredded potatoes. Once you hit 170F, turn off the heat. Strain the shreds out of the liquid by pouring it through a strainer or cheesecloth.

You will now have a tasty, but dilute sweet potato syrup. You want to reduce this by half, or even 2/3rds to make a thick syrup. A double-boiler or slow-cooker is strongly recommended here. (you don’t want to waste an hour-plus of work by burning it!) Go slow, and check the viscosity regularly with a metal spoon. Take a small sample and let it cool to see how thick it is at room temp.

Note that the above instructions will also work with pumpkins and most other types of squash, except that most of them don’t have enough naturally-occurring enzymes to convert their own starches to sugar. To accommodate this, you need to crush up a tablet of Beano and mix it into the shreds in the “mash” step.

How to Build A Hay Box

A hay box (or hay cooker, insulated box, straw box or fireless cooker) is a method of cooking that saves energy.

From Wikipedia: “Food items to be cooked are heated to boiling point, and then insulated. Over a period of time, the food items cook by the heat captured in the insulated container. Generally, it takes three times the normal cooking time to cook food in a hay box.”

Hay and straw, even blanketing can be used as insulation — but we now have so many insulation options. A quick trip to a big hardware store reveals that, that we can build super-insulated hay cookers.

This is old technology that is now being revived. You can get fancy with the box building it out of wood or as in the following video keep it simple by using a cardboard box. According to Wikipedia, in the past, “Some types were provided with soapstone or iron plates which were heated during the preliminary cooking on the stove and then placed in the fireless cooker either over or under the cooking pot. In these types, a non-inflammable insulating material was used.”

Advantage: Can save on huge amounts of energy. Risk/Disadvantage: Again via Wiki “…there is a risk of bacterial growth if the food items are allowed to remain in the danger zone for one or more hours. For this reason, food cooked in hay boxes is normally reheated to boiling before eating. Using a food thermometer eliminates the guesswork.”

In this video Aaron Mackley shows us how to build a hay box using a cardboard box, styrofoam panels and aluminum foil. I would probably go with an insulator other than styrofoam, especially around something hot because it is just nasty, toxic stuff, but…

Build an Insulated Hay Box from Aaron Mackley on Vimeo.

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