If you learned to cook with recipes primarily using chicken breast meat, knowing what to do with an entire chicken (probably frozen) can be intimidating. Thankfully, it’s not all that bad.
Days with Zero Time for Food Prep
To say that I have a lot on my plate would be an understatement. (Sound familiar?) So most of the time when I know I want to cook chicken for supper I grab one out of the freezer and throw it into the Instant Pot. I add a few cups of water, a couple of tablespoons of salt, a teaspoon of paper, a fresh onion (or 1T dried), and a tablespoon of herbs de’ provence or dried oregano. (I don’t actually measure these things, but I did it once to tell you what I do.)
On of my favorite things about this method is that I don’t have to carefully time when I start cooking the chicken. I will put it in the Instant Pot whenever it is convenient during the day (at least a couple of hours before we plan to eat) and the pot will automatically switch to “keep warm” after it’s done pressure cooking. Most frozen chickens will be done after 60-90 minutes on high pressure, however I often cook mine for two hours to make sure my home grown pastured meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.
Thawing and Roasting
If you want to pull a gorgeous golden roast chicken out of the oven or grill/smoker, you’ll have to plan ahead to thaw the chicken. Easiest, and probably best, method is to put it in your refrigerator the day before you want to cook it. (Plan on at least 24 hours for a six-pound chicken.)
You can also thaw a chicken in a waterproof bag by submerging it in cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes. (The USDA also says you can microwave it, but that doesn’t exactly sound appealing.)
To roast it, but the chicken in an oven-safe pan. I usually sprinkle it with a combination of herbs mentioned above and toss an onion into the cavity. (I don’t eat it later, it’s there to add flavor and fragrance. Sometimes a chicken doesn’t smell particularly good while it’s cooking without seasoning.)
Most chickens will take a couple of hours to cook at 350 degrees (F). Use a meat thermometer to determine when it’s done.
Using the Whole Chicken
Once you remove most of the meat for your meal (including leftovers for future meals) put the bones and remaining meat that’s difficult to remove back into the Instant Pot or a slow cooker. Cover it with water and, if you have it, add about 1/4 of apple cider vinegar. Cook for 6-12 hours to make a delicious broth for chicken soup.
Once the broth is done, place a colander into a large bowl and pour the contents of your pot into it. I usually have a large dinner plate nearby so I can put the colander of chicken on it after holding it up several seconds to allow the broth to drain off. Now it’s easy to separate the remaining chicken from the bones. I also like to remove any skin and other soft tissues to feed our dog.
Now you can make chicken soup or save the chicken and broth separately for use in other dishes.
If you want to make an even more highly nutritious bone broth, let the broth cook for 24-48 hours. Then simply safe the broth and discard the chickens and bones. After cooking that long the chicken will have lost almost all flavor and nutritional value. However, the broth will be a highly digestible form of calcium and other nutrients.
I learned to safely use a pressure canner as a child, putting up dozens of jars of garden-fresh green beans. I love the convenience of ready-made side dishes, but a few years ago I changed my approach to save food storage space– and now use my canner almost exclusively to prepare ready-made meals.
Two favorite recipes for the pressure canner are chili con carne and beef stew. I also love Jackie Clay-Atkinson’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. Her Meals-in-a-Jar recipes include several stews, soups, bean combinations, goulash, meatballs, meat sauces, shredded barbecued beef, Sloppy Joes, stuffed green peppers, steak entrees, and taco filling.
Considerations for Pressure Canning
- Make sure your pressure canner is in good condition. Over time, rubber seals need to be replaced and pressure gauges need to be tested to make sure they are still accurate. (One reason I love my All American Pressure Canner is because it doesn’t have a seal and the gauge is only for reference. It uses a weigh system to verify that the correct pressure has been reached.)
- Follow the directions in your pressure canner manual. Make sure you also adjust the settings for your elevation. If you live in the US, you can call your local government Extension Office for the correct settings for your elevation.
- The importance of safety limits recipe creativity a bit. It’s important to ensure that the amount of pressure and processing time is appropriate for the acidity level of the food, the density, and the consistency. Even some favorite canning recipes such as apple pie filling and stew have been altered in recent years over concerns that thickening agents will prevent the food from getting consistently hot during processing.
- Check out available resources to avoid common mistakes. In addition to the book mentioned above, Jackie Clay-Atkinson has great information on her blog. You can also check out safety information provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You can also download the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for free.
Do you have a favorite pressure canning recipe or story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it! Send an email to Editor@HomesteadLarder.com, and we might just feature you in our Your Stories section.
When I started researching heirloom seeds years ago it was purely practical: I wanted seeds I could save and plant the next year.
I had no idea what an incredibly beautiful and colorful spectrum of vegetables exists.
Everything from Black tomatoes to purple carrots defy our modern expectations of what food is supposed to look like.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is my favorite source for information about seeds. The pictures on their website and in their catalogs are incredibly artistic.
Flipping through the pages of heritage vegetables is like looking at a living history exhibit. According to the company, the Black Coat Runner Bean pictured above dates, “as far back as the mid-1600s and first recorded by German botanist Michael Titus in his Catalogues Plantarum.”
Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato won “Best of Show” at the 2017 National Heirloom Expo. The company’s inventory also includes seeds collected from all over the world.
If you want to get started growing heirloom crops and saving your own seeds, you’ll have to take a bit of a strategic approach.
Getting Started with Heirloom Seeds
Personally, I want a packet of almost every seed in the catalog. But, to get good results, you’ll want to keep certain factors in mind.
- Some seeds will be easier to save than others. I started with beans, peas, and tomatoes. It was fairly straight forward: let the beans and pea pods mature and dry on the vine. Cut ripe tomatoes open, scoop out the flesh with seeds and let them dry. Other plants, such as broccoli, only produce seeds on the second year plant.
- To maintain seed purity, you’ll need to keep varieties separate. For instance, if you have more than one type of tomato plants close together, you may get seeds that produce a plant that is a hybrid of the two varieties. (Of course, the result might be great! You just need to be aware that you must isolate the plants to maintain seed purity.)
- Be careful if you live near fields producing conventional crops. Saving pure corn seed, for example, can be difficult since pollen from conventional corn crops can travel long distances on the wind. In the United States, that means you have a high likelihood of having your corn pollinated by Monsanto-owned GMO crops. The purity of your seed will be compromised– and Monsanto will likely want a payment and inform you that it’s illegal to save seed “their” seed.
- Study a bit to learn the science behind seed saving. There are some general guidelines for things like how far apart to plant your cabbage and your broccoli. You can also learn how to put bags over the buds and fruit, such as corn, then manually pollinate it so the seed won’t be affected by surrounding crops. Check out The Heirloom Life Gardener (which also tells the story of Jere Gettle, who founded Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds). Also, check out information from Seed Savers Exchange.
- Consider trading seeds with other gardeners who share a passion for heirloom vegetables. Some national organizations, like the Seed Savers Exchanged mentioned above, exist. But you may also find a local seed bank in your community.
Do you have experience raising heirloom produce? We’d to have you share your experience and pictures! Send an email to Editor@HomesteadLarder.com, and we might just feature your garden on our “Your Stories” page.
Our family’s effort to incorporate organic food into our diet didn’t start with well-researched concerns about chemicals or genetically modified foods (that would come later). Instead, our obsession with food started when we realized family friends had the best homemade baked goods we had ever tasted. And it was all made with whole wheat. Their secret? Grinding their wheat at home.
We already baked almost exclusively with whole wheat flour, but sometimes there was an off-putting flavor. I knew that was likely due to the oil from the wheat germ becoming rancid.
But when I tried bread made with fresh ground flour, I realized it was time to up our game.
We ended up investing in our first wheat grinder about seven years ago.
Over the years we’ve experimented a bit and picked up a few things you might find interesting if you’re thinking about buying a wheat grinder:
- You want to pick a model that won’t make the grain too hot during the grinding process. Too much heat during the grinding process can damage the oil in the wheat germ.
- If you live in a humid climate, choose a model you can clean it thoroughly. Our first wheat grinder was a Blendtec Kitchen Mill. We got a lot of use out of it, but when we lived in Taiwan for a couple of years, we discovered that mold had developed in a portion of the machine which we couldn’t effectively clean.
- Noise matters. We loved our Blendtec Kitchen Mill, but that thing was extremely loud. After returning to Idaho, we replaced it with a Wonder Mill. We love the detachable bowl for the flour, and it’s just loud. I no longer feel the need to warn my family members that I’m about to turn on the wheat grinder.
- You can buy wheat in bulk. Unlike purchased whole wheat flour, wheat, if it’s properly stored, will last for years. I like to purchase organic wheat from Azure Standard in bulk.
- Different types of wheat will have different texture and flavors. We like spring hard white wheat and Kamut wheat for most of our baking. A soft spring wheat is wonderful for biscuits, cakes, and cookies.
- Flour is at peak quality for the first 24 hours after you grind it– so you’ll get the most out of your wheat grinder if you keep it in a place where you can use it regularly.
Do you grind your own wheat? Have tips, tricks, or favorite varieties? Want to get started, but have questions? We’d love to have you comment below!