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I’ve always been a mushroom-lover… blame it on my upbringing. I grew up in the woods, with two generations of wild mushroom foragers before me. I’ve eaten a lot of really amazing fresh mushrooms in my life- and while I love foraging for them, it’s even better to be able to grow Shiitake mushrooms in our own backyard!

Growing mushrooms has been one of our most rewarding homestead endeavors! They’re a fantastic “crop” to grow in the shady places where nothing else grows!

Watching the mushrooms pop out of the logs every year is truly magical. And what an incredible resource! While I won’t go into the health benefits of Shiitakes here, know that they have been widely studied and have proven themselves to be an incredible superfood.

And if that isn’t enough, they are quite tasty too! I love love love being able to grow shiitake mushrooms in our own backyard!

We are amazingly fortunate to have a mushroom growing mentor in our lives- a commercial mushroom grower and mushroom foraging expert nearby us, which is how we learned to grow Shiitake mushrooms. Taking a hands-on class from a guy who grows thousands of pounds of mushrooms every year was invaluable… so I’m sharing what we learned with you in great detail!

Looking for Ready-To-Grow Logs or Mushroom Grow Bags?

If you don’t want to inoculate your own logs, but still want to grow your own mushrooms, you can buy pre-made logs and ready-to-grow mushroom kits! Check them out —> here!

How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms Overview – So There Are No Surprises!

Probably the hardest part about growing Shiitakes is moving the logs around. Ours are Oak, and they were a little larger than advised, so moving them was a bear. The actual inoculation is quite fun and could be a great family activity!

Logs are cut from live trees, left to age two weeks, and then inoculated. Inoculation involves drilling holes all over the logs, filling the holes with mushroom spores that are mixed with sawdust, and then sealing the holes with wax. Then the logs are put to bed- they need to be set low to the ground where it is moist, but not on the ground, and covered with straw and something to hold the straw down. There they will sit for an entire year! They will need to be watered weekly if it doesn’t rain. After they have incubated for a year, you can stand them up or stack them, and wait for the mushrooms to come rolling in! Depending on what type of wood you use, the logs will last and produce mushrooms for up to 8 years! They should be kept in shade and watered weekly if it doesn’t rain. That’s it! So simple, and so rewarding!

How Many Mushrooms Will You Get?

It probably varies a lot depending on many things: how well you’ve treated the logs, your climate, the weather, rainfall that year, the type of wood, the strain of mushroom you choose…

How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms

I can tell you that we get 10’s of pounds of mushrooms every year, and we have 27 logs that we made from 2, 5.5-pound bags of mushroom sawdust spawn. We haven’t really weighed our harvests, but we collect several large baskets full every year- enough for our needs and then some!

Cost of Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

Here is a reasonable breakdown of the cost to grow Shiitake mushrooms:

Logs: free from the woods

1 – 5.5 Pound Bag of Mushroom Spawn: $25

Corded Angle Grinder or Drill: already owned

Angle Grinder Adapter: $30 (only needed if using an angle grinder)

12mm Soft Steel Screwtip Bit with Stop Collar: $14

Safety goggles: already owned

Palm Style Inoculator Tool: $37

2.5 Pounds of Cheese Wax: $9

Deep Fryer for Wax Melting: $25 (optional)

Wool Daubers: $1-$5

Bale of Straw: $4 (optional)

After the initial investment of the tools and parts, the cost in subsequent years is very low, most likely you’ll just be buying the mushroom spawn after year one! You can easily grow YEARS of Shiitake mushrooms for around $100.

What Time of Year Do You Make Shiitake Logs?

We are in Zone 4 Wisconsin, which means it gets quite cold here. I know that you can inoculate the logs in Fall in some areas- but I’m not an expert on Fall inoculation. It needs to be warm enough for long enough to let the mycelium colonize the logs before they are subject to freezing temperatures.

Here, making Shiitake mushroom logs is done in the Spring after the threat of frost and when temperatures are reliably in the 40s, which also coincides nicely with when the best time to harvest the logs is. Spring is the time when most people make Shiitake logs.

Sourcing and Harvesting Logs for Shiitakes

There are many species of trees that you can use for growing mushrooms. Each different species will give you slightly different results- some types of logs produce mushrooms faster, some logs last for a longer time, and each different wood imparts a slightly different flavor in the mushrooms. We used White Oak, which is the top recommended type of wood for growing Shiitakes.

Superior: All species of Oak, especially White.
Recommended: Alder, American Beech, Blue Beach, Hornbeam, Ironwood, Hard Maple (Sugar), Sweet Gum
Satisfactory: Basswood, Bitternut Hickory, Butternut, Sulpher Bud, Black Birch, Paper Birch, Black Gum, Tupelo, Cherry, Eucalyptus, Soft Maple (Silver & Red), Sassafras, Sourwood.

Superior = best overall producer. Recommended = highly suitable. Satisfactory = moderately suitable.
Wood type information courtesy of Field & Forest.

The logs need to come from trees that are ALIVE. This is vital. Do not use dead, fallen, or previously cut wood.

The ideal size for Shiitake mushroom logs is 36 to 48-inches long, and 3 to 8-inches in diameter. Mushroom logs can be made from both the trunks of young trees, or branches of older, bigger trees.

It is better to choose trees that don’t have slipping or damaged bark, or blemishes. Sometimes when you fell a tree it will get injured and you can’t help it; be as gentle with the logs as possible. Any defects in the bark will need to be coated in wax, so it’s best to keep those to a minimum.

The logs should be harvested when the trees are dormant. This means in the period of time between when the leaves start to turn color in Fall to when the buds start to swell in Spring. Ideally the logs should be harvested as close to inoculation time as possible, otherwise you risk more chance for competing fungi to get in them, and you also have to keep them in good condition until inoculation time. We stored ours for just over a month before inoculating.

After the logs are cut, they need to be kept moist, and competing fungi must be kept out- the best way to accomplish this is to keep them in the shade and secure a tarp over them.

Use the logs within two months of harvesting. If it is Winter and the logs are completely frozen, they can be stored for six months as long as they are protected from wind and sun.

Aging the Logs

I know I just said to harvest as close to inoculation time as possible… but you will also want to let the wood age. Once the logs are cut, you need to let them sit for at least 2 weeks before inoculating. This allows the cells of the tree, which are anti-fungal when alive, time to die.

Choosing A Mushroom Spawn Variety

“Spawn” simply refers to a medium that has been inoculated with mycelium. Mycelium is a collection of thread-like mushroom cells. If mushrooms were a vegetable, mycelium would be like the plant they grown on.

There are three categories of mushroom strains to choose from:

Wide Range Shiitakes will fruit when the temperature is generally between 50-75F. These varieties will take one year to incubate before fruiting for the first time, though you may see fruiting as soon as 6 months (we did!). These varieties are the easiest to grow, most forgiving, and are recommended for beginners.

Cold Weather Shiitakes will fruit when the temperature is generally between 45-60F. These varieties will take one year to incubate and then another year before fruiting for the first time. Up to two years before you’ll get mushrooms! Why bother? Cold weather stains are said to be both the most beautiful, and also the richest, best tasting varieties!

Warm Weather Shiitakes will fruit when the temperature is generally between 50-80F. These strains are said to favor soft hardwoods, so may be a better choice if that is the wood you are working with.

Here is a great chart from Field and Forrest with even more detail on the individual strains to help you choose.

Sourcing good quality mushroom spawn can make a huge difference in your ability to grow Shiitake mushrooms. I would recommend buying directly from a reputable producer, and not from a third party seller. We get our mushroom spawn from Field & Forest, which is also where our mushroom mentor gets spawn for his commercial operation.

We are growing the wide range “West Wind” strain, and the cold weather “Bellwether” strain.

The sawdust spawn should be in a sealed bag and be fairly moist when it arrives to you. It’s okay if it has white stuff growing all over it (thats the mycelium!) just throw that in the mix to be used also. Follow the directions on the bag, which should say to refrigerate the spawn from the time you get it, until you are ready to use it.

How Much Mushroom Spawn to Get?

One 5.5 pound bag will inoculate approximately 25 logs that are 36 to 48-inches long, and 3 to 8-inches in diameter. Of course this is just an estimate and depends on the actual size of your logs. We had quite a few logs that were much larger, so we ended up with less logs overall.

There are 27 logs amongst the  three log stacks you see here, which were all created from two 5.5 pound bags of mushroom spawn!

Inoculating the Shiitake Mushroom Logs

The big picture is that we will drill holes all over the logs, fill them with mushroom spores, and then seal them up with wax.

There are a few different ways to go about getting the spores into the logs, and we have only used the sawdust method- which is what I am giving detailed instruction for here. These directions are probably not interchangeable with other spawn types like plug, peg, or thimble spawn.

Once you drill holes in the logs, the inside of the holes will start drying out FAST. You’ve also opened the log to all the spores that could be floating around in the air- so you need to stuff and seal the holes immediately. You absolutely should not drill the holes and then finish the logs the next day, or even later that day.

Karl and I came up with a nice rhythm where he was the dedicated hole driller, I was the dedicated inoculator and waxer, but when he got ahead of me, he would come to my station and help me before starting to drill holes in a new log (since drilling is faster than the other tasks). That way we never had more than one log with holes drilled and waiting at a time.

How to Drill Holes in Mushroom Logs

We used an angle grinder with the angle grinder adaptor, and the drill bit that matches the inoculation tool size. You can use a regular drill, but the difference is that you have to pull the trigger on the drill for each hole. An angle grinder spins continuously, and it spins faster than a drill, so it is much much quicker.

If using a drill, you don’t need the angle grinder adaptor, just the drill bit.

For sawdust spawn we used the 12.5mm Soft Steel Screw Tip Bit With Stop Collar which fits with the brass handheld inoculator we have. Because it has a stop collar on it, it only drills in as far as it is set to, so you don’t have to worry about depth when you are drilling; just push it in until it stops. Karl says it feels like the log sucks the drill bit in, so you don’t have to push very hard.

Be aware that the drill bit size for sawdust spawn is meant to accommodate an inoculator perfectly, and it is not the same size as the drill bit for plug spawn. Make sure your drill bit size matches your inoculator size… they may be slightly different depending on where you buy them.

Safety goggles are a must for the person drilling the holes, because chunks of wood will come flying off the logs!

The holes are drilled about 1-inch deep into the log. Explaining the pattern is harder in words and easier if you look at the picture above first.

Starting at one end of the log and working to the other, drill holes every six inches, starting two inches from the end of the log. For the next row, move two inches down from the first row and start the first hole five inches from the end of the log, again drilling holes six inches apart down the row. Repeat that pattern over and over working all the way around the log- you will end up with a diamond pattern.

Do NOT drill holes into the ends of the logs. DO drill holes into places where smaller branches were cut off the face of the logs.

How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms

Karl fashioned a “log holder” out of some scrap wood, which made this process a lot easier! You want the log to be held steady while you drill, but also want to be able to turn it easily as you work around it.

Using an Inoculation Tool to Fill the Holes with Sawdust Spawn

Inculcators come in two styles: palm and thumb, which refers to the body part you’ll use to depress the plunger and release the spawn into the hole in the log. It’s kind of like a big syringe. We tried both types and both Karl and I greatly preferred the palm style.

This tool is what pushes the sawdust spawn into the logs, and if you think you’d like to try using sawdust spawn without one, well just don’t. It is an absolute necessity.

To load the inoculation tool, put a few inches of sawdust spawn into a rigid container- we used a metal coffee can (it was nice to have a cover so we could cover it to keep it moist if we had a lull in the hole filling step).

With a fair amount of vigor, plunge the end of the tool into the spawn several times to pack it in. It’s a good idea to practice filling it and then releasing it into the can a couple times to get an idea of what it takes to make a good “plug” before you start putting it into the log, where its harder to tell if you’ve done a good job. You want it to be packed pretty well with no gaps or air pockets.

With the end of your inoculation tool packed full of sawdust spawn, put the tip of the tool into one of the holes and whack the plunger release button at the top of the tool to expel the spawn into the hole. Hit it fairly quickly to release the spawn in one whole plug; pressing it slowly tended to mess this up for us. You don’t have to hit it that hard, just sharply. This is why I liked the palm inculcator better- it was hard to achieve the sharpness required using just a thumb.

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My grandma was a farmer and an avid gardener- she always had a flock of chickens and at least one goose that always chased us down her driveway. She had a gorgeous raspberry patch, and I remember her freezer was always full of Cool Whip containers filled with homegrown raspberries. And she made the best homemade raspberry jello! Now, it was made with raspberry flavored boxed Jello, but it had homegrown raspberries in it and was smothered with real whipped cream. AND I LOVED IT! She would serve it at every holiday party and I’d load my plate with it, plus she always let me keep the leftovers… as grandmothers do.

She’s been gone for several years now, and it’s been too long since I’ve had proper homemade raspberry jello. I set out to make my own, except to make it with real, healthy ingredients! No boxed Jello mix with artificial colors and flavors here, this homemade raspberry jello is 100% real food! It is flavored only with raspberries, and is sweetened with apple juice and honey. And while nothing will ever taste quite like your grandma used to make it, this stuff is pretty darn good! Reeeally good!

A Note About Ingredients:
I used previously frozen raspberries that I partially thawed, but you can use fresh also. I only use pastured gelatin because it’s a wonderful superfood, and I like either Vital Proteins or Great Lakes brands. Instead of honey, you can use granulated sugar, though you might want to increase the amount by a couple tablespoons and taste the raspberry mixture once the sugar is dissolved to see if it is sweet enough for you, since honey is sweeter than sugar.

Homemade Raspberry Jello

For the Jello
6 cups raspberries, divided
1/2 cup water
2 Tbs + 2 Tsp unflavored gelatin
2 cups apple juice, divided
2/3 cup honey 
pinch of sea salt

For the Whipped Cream
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place 4 cups of raspberries and 1/2 cup water into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat and bring the raspberries to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the raspberries are broken down and juicy, about 20 minutes.

While the raspberries and their juice are still warm, place them into a large sieve set atop a bowl, and use the back of a spoon to work the raspberries around the sieve and push them into it. You have to push fairly hard, and it is more of a scraping motion than anything. This will push the raspberry pulp and juice through the sieve and into the bowl, and leave the seeds behind in the sieve. You should end up with one heaping spoonful of seeds when its done.

Measure out 2 cups of the raspberry puree and put it back into the saucepan. It’s okay if it isn’t quite 2 cups, just as long as it’s close. Don’t go over 2 cups though.

Bloom the gelatin by placing it into a small bowl and pouring 1/3 cup of the apple juice over it. Stir it around a bit with a fork to make sure all the gelatin gets wet and no powder remains- it will turn into sort of a block/blob; set aside.

To the pot with the raspberry puree, add the remaining apple juice (1 2/3 cups), the honey, and a pinch of salt; heat until just about boiling. If using granulated sugar, make sure it gets completely dissolved. Next, add in the blob of hydrated gelatin and keep stirring until it is completely dissolved.

Add in the 2 cups of remaining whole raspberries and stir. If your raspberries are a bit frozen yet, allow them to sit in the warm raspberry puree for a few minutes to completely thaw.

Transfer the mixture into its final resting bowl. My grandma always used a large pretty glass bowl, so that you could see the beautiful jello! Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or until set all the way through.

Do NOT cheat and use whipped cream in a can or Cool Whip. This NEEDS real whipped cream, I promise you. It’s what makes it! Make the whipped cream by placing one tablespoon granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the heavy cream over top and start the mixer, using the whisk attachment. Start the mixer on medium and whisk for one minute, then turn the mixer to high. Keep an eye on the whipped cream, stopping every minute or so to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. The whipped cream is done when it is thick enough to hold it’s shape, about 4-7 minutes. Don’t over-beat the cream or it will turn into butter, which is equally yummy but not what you want.

If serving the homemade raspberry jello at an event or to a crowd, spread the whipped cream all over the top of the jello in the bowl before serving. If eating it over a longer period of time, I prefer to keep the whipped cream separate and add it to each individual serving of the jello. Enjoy!

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

The post Homemade Raspberry Jello Recipe {From Scratch with Real, Healthy Ingredients} appeared first on Whole-Fed Homestead.

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Every year when the weather turns cool (the start of chapped lip season!) I make a new batch of homemade lip balm. It always ends up slightly different, but it’s always the best lip balm I’ve ever used. Homemade is best and nothing store-bought can even compare!

My goal when I set out to make homemade lip balm was to create a recipe that was SO hydrating and nourishing that I only needed to use it one time a day, or twice at the most on really cold days or when I’d been outside a lot. AND I’VE DONE IT! I keep this by my bed, and put on a thick layer before falling asleep- and that’s all I need. No reapplying chapstick all day long!

This is the same lip balm recipe featured in Mother Earth News Magazine Winter 2018 edition! You all have been asking for it since they posted a photo of it from my Instagram feed last year. And here it is! You’ll find the recipe in the magazine, as well as here- where I have also added links to my favorite products and given additional information about ingredients and technique. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Tips for Making Homemade Lip Balm

One thing to keep in mind: the ingredients we’ll be using aren’t really regulated, so it’s important to know what you’re getting, and who you are getting it from. Since this will be going on your lips and you’ll essentially be eating it, make sure you use food-grade or cosmetic-grade ingredients!

My motto for making lip balm is the more ingredients the merrier! I see a lot of “easy” lip balm recipes out there with only one or two types of oils, often just coconut oil and beeswax… and honestly, I think those are poor lip balms. Each type of fat has unique benefits for your skin, so using many different fats yields a well-rounded, healing, and nourishing lip balm that will protect your lips all day long.

I’ve tested and tweaked my lip balm recipe many times over the years, and have finally landed on this one as my absolute favorite! While you can make substitutions, I think you’d be really surprised at how such a little ingredient change can affect the end product. If you want THE BEST, make the recipe as written- trust me.

By the way, this homemade lip balm also makes an EXCELLENT chapped skin cream- just leave out the honey, otherwise it will make your skin sticky.

A word about containers: This lip balm belongs in a jar or pot, not a stick- it’s not solid enough for that. I love these one-ounce mini honey jars because they are adorable. The lids on these jars aren’t wildly secure, so if you intend to carry this in your purse, go for the one-ounce glass jars with the metal screw-on lids. And definitely go with clear glass, so you can see the lovely product inside! For a smaller quantity I really like the half-ounce simple metal screw-top tins– these are a great gifting size, and are less expensive than glass. These quarter-ounce slide top metal tins are incredibly charming as well!

Don’t forget, homemade lip balm makes an amazing gift, especially around the holidays!

About the Ingredients

Beeswax where to buy| Beeswax helps to create a barrier, locking moisture in to your lips. It also helps texturally to balance out the oils in the homemade lip balm and gives the finished product a good consistency. Beeswax is known to accumulate pesticides over time (the bees bring them back to the hive) so I recommend using organic beeswax.

Cocoa Butter where to buy | I love that natural cocoa butter gives the finished lip balm a very light cocoa scent, not overpowering of chocolate, and smells a bit like something delicious is baking in the oven! It’s wonderfully pleasant. Cocoa butter contains oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids, all of which nourish the skin. Make sure your cocoa butter is unrefined, non-deodorized, and food-grade.

Coconut Oil – where to buy | The benefits of coconut oil are far and wide- I don’t think I have to convince anyone of that! Coconut oil is a great all-around moisturizer, and its great in lip balm. Just use whatever kind you keep at home for cooking.

Shea Butter – where to buy | One of my favorite ingredients in this homemade lip balm, shea butter is so creamy, buttery, luxurious, and rich! It has anti-inflammatory properties, and even has a history of medicinal use treating wounds and skin conditions. I prefer ivory shea butter over yellow shea butter. The yellow tends to have a medicinal type scent that I believe comes from the tree branches and roots it is boiled with to achieve the yellow color. You can use either color and the homemade lip balm will still turn out great! Just make sure your shea is raw and unrefined, otherwise it likely contains harmful chemicals.

Almond Oil – where to buy | Full of vitamins E and A, this oil is said to be protective against UV radiation. It is also especially good at penetrating and soaking in to your skin. Use sweet almond oil (which is mostly what you find for sale anyways), not bitter almond oil. Look for almond oil that is cold-pressed, or the very least hexane-free.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – where to buy | Good quality olive oil contains loads of antioxidants, plus an ingredient called squalene, which is very hydrating as it helps lubricate and protect skin cells. Olive oil has been used in skin care products for thousands of years! A lot of olive oils (like many found at your local supermarket) aren’t pure, so make sure you get yours from a reputable brand who will guarantee it is not cut with lesser quality oils.

Lanolin – where to buy | Every time I leave this out of my lip balm, I deeply regret it. Lanolin comes from sheep, and it is often used in nipple creams for breastfeeding mothers because it is amazingly healing. It’s one of my favorite ingredients in this lip balm! There are several brands of lanolin labeled “not for skincare use,” so make sure yours is cosmetic or food-grade!

Honey – source locally or try this one | I love adding a touch of raw honey to lip balm because it is an ultra-soothing, hydrating, miracle-working ingredient for your skin, and it’s perfect for chapped lips!

Homemade Lip Balm Recipe

This recipe makes approximately 4.5 ounces of finished product. And about 1.5 ounces lasts me almost the entire year, at a rate of using it generously once per day. Feel free to scale up if you want to make more!

If you use fresh ingredients, this lip balm should be good for up to 2 years!

1 Tbs beeswax
2 Tbs cocoa butter
1 Tbs coconut oil
1 Tbs shea butter
2 Tbs almond oil
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs lanolin
2 tsp raw liquid honey

-small heat-safe glass container like a Mason jar or Pyrex measuring cup (a pour spout is nice)
-small to medium-size pot
-kitchen fork
-containers to hold the finished lip balm

1. If your beeswax is in a block, carefully use a knife to shave off small pieces; make sure to pack them down into the measuring spoon to get an accurate measurement. If using beeswax pastilles, measure a scant tablespoon. Place the beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and shea butter into the heat-safe glass container.

2. Place the glass container into a pot of water, so that the water comes about half-way up the side of the container. Place the pot on the stove over medium heat, and keep the water at no more than a gentle simmer.

Stir occasionally with a fork to help break up larger pieces. It should take about 5 to 10 minutes for everything to melt and combine.

3. After all of the beeswax pieces are melted, stir in the almond oil, olive oil, and lanolin; allow the mixture to heat for one more minute. Stir well to make sure everything is combined.

4. Using an oven mitt, remove the glass container from the pan and place it on a heat-safe surface; allow to completely cool and solidify, at least 2 hours.

Tip: if you get to this point and your lip balm is not a nice solid lip balm consistency, you might not have gotten the beeswax ratio correct. You can re-melt the product and add a bit more beeswax, then carry on. On the contrary, if it is too solid, re-melt and add a bit more of one of the liquid oils. Each batch will vary a little bit, and this recipe is overall quite forgiving. You shouldn’t need to re-melt and tweak unless you’ve really messed something up. :) 

5. Use a fork to scrape and mix the lip balm around. It will go from a solid to a fairly liquid consistency- it’s a bit magical. Add in the liquid honey and use the fork to whip the balm; keep stirring for about a minute, until everything is well-combined.

Note: If your honey was crystallize and solid, you’ll want to liquify it. To do this, put the honey in a small glass container and warm it in a very gentle simmering water bath.

The secret to adding a decent amount of honey into a lip balm is to stir it in after the product is set. I have found that adding honey in with the ingredients when they are liquid will often cause the honey to separate out after the balm is solidified.

6. Find cute little jars or empty tins to store your homemade lip balm. It will go from loose and nearly liquid to solid again once it rests, so pour it into the containers right away while it is loose!

Slather it on your lips and be prepared for friends and family to ask if they can have some!

Please note: if you use good quality raw honey, it will crystallize in your lip balm after a couple months. This is no problem whatsoever! It feels like little exfoliating beads when you apply the balm, and the crystals will melt quickly into your lips!

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

The post Homemade Honey Lip Balm {As Featured in Mother Earth News Magazine!} appeared first on Whole-Fed Homestead.

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Whole-Fed Homestead by Crystal@wholefedhomestead - 4M ago

This Cucumber Lemonade is summertime in a glass! It’s the perfect refreshment to cool down with after a long day spent in the garden or doing outdoor chores in the hot sun. Trust me, we have a lot of those around here! It’s incredibly refreshing. Even Karl likes it, and he doesn’t especially care for cucumber, or anyone else in the cucurbit family for that matter…

While this recipe was born partly out of necessity (because who thinks that 2 people need 6 cucumber plants?) it has turned into one of my favorite summertime refreshments! It’s oddly addictive.

I was a little surprised by how much I fell in love with cucumber lemonade, because I’m not generally a crazy-for-everything-cucumber kinda gal. You might not guess that based on my irrational tendency to grow a lot of cucumbers.

A friend of mine mentioned she’d been chugging the stuff lately, and when I found myself with 10 pounds of cucumbers, I had to give it a try!

There are a lot of cucumber lemonade recipes out there, and this is my version. I think it’s perfectly balanced- just lightly sweet from the honey (how to find the highest quality raw honey here), enough to take the edge off the lemon juice, with a perfect background of cucumber, but not an overpowering amount.

And the color! It almost looks like it could be fake- but that beautiful green glow is all from fresh cucumber.

Cucumber Lemonade Sweetened with Honey

Makes 1 generous serving
1/3 cup fresh cucumber juice
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1-2 Tbs raw liquid honey
1 cup water

Makes 4 generous servings
1 1/3 cup fresh cucumber juice
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup raw liquid honey
4 cups water

Start by getting the juice from your fresh cukes- if you have a juicer, great. It isn’t necessary though: I cut the cucumber into chunks, whirled it through the blender (I used a Vitamix but I think most blenders should work just fine) until smooth, and then strained it in a regular sieve for about 10 minutes. I collected the juice and gave the pulp to the chickens.

I found that 2 medium-sized cucumbers = about 2 cups of cucumber chunks = 1 cup cucumber juice.

Meanwhile, combine the honey and lemon juice in the bottom of a tall glass and stir and swirl it around until the honey completely dissolves, which will take about a minute. I think a shy two tablespoons of honey per serving is perfect and wonderfully sweet- if you like it a little more sour, err on the side of one tablespoon.

Once the honey is dissolved, add in the cucumber juice, water, and top with lots and lots of ice! Add cucumber and lemon slices to make it extra fancy.

*Pro-tip 1: Prep the cucumber/lemon/honey concentrate ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to a few days. Then just add water and ice to make yourself a glass whenever you desire. The color does change from vibrant green to off green, which is not as pretty. If you’re making it for yourself, no problem… if for a crowd, fresh is best!

*Pro-tip 2: Add a shot of Vodka for a refreshing summer cocktail!

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

The post Cucumber Lemonade Sweetened with Honey appeared first on Whole-Fed Homestead.

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Whole-Fed Homestead by Crystal@wholefedhomestead - 4M ago

It’s one of my favorite times of the year on the homestead! We’ve worked hard all spring, and high summer finally brings the fruits of our labor. Fresh produce is starting to roll into the kitchen, and there is no shortage of herbs around. The garden is overflowing with basil just begging to be showcased!

While I’m usually okay with a simple drizzle of olive oil and vinegar on my salads, sometimes I want something a little more thrilling. And this Strawberry Basil Dressing… it’s definitely thrilling!

It hits all the notes of a good dressing- it’s got zing plus a hint of sweetness from the honey, it has body from the blended strawberries, and a great depth of flavor from the basil. It isn’t overpowering, and it will bring to life any leafy greens you put underneath it.

The best part? It takes nearly no effort to make- a blender does all the work!

What kind of salad would you put it on?
Try these combinations:

Spinach & Arugula + Mandarin Oranges + Crumbled Goat Cheese + Sprinkle of Poppy Seeds

Spring Mix + Red Onion + Strawberries + Toasted Almonds

Kale + Avocado + Mixed Berries + Grilled Chicken + Pecans

Tender Butter Lettuce + Sliced Radish + Spring Onion + Asparagus + Salmon

Spinach + Bacon + Sunflower Seeds + Strawberries

Strawberry Basil Dressing Recipe

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh strawberries
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbs avocado oil
1 Tbs raw honey
pinch of sea salt
6 large fresh basil leaves

Combine everything in the blender EXCEPT for the basil leaves. Blend on medium until well-combined.

Add the basil leaves and pulse until they are just broken up and incorporated but you still see flecks of green.

Serve your fresh strawberry basil dressing and enjoy! Or store in the fridge for up to three days.

1. Thawed frozen strawberries won’t be the same as fresh, unfortunately.

2 Avocado oil is light and slightly nutty- it is the perfect oil for this strawberry basil dressing because it is both healthy and neutral in taste. You can use olive oil, but it will likely over-power the other flavors. Avocado oil is one of my favorite fats, and if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s definitely time!

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

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Whole-Fed Homestead by Crystal@wholefedhomestead - 4M ago

Making lard soap… is there anything more homestead-y than that? Karl’s grandma (a real-deal homesteader and farmer) tells a story about how when she was young, she would bring home the used tallow from the fryers at the local diner she worked at, and they would make big batches of tallow soap cooked in a kettle over an open fire at their farm. I just love that story.

Maybe they did it out of necessity, or maybe they did it because they were resourceful farmers who didn’t let anything go to waste. Or maybe they did it because they had good taste; they were eating french fries cooked in tallow after all… which I think says a lot!

Karl’s grandma passed away recently- she was 87 years old and tough as nails to the very end- a true homesteader through and through. I am sharing this lard soap recipe in her memory.


Soaps made from animal fat have a creamy luxurious lather, and in my opinion, they have the perfect amount of cleansing and moisturizing… the Goldilocks of soap! Plus, making lard soap is a great way to practice using the whole animal and not letting go to waste parts that are often looked at by some as less desirable.

Want to render your own lard? My full instructions here, including why I WON’T use a slow cooker to render lard!

Lard Soap Making 101 Don’t Fear the Lye, But Do Respect It

Want to make lard soap but you’re afraid to use lye? Let me stop you right there- don’t be.

The first time I made soap I was terrified. I was cautious and followed all the directions… and of course I had no problems at all. The second time I made soap, it was soooo much easier. I was comfortable with the lye. I mean, not dangerously-disregard-the-rules-kinda comfortable, but I knew what to expect, and it wasn’t a big deal.

Don’t let fear of lye be the reason you don’t make soap- learn to safely handle it, and make all the soap your heart desires. And trust me, your heart will desire this soap!

And on that note, if you’re new to soap making, make sure and read through these instructions completely and way ahead of time, and probably more than once. My Wild Rose Lard Soap is a very easy soap recipe, and I wrote these instructions with the beginner soap-maker in mind.

Soap making is not hard, but it does require that you pay attention to detail.

I gained SO MUCH confidence in soap-making and working with lye by reading through Simple and Natural Soap Making by Jan Berry. This book changed my whole relationship with soap-making. Not only are the instructions easy to understand and safety conscious, but the soap recipes are simple but inspired. This is a fantastic book!

Above are the Vanilla Bean & Egg Yolk (yes egg yolk!) flower soaps that I made from Jan’s book, Simple and Natural Soap Making…And these flower molds were wonderful to work with and would be great for this Wild Rose Lard Soap as well!

General Rules for Soap Making

Always, always run the recipe through a lye calculator, no matter where the recipe is from. Yes, even this one. Human and printing errors are not uncommon, and it’s good practice to always double check.

NEVER substitute fats or oils, or alter the water or lye amount (unless you are a seasoned soap-making pro). You must rework a recipe if you need to change one of these components because each different type of fat requires a different amount of lye. This is a big soaping no-no.

Protect yourself: wear long sleeves, goggles, and rubber gloves. In my opinion this isn’t an activity to involve young kids in. If you have pets that like to counter surf or linger around your feet in the kitchen, lock them out while you work.

Use dedicated equipment- most pros recommend you don’t use the same equipment for soap making as you do for food preparation.

An accurate digital scale and an immersion blender are essential to soap-making.

Do NOT use aluminum, cast iron, or non-stick containers or utensils when working with lye.

Ingredients & Equipment for Wild Rose Lard Soap

Lye (buy here online)
I had a hard time finding the correct lye at my local hardware and farm supply stores, so I ordered it online. I read all the reviews on multiple brands and settled on this one. Glad I did- I have made several batches of soap with it now and they have all turned out wonderful and as expected. This type is nice because it is “micro-beads” and easier to work with than the finer powder or flakes of lye- which are more likely to go airborne. This type is food-grade, which means it is less likely to have impurities that could mess up your batch of soap.

Lard (instructions for rendering your own or buy here online)
You want good quality, hand-rendered lard for this soap. Not the really cheap kind that comes in a one-pound block that you can find at most grocery stores, which often has additives like BHA and BHT.

Do not use lard with additives.

The better quality your ingredients, the better quality your finished product will be.

However, soap-making is a great way to use up lard that maybe smells a little porky, or got a little darker than you intended during rendering- those smells will go away during the soaping process.

Coconut Oil (buy here online)
You can use any type of pure coconut oil for this soap, and no worries- the smell of coconut won’t come through in the soap.

The coconut oil is to give the bar a little extra lather. Lard by itself doesn’t have that much lather, so the coconut oil makes this a much better bar than lard alone in my opinion. This recipes makes a bar that has a creamy and luxurious lather.

Rosewood Essential Oil (buy here online)
If you have an essential oil brand you love, great, use it! I am not affiliated with any brands myself- I use and love a few different ones. You can also omit the Rosewood Essential Oil from this soap recipe if you’d like.

Rosewood has a scent that is warm, woodsy, and floral. And the amount used in this recipe is such that the overall scent in the soap is very faint- it smells lightly of walking through a patch of wild roses at the forest’s edge. It’s one of my personal favorite scents! And it is reported to have a lot of beneficial properties for your skin as well.

Rose Clay (buy here online)
This clay adds a natural, gorgeous, rosy pink color to your soap. It also has beneficial properties for your skin. This is the only coloring agent I used in this soap recipe- and I think it turned out beautifully!

If you want a less feminine option, I’ve also made this soap recipe with French Green Clay (in the same amount and using the same technique as the recipe below indicates) which also turns out lovely, so go ahead and substitute that if you’d like.

You can also omit the clay entirely, though I think it is part of what makes this such a great bar of soap!

Dried Rose Petals (buy here online)
You may be able to buy these in a smaller quantity in the bulk section of your local natural food store. Or go out and collect and dry your own! …just make sure they weren’t sprayed with anything. Pink crabapple blossoms also dry to a pretty pinky color and would be a good substitute to try, and no one would even know they weren’t roses.

Use the rose petals sparingly. I picked out the prettiest, pinkest ones and used about 8-10 small rose heads for this batch of soap.

Digital Scale (buy here online)
Soap ingredients are always measured by weight, not volume. An accurate digital scale is essential for soap-making- and luckily they are very inexpensive nowadays.

I like to always have backup extra batteries for it (would hate for it to die in the middle of measuring things!), and I make sure it is weighing accurately by using the methods outlined here.

Immersion Blender (buy here online)
While this isn’t totally necessary for soap-making (your grandma probably didn’t have one!) it is… well, necessary in my opinion. I haven’t made soap without one, so I can’t give you instructions for that, but I have heard that it takes HOURS of hand-whisking to do what this blender does in 5 minutes. Absolutely worth it.

While you should have a dedicated immersion blender for soap-making (I do), if you’re not going to heed my advice here, this is a good one to get because the head is removable, allowing you to safely soak it in the sink for a long period of time.

Thermometer (buy here online)
I can’t say enough about an infrared thermometer. It allows you to take the temperature of both your lye and fats without having to touch them or dirty a thermometer probe. Also surprisingly inexpensive!

You could also use a regular digital kitchen/meat thermometer, but again you would want it to be dedicated to soap-making.

Goggles & Gloves
We always keep a big box of rubber nitrile gloves on hand (see what I did there?) for various homesteading tasks. You will need several pairs for soap-making in case you need to take them off at anytime, like to use the bathroom or itch your nose.

Goggles should be actual safety goggles and not safety glasses- the difference is that goggles protect your eyes from spills and splashes, where as glasses do not. Lye isn’t something you want to chance.

Soap Molds (buy loaf molds here online, buy flower molds here online)
This is the fun part! What do you want your soap to look like? While I love the feel of a good soap bar, these flower soap molds were lovely. They were also very easy to work with- the soaps popped right out of them!

Various Containers

For Measuring Dry Lye: Dry lye can be weighed in a glass, plastic, stainless steel, or even a paper drinking cup. I prefer to use something disposable myself, like a large yogurt container or plastic cup.

For the Lye Water: This should be something made of stainless steel or #5 heavy duty plastic. When combining the lye and water, a reaction occurs which heats the solution to a very hot temperature… enough to shatter glass and even pyrex. I use a cheap medium-sized stainless steel kitchen bowl for this (just make sure your bowl is not aluminum).

For Combining the Lye Solution and Fats: The combined oils and lye can be mixed in plastic, pyrex, stainless steel, enamel, or ceramic. They are not very hot at this point, but they are still caustic.

I have a dedicated stainless steel pot that I heat my fats and mix my oils in, then I pour the lye water directly into that and mix them together right in the pot. This is nice because the pot has a flat bottom that allows the immersion blender to reach well, unlike a round bowl, which would make this harder.

Various Utensils & Equipment

Stainless Steel Spoon: Used for scooping lye from the container and into your dry lye measuring cup.

Stainless Steel Fork: Used for mixing the lye as you pour it into the water.

Rubber Spatula: For scraping every last bit of soap from the pot!

Teaspoon Measuring Spoon: For measuring the clay and essential oil; this doesn’t need to be dedicated to soap-only.

Small Bowl: For mixing the rose clay and water together; this doesn’t need to be dedicated to soap-only.

Paper Towels: For wiping out the soap pot after you’ve scraped it with the spatula. You do not want to put large amounts of fresh soap down your drain. Also dampen them and use for wiping down counters to pick up any granules of lye you might have spilled.

Box, Cutting Board, or Pan: Something to set the molds on, and transport the soap molds on, especially if you are using individual-style ones, like the flower molds.

Cutting Board & Sharp Knife: The sharper your knife, the smoother the bars will look. This does not need to be dedicated to soap-only.

Wild Rose Lard Soap Recipe

I wrote these instructions so that a beginner could follow them and make soap successfully- you’ll notice that the instructions are rather long. As with anything detailed, I’d recommend reading the instructions through entirely, before you start. 

Wild Rose {Old Fashioned} Lard Soap Recipe
Soap weight 2.283 lbs, 5% superfat

9 oz (258.55g) distilled water
3.41 oz (96.69g) lye
19.2 oz (544.31g) lard
4.8 oz (136.08g) coconut oil
2-3 tsp rosewood essential oil
2 tsp rose clay combined with 1 Tbs distilled water
8-10 mini wild rose buds

1- PREPARE: Make sure you have everything prepared and easily accessible, including your soap molds. If using a wooden mold that needs to be lined with parchment, do that now.

Gather all your equipment and have it set out and ready to go. Put on protective gloves, long sleeves, and goggles.

2- WORKING WITH LYE: Dry lye can be weighed in a glass, plastic, or stainless steel. The water that you will combine with the lye should be measured into a #5 plastic or stainless steel container. (When combined with lye, it can heat up to over 200F quickly, which can shatter glass.) 

I use an older stainless steel spoon to transfer the dry lye into the measuring cup. Don’t use plastic, as have found it causes a static cling situation with the lye, which is not something you want.

Measure out the distilled water and place it in your bowl in the sink. Measure out the lye.

With a window open or ventilation, and working in the sink, slowly ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER, stirring with the fork as you add it.

Allow the lye to cool for about 30-40 minutes or until it reaches 100-110F.

Always add the lye to the water, do NOT add the water to the lye, or it could volcano. Make sure all the lye dissolves and isn’t stuck at the bottom of the container- this shouldn’t be a problem if you pour the lye in slowly and stir well while doing so.

Tip: An infrared thermometer is incredibly handy for soap-making! You just shoot the laser light at what you want to measure and it reads the temperature without having to stick a probe into anything. Before I had this I used a meat thermometer, which worked fine.

3- PREPARE THE FATS: Solid fats should always be melted in a double boiler or very slowly and carefully if over direct heat. Don’t overshoot melting them, or they won’t be cool enough by the time your lye water is ready.

Combine the lard and coconut oil and heat until JUST BARELY melted. 

4. COMBINE THE FATS AND LYE WATER: We want the melted fats and lye water to both be a similar temperature, around 100-110F when they are combined. In my experience making this particular soap, if you get the fats melting as soon as you are finished mixing up the lye water, and you don’t overheat the fats, they will have just enough time to cool and end around the same temperature as the lye at the same time.

When the melted fats and lye water are both around the same temperature of 100-110F, add the lye water to the fats.

It is okay if they vary a little from this- your lye water might be down in the 90s, while your fats are still around 110, which is okay for this recipe.

I have a dedicated stainless steel pot that I melt the fats in, and then I add the lye water right to that.

Other people use a dedicated stainless steel bowl or big #5 plastic cup for mixing the fats and lye together. If you go this route you could heat the lard and coconut oil in whatever you’d like, then pour it into your soap-only mixing container of choice and then add in the lye water.

With the immersion blender OFF, use the head of it to stir the fats and lye water together until they are just combined and no lye water is visible any longer. Then you can turn the immersion blender ON.

This is so you don’t get any lye water splashing or sputtering on you.

Immersion blenders can be tricky if you don’t understand them. You want to keep the head completely submerged while the motor is on, otherwise it can splatter on you. Remember, the soap is still caustic at this point, so if you get any on you, rinse it thoroughly with water right away.

If you’ve never used an immersion blender before, you should practice and test its temperament in a bowl of plain old water before you try making soap with it… so you know what to do and not do.

Stir the almost-soap until it reaches light trace, which can take anywhere from 2-10 mins.

Light trace means that when you drizzle a small bit of the mixture over the surface, it will leave a faint pattern or “trace” before sinking back into the mixture. Think pudding.

The soap is still caustic at this point, so be sure to continue wearing all safety equipment.

6. ADD THE EXTRAS: Once you’ve reached trace is when you stir in the oils and clay.

At trace, hand stir in 2-3 tsp of Rosewood Essential oil, and 2 tsp Rose Clay mixed with 1 Tbs distilled water. Use a spatula, not the immersion blender for this.

The clay tends to want to settle to the bottom of the water. Give it a stir right before pouring it into the soap.

A rubber spatula is the best tool for this job. Stir in the essential oil and clay water until the soap is uniform in color.

You can feel free to leave out the essential oil or clay in this recipe. This soap made with French Green Clay instead of the Rose Clay is also very lovely.

7. POUR INTO MOLDS: I hope you have your molds prepared already!

I have a homemade wooden soap mold that requires lining with parchment paper. I’ve also used these silicon ones with the wood support, and these flower molds as shown above- which don’t require any prep.

If you are using the flower molds or other individual molds, place them on a large sheet pan, cutting board, or in a box. It’s nice to have something rigid to support them, otherwise you won’t be able to move them because they are flimsy.

Carefully pour the soap into your molds, and use a spatula to scrape every last drop from the pan. 

If you’re using a loaf mold, use something like a plastic spoon or knife, or popsicle stick to smooth the top and add a decorative pattern.

Sprinkle on the crushed dried rose petals- use sparingly.

You can sprinkle a light layer all over the top, or a simple line of them down the middle or off to one side. If you are using the flower molds, sprinkle the crushed rose petals on the back of the soaps.

8. CURE THE SOAP: let it rest, and do note that it is still caustic at this point.

Set the soap in an area that is safe from pets and children, and over-eager soap enthusiasts. Keep out of direct sunlight, and allow the soap to stay in the mold for two days. After two days, remove the soap from the mold.

Longer is not better. If using the loaf mold, cut the soap into bars when it is firm enough to not stick to the cutting tool- for me this was right away after I un-molded it after the two days. If it seems very very soft, let sit un-molded for a day and try again.

You want to cut it within a day or two of un-molding, otherwise it will get harder and more difficult to cut.

Cure the bars on a..

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Whole-Fed Homestead by Crystal@wholefedhomestead - 4M ago

Ham doesn’t need much in my opinion… I mean, it is smoked pork, after all- it’s already delicious by definition. This maple glazed ham with a touch of apple cider is the perfect recipe for your holiday dinner, a special brunch, or even just a weeknight!

This maple glazed ham is easy to make, and uses only 4 simple, clean ingredients- plus I love that it uses things we make right here on the homestead! I never really liked the more traditional pineapple, cloves, and the sad little packet of too-sweet sugar and spices that comes with most hams. This ham is so much better- flavorful without being overpowering, and just slightly sweet with hints of apple and smoky maple in the background.

How to Buy a Ham

Smoked: This recipe is for an already smoked ham- so if you have a fresh one that hasn’t been treated in any way, this maple glazed ham recipe probably isn’t the ideal recipe or cooking technique.

Uncured: If you have a local butcher or farmer selling pastured smoked hams- by all means! Those are a little hard to find where we are, so we buy the best quality we can find at our local natural food stores. I always get one uncured if I can (meaning it wasn’t preserved with nitrates), and with as few ingredients as possible. A ham that has been “cured” will also work with this recipe.

Bone-In: I prefer a ham with the bone still inside. Even though it’s a tad more work to cut around, it helps impart more flavor into the ham. A ham without a bone will also work for this recipe.

Spiral-Cut: I do like a spiral-cut ham, as it allows me to get the flavorful glaze onto more surface area of meat. Plus, it’s cut so nice and uniformly that it makes for a lovely presentation. A ham that is not spiral cut will also work with this recipe.

The great thing about a traditional spiral ham is that it’s already cooked, so all you need to do is flavor it and warm it up!

Apple Cider & Maple Glazed Ham Recipe

1 smoked ham, about 8-10 lbs
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs real maple syrup, divided
3 Tbs butter or ghee

This amount made enough for about a 8-10 pound ham. If your ham is 5 pounds or smaller, you can cut this recipe in half.

If you don’t do butter or ghee- just leave it out… no need to substitute anything.

To make the glaze, put the apple cider into a saucepan and heat over medium until the apple cider is reduced by about half it’s original volume, which took 25 minutes for me.

Once the apple cider is reduced, turn off the heat and add in 1/2 cup maple syrup and all of the butter; whisk until the butter is melted. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 350F.

Handling a spiral-cut ham takes a little finesse so that it doesn’t fall apart. Place the entire ham into a 9X13 baking pan, on its side so that the spiral cuts are facing up. If your ham is larger or an odd shape, you might need to use a bigger roaster pan– just make sure it has high sides.

Using a pastry brush (a spoon works too, though not quite as well) brush some of the glaze in between each of the spiral cut ham slices. This should use about 2/3 of the glaze.

Carefully flip the ham to its cut-side down in the pan. Use a very sharp knife to score the top of the ham- make shallow slices just through the very outer later of fat and meat in one direction, and then go back and score in the other direction to make a pattern made of squares.

Pour the remaining glaze slowly over the top of the ham, using the pastry brush to brush it into all the cracks and cuts.

Cover the ham and pan with foil. My ham was large and sticking up tall out of the pan, so I had to use two pieces of foil overlapped. Cover the ham and cinch the foil around the pan so that the ham is completely enclosed in the pan with the foil overtop.

Bake the ham 12 minutes for every pound of ham. My ham was nearly 10 pounds, so I baked it for 120 minutes.

Remove the ham from the oven, and use a tongs to pull the foil off.

Increase the oven temperature to 425F. Place the 2 Tbs pure maple syrup into a small bowl and use the pastry brush to brush the maple on just the outside of the ham. Return the ham to the oven uncovered and bake for 15 minutes more, until the ham is turning brown and caramelized on top.

There will be lots of apple maple ham juices in the bottom of the pan- you’ll want to spoon some of these over the ham once its on your serving platter. Serve and enjoy your apple cider and maple glazed ham!

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

The post Apple Cider & Maple Glazed Ham Recipe appeared first on Whole-Fed Homestead.

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Eventually everything comes back into style, doesn’t it? I’m happy to see lard back in a positive light, and even happier to see old-fashioned skills, like learning how to render lard making a resurgence!

While you can buy rendered lard that’s ready to cook with, making your own is often more affordable, plus it’s a great skill to have. Before we get into the details (I’m using a technique I haven’t seen anyone else use to render lard!) I think it’s important to talk about the merits of lard, because there are plenty.

Besides being good for you, lard makes fantastic food! I am quite surprised at how often I get asked what I do with lard. Cook really awesome food, that’s what! Karl uses it for frying eggs in the morning. It excels at roasting vegetables, deep frying, popping popcorn, and making incredible baked goods. It’s a great fat for high heat cooking- try it for searing steaks and chops in a cast iron pan!

If you’re gasping at the thought of all that saturated fat, let me stop you right there. Lard, when sourced from properly raised and pastured pigs, is extremely nutrient-dense. And saturated fat is not the heart killer it was once thought to be. If you haven’t yet recovered from the saturated fat scare of the 70s and 80s, I would encourage you to dig a little deeper.

And while this post is about how to render lard yourself, not on why you would want to eat lard (because that’s really a whole post, or a whole book all its own), I’ll point you towards some wonderful, credible resources on the merits of saturated fat and the myths surrounding cholesterol, heart disease, and health:

Nourishing Fats: Why We Need Animal Fats for Health and Happiness by Sally Fallon Morell
Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolf

The Skinny on Fats by The Weston A. Price Foundation
The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat are Not the Enemy by Chris Kresser

How to Render Lard the BEST Way – NOT in a Slow Cooker

I think there’s a better way to render lard. I know, because I’ve found it. Typically lard is slow cooked for a long period of time- hours, until all the fat is melted away from the meat, skin, and connective tissue. But the more time the fat spends heating up around the these other meat bits, the lower quality it becomes. In my opinion anyways.

Our lard goals are:
1. to make a beautiful white lard
2. to make lard that has a clean and neutral taste, not “porky”
3. to make lard that is shelf stable

Let me explain. The whitest, purest tasting lard will come from removing the liquid lard from the pan as soon as it melts. However, removing the lard quickly and not giving it a chance to heat for a while means there could be residual moisture from the meat bits… which doesn’t bode well for the shelf life. See the predicament?

The solution is this: remove the liquid lard from the pan as soon as it melts in order to get it away from the meat part. Put the liquid lard into a second pan and heat it for a while to remove the moisture. Since there is no meat, we can safely heat the lard to evaporate the water, without risking discoloration or a meaty flavor.

See how a slow cooker doesn’t fit in well here? Plus, most slow cookers only have a couple settings and cook way too hot for rendering lard. I may be a bit of a lard snob, but I think a slow cooker is the worst tool for the job in this case. It may be the easiest, that’s true. But if I wanted easy, I wouldn’t be a homesteader. :)

How to Render Lard 

Ingredients & Equipment:
Any quantity of pastured pork fat, ground
2 pots, each large enough to hold your quantity of pork fat/lard
2 large metal mixing bowls
2 fine mesh sieves (you can get away with only one)
Paper towels, cheesecloth, or clean cotton tea towels
Storage containers, I use and love these plastic freezer containers

You will need ground pork fat- you can grind it yourself with something simple like a hand crank meat grinder, or kitchen-aid mixer grinder attachment. If you get your fat from a butcher, ask them to grind it for you.

This method might work with pork fat cut by hand into small pieces, but I haven’t tried it. Having the pork fat ground is really the first step in making great lard.

Remember to keep a watchful eye; rendering lard is easy to do, but it does require your attention.

1. heat ground pork fat over very low heat until most of the fat is melted
2. strain everything through a mesh sieve into a bowl
3. strain the melted fat that collects through a second sieve lined with a paper towel
4. heat the pure fat to evaporate any moisture

Place the ground pork fat into Pot #1, but don’t fill the pan more than about 4-inches full (you may have to work in batches). Heat on the lowest possible setting, and stir frequently to help facilitate the melting.

Set up the first filtering station, which is your largest sieve, Sieve #1, over a large mixing bowl.

Once most of the fat has melted off of the pieces of meat and skin, but hopefully before those bits start to turn from pinkish to brown- indicating they are cooked, ladle the melted fat and pork mixture into the sieve, straining out the meat and skin and allowing the fat to collect in the mixing bowl. You want to do this all at once… and while you don’t have to work that quickly, don’t dawdle because the lard will start to solidify as it cools.

While you let the fat continue to strain for a minute, prepare the second sieve, Sieve #2. Set the clean sieve over Pot #2, and line the sieve with a single layer of paper towel (you might have to slightly overlap a couple paper towels, depending on the size of your sieve and the size of your paper towels, which is just fine).

Set the meat and skin in the sieve aside, and pour the liquid fat in the bowl through Sieve #2, through the paper towel and let it collect in the pot below. It strains slowly, so I had to keep adding a little bit of fat at a time as there was more room in the sieve. The paper towels will collect fine sediment, and eventually clog up so that the fat stops dripping through- when this happens you’ll have to swap out for a new paper towel.

If you have more pork fat that needs melting, go ahead and start the second batch now.

When all the pure fat is strained into Pan #2, turn the heat on medium, and heat over medium to medium-low heat for 5 minutes for every pound of pork fat you started with. I had about 7 pounds of pork fat, so I heated my lard for about 35 minutes. This will evaporate any moisture and help the lard to be more shelf-stable.

Pour the lard into whatever containers you plan to store it in. I use these freezer containers because I store my lard in the freezer for long term keeping.

What to do with the leftover pork bits? You can make cracklins, though I’m not an expert in that. What do I do with them? I put them all back in Pan #1 and heat until just cooked through, then I give them to the chickens. They go nuts for them!

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

The post How to Render Lard the BEST Way – And Why I WON’T Use a Slow Cooker appeared first on Whole-Fed Homestead.

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These are really really good brussels sprouts… about as good as you can hope for a brussels sprout to be. They’re crispy, salty, full of flavor, golden brown, and delicious. We love all things Brassica (that’s the cabbage-broccoli-kale-brussels family) in this household, so it’s no surprise we’re a couple of brussels sprouts fans.

And if you’re not, might I gently suggest it’s because you aren’t making them correctly?

It’s possible you’ve only ever had poorly cooked brussels sprouts before, so here are some tips!

How to Cook the Perfect Brussels Sprout

1. Start with fresh ones, not frozen. Now I don’t mind frozen veggies in general- some of them are quite good… just not brussels sprouts.

2. Cut them in half and cook them cut side down. I think this is superior to leaving them whole or quartering them. Cutting them in half gets you a good amount of surface area for browning, and allows them to cook to perfection- outside and inside done at the same time.

3. Use plenty of fat. I love avocado oil with brussels sprouts because it’s neutral yet slightly nutty. This is what makes them golden brown and yummy, and prevents them from getting dry. Don’t skimp.

4. Roast them a la Goldilocks! Too done and they get a little mushy inside and a tad skunky. Roast them too little and they are raw and crunchy in the middle. Just right means golden on the outside and just cooked through on the inside. This is where the brussels sprout magic happens.

5. Speaking of roasting… it’s really the best method for cooking brussels sprouts. The directions for roasting them are in this recipe. You can skip the seasoning if you’d like and just have them plain, or with a different seasoning of your choosing, and still use the same method I describe here.

6. Don’t let them fool you. They can sometimes burn on the bottom before letting you know they are done on the top. In general when the top turns golden, the bottom is perfectly golden also, but I always check on them around 20 minutes by lifting the edge of one with a fork just to make sure.

Writing a blog makes you learn all kinds of stuff about yourself.
Like what a sprout snob you are. I hadn’t realized!

Try this recipe, I think you’ll like it!

The barbecue seasoning tastes exactly like the seasoning on Lay’s Barbecue Potato Chips. I can’t remember the last time I had a Lay’s BBQ chip, but I can tell you that when I tasted the seasoning I knew immediately what it was.

Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite side dishes. They cook up quickly, they’re filling, and they go great with just about every type of protein- we often have them with bunless burgers, which the barbecue flavor goes great with!

Smokey BBQ Brussels Sprouts Recipe

1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tsp organic cane sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp granulated onion
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 Tbs avocado oil or other fat of choice

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Prep the brussels sprouts by cutting off the bottom stem nubbin and then removing the couple outermost leaves that want to naturally fall off. Cut each brussels sprout in half from bottom to top (through the little bit of stem that’s left). Put all of the brussels sprout halves into a bowl.

In a small bowl mix together the cane sugar, salt, paprika, onion, and garlic.

Drizzle the oil over the brussels sprouts in the bowl and then use your hands to toss them so that they are all evenly coated. Sprinkle the season on the brussels sprouts and toss again so all are evenly coated with the spice mixture. Place the brussels sprouts cut-side down onto a large baking pan.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the bottom cut-sides are nicely browned. I find the perfect cooking time varies depending on the exact size of the sprouts. Check them at around 20 minutes by lifting the edge of one with a fork to see the bottom. Generally, when they just turn golden on the top they are also golden on the bottom. Enjoy!

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

The post Smokey BBQ Brussels Sprouts Recipe + How to Cook the Perfect Sprout appeared first on Whole-Fed Homestead.

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Wassailing- you did what?! This is something I think is so cool. And something that also makes me feel like a huge dork, if I’m being perfectly honest. At least the Maple Bourbon Wassail recipe turned out AWESOME!

There are two parts to this: the act of Wassailing, and the drink Wassail.

Wassailing is a medieval Christmastide ritual that used to be (and actually still is!) practiced in England in order to bless the apple trees so that they will bear plenty of fruit for cider. Basically a big drunken party in the orchard with singing, dancing, and a few odd rituals… it runs deep with history and it’s wonderfully weird. Perfect!

The drink Wassail is what you’ll have while you’re Wassailing- there are a lot of Wassail recipes, but typically it’s a hot mulled cider or ale, sweetened and spiced, sometimes made boozy, sometimes thickened with eggs, and sometimes topped with toast. From what I can tell, the drink should always have roasted apples- which will be bursting with pulp spilling out, resembling wool, giving wassail its alternative name “Lamb’s Wool.”

The hot Wassail is poured into a large vessel, topped with toast, and passed around so that everyone can take a drink. They would raise the glass above their heads and shout “Wassail,” which comes from “waes-hael,” meaning “to your health.” It is because of this type of celebration, we “raise a toast” when having drinks. Pretty neat, huh?

Yes, Karl and I made our very own wassail.

Wait, it gets better…

And then we made some toast.

And then we trudged out to the apple orchard, sang a little song, gave cheers, hung the toast in the tree, and poured the wassail on the ground. Yeah, we did that.

We thought about inviting our neighbors. We didn’t, and instead we hoped the neighbors didn’t see or hear us.

One of my favorite things about gardening, especially growing heirloom varieties… which extends into our orchard and the antique apple varieties we’ve planted, is how it makes me feel connected to the past. And I treasure that- the many generations of people who grew these things before me, who are the only reason I’m able to grow these same plants and trees today; like a gift, from someone I’ve never met, but I imagine was a lot like me. And I intend to do the same, to grow as many of these amazing things as possible, and carry on the traditions around them.

Karl and I Wassailed our orchard with enthusiasm and heart- which is the only way to Wassail. It was all in good fun. And we’ll have a bounty of apples this coming fall because of it, I’m sure!

Wassailing: How to Wassail an Apple Orchard

Find Something to Wassail
You don’t have to have an orchard- though Wassailing an apple orchard is traditional, you can Wassail anything that could use a blessing, like other crops or even livestock… though they may give you a funny look.

Pick a Date
Traditionally, Wassailing was done on twelfth night, or the twelfth day of Christmas… which, depending on which region and which calendar you follow, can occur on either January 5th, 6th, or 17th.

We picked “Old Twelvie,” the 17th of January, following the Julian calendar and honoring the position of the earth and sun relative to each other when this type of merrymaking first historically occurred. It also happened to be like -15 degrees here on January 5th and 6th, so there was that.

Really though, there’s probably never a “wrong time” to go Wassailing.

Select a King and Queen
These are important shoes to fill! The Wassailing ceremony is led by the king and queen, who take their followers dancing around the trees. The queen is lifted up into the oldest tree or sometimes the largest tree, the one supposed to have the greatest root structure and influence over the rest of the orchard- where she can spear onto the branches pieces of toast that have been soaked in Wassail, as an offering to the tree spirits of the orchard.

The King and Queen can be chosen in different ways, but my favorite is “election by cake.” Because why wouldn’t you elect someone by cake if that was an option?

A cake is baked, often called a King Cake or Twelfth Night Cake, and it’s filled with rum-soaked fruit and lots of spices (not unlike a fruit cake I imagine). A dried bean and dried pea are placed into the cake batter. The man who finds the bean will be the King; the woman who finds the pea will be the Queen. If a woman finds the bean, she gets to choose the King, and vice versa.

It was just the two of us, Karl and I. But I’m sure I would have been the one to find the pea anyways… naturally.

Make the Wassail
There are a LOT of Wassail recipes out there- with a lot of different variations. I imagine that because of the time period that this tradition dates back to, it was a “use what you have” kinda concoction- which happens to be my favorite type!

While the earliest Wassail probably never contained bourbon, ours does- because it’s what we keep on hand and it’s what we like to drink… so while maybe it’s not totally traditional, it’s still in the spirit of the festivities. Plus, apple + maple + bourbon are pretty good friends!

For our Wassail I chose a base of apple cider we made the previous year- if you have it, using something homemade from the orchard you’re wassailing is encouraged. If you want to really party, you should use hard cider.

Add a little sweetener and some warm winter spices- whatever you like… cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice, orange. Heat everything together gently, and add your hard liquor, your eggs, and your toast. Kidding- you don’t really have to include eggs and toast. I didn’t, which maybe makes me a medieval party pooper, but I wanted to make something we’d actually enjoy drinking.

You’ll find my Maple Bourbon Wassail Recipe at the bottom of this post.

Wake the Tree
Use sticks to tap on the tree branches -gently- to wake up the apple tree. It’s been a long winter, just let it know you’re there. Wake it up in the way you’d want to be woken up right before a bunch of apple-enthusiasts who’ve been drinking start to serenade you.

Choose Your Wassailing Song
The Gloucestershire Wassail is our favorite version- give it a listen. It’s catchy!
You may even find yourself humming it around the house…

Loreena Mackennitt - Gloucestershire Wassail - YouTube

This is the song we both loved- Karl sang and I played the sleigh bells! We made it our by changing the names and making up a few verses of our own.

When everyone has raised a toast to the tree and taken a drink of Wassail, the tree gets one too- just pour a little bit onto the ground where the roots are. The queen should then place the Wassail-soaked toast into the tree, pierced onto a branch.

Put on a Show
Not only is there singing, dancing, and general merrymaking, Wassailing celebrations often included short plays and skits, performed around the apple trees. It can be whatever your imagination can come up with… but there is usually a bad guy and some good guys, and of course the good guys always win, often with much cheering from the crowd.

Torches and lanterns are optional.

Get Rid of Those Evil Sprits
This is the last piece to round out your orchard Wassailing! And it’s where you can really let your personality shine- from banging on pots and pans to firing off shotguns… as folks dance around the trees, others make the loudest noise they can to scare evil spirits out of the orchard.

We didn’t figure we had too many evil spirits, so we left the shot gun in the house and opted for banging some large sticks together.

And Now, We Feast!
You aren’t required to have a feast at your Wassailing celebration, but in my opinion most good parties do.

After we were done Wassailing the orchard, we retreated back to the house, bellies warm with cider, for a homegrown dinner of venison stew and honey cakes. A majority of the ingredients in our feast were produced right here, from the meat and most of the veggies in the stew, to the honey, eggs, and raspberries used in the cake were produced right here on the homestead- our little piece of this world that we care for, and in turn cares for us.

Waes Hael!

Maple Bourbon Wassail Recipe

Serves 4, recipes easily doubles or triples!
For the Roasted Apples:
4 small apples
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 tsp salted butter

For the Wassail:
1 medium to large organic orange
4 cups unsweetened apple cider
1/3 cup real maple syrup
2 tsp salted butter
1/2 tsp apple pie spices (yes, this one is worth the price)
Bourbon, for serving (optional)

To make the roasted apples: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scoop out the core from the top of the apple, leaving a well. Do not cut all the way through the apple. Fill each apple hole with 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Place the apples into a pie pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples have softened. Save any drippings from this pan to add into your Wassail.

Use a paring knife or sharp peeler to cut a few strips of zest (take care not to get the white pith underneath the skin) from the orange first. Next, squeeze the juice from the orange and put it into a pot along with the zest strips, apple cider, maple syrup, butter, and spices. Whisk to incorporate the spices and mix everything together.

Heat over low, allowing the ingredients to steep in the cider without boiling it, for about 10-15 minutes, or until just starting to simmer. Try not to let the mixture come to a boil.

Serve the Wassail from a bowl, with the roasted apples “lamb’s wool” floating in it.

In a mug (or a white maple bowl if you’ve got one!) put 1-2 ounces of bourbon, and pour over about 1 cup of the warm Wassail.

Want more from the homestead?


This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!)  I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!

The post Maple Bourbon Wassail Recipe + How to Wassail an Orchard appeared first on Whole-Fed Homestead.

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