Sunday, 1 May 2016

Life Reform - Part Seven

My good friend and Folk-Comrade WyrdWalker asked about a bread recipe so I thought that doing another post would be a chance to put this in. What I do is to use the most simple method to make bread from the following ingredients -

500g/1lb Flour.

1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

1 teaspoon sugar.

1 teaspoon dried yeast.

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl and add the other dry ingredients, mix together thoroughly.

Add 15 ml (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil or olive oil, and mix together as before.

Add 300ml/1/2 pint warm water (2 parts cold to one part warm), and mix together in the bowl into a soft dough. 

Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes.

Put the dough into a small bread-tin. Cover with greaseproof paper and leave for 30-45 minutes in a warm place to rise.

Preheat oven to 230 degrees C. Bake loaf for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 200 degrees C and bake for another 15-20 minutes. It is ready when removed from the tin and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. 

This recipe is ideal since it is so simple and can be used to make all kinds of bread. I have used it to make wholemeal bread, Wessex Cobber (which is made with various seeds) and Malt Loaf. The Wessex Cobber and Malt Loaf are made from flour already mixed - the bread is from farms in Wessex. White flour can, of course, be used. 

You can also make bread using herbs, seeds or garlic, and the only limit is your own imagination. The above recipe would do for any type of bread and the ingredients can be changed to suit your own use. One tip, however, the Malt Bread dough is very, very sticky and this need only be mixed together not having to knead for so long - a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup adds taste to this too. 

In the summer I am going to try to get hold of some local flour since Sussex has a number of windmills, some of which are still used to produce bread for 'tourism' (would it not be good to see them used for locals). We have two windmills and one watermill within a radius of five miles, one windmill and the watermill still producing flour on days of the year. 

I do the bread-making by hand but a machine would no doubt be easier; kneading the bread for 10 minutes is in fact good arm-exercise! Whatever the case using this recipe makes it easy to do and to remember. The exact measurements are less important than the 'feel' of the dough. Being new to this I have baked all our bread and only once did it go wrong (when I forgot it was in the oven and it came out black - at least I'm not 'prejudiced'). 


The project is going well still and the only problem that I have faced is getting supplies of Raw Milk because the local farm-shop does not always have a stock. So far I have avoided getting it delivered because it is dearer, but I do feel that in the end I will have to go this way. I have to pass the farm-shop three days a week to take my daughter to college, but when she finishes in June this will not be so. 

I have changed my garden to try to get earlier crops of salad-veg; our front garden is south-facing so I have put in two raised beds, one with salad-veg and the other with strawberries. The salad-veg is coming along much earlier even with the colder weather we have been having. The raised bed for this was made up as follows -

  • It is around 4ft x 4ft which is small but easily manageable, and the problem with salad-veg is that it all comes through at once so a lot is not needed at one time. It is around 18 inches tall.
  • The bottom was filled with rotting logs, small branches and evergreen cuttings. These will break down slowly and give nutrients.
  • A layer of grass-cuttings was added to this - this warms the whole thing up.
  • Compost, soil and manure was then added to make the top layer which is grown on. 
The raised bed was indeed warmer due to the south-facing aspect and no doubt also to the grass-cuttings which warm up. This has forced the growing ahead of its time. Also, I cut two pieces of plastic roofing sheets to go over the top at night, which keeps the warmth in. 

The rest of the garden is made easier since I grow potatoes and onions in a good part of it - these never are a problem. We also grow tomatoes, spring onions, chives, squash, courgettes, cucumbers, radish, peas, runner beans, beetroot, turnip etc. We have four apple trees, a plum tree, two pear trees, a cherry tree and fruit bushes (raspberry, redcurrant, blackcurrant, gooseberry) . Also a grape vine and thorn-less blackberry bushes scattered around. 

Apart from last year with the back-leg problem I have made our own jam from collecting local blackberries and wild plums, and I hope to do the same this year. Without using any preservatives these lasted for 6 - 8 months. If we have a good crop of currants I shall use this to make jam a bit earlier than blackberries.

When doing hikes across the South Downs we came to find where wild strawberries and gooseberries grow, as well as wild plums (damsons). One of the things that would be of advantage is to keep an eye open around us as to where we can find food growing wild. There is an area further north in East Sussex where at least twelve apple trees grown beside the main road. We don't usually have problems with apples as some I grow, and also have a friend who has a large apple tree and does not use them so we get a stock each year and freeze them. 

The mentality of the broad masses is rather strange in this respect, since most would rather use supermarket fruit to stuff grown themselves - even when it is there free-of-charge and fresher by far. When we grow the stuff ourselves we are used to the blemishes and see the 'inner' side of things - the goodness and freshness. I think this is the real problem, since most people only look to the outside appearance of everything, and overlook the 'inner' side. This has caused great problems really, in many ways. Take for instance the washing of foodstuffs such as root vegetables; when they are washed they decay quickly. 'Consumers' would rather have the appearance of clean unblemished food than have good quality, fresh, nutritional food that lasts longer. Of course, the supermarkets will not argue with this since the stuff goes off quickly and they can sell more! 

This brings up another point - preserving and storing. Vegetables can be stored easily over the winter months, and this is something that needs learning. Fruit and vegetables can be preserved into jams, chutney etc. Fruit and vegetables can also be frozen, and some (like peas) do not lose any of their goodness in doing so. Some can also be dried and this is another way to store food. 

One of the aims of this project is also to grow and forage for food which can be stored up for later use. I have in the past encouraged the stockpiling of food for emergency use, and doing so would certainly be an advantage over others. But I have noticed over the past 10 years or so that the 'use by' dating on tinned food has gone drastically down. It used to be a fact that tinned food lasted decades, but I am not so sure nowadays. Rather than a 'use by' date of some 6 years, we are now down to around 3 on many items, and I am not sure as to why this is. Also, the long-life does not apply to tins that are milk-based which go off very quickly. My aim is to shift the emphasis from too much stockpiling of tins to the storage of home-grown food or food foraged from the wild - which means replenishing the stocks each year. I still stock about 3 weeks supply of food for an emergency but will try to add my own to this. 

I believe that the main point in stockpiling is to have a small stock that would help in an emergency; this could be used whilst food is then found, much harder in the winter months, of course. A problem that I did find with stockpiling was that the foodstuffs had to be restocked as the sell-by date went well past, and thus tinned food had to be eaten for some time. I wanted to avoid this since fresh food is far better, so I have now turned to the alternative of growing and foraging for food and preserving, drying or freezing it. 

There is also an old saying - 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket'. I have mentioned tins (which keep well), preserving (which lasts for maybe months), drying (which lasts longer) or freezing (which lasts months but needs a supply of electricity or gas). Using a mixture of methods would seem to be the best approach. Whatever the case preserving and storing is a must for the future. 

By growing and foraging, hunting and fishing, we get back into the rhythm of the seasons; foodstuffs found in the supermarkets today are shipped all over the world, disregarding seasonal growing in one area. Getting back to basics we would eat food that is in season, and food stored for the colder and wetter months. Ours is a Nature-Religion too.


2 comments:

  1. Excellent article mate - I think foraging certainly gets you in touch with the seasons, more so than GYO. In regards to preserving our food - our American friends are way ahead in some regards as 'canning' is very popular there. This doesn't need to be via pressure cooking but just a water canner which can be purchased easily. Preserving, using various methods like canning, drying, pickling and freezing are skills which are just important as gardening. What's to point of growing food if it's just going to rot away? Also there are many plans online which show how to make a solar dehydrator which is a great way of preserving fruit. Parts can be sort cheaply from car boot sales (old picture frames for glass etc) and scrap wood! Again - excellent article mate!

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  2. Warm greetings kinsman! I'm out of yeast but as soon as I pick some up there will be bread from your recipe in my oven! I admit to using the bread machine in the past(lazy!)but I have the pans to make my own. I even picked up a hand hewn dough bowl like our ancestors used a couple years ago at a old time cultural festival. I have solar ovens, so after a test run in the electric oven, I may try it in the solar as a survival exercise. Growing one's fruits as you say, is essential for those with the land or access to some. I have a fig tree in the back of my pickup to plant. I have been adding to the "orchard" a plant at a time for years. There may come a time when those fruits may be the only thing sweet we have to eat. Unless one does as I have and puts a few beehives in the back(and I don't take for granted that they will be there when I need them). Wild food foraging is one area I have long recognized as essential in this area of preparedness but I admit, I have found it hard to devote the time, when the time is right! One must get out in the woods when the plants are there in edible form in order to learn them and sample them. Identification is one half and preparation being the other. That is an area I must work on more.

    I would add something that I don't recall seeing here yet (forgive me if I'm wrong) and is on my to-do list this summer. People always talk about food and that is what first comes to mind but the cultivation of a good water source and/or the means to filter it and make it potable and safe is vital. I have a large 2-3 gallon drip filter set aside and flowing streams within a mile of home but what I plan to do and what is optimal if one has the proper piece of property with a high water table and it won't get you in trouble with the locals..........is drive a hand driven well with a pitcher pump. One can always have a source of clean water on the property that way, that needs no outside power source. You are pretty much limited to about 25 ft though. One could go solar on a standard well. Barring that, filters and at least stored bleach(yuck!)is essential. Everyone, find your local water source!
    Well I've rambled on enough for now. Love the series. This subject needs to be out there and explored for those new to it and following the paths of the folk.
    Even those who have been at it for years enjoy the discussion. It is not terribly expensive, more a mindset. It does take some time and money to prepare. Now is a good time to start!

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