Have I ever mentioned, I must have, how much I admire people of the past? They did not have our modern tools and conveniences but they possessed the knowledge of survival that we have all but lost. Case in point, my grandparents. They lived in a godforsaken part of Poland, economically poor area but rich in forests and beauty. It was so remote that I remember the first time electricity was brought to their village. It must have been the last one in the country that was without electricity, totally out of sight, forgotten by the government or anyone else. This is where I spent most of my summer vacations.
My grandparents lived far away from the village, 5 or 6 miles, which is a lot when you have to cover that distance on foot. The village was small, a church, a bar (of course), and one store with nothing in it. So practically everything had to be made at home. Theirs was a little house in the forest. They raised six kids, survived the war (just that period of their lives warrants a book), and stayed content till the day they died.
Anytime I sweat planning my meals for backpacking I think of my grandparents. Their lives revolved around survival. All their food had to be grown, harvested, and prepared for long storage. My longest backpacking trip lasted three weeks. It seemed overwhelming to me to prepare all my meals, dehydrate them and make sure I had enough calories with me to last me till the end of the trail. My grandmother was not counting calories, and her food prep was not for 3 weeks but several months of winter, because in that part of Poland winters are fierce and long. She managed to keep her family alive and healthy.
Anytime I plan my backpacking meals, I realize that if someone magically transported me into those days, I would certainly die the first winter. But I am here, in the 21st century with all the conveniences available to me. I do not even have to dehydrate my camping food, I just enjoy doing it. I don't even have to go to the store to buy it. I can just click on 'add to cart' and a few days later, my food would be here.
And yet I am fascinated by what was lost so I like to make things like they used to (except for sawing that is - I
hate do not enjoy sawing that much).
Have you tried making your own butter? That one is easy. My grandmother had special tools for but all I need is something to shake the cream in. It is easy and it is fun. A few minutes of shaking and you can strain your own butter.
And how about making your own soap? When my teen was in single digits old we made soap as a science experiment. It is not difficult and it is fun. All you need is fat, lye and optionally dyes and essential oils for aroma. Just recently I decided to make soap again for our home use. It does not take much time to make, and after it cures, I have soap I know is not loaded with harsh chemicals.
Do you like sauerkraut? Trust me, whatever you buy in the store is NOT sauerkraut. It does not taste like real sauerkraut, it does not smell like real sauerkraut, it is not real sauerkraut. And Sauerkraut is so simple to make. Shred cabbage, add a little bit of salt, you may add some shredded carrots or apples, pound it down to release juices so the cabbage is totally immersed in them. Wait patiently a couple of weeks for it to ferment naturally and voila, you have a great source of vitamin C and very trendy these days probiotics.
Oh, and you know what? Sometimes I dehydrate some of my sauerkraut and add to my backpacking meals. Yum.
Dills are even easier to make because there is nothing to shred. Cucumbers, warm water, some salt, dill, garlic, put in jars, wait, eat.
And then there is mead. Mead is fermented honey, a choice alcoholic drink, highly prized in Medieval Poland. Now that takes more work and I haven't been successful till, I hope, this time. A FB friend of mine shared his recipe with me and I think in a few months I am going to have a couple of gallons of deliciously aromatic mead. Can't wait.
I don't eat grain products but I used to make my own sourdough starter too; I remembered my grandmother always having a large supply of it in a wooden vat covered by linen cloth.
I am curious if any of you are making things at home from scratch, the old fashioned way. I am always looking for new inspiration.