Why to Graft?

Permaculture is for everyone.

Permaculture is for everyone.

Why to graft fruit trees? A seed from a Granny Smith will grow an apple tree, but not a produce a tree that will produce a true Granny Smith tree. The brilliance of nature insure genetic diversity of apples. Apple trees for the most part must cross pollinate with different cultivars. This causes the child  trees being different form the parent trees.  For a true Granny Smith apple tree reproduction, a scion wood taken from a Granny Smith tree is grafted onto an apple  root stock.  Not just any scion wood can be grafted onto any root stock. Apple must be grafted onto apple root stock.

Grafting describes any of a number of techniques in which a section of a stem with leaf buds is inserted into the stock of a tree. Grafting is useful however, for more than reproduction of an original cultivar. It is also used to repair injured fruit trees or for topworking an established tree to one or more different cultivars. Topworking is the operation of cutting back the branches and top of an established tree and budding or grafting part of another tree on it.

Taken from University of Minnesota Extension

By topworking you can do the following:

  • An undesirable cultivar can be changed by grafting a preferred cultivar to the branches.
  • Cultivars that lack hardiness or have poor crotches (narrow angled) can be made more durable by grafting them on hardy, strong-crotched cultivars such as Hibernal, Virginia, or Columbia Crab.
  • Pollinator cultivars can be grown much sooner by topworking than by planting young trees.
  • New cultivars for trial can be brought into bearing in 2 or 3 years if topworked on stock of bearing age.
  • Interesting novelties can be developed by grafting several cultivars on one tree.

How to collect and store scions

Scions are selected from the previous season’s growth, while they are dormant, but before growth begins in the spring. If the scions are left on the tree until spring, however, there is some danger that the buds will start to grow or be injured during winter. Scions cut in November grow best in Minnesota.

The scions should be tied securely, carefully labeled and placed in moist (not wet) sawdust or moss or wrapped in plastic material. They should be kept in a cool, moist place where they will remain fresh and dormant until spring.

When to graft

It is best to graft in the spring, from the time the buds of understock trees are beginning to open, until blossom time. The usual time is April or early May.

Grafting your own trees helps to save money when establishment of food forests. I have plans to grows hundreds if not thousands of trees on my three acres, and at $20+ dollars per tree I would need lots of money of lots of time to accomplish this. Instead I am purchasing a few cultivars from apples, pears, plums, and peaches and will then obtain scion woods from them. Then graft them onto rootstock saving tons of money. My plan right now is to get those cultivars started, and get my nursery up and going. Loving it right now, but lots of work is in front of me.

Thanks, Chris

Please comment or hhit me up on Twitter @freedomfarmtv

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Create Small Fruit Trees with This Pruning Method

Permaculture is for everyone.

Permaculture is for everyone.

Many fruit trees — including semidwarf varieties — can easily grow to 15 feet and taller. Anyone who has tried to manage one of these large trees in a backyard will instantly appreciate the value of small fruit trees: They require less space, are easy to care for, and produce fruit in manageable quantities. Growing compact trees allows you to tuck more varieties of fruit into corners of your property or a small orchard, and means you can choose those varieties by flavor and climate adaptability rather than by tree size. Nearly any standard and semidwarf tree — from pears, peaches and plums to apples and apricots — can be trained to stay much more compact.

The pruning treatment outlined in this article will create an appreciably smaller fruit tree than what you’re used to — as small as most dwarf trees (see “Why Not Choose a Dwarf Fruit Tree?”). Here’s the key to this little-known technique: Fruit trees’ reaction to pruning is dependent on the season in which the cuts are made. The trees’ response is determined by whether the tree is actively growing (spring), gathering nutrients (early summer), preparing for dormancy (late summer), or fully dormant (fall and winter). Keep this cycle in mind when wielding your shears.
Prune Fruit Trees for Small Gardens: The First Cut

The first step to growing a small fruit tree is to make a hard heading cut (a cut that removes the growing tip) when planting. While such a cut may seem extreme, your planting job will only be complete when you’ve lopped off the top two-thirds of your new tree. This pruning cut is critical because it will create a low scaffold (the primary limbs that make up the canopy of a tree), and making this cut during dormancy will give the tree strength and resilience, which is especially crucial for heavy stone fruits. Most importantly, it will help keep the canopy of the mature tree within arm’s reach.

Here’s how to handle the first cut. As winter comes to an end, and the ground is workable for planting, buy a dormant bareroot tree that’s about as big around as your thumb. Plant the tree as soon as possible. Choose a bud at knee-height (about 18 inches from the ground), and make a clean, 45-degree cut that angles away from the bud. Cut close enough to the bud so it can heal cleanly in a natural line, but not so close that you cut into the bud itself. Several buds should remain between the cut and the graft — the knobby place low on the trunk where the scion (the graft that determines fruit variety) meets the rootstock. A knee-high prune is reasonable for almost all fruit trees for small gardens, but peaches and nectarines will sprout more reliably if you cut just above a nurse limb (a branch left to absorb the tree’s spring energy and encourage sprouting). A young tree will probably be a 5- to 6-foot whip at the nursery, so in most cases you’ll remove more than you’ll leave behind. Your beautiful sapling will now be a knee-high stick.

Granted, this cut sounds harsh. Do it anyway. The compact structure of the tree to come will begin to develop as a consequence. Heading your tree while it’s still dormant will take advantage of nutrients stored in the roots, and vigorous growth and branching will occur in spring, when the plant directs its energy to the remaining buds — the perfect combination of conditions to get a small fruit tree off to a strong start. Your initial cut will awaken the buds below, and they will eventually develop into new limbs, each with a growing tip of its own. The resulting open-center tree will be shorter, stronger, easier to care for, and far more usefully fruitful.
Prune Fruit Trees for Small Gardens: The First Spring

After the first buds start to break in early spring, examine the spacing of the branches and decide if you like the arrangement of the top buds. If not, simply prune lower to a place where the configuration of leafing buds suits you. This place will eventually become the crotch of the tree. The lower the crotch, the easier it will be to keep the tree small. The earlier in the season you make this cut, the more vigorously new limbs will grow.

A young tree with a stem thicker than three-quarters of an inch may have a hard time pushing buds. In this case, make the first dormant cut where the caliper (width of the stem) is thumb-sized, then make a second cut lower as soon as buds begin to develop. After the sprouts get going, you can cut the scaffold as low as you prefer.

Revisit the tree once more in early spring just as sprouts reach 1 or 2 inches long, before woody branches begin to form. Gently pinch off all but one bud where multiple sprouts grow on a single node.
Prune Fruit Trees for Small Gardens: The First Summer

In spring and early summer, deciduous fruit trees aggressively expend their energy reserves as they bloom and leaf out. This is when trees are in the mood to grow, and grow they will, often at an alarming rate.

By the time of the solstice in late June, a tree’s resources will have migrated from the roots and trunk to be stored primarily in the foliage. Solstice pruning will remove some of those resources and reduce late season root growth. In other words, summer pruning will slow a tree down, a desirable result for compact fruit trees. While peaches, plums and apricots pruned in fall and winter — the traditional pruning season — can grow as much as 8 feet the following spring, the same pruning cuts made in summer will yield growth of only 1 foot or so. Cuts made while a tree is actively growing will heal quickly, too.

In a perfect world, a young tree would have three or four branches evenly spaced around its trunk. In the real world, branches grow anywhere and anyhow they please. The key to pruning is to envision the future: Consider the placement of the fully grown limbs in relation to one another. You may have too many options. You may have an open area with no branching. You may be tempted to let nature take its course, but leaving too many branches will prevent sunlight from penetrating the interior of the tree. Remove competing branches to create space. An ideal branch angles upward at 45 degrees. If you want to keep a vertical branch, consider a heading cut to encourage horizontal growth, or hang weights on the branch to direct its growth downward.

After removing extraneous branches, cut remaining scaffold branches back by at least half (see Photo 5), to a bud that faces the direction you want the branch to grow. In the case of aggressive growers, such as apricot and plum trees, feel free to prune by
two-thirds. Remove any suckers growing from the lowest part of the trunk or the base of the tree.

The closer to the summer solstice you prune fruit trees, the greater your size-control effects. By late summer, nutrients collected by the leaves will have already begun to move into the trunk and roots. A tree begins the shift into dormancy as early as July.
Prune Fruit Trees for Small Gardens: Winter

Winter will be the best time to make structural and aesthetic decisions because your tree will be bare. The dormant season will also be a good time to remove any limbs that just don’t look quite right — those that are too horizontal, grow into a fence, or branch out over a path. You’ll want to remove what Portland, Oregon, pruner John Iott calls “The Three Ds” — the dead, the diseased and the disoriented. Open up the interior with a few well-considered cuts. Observe the growth pattern of the tree, and prune to enhance its natural grace.

Make heading cuts in winter only if you want an enthusiastic response — when you’re trying to develop the first low scaffold branches, or when you’re trying to rejuvenate an older tree. Prune heavily in winter only if a tree has stalled, if pruning has been neglected and needs correction, or if you were too timid last time and want to generate some better choices this time around. The tree will outgrow the pruning with the full force of its reserves.

In subsequent years, just keep pruning: Make architectural decisions in winter and take height down around the summer solstice. When fruit is about the size of the end of your thumb, thin clusters down to a single fruit. Depending on the variety, you may harvest a few fruits by the third year and a few dozen fruits by the fourth.

How should you choose what to keep and what to prune? Ask yourself what seems best, listen to your instincts, and cut something out. The tree will create new choices and you can always make adjustments next season.
Growing Small Fruit Trees: The First Year in 4 Basic Steps

• Prune a dormant, thumb-thick sapling about knee-high, or 18 inches from the ground, when you plant in late winter.
• After buds begin to break the first spring, choose your scaffold. Pinch off all extraneous buds or prune a little lower to a height where the configuration of leafing buds suits you.
• Near the summer solstice, prune to slow growth and begin to shape your scaffold. Remove any redundant branches and make heading cuts.
• In winter, prune to open the interior of the tree and form a well-balanced shape. Remove dead or diseased material.
Why Not Choose a Genetic Dwarf Tree?

Genetic dwarf fruit trees have their short stature bred into their genetic makeup. Genetic dwarfs aren’t grafted; they grow on their own roots. On average, they stay between 6 and 8 feet tall, but are known to be less vigorous and have a shorter lifespan. When a fruit tree is bred for one quality, such as size, then other traits, such as fruit flavor, climate adaptability and overall vitality, become necessarily secondary. By selecting for size, you will miss out on the tastiest varieties.

Some fruit trees are available grafted on ultra-dwarfing rootstocks. These trees stay quite small, a petite 4 to 6 feet, but because of their extremely small root systems, ultra-dwarfing rootstocks present many of the same problems genetic dwarfs do in terms of short lifespan and overall plant health.

Most nurseries offer fruit trees grafted onto semidwarfing rootstocks. People seek these out with reasonable expectations of smallish trees, but semidwarf only means “smaller than standard.” If a full-sized fruit tree is 30 feet tall, then a semidwarf might grow to be as tall as 25 feet.

If you want a broad variety of choices, opt for a standard or semidwarf variety. The regular and strategic pruning described in this article is the best way to limit the size of a fruit tree.

A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency

Planning a garden in advance can help you enjoy local, homegrown food year-round! Estimate how much to grow or buy and learn how to achieve food security with these guidelines.
October/November 2012
A well-planned garden can provide your family with the freshest, most nutritious produce, plus a more secure, self-reliant lifestyle.

Photo By Matthew T. Stallbaumer

Providing high-quality food for your family year-round takes foresight and planning, plus healthy doses of commitment and follow-through. Whether you grow as much of your food as you can or you source it from local producers, the guidelines here will help you decide how much to produce or purchase. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” later in this article will also help you estimate how much space you’ll need — both in your garden to grow the crops, and in your home and pantry or root cellar to store preserved foods. Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you make the best use of your garden space (or farmers markets) to move toward homestead food self-sufficiency.

1. Establish Your Goals

Make a list of the foods you and your family eat now — and note the quantities as well. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” further along in this article assume a half-cup serving size for fruits, vegetables and legumes, and a 2-ounce serving for dry grains. If your servings differ from the charts, be sure to adjust your calculations accordingly.

Decide what you’d like to grow, noting the foods your family prefers and recognizing that not every crop will grow in every climate. Research different crop varieties: Some crops — such as melons — require long, hot days to mature, but certain varieties need fewer days to reach maturity, which allows them to be grown in areas with a shorter growing season.

Don’t be afraid to start small and build gradually toward food self-sufficiency. A good starting goal might be to produce all of a certain crop that you use. An early milestone for me was growing all of the green beans we needed for a year and all of the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce I canned. Maybe you’ll aim to eat at least one thing from your garden each day. Keep your goals in mind as you’re planning a garden.

2. Choose a Gardening Method

I recommend following the guidelines of “Grow Biointensive Sustainable Mini-Farming” as developed by John Jeavons at Ecology Action in Willits, Calif., and explained in his book How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Jeavons’ form of biointensive gardening, which can sometimes produce higher yields than less intensive approaches, focuses on eight principles:

  • Deep soil preparation
  • Composting
  • Intensive planting
  • Companion planting
  • Growing crops for carbon and grains
  • Growing crops for sufficient calories from a small area
  • Using open-pollinated seeds
  • Integrating all processes into a whole, interrelated system.

Using biointensive gardening methods, garden beds are double-dug and compost is made from crops grown for that purpose (some of which, such as corn, also provide food). Together, these techniques create a system that not only feeds the soil but also builds and improves the ecosystem. You can see these biointensive gardening techniques in action on the DVD “Cover Crops and Compost Crops in Your Garden” (available at Homeplace Earth).

3. Plan How Much to Grow

You can plan either by the number of servings of various crops you want to eat, or by the amount of space you have available in your garden. First, decide how many servings your family needs for the year for a given crop from the charts on the following pages. Divide the number of servings by the number of servings per harvested pound (far-right column in the charts linked to below) to find out how many pounds you need to grow or buy from a local farmer. (This number of pounds is for produce straight from the garden — not the weight after trimming and peeling.)

After you know how many pounds you need, you can deduce how much space your crops will require in your garden based on the estimated yield from the gardening method you choose. Divide the pounds of homegrown food you need by the pounds per hundred square feet for the yield you have chosen (two middle columns in the charts). The result is the number of 100-square-foot beds you’ll need to grow that crop. Of course, your garden is most likely not divided into 100-square-foot beds, but you’ll have an estimate of the total area needed to produce a given amount of each crop. If you have limited garden space, work this calculation in reverse, planning your top-priority crops first.

Ultimately, the yield you achieve will depend on many factors, including your soil, climate and management skills. That’s why the charts below offer a range of possible yield estimates.

Use the following charts to plan your garden based on the projected yields of various crops:

4. Keep Good Records

Keep a record of your plans and activities. You can keep a notebook or a computer record, but you’ll find that you can plan better if you have notes from previous years on hand — perhaps you planted way too many green bean seeds last summer or you started your broccoli seedlings too late. At the least, you should know how much seed you used, the area you planted, and whether the amount you produced was too much, not enough or just right. (A good garden-planning resource is the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Vegetable Garden Planner.)

5. Preserving Food From Your Harvests

When I first started gardening here in Ashland, Va., I felt the need to do as much canning as I could. I still can green beans and some tomato products, such as tomato soup (I consider that my “fast food”). If you prefer canning, following directions closely is especially important. You can find a compilation of MOTHER EARTH NEWS content on canning in our Home Canning Guide. Additional information is available at the website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, including the USDA publication The Complete Guide to Home Canning, which is available free to download.

My attitude toward canning has changed now that I eat fresh from the garden as much as possible all year. I grow crops that store well all by themselves so that even in winter we have carrots, beets, onions and sweet potatoes (learn more in Food Storage: 20 Crops That Keep and How to Store Them). Another method I’ve shifted toward is solar dehydrating — my solar food dehydrator is a wonderful food preservation tool, and I use it as much as I can. You can learn more about solar dryers from Eben Fodor and the folks at SunWorks. I no longer can applesauce, but I can easily make it as needed from dried apples, and the bulk of my tomatoes are dried by the sun.

Freezing is a convenient option but requires a power source year-round, making your food vulnerable to power outages. The book So Easy to Preserve (also available online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation) has information on freezing and drying in addition to canning. I only depended on a freezer for large quantities of meat during the years we raised our own pork and beef or bought a year’s supply from a friend. Now, however, I buy in smaller quantities from local farmers or share a larger order with neighbors and friends. You could also raise your own smaller animals and process them as needed for the table, thus eliminating the need for preservation altogether.

Want to Do More?

Oils. If you raise livestock, you can render their fats to create cooking oils such as lard and tallow. (Learn more about making and using lard in the book Lard: Cooking With Your Grandmother’s Secret Ingredient.) If you raise dairy animals, you can turn the cream into flavorful sweet or cultured butters. (Read How to Make Butter and Buttermilk.)

You can grow sunflowers, pumpkins, peanuts, hazelnuts and other plants to make cooking oil from their seeds. Some nuts and seeds contain more oil than others — for example, almonds, hazelnuts (filberts), peanuts, sesame seeds and walnuts have an oil content of more than 50 percent. For best results, be sure to use oilseed varieties of sunflowers and pumpkins, which have an oil content of about 45 percent. Find a chart detailing the yields you can expect from growing various nuts and oilseeds, including their oil content, in Growing Nuts and Seed Crops for Homegrown Cooking Oils.

To obtain oil from your nut or oilseed crop, you will need to invest in an oil press. I have successfully pressed homegrown hazelnuts and peanuts in a Piteba oil press (available from Bountiful Gardens), which yielded 3 1/3 tablespoons of oil per cup of hazelnuts and 4 tablespoons of oil per cup of peanuts. (Learn more about Using A Piteba Oil Press.)

Sweeteners. Keeping bees to produce your own honey is easy, plus having these pollinators active in your garden will help increase your yields. Bees forage over several square miles, so encouraging the enhancement of the ecosystem in your community will be to your advantage. A single hive may produce up to 50 pounds of honey per year. (Read Keep Bees, Naturally! to learn more.)

If you live in an area with sugar maple trees, you can make your own maple syrup from the sap. One to three tapholes per tree are typical, and each taphole yields 5 to 15 gallons of sap. Ten gallons of sap boils down to about 1 quart of syrup. (Check out Enjoy Real Maple Syrup for more details.)

You could also grow sorghum to satisfy your sweet tooth. According to Gene Logsdon in his book Small-Scale Grain Raising, an acre of sorghum can produce about 400 gallons of syrup. From a 100-square-foot planting, you might expect close to 10 gallons of juice, which will boil down to a gallon of syrup. (Read one homesteader’s account of working with sorghum in Making Sorghum.)

Watch for more information about making sorghum syrup in MOTHER EARTH NEWS next year! — MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Livestock. Backyard chickens are a relatively simple starter livestock. After they begin laying, expect about 200 eggs a year from each hen. After they have outgrown their usefulness as layers, they can become stewing hens. If you raise chickens for meat, Cornish Cross chicks raised for eight weeks typically finish as 4-pound broilers at a feed cost of about $1 per pound. (MOTHER EARTH NEWS has compiled extensive poultry resources on our Chicken and Egg Page.)

Goats or cows can provide your dairy products. A family cow can produce 3 or more gallons of milk per day. Its calf would yield about 350 pounds of meat at 18 months. When we had a cow, we milked only once a day, letting the calf have the rest, and then we’d take the calf for the freezer at about 10 months. (Learn more in Keep a Family Cow.)

Goats and sheep need less space and feed, making them ideal for small acreages and even some urban lots. One dairy goat can provide about a gallon of milk per day and offspring for meat. Raising a kid to 6 months yields about 30 pounds of meat, including bones.

For other meat options, a feeder pig raised to 7 months (about 260 pounds) can yield about 100 pounds of meat. You can use a pen, but adding pasture is ideal. If you only have a small space, rabbits may be your meat animal of choice. Litters from one 10-pound doe can produce 80 pounds of meat per year. (Learn more in Rabbit: A Great Meat Animal for Small Homesteads.) If you’d like to raise both rabbits and chickens, the book The Integral Urban House: Self-Reliant Living in the City has a plan for a rabbit-chicken integrated housing system.

Remember that the road to food self-sufficiency should be a community effort. You don’t have to do everything by yourself: Decide what you can do, share the surplus with others, and find like-minded people to embark on this journey with you. Enjoy the adventure!

Putting The Garden To Bed – How To Plant A Cover Crop This Fall! Video Included

Old World Garden Farms

When people ask us about the key to our garden’s fertility – it doesn’t take long before the subject of using cover crops come up in the conversation!

Along with utilizing compost throughout the garden season – the planting of our fall cover crops are one of the biggest reasons we have been able to build the rich and fertile soil in our vegetable garden.

So What Is A Cover Crop And What Does It Do?

A fall cover crop is a specific planting of seed such as annual rye (our favorite), clover or buckwheat that is planted in the early fall and protect the soil over the winter.

Cover crops like annual rye provide a thick coat of protection to the soil over the winter months Cover crops like annual rye provide a thick coat of protection to the soil over the winter months

The crop germinates in the fall, then becomes dormant over the winter months.  It comes back strong in the early Spring -and then is turned…

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These 10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society

by WISDOM PILLS
 

chief quotes question everythingLuther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles EastmanBlack Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of life of the Indigenous people of the Great Plains before, and during, the arrival and subsequent spread of the European pioneers. Raised in the traditions of his people until the age of eleven, he was then educated at the Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School of Pennsylvania, where he learned the english language and way of life. (Though a National Historical Landmark, Carlisle remains a place of controversy in Native circles.)

Like his above mentioned contemporaries, however, his native roots were deep, leaving him in the unique position of being a conduit between cultures. Though his movement through the white man’s world was not without “success” — he had numerous movie roles in Hollywood — his enduring legacy was the protection of the way of life of his people.

By the time of his death he had published 4 books and had become a leader at the forefront of the progressive movement aimed at preserving Native American heritage and sovereignty, coming to be known as a strong voice in the education of the white man as to the Native American way of life. Here, then, are 10 quotes from the great Sioux Indian Chief known as Standing Bear that will be sure to disturb much of what you think you know about “modern” culture.

1) Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners and fine, high-sounding words were no part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner.

2) Children were taught that true politeness was to be defined in actions rather than in words. They were never allowed to pass between the fire and the older person or a visitor, to speak while others were speaking, or to make fun of a crippled or disfigured person. If a child thoughtlessly tried to do so, a parent, in a quiet voice, immediately set him right.

 

3) Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that ‘thought comes before speech.’…and in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect… strict observance of this tenet of good behavior was the reason, no doubt, for his being given the false characterization by the white man of being a stoic. He has been judged to be dumb, stupid, indifferent, and unfeeling.

4) We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the white man was nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him was it ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.

5) With all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them. And so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.native quote 3

6) This concept of life and its relations was humanizing and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with the joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all. 7) It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth… the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.

8) Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.

9) …the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.

10) Civilization has been thrust upon me… and it has not added one whit to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity.

Smoking Meat at Home

Even without professional equipment, smoking meat at home can be done in a variety of ways.
August 2015
Bacon is one of the most familiar smoked meats. If you want to try smoking meat at home, you can enjoy fresh bacon made on your own grill.

Photo by Fotolia/igor

Charcuterie (W. W. Norton & Company, 2005), by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, is a comprehensive guide to smoking, curing, brining and preserving meat. Classic and contemporary charcuterie recipes are presented with clear illustrations and instructions so even beginners can enjoy the rich flavors of cured and smoked meats.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Charcuterie.

We smoke foods to give them a great flavor. Smoked meat and fish also take on an appetizing caramel-brown hue. Hot dogs are brown, not pasty looking, because they’re smoked. While the smoke coating does have some preservative effects by making the surface of the meat acidic, thereby discouraging the growth of unwanted microorganisms and bacteria, smoke is not used to preserve foods the way drying and salting are. Smoking may have become part of the charcutier’s trade because of its initial preservative nature, but we continue to smoke food because of the fine color and flavor it gives to dried and cooked foods, and especially to pork.

Smoke is flavor. It’s why we love barbecued ribs, chicken on the grill, burgers cooked over open flame. Smoke is what gives bacon its depth. It’s the reason smoked ham hocks are so good with beans or long-simmered greens. Cure salmon in your refrigerator, then smoke it, and you will have transformed it into something truly special. Jalapeño peppers, when smoked, become chipotle peppers, one of the great seasoning elements of Southwestern cuisine. Smoke not only elevates a ham, in many cases the type of smoke used determines the kind of ham it is and the regional nuances that distinguish it. Was it smoked over American hickory and apple wood, traditional woods for the American hams, or over the beech and juniper of Westphalia, Germany? Smoke can describe a culinary tradition and the spirit of the terroir.

The smoking environment may be hot, in which case it cooks the meat or fish while enhancing its flavor (as with Canadian bacon), or it may be cold, so the food remains uncooked but takes on a smoky flavor (as with smoked salmon). Smoking at or below 100 degrees F/37 degrees C is cold-smoking; smoking at between 150 and 200 degrees F/65 and 93 degrees C is hot-smoking. Meat or sausages that are hot-smoked cook gently for a long time while being flavored by the smoke. They can then be eaten immediately or chilled and later reheated. Pan-smoking (smoking on your stovetop) and smoke-roasting (as in a cylindrical smoker or barbecue grill) occur at temperatures of 300 degrees F/150 degrees C.
or more.

Salmon is typically cold-smoked, ideally at a temperature below 90 degrees F/32 degrees C; if the smoke were hotter, it would cook the fish and drastically change its texture. Some dry-cured sausages, such as pepperoni and Spanish chorizo, are cold-smoked before being hung to dry. Smoked kielbasa and other hot-smoked sausages are hung in the smoker until fully cooked.

There are varying degrees of smoke and temperature, but the basics remain the same:

• We smoke food primarily to make it taste better (smoking has negligible preservative effects).
• We also smoke food to give it a rich color; smoke results in an appetizing appearance.
• The level of heat defines the type of smoking. Cold-smoking does not cook the food; hot-smoking cooks it gently and slowly; and smoke-roasting and pan-smoking cook the food as if it were in a hot smoke-filled oven.
• The longer the meat is smoked, the deeper the flavor and the color will be.

The venerable kitchen rationalist Harold McGee writes: “Smoke’s usefulness results from its chemical complexity. It contains many hundreds of compounds, some of which kill or inhibit microbes, some of which retard fat oxidation and the development of rancid flavors, and some of which add an appealing flavor of their own.”

The composition of smoke depends, of course, on the substance you’re burning. When smoking food over wood, it’s critical to use only hardwoods (hickory, maple, fruitwoods). Avoid soft woods (such as pine), heavy-sap-producing wood, green wood, and any treated wood; these can release a sometimes-harmful resin and their smoke coats the food with an unpleasant flavor. Hickory, perhaps the most common choice for smoking, has a strong, smoky flavor and gives a rich amber color, suitable for hearty meats and sausages. Fruitwoods are preferable to harder woods for their mild sweetness. Pear is very mild and gives a light color, making it ideal for delicate fish, such as whitefish. Cherry is a favorite in Michigan, where the trees are abundant—Brian likes to hot-smoke duck breast over cherry. And the pairing of applewood smoke and bacon is so felicitous it’s become almost commonplace. But hardwoods do not provide the only smoke beneficial to food: herb branches and tea leaves give off tasty smoke as well.

Home-Smoking

Home cooks can smoke their own food, but results depend on the equipment. You can certainly smoke on your stovetop with a pot or roasting pan, a rack to fit inside, and some sort of cover—and an excellent exhaust system. (You could even use a pot with a steamer insert.) You can smoke on a covered grill by adding hardwood to low coals and keeping the food off to the side, away from direct heat. All kinds of stovetop and outdoor smokers are available today, and these are all hot-smoking devices. They cook while they smoke, which limits the time you can keep the food in the smoke.

Smokers that enable you to smoke at low temperatures generate the smoke outside the smoke box. Most smokers that allow you to adjust the heat are expensive, in the thousands of dollars range, and commercial smokers that allow for cold-smoking cost even more. There are many different smoking options, from big box smokers that provide continuous smoke, such as the Bradley Smoker, to Weber grill smoker inserts, to Kamado-style earthenware grills, such as the Big Green Egg, which is pricey but a fabulous way to smoke bacon and pastrami and other big whole muscles.

True cold-smoking is difficult to do without the proper equipment or a purpose-built smokehouse and smoke pit. Placing a tray of ice between the meat and the smoke source is one way to keep the smoke cool longer. Professional smokehouses that include some sort of refrigeration device and do all the work for you cost as much as a car.

So smoking for the home cook without professional equipment takes some work and often ingenuity. It’s possible to smoke for long periods on a grill with a little effort. Bruce Aidells, the San Francisco–area sausage king, writing in Gourmet magazine (“Making Bacon,” June 2002, p. 72), describes a method whereby he puts a few burning coals into a pie pan filled with wood chips or dust and sets it in a kettle grill. He then places a brine-cured pork loin inside the grill and smokes the pork for six to eight hours. This requires continual maintenance of the smoke as the coals burn out, but the resulting Canadian bacon is very good. If you brine a pork loin using the All-Purpose Brine, including 2 teaspoons/12 grams of pink salt in the brine, and then smoke it, you’ll have Canadian bacon. This method of smoking is also a perfectly acceptable way to smoke your own pork belly for traditional bacon. In the same way that a pork loin (or a pork shoulder, for that matter) takes on a dark color and a rich smoky flavor, so too does cured pork belly. Also, an item can be smoked on a grill then finished in a low oven.

Hot-Smoking, Cold-Smoking: Definition and Method

Most home-smoking recipes instruct the cook to “hot-smoke” a food.

To hot-smoke means to cook at or above 150 degrees F/65 degrees C in a smoker. The temperature we recommend for hot-smoking is 180 degrees F/82 degrees C for sausages (because of their higher fat content) and 200 degrees F/93 degrees C for whole cuts, allowing for slow cooking and maximum smoke. If you have a smoker with a heat control, hot-smoke all these recipes at 200 degrees F/93 degrees C unless otherwise specified.

If you don’t have a smoker, and are relying on ingenuity, then “hot-smoke” simply means smoking the item as you wish until its internal temperature reaches the desired temperature, measured on an instant-read thermometer. To smoke bacon, for instance, you might set five or six burning coals in a pan of hickory sawdust, set the pork belly on the rack, and cover the grill: add a few more coals after an hour. Once you see that you have good color on the bacon, you might finish it in a 200-degree-F/93-degree-C oven, cooking it to the final temperature. Or, if you have a basic kettle smoker, you might simply make the lowest fire possible and cook the bacon entirely in this smoker, removing it when it reaches 150 degrees F/65 degrees C.

Cold-smoking is defined by a temperature of less than 100 degrees F/37 degrees C and is difficult to achieve without the proper equipment. But there are new devices and how-to videos available with a quick Internet search.

When a recipe calls for cold-smoking, it assumes that you have a reliable smoke box that can stay below 100 degrees F/37 degrees C indefinitely. If you don’t, we don’t recommend cold-smoking food. To cold-smoke the food, place it in the smoke box for the recommended time, making sure the temperature doesn’t rise, ideally, to above 90 degrees F/32 degrees C, and certainly no higher than 100 degrees F/37 degrees C.

If you’re the sort of cook who likes to improvise and jury-rig, tend fires, manage smoke, regulate the heat, and generally spend a lot of time hanging out with your food, you’ll have no problem with smoking. If that sounds like a headache to you, then just stick to conventional forms of smoking; that is, hot-smoking on a charcoal grill. Even if you have a good smoker, smoking food at lower temperatures takes care and attention.

Smoking and Food Safety

Most recipes involving smoking require pink salt, or sodium nitrite, as an insurance against the possibility of botulism poisoning. The spores that can produce the deadly nerve toxin botulism tend to thrive in smoking conditions (low temperatures over long periods, and the low-oxygen environment inside the smokebox). So in most instances of smoking we recommend using pink salt. Food that is smoke-roasted, however—that goes from the refrigerator into a hot smoker (300 degrees F/150 degrees C or more)—does not require pink salt.

As with foods high in fat and cured foods, smoked cured foods should be eaten in moderation. Smoke is composed of many wonderful compounds but some harmful ones too. Again, Harold McGee: “Prominent among these are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are proven carcinogens and are formed from all of the wood components in increasing amounts as the temperature is raised.”

The All-Important Pellicle

Of smoking basics, the only issue that isn’t a matter of common sense is the importance of allowing the food to dry long enough before smoking to form a pellicle, a tacky surface that the smoke will stick to. (This is especially noticeable with salmon, which develops a distinctly tacky feel when dried.) If you put damp meat or sausage into a smoker, it won’t pick up the smoke as effectively as it would if dried uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. Yes, food will still pick up smoke if you don’t give it a chance to develop a pellicle, but the end results will be superior if you do.

Homestead Jerky

Be the best you.

Be the best you.

How to make your own jerky is easy and fun. I’ve made several batches now and my own jerky. My whole family loves it. I use rabbit for my jerky. I raise my own meat rabbits, so meat is just a few steps away.

First I process 2 or 3 rabbits for a whole batch. This ends up being about 4 pounds of meat before dehydrating. After processing the rabbits, I let them sit for 24 hours in brine( salt water). Afterwards I let the meat age for another 24 hours. This let the meat “relax” and makes for a better quality of meat. I cut the meat off the bone and into 1/4 inch thick strips. Put the strips into a freezer bag and marinate for 24 hours.

Jerky Marinade

2 pounds of lean meat (rabbit for me)

¼ cup of Soy sauce

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon smoke flavoring

½ teaspoon of onion powder

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

¼ teaspoon of black pepper

Place the strips of meat onto the dehydrating trays close together but no touching. Make sure all visible fat is trimmed. Rabbit is very lean meat, and is a good choice for jerky.

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After 8-10 hours jerky should be ready. It’s very humid here, so it’s takes longer to dry meat in GA. After the jerky has no visible moister preheat an oven to 250 degrees and let the jerky cook for 10 minutes. This insures that meat is germ free. Jerky can then be stored in zip lock bags or mason jars.

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I bought a Presto dehydrator, which is good enough for now. Being only $40 is was much cheaper than other high end dehydrators. Eventually I would like to purchase an Excalibur. The Excalibur cost 2 to 3 times more, but is worth the money. I wanted to get my feet wet before making the major purchase. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can set your oven to lowest setting and prop the oven door open.

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