Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Time to Order Gardening Seeds!

This time of year I am overwhelmed with gardening catalogs. I get catalogs from the companies I normally order from and I like to look at those. However, I also get catalogs from companies I have never heard of! 

While I don't like all the junk mail, I usually do look through all the gardening catalogs.  It is addictive! I just love looking at all the vegetables and herbs and thinking about what I will grow this spring and summer. While I do save a lot of my own seeds, I always manage to find something to purchase!  This is what I decided to purchase for this year.
  • Popcorn. If you read my post on the goals I set for this year, you know that I want to grow my own popcorn. I selected the variety Chocolate Cherry. This variety grows two ears per stalk and is resistant to drought and earworms. When I went to order it, it wasn't available! The seed failed the germination trials! So instead, I ordered some very old heirloom seeds (pre-1885) called Pennsylvania Butter Flavored. I got these from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I like to order from this company because I know they grow everything in their catalog in the same hot, humid conditions I have at my house. Good service, reliable company. At this point, I haven't decided whether to look for Chocolate Cherry from another supplier or just stick with Pennsylvania Butter Flavored. I don't have room for both. If I plant them together, I won't be able to save the seed because they will intermingle. If I can find the Chocolate Cherry seed, I may plant them together anyway. I just won't be able to save the seed.
  • Green beans. I didn't save any seeds from my green beans last year. I did hit my goal of canning 51 quart jars of green beans, but didn't have enough left over to save any seeds! Not a problem, I bought more this year. I purchased two different kinds. I also purchased enough so I don't have to save seeds this season either. Again, with two different heirloom varieties, they need to be separated to gather true seeds and I don't have room for that. The first packet of seeds are called Bountiful from Territorial Seed Company. I really like this company. I have purchased seeds from them for many years. Good, fast service. These green beans are stringless. The second packet I bought are called Royal Burgundy Bush Beans from the Victory Seed Company. These are also stringless. (This is important at my house or no one will eat them!) I have also purchased from the Victory Seed Company for many years. Good, reliable company as well.
  • Tomatoes. I always save tomato seeds from Roma tomatoes. Roma are the most reliable tomatoes to grow in the south. Most tomatoes stop producing when it gets too hot. Not Romas! These things grow and produce at temperatures of 100+ degrees in my yard. Still, I am always looking for new varieties to try. This year I am trying a hybrid Roma type. It is a determinate. That means the plant stops growing when it matures and all the fruit ripen at the about same time. All of my heirloom Roma tomato seeds are indeterminate type. They keep growing and growing all summer long. The only thing that stops them from growing and producing is frost. I normally have indeterminate Roma tomato plants over seven feet tall at the end of September! I want to see if the determinate plants give me more tomatoes at one time for canning. If they do, I will switch to an heirloom determinate type for the future. I grow so many tomatoes, I may not notice the difference between the determinate and indeterminate plants. That is why I love testing new stuff! I got the tomato seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
  • Grains. I really haven't decided if I am going to try to grow grains this year.  (I haven't purchased the seeds yet.) I am thinking about trying my hand at Amaranth. If I do, I will buy it at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. If they can get it to grow, so can I!
Some of the new seeds have arrived at my house and some are on their way.  I hope they get here soon! I am ready to start my seeds. The new seeds will join the ones I saved from last summer: squash, tobacco, tomatoes, peanuts, peas, lots of different herbs, and onion sets. Mid-February is the magic date to start seeds where I live. I am not sure I can wait that long!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cooking with Food Storage: Sourdough Waffles

This cooking with food storage post also features one of my non-electric kitchen appliances!

I am not a big fan of sourdough. The flavor in most sourdough recipes is too tart for me. So, when I find one I really like, it becomes a keeper! That happened with this recipe! It has a very, very mild sourdough flavor. The addition of cinnamon helps too. 

Here is the recipe:

2 eggs 
1/3 cup powdered milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (Cinnamon doesn't like me so I only added 1/4 tsp.)
2 cups sour dough starter
1/2 tsp baking soda
water or flour to adjust the batter consistency as needed

Of course, since this is cooking with food storage, I used powdered eggs. The equivalent of two eggs is four tablespoons. Then I added the powdered milk.

As I have mentioned before, powdered eggs tend to lump up so I mixed the eggs and dry milk together breaking up any lumps as necessary. To this I added the salt, sugar and cinnamon.
Then I added the two cups of sour dough starter. Remember, you should use starter that you fed 12 - 24 hours ago.  It should be bubbly like this.

When mixed into the dry ingredients this is what it looks like.

Or maybe not. At this point, the consistency will depend on how much liquid is in your starter. If you are feeding your starter with equal amounts of water and flour, your waffle batter will look much more like normal waffle batter than mine does. I like my sour dough starter a little thicker. When I feed my starter, I use 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. If you do that, the picture above will be an accurate reflection of what your waffle batter will look like. (BTW, powdered eggs also affect the batter consistency. If you use fresh eggs, you will have a thinner batter.)

What you need to do now is adjust the batter to the desired consistency that will work in your waffle iron. If your batter is too thin, add up to 1/2 cup flour. Don't overdo it, only add a little at a time. 

If your batter is too thick, like mine, add some water. I added about 1/4 cup but I didn't measure, so my estimate is not precise. I added a little at a time until the batter was a consistency I liked. You could use regular milk here too. Here is what I got.

When your batter is the right consistency, add 1/2 tsp baking soda and mix well. The baking soda helps to cut the sour taste of the batter. 

Be sure to replenish your sour dough starter by feeding it. The two cups in this recipe used almost all of my starter. 

I added 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of flour to feed my starter. It will be ready to make bread tomorrow.

You are now ready to make waffles! My waffle iron is a NordicWare 15040 Cast Aluminum Stovetop Belgium Waffle Iron.  It is non-electric! It has a lot of great reviews on

What I like most about this waffle iron is that it can be used on any stovetop. Electric or non-electric. It even works great on my ceramic stovetop. Sadly, the only thing it won't do is cook over an open fire. The handles are too short and made of plastic. To cook over an open fire, I will have to get another model with longer handles made of wood.

The biggest difference between this and an electric waffle iron is the need to preheat both sides. You also need to cook the waffle on both sides, just like you would make a pancake. I normally cook longer on one side, flip it, then cook it a bit more on the other side to make the waffle a golden brown color. If you find this confusing, don't worry, directions come with the waffle iron.

Here is a picture of the finished waffles!

Perfect waffles, with a very mild, delicious, sour dough flavor!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Can You Make A Fire Without Wood?

Of course you can! Think of all the places where wood is scarce: the desert, the great plains,  the arctic (antarctic), maybe even your house. 

Even if you don't have a fireplace at your house, there may come a time when you need to build a fire. If you should ever have to go without electricity, what will you use to heat and cook your food?  If it is winter, how do you plan to stay warm? Do you have enough propane to cook with while you wait for the electricity to come back on? Let me give you an alternative solution to keeping an emergency stack of wood. This item is usually available anywhere people are located and can be easily used as a substitute fuel in place of wood.

It's newspapers! In addition to burning, newspapers have a lot of useful purposes and I will show you some of my favorite uses in another post. This post is centered around how I use the majority of my newspapers. Newspapers can easily be burned as an alternative to wood. However, to do that you must make them into logs. It is really quite easy to do. 

Start with a stack of newspapers. Take a small section and lay it out flat. To me, a small section is no more than five or six pages. If you have a section that is bigger than five or six pages, break it apart into smaller sections. Now, take another section and lay it on top of the first. But, this time place the fold on the opposite side from the first section. You want to alternate the folds in your stack of papers so one side of the log will not be bigger then the other. As an alternative, you can cut the paper at the fold and then neatly stack all the individual pieces.

In the picture below, I hope you can see that the section on top is showing its fold, while the section below has the page edge showing.

Continue stacking the newspaper this way until you have a two to three inch stack. If I have newspapers of different sizes, I usually separate them into different stacks but this really isn't necessary.

Now, take a section at a time and tightly roll it up. If you cut your newspaper and now have individual pages, roll five or six of them at a time. For the newspaper to burn like a log of wood, the paper must be rolled very tightly. Once the first section is rolled, start again with the next section and continue rolling it on the outside of the first section. Don't worry too much if the first few logs you create are not tight. You will get better as you make more.

If you have some other paper items, you can add them to the roll as well. In the photo below, I have some cereal boxes left over from a family member's visit. While you can put these boxes in the recycle bin, this is an alternative way to use the cardboard. You can also do this with junk mail (I try not to use colored, waxy or photographic paper) as well as old bills that you have paid. We file our bills for six months to one year. When we run out of room, the oldest bills go into the shredder or into a newspaper log.

Continue to roll the newspaper until the log is about four inches wide. Then tie it off with some string. Cotton string is best so it will burn with the log.

Here you can see that I have made four newspaper logs. These logs will burn for about one hour. They didn't take more than 15 minutes to make.

We have a bin in our garage that we use to store the newspaper logs. That way they are handy when we need them. 

There is one thing to remember when burning newspaper logs. They don't burn like paper. Tightly rolled logs burn just like wood. This also means that they can be difficult to 'start' on fire when you are trying to light them. You can't just put a match to one end and expect a roaring fire. You will need to use fire starters and kindling, just like real wood.

And I am sure I don't need to say it, but I will anyway. Be sure to use all necessary safely procedures around fire. Use the logs in a fireplace or if burning outside, use a fire pit. If you don't know how to make a fire pit, do an Internet search. There are lots of instructions on how to make one on the Internet.

Now, if wood is scarce where you live, what do you use for kindling? Paper! This is a perfect use for junk mail. I only use plain basic paper, no glossy stuff. Roll individual sheets of paper (and envelopes) and then give them a twist to keep them that way. Any size paper will do. Standard size paper or standard size postcards both work well. I can use between four and ten pieces of paper kindling on a five log fire at my house. I keep it next to the fire place so it is always handy when needed.

The other empty basket is for small wayward branches that fall off the trees in my neighborhood on a windy day. I collect them from my yard and store them here to use as kindling. And yes, that is a usable washboard in the background! It lives by my fireplace.

Here are the leftover pieces of glossy junk mail that will go into the shredder. They are next to my 'helper' who insisted I have her input on this project.

Whether you want a fire to keep warm or need to cook food when there isn't any electricity, consider a no cost (or low cost) alternative to wood! Newspapers!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Butter Does NOT Need Refrigeration

I recently got an email from a new reader asking me what that red jar was that seems to be in almost all the pictures I take in my kitchen. You can clearly see it in this picture.

So, I thought I would answer it here. That is my butter jar! It is a popular myth that butter must be refrigerated. It isn't at my house. If you think about it, people have been eating butter for centuries. There wasn't any electricity then. If you were lucky enough back then, you could chill your butter in a local cold spring. Most people used what I use to store butter, my butter jar. 

It is easy to use. The butter goes into the cup on the top, and water goes into the cup on the bottom. It is the water that seals the butter and keeps it fresh. You can get the idea from this picture. You can purchase these from a lot of different companies. Do a Google search on 'butter crock' and you should find plenty of sources. 

In my house, in the winter, room temperature is between 65 - 68 degrees. At this temperature, the butter will stay fresh for one month. In the summer, room temperature is about 78 degrees. At this temperature, the butter will stay fresh for two weeks. Change the water in the jar every day or every other day.

I do not use butter from the store in my butter jar. (I do purchase butter from the store when I am doing a lot of baking. For example, at Christmas time.) Butter is quite easy to make. Even better, if you use shelf stable cream, no electricity is necessary! You can see how I make butter here.

Try storing your butter on the counter and start to reduce your need for electricity!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

Do you have a sourdough starter?  If you don't, let me suggest you make one! With it, you can make bread, pancakes, waffles, muffins, biscuits, bagels, pies and even cake! The best part is you don't need yeast in your recipes when using sourdough starter.

Before people could go to the store and buy yeast, bread was made using a starter such as sourdough. Sourdough likely originated in ancient Egypt. It was used to make bread all through the middle ages, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and went west with the pioneers. What I think is the best part of using sourdough is the total control you have over the taste. You can make it extra-tangy or extra-mild.  

Long ago, I thought the only kind of sourdough that was acceptable, was sourdough started on the west coast (think San Francisco sourdough). That was before I knew that all sourdough starters take on the characteristics of the local wild yeast.  What that means in the south is, my sourdough bread will not taste like San Francisco sourdough bread since the wild yeast are different here.  Your starter will taste different where you live as well. Since you can't keep the San Francisco flavor in your sourdough starter, why pay for it? It doesn't make sense to pay a lot of money for a starter that originated somewhere else.

What to do? Start your own! My friend Chef Tess has a tutorial on her blog that gives step by step directions. She also has a great sourdough bread recipe there as well. This is how I made mine.

Start with a clean non-metallic container. Sourdough and metal don't mix so be sure to use non-metallic spoons when you are stirring as well. This is what I use. I got it as a present. It is from the King Arthur Flour Company.

To the container, I added 1 cup of water and 2 cups of whole wheat flour. I mixed that well and added 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. (Adding the yeast is not necessary, it just speeds things up a bit. If you don't add the yeast, it will take longer to get a good sourdough starter because your starter will need to collect wild yeast from the air.) I used bottle water to avoid the chlorine.

The next day, I poured out some of the starter and fed it again. This time I used 1/4 cup bottled water and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour. Stir well.

I repeated the process for four days. At the end of that time,  the starter was ready. It should be nice and bubbly and look like this.

Now the starter is ready to use in lots of yummy recipes! If you aren't ready to use your starter yet, or if you have a starter and want to take a break from using it, you can put it in the refrigerator. When in the refrigerator, you will only have to pull it out weekly to feed it. When you want to use it in a recipe again, take the starter out the day before and feed it. The next day it will be ready to use in your baking.

I have also had some success freezing the starter for up to six months. In my experience, when I let the starter go longer than six months in the freezer, I have mixed results when trying to re-activate it. If you want to take a break from sourdough for longer than six months, you can always follow these directions again to start a new batch.

I will post some of my favorite recipes soon!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Living without Electricity: Using Non-Electric Kitchen Appliances

The other day I noticed that I was out of macaroni.  Now, most of you would think, "Just go to the store and buy some more!" But I don't do that. If I need macaroni, I make my own from wheat berries. Rather than store many different kinds of pasta such as spaghetti, macaroni, ravioli, and others, it is much easier to store wheat berries as part of a food storage program and make your own. 

To make macaroni, you need semolina flour. Semolina flour is made from durum wheat berries. So first thing I needed to do was grind some durum wheat berries. To do that, I used my wheat grinder. I have a Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain/Flour Mill.  I really like it. It is strong enough for daily use yet isn't as expensive as others out there. I have had other (cheaper) ones in the past, but since I tend to use a grinder frequently, they didn't last.

 I do have a few tips for breaking in a new machine, (or new stones/burrs). When you first set up a new machine, the grinding stones and burrs may have a few sharp edges that will make the machine harder to turn. The instructions recommend that the first few cups of flour should be discarded because they may contain some bits of the stone or shavings of the steel burrs. To grind this flour yesterday, I was using new grinding stones.  I only needed to grind two cups of berries to make the macaroni. However, to break in the new stones, I had to grind a total of 4 cups. I discarded the first two cups in the trash.

The first few times you use this grinder, you will get a real workout! If you have never ground your own flour before, (and if you don't usually work out), you will notice your arms tiring. After a few times at grinding flour, it will get much easier. Here is a picture of mine.

I really do prefer using the stones (as opposed to the steel burrs) because you get a finer flour. Here is a picture of my semolina flour.

Now, to make the dough, you need to add eggs to the flour. Of course fresh eggs will work, but it wouldn't be cooking with food storage if I did that. I used egg powder. The recipe required three eggs. The equivalent of three eggs is six tablespoons of egg powder.

Egg powder has a tendency to lump up so I mixed the flour and egg powder well, breaking up any egg powder lumps as necessary. To this I added nine tablespoons of water.That is the amount of moisture equivalent in three eggs. I didn't add them all at once because you really only want the dough to be moist enough to stay together. If it is too moist, it won't go through the extractor easily to make the macaroni. However, this time I had the opposite problem. Once I added the water, I couldn't get the dough to come together. Instead of adding more water, I turned it out onto a piece of freezer paper and tried kneading it together.

I really was hesitant to add more water because it is very easy to add too much water to this dough. Caution is the word here.  Once I kneaded it a bit, it came together nicely. I then rolled it into a log to make it easier to cut. I let it rest for a few minutes while I set up the macaroni machine.

The macaroni machine I have is an Atlas Manual Pasta Extruder Regina. It is super easy to use and easy to clean as well. Here is a picture of mine.

I used the small macaroni cutter (the manufacturer calls them dies). The machine comes with five different cutters so you can make five different types of pasta. To start, cut the dough into pieces that will fit into the funnel.

Then put a piece in the machine and start cranking. 

After a few turns of the handle, the dough will peek out the front of the machine.

At this point, stop cranking and cut off the macaroni at the length you desire. From this point on, the instructions recommend one complete turn of the handle for most of the pasta. I like two turns. 

Once you have cut the pasta off the machine, crank again and cut again. I should mention here that dough doesn't normally fit well into any extractor machine. It will be necessary from time to time to push it a bit so the dough will flow smoothly.

 In a few short minutes you have macaroni!

The instructions with the machine recommend that the noodles dry for at least one hour.  I like to dry them longer, at a minimum of two hours. They are easier to work with when they are dry. I do  check on them every so often to separate them and break up any clumps that stick together. In the picture above, you can see in the upper left corner some of the pieces sticking together. If I am not going to cook them the day I make them, I will dry overnight and then vacuum seal in a canning jar for longer storage.

Last night, I used two cups worth in a food storage recipe I cook often, beef stroganoff  You can see how I make that recipe here. The rest was dried overnight and stored for later use.

The entire process was super easy! AND the best part is it didn't take any electricity!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Have you ever tried kefir? All the information I read about it says it is a super food.  For example, here is a paragraph from The National Kefir Association:

"Research shows that Kefir has a wide range of stellar health benefits. Its seven to ten probiotic cultures, combined with essential vitamins and nutrients, work to improve your body from the inside out, helping jump start your digestion, control your weight and fight the flu."

My response to this is "yeah, right!" It sounds like the claims made by 'snake oil salesmen' of yesteryear. So, while I don't really believe in these miracle claims, I do have it and drink it. I purchased mine from here but I bet if you search the Internet, you can find other suppliers.

Why do I drink it? Because in my opinion, it really is a nice yogurt substitute. It doesn't quite taste like yogurt, it has more of a sour taste. However, when mixed with other ingredients, I can't tell the difference between it and yogurt.  AND even better, it doesn't require energy of any kind to produce. You don't have to heat it up to a certain temperature or incubate it to get it to culture like you do with yogurt.  

It is super easy to make!

All the directions I have read said that It is best to start with fresh milk. You should not use ultra-pasteurized milk (like powdered milk and shelf stable milk or cream). They are supposed to starve the kefir grains. However, I have found that both shelf stable milk and shelf stable cream work just fine. While I have only used shelf stable dairy a few times, my kefir grains don't appear to be dysfunctional in any way because of it. Still, I don't think it is a good idea to slowly kill them either. So, overall it think it is best to keep the use of ultra-pasteurized dairy to a minimum. You can use ice cold milk right out of the refrigerator. From what I read, many people make it with raw milk.

Pour the milk into a non-metal container. I use a pint canning jar.

Add the kefir grains. Now, this can be a bit tricky because first you need to fish them out of the cultured milk from yesterday. It works best if you get a small strainer. Pour the kefir into the strainer over a clean bowl or container.

Stir the kefir in the strainer as you look for the kefir grains. 

The first few weeks, it took a very long time to find them. But, after a while you will be able to spot the grains quickly. I promise! It doesn't take more than a few minutes for me to find them now. Here is a picture of a kefir grain.

Continue removing all the grains from yesterday's batch. You can just drop them into the fresh milk container. Cover the container with something breathable. You want air to get in but bugs to stay out. I use a paper towel with a rubber band. Let it sit on the counter 12 - 24 hours.  I usually let mine sit for 24 hours.

Next morning you will have kefir. It looks like this when you take the cover off. You can notice some of the kefir grains at the top of the jar. 

We drink it in fruit smoothies for breakfast. Blend it with some fruit (freezed-dried fruit works really well) and a teaspoon or two of stevia and you have a great smoothie! Since the kefir is created with room temperature milk, you may want to refrigerate your smoothie or add ice to make it cold. We drink ours at room temperature.

Let me also add here it takes four to seven days before new grains will start to culture milk.  Be sure to follow the directions on the package to properly re-hydrate the kefir grains. Once up and going, the grains can be used indefinitely.

If you don't want to make kefir every day, you can place your container in the refrigerator. That will slow down and may even stop the culture.  You can also dry the grains for more long term storage, up to six months.

I believe kefir offers an exceptional substitute to yogurt or sour cream when you are baking. It is so easy and convenient to make and your homemade kefir doesn't have any emulsifiers or other unwanted ingredients like you can find in the store bought versions.

It seems to me a perfect option if you are trying to reduce your dependence on electricity. All you need is a source of fresh milk!

I may try my hand at baking with kefir. I have been collecting recipes for baked goods that look appealing. When I do, I will be sure to post the results here!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Mid-Winter Chore for the Garden

You are probably thinking it is too soon to think about the garden for next spring! Or, you may be browsing seed catalogs with no thought of going outside. Let me suggest a mid-winter chore that will help make your life easier next summer!

Go outside and turn the garden dirt over! If you live where the ground is frozen right now, wait until a mid-winter warm spell. However, if it is winter where you live and the ground isn't frozen solid, January is the time to take care of this chore. It really isn't necessary to get out the tiller, you can do it by hand.  It doesn't have to be perfect!

What this will do is bring up to the top of the soil all the bugs and bug eggs that are over-wintering six to eight inches down. They like it down there.  It is warm and their chance of surviving the winter is good.  Bringing them up to the surface of the soil before the next hard freeze will help kill them.  Exposing them to a hard freeze will wipe out the eggs of many different types of bugs!

When will you notice? Next summer. Your bug population will be significantly less if you turn over the soil now. That will help to eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the need for pesticides on your garden next summer! 

Try it!  It really works!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Coking with Food Storage: Chicken Teriyaki

Whether you are cooking over an open fire, a propane cook stove or charcoal, this food storage recipe fits right in if there isn't any power or if you don't want to use any power.
That is because it is quick, extremely easy, and only has five ingredients!  Even better, all five of those ingredients come from a can, box, or bottle!

Chicken Teriyaki
1 to 2 lbs chicken (Commercially canned or home canned. I used home canned.) 
3 cups rice (I used minute brown rice.)
1 can of peas, drained (I don't have any home canned peas right now so I used store bought.)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (Home canned stock works well here but I don't have any right now so I used store bought.)
1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce (The recipe I have calls for 1/3 cup but we like it better with 1/2 cup.)

Heat the chicken in a skillet until thoroughly hot and the pieces are starting to brown. I added some garlic powder as well.

Add the chicken stock and peas and bring to a boil.

When boiling, add the rice and stir.

Return the broth to a boil and then reduce heat and cover. When cooking over charcoal or an open fire, reduce the heat by moving the skillet away from the heat source a bit. Simmer for 5 minutes.

When the rice is done, add the teriyaki sauce and mix well.

And it's ready from start to finish in about 15 minutes time!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Make Your Own Cooking Oil Without the Need for Electricity!

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, one of my goals for last year was to eliminate the need to purchase cooking oil by growing and producing it myself. I planed to use this oil for both cooking and soapmaking. So, I enlarged my peanut bed and added more peanut seeds to the garden in anticipation of making oil when the crop was harvested. In October, I harvested a lot of peanuts! Both Virginia Jumbo (for eating) and Spanish (for the cooking oil). After the harvest, the only thing I was lacking was a way to extract the oil. Santa came to my rescue and gave me a Piteba oil press for Christmas so I could do just that!

However, the press required a bit of extra work before it was ready to use. I have been working on that for the past few weeks. The instructions with the Piteba press stated that I needed to mount it to something and then obtain a funnel before it will be ready to use.

My husband and I went to the home improvement store and got a 2" x 8" board (we had it cut down to 24" long) to mount the oil press on. The press comes with all needed hardware so you can mount it onto a table or wall. I went for the table mount. My goal was to mount it to the board and then clamp the board to the kitchen table to use it. The first thing I did was mark where the holes should be drilled.

The screws for the horizontal mount were only 1 1/2" long. So to use them, my husband had to drill larger holes in the back so we could secure them. It was either that or go get some wood screws.(The oil press came with some wood screws but they were 3" long and meant for the vertical mounting.) The holes we drilled were a bit small and I had to sand them to make the screws fit freely.

The next thing to tackle was the need for a funnel. The Piteba web site states that they don't include a funnel to keep the shipping package small and save on the cost of shipping. (The Piteba press is made in Holland and they ship them all over the world.) Knowing this, I saved one of the 2 litter soda bottles from our New Year's eve punch and cut that to make a funnel. It fit perfectly!

The Piteba oil press works with heat. The heat comes from a single flame (think tiny oil lamp) so it is still considered a cold pressed oil extractor. The instructions stated that lamp oil was needed, so I went to one of the big box stores and bought some.

Now, I was finally ready to put the press together and make oil!  First, I bolted the body of the press to the board. Here is a picture of the bolts in the press and one of underneath the board.

Then I needed to assemble the press. The instructions are somewhat lacking here - they have a lot of pictures, but the instructions were not translated well and are a bit confusing. They did reference some YouTube videos, so I went to look.  This one was the most helpful.

I assembled it just as the video instructed and here is the end result.

The next thing I had to do was chop up the nuts. The instructions said if the nuts or seeds were large it would be best to break them up into smaller pieces. I accomplished this with my wheat grinder. I have an extra set of stainless steel burrs that are used for 'wet' nuts and seeds. I set the tension for very loose because I just wanted to break up the peanuts - I didn't want the grinder to make peanut butter.

Here is the final product that went into the funnel of the oil press.

This is where I had some trouble. Most of the reviews I have read said that this oil press has a learning curve.  I must agree with this statement. You are not going to have complete success on your first try!  I had difficulty keeping the press cage cap from clogging. If I tightened the bolt, the cap would clog, when I loosen it (or removed it), I wouldn't get any oil. I fiddled with it for about 2 hours yesterday before I decided to research some more to find out what I was doing wrong.

From my research, it appears that I didn't get the flame from the oil lamp high enough and therefore the press wasn't hot enough.  I will try again in the next few weeks to finish the peanuts. (I have about 5 more cups prepared for the oil press.) Then, I think I may experiment with other nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, sunflower seeds or flax seeds.  Hopefully, by the time next year's peanut crop comes in, I will know what I am doing!

In case you are wondering, yes I did get oil! I pressed 2 1/2 cups of the chopped peanuts and this is the end result.

The picture above shows the oil running through a coffee filter. The instructions with the press state to let it sit for a few days so all the impurities can drop to the bottom and the oil will clear up. I will do that next time. However, since this was my first try at oil, I just couldn't wait. I wanted to see how it looked.  

Here is a picture of some of the oil that has drained through the coffee filter.

So overall I am pleased, I did get oil. However, I am not ready to substitute peanut oil for the canola oil in my soap recipes just yet. With a little more practice though, I anticipate my days of purchasing oil from the store will be over very soon!

AND the best part is I did it all without electricity!