Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Tag: food (Page 2 of 2)

Cooking With The Sun

In the previous post, I ordered a Global Sun Oven with Dehydrating and Preparedness Package. Today, we cooked our first full meal with it. We had previously cooked some beans that we had just picked from the garden, and they turned out very well. Once Laura was confident that it would work, she prepared a full dinner using the Sun Oven. Tonight’s supper was meat loaf and a rice dish – cooked by the sun.

The rice dish was cooked in the pot that was part of the package, and the meat loaf was cooked in a loaf pan that we already had but was identical to those provided as part of the package. Both worked just fine. We started cooking at 3:30 and took them out of the oven at 5:00. With this being our first real meal with the Sun Oven, I can’t say that the results were better or worse than using a conventional oven. What I can say is that it works. Plain and simple – it works.

One thing we noticed is that the food is not as hot as food just removed from a conventional oven. That’s pretty obvious, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind until we sat down to eat. The lesson in that is that you need to be ready to eat as soon as you remove the food from the oven. If you normally wait for the food to cool down a bit, you’ll want to plan things a bit differently.

Meat loaf and rice dishes cooking in the Sun Oven

Removing the fully cooked food from the Sun Oven

Supper cooked by the Sun

One more little detail to mention. The instructions tell you to cook a pot of vinegar and then use it to wipe down the inside of the Sun Oven before using it. What I didn’t know is that vinegar is quite an effective herbicide. The patch of dead grass at the top of the first photo is what happens when you clean it over grass and then just dump it out. When you dump your used vinegar from cleaning, dump it on some weeds – not on your grass.

Cooking With The Sun – On Order

I have been interested in solar ovens for quite a while. After wanting to build one and realizing that I’m never going to find the time to build a really sturdy solar oven, I decided to go ahead and buy one. I had been reading about the Sun Oven brand for a while and decided that, for what I wanted, that was what I would order. The reviews gave it high ratings for what was important to me – high quality, long lasting, rugged construction, and efficient operation. What prompted me to “pull the trigger” was the group buy program that the company recently started; that results in a discount of $117.30. The discount applies to their “Sun Oven with Dehydrating and Preparedness Package”. Here is the link to that package.

I applied to the program using the Southern Agrarian as the organization name, and received their discount code. In the “Coupon Code” field, enter SOUTFL and click the “update” button. The discount will appear as shown. This code is good through June 15, 2012. Here is how the order looks when the discount code is applied:

Please feel free to use the Discount Code for Southern Agrarian if you’d like to get one for yourself. There are plenty of reviews on line, so look them over before deciding. As soon as I receive mine (it was shipped today) and use it some, I’ll post a review here.

The Sun Oven web site has some good videos and other information about the product and how it is used. You’ll find more good information by doing a search of “Sun Oven” or “solar ovens” or “solar cooking”.

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids – Revised Instructions

Tattler reusable canning lids have become a popular item with home canners, so we’re using this post to help spread the word about a change in the instructions. There are plenty of reviews on line about these, so I won’t try to duplicate that here. One thing that I have noticed about many of the reviews that I read was the strong emphasis on following the instructions very carefully. The basic steps are close enough to the way that metal lids are used that it is tempting for experienced canners to just charge ahead without carefully reading and following the instructions. Not a good idea. Canning food is not the time to get careless about following instructions.

Tattler sent an email out today to all of their customers. They are announcing a change in the instructions. Here is what they sent:

Dear Tattler Reusable Canning Lids Customer,

We are e-mailing past customers to inform you of slight changes we made to our instructions in late 2011. We found that many customers were over-tightening the metal screw band prior to processing, which can cause excessive pressure to become trapped in the jar, thus causing potential problems with the seal.

Please refer to the set of new instructions below our company contact information at the bottom of this page, paying particular attention to Step #5 (the only major change we made) and #7 when canning with your reusable canning lids.

Please also note that we have had a price change to include the cost of shipping. If you would like a new brochure with updated pricing please contact us.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at:
877-747-2793 (TOLL FREE)
Thank you and happy canning!!!

Here are two PDF files that have the latest instructions from Tattler:

TATTLER Brochure 2012
TATTLER Instructions Card

Making Vanilla Extract

Self-reliance. Making things for yourself rather than buying them – or at least knowing how – is central to agrarianism. That doesn’t mean that do-it-yourself is always better than buying something from someone who can do it better and more efficiently than you can, but at least knowing how to do something gives a great feeling of satisfaction and self-confidence.

We decided that we wanted to make our own vanilla extract. We were looking for something fairly unique that we could give away as gifts, and all-natural vanilla extract was a good fit for us. Here is how we did it:

We used quart jars, so the vanilla beans are weighed for the amount to be added to 4 cups of 40% alcohol. A recommended amount is one ounce per cup, but we added just a bit more than that.

The beans are sliced lengthwise using a sharp knife.

After slicing, the inside of beans are scraped with a dull knife. The black material that is scraped from the inside is called "vanilla caviar".

Use kitchen scissors to cut the bean husks into short sections.

Vanilla beans with the caviar scraped out and the husks cut into short sections.

Add the husks and the caviar to a clean jar.

Jar with vanilla, ready to have 40% alcohol added.

Fill the jar with 40% alcohol. Vodka is the most commonly used form. My understanding is that the more times it has been distilled, the better.

After pouring, screw the lid on tight and shake it well. Put it away in a cool dark place - it needs to be kept away from light.

The jar should be shaken well once each day for at least the first week (more is better, but too much is just a waste of time). After the first couple of weeks, you can cut the shaking down to once or twice a week. After a couple of months, you can start using the vanilla extract, but letting it age for at least six months will give you better results.

When your vanilla extract has aged and you’re ready to give it away and use it in your own kitchen, pour it through a coffee filter in a funnel, then into brown bottles (the bottles and caps should be sterilized before use).  We will be using 4 ounce “Boston Round” bottles that we bought on in a case of 12. Remember, this is a hand-made gift. That calls for a nice label to go on the bottle.

  • Vanilla beans can be ordered through
  • For more information on vanilla beans, go to

Fried Okra

One of the very few things that will grow even during the hottest part of the summer is okra. It not only grows, it thrives. Once it starts producing, picking okra is literally a daily task. Okra must be picked before it gets too big. Large okra pods quickly toughen up into a woody texture. The trick is to pick them when they’re about the length of your longest finger – at least that’s how I do it.

Okra can be prepared in a number of ways, but unless you’re part of a very small percentage of people who enjoy a slimy texture, the key is to get rid of the “slime” that okra is well known for. My two favorite ways are fried and in a gumbo with tomatoes. The acid in the tomato cuts the “slime”, and frying also eliminates it. We’ll talk about okra gumbo another time. This post is about fried okra.

Fried okra is almost like eating popcorn or potato chips – you can just keep on eating them until you’re full. One tip that I learned is that, after cutting it up, you want to let it soak for a couple of hours in milk with an egg mixed in. That lets it work its way down through the slices.


Okra pods, sliced and soaking in milk and egg.

In the batter

With the milk and egg serving as a glue, build up a good heavy layer of batter.

Deep fry in oil until the batter turns a golden brown.

At the bottom, fried okra. At the top, eggplant cooked the same way.

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