Ryan’s Sorghum Sweet Potato Pie

Over the course of about three years I perfected this pie. To my taste, it’s not too sweet, nor is any flavor overpowering. The sorghum gives it an earthy sweetness, the ginger some mild bite, and the bourbon vanilla extract plays a subtle yet important supporting role for the star, the sweet potatoes.

Poor pic of a great pie

Oddly, no other sweet potato pie recipe I’ve found calls for salt. It was the last thing I added to the recipe, and it absolutely ties all the flavors together perfectly. The ginger goes great with the graham cracker crust. When making fresh whipped cream, throw in some of that bourbon vanilla extract.

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes (1.25-1.5 lbs raw)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sorghum (not molasses)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (preferably homemade with bourbon)*
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 9″ graham cracker pie crust

Bake sweet potatoes at 425* for one hour. Turn off heat and let sweet potatoes remain in oven for 40-50 minutes until tender. Preheat oven to 350*. Remove sweet potato skins and place in large mixing bowl. Add butter and mix. Add sorghum, brown sugar, cream, eggs, bourbon vanilla extract, spices and salt. Mix until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust and bake at 350* for one hour. Let cool and fall. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream.

*If you don’t have bourbon vanilla extract, add 1/4 tsp bourbon with 3/4 tsp regular vanilla extract

How To Make Fermented Honey Garlic

This was one of my first ferments. I, my uncle, and neighbor keep bees, so there’s no shortage of raw honey here.

Why make it?

First of all, it’s crazy easy. Peel garlic. Pour honey. Put in a dark place. Turn it over/swirl it around every few days. Wait.

That’s it.

Another reason is that it increases the immune-boosting and medicinal properties of honey and garlic. Fermentation partially digests food for us, making more goodies bio-available.

It also tastes good. Use if for sauces, marinades, and glazes.

Continue reading “How To Make Fermented Honey Garlic”

How To Make Fermented Mustard

When I was a boy, I hated mustard. But like many things, my taste buds improved with age 🙂 Now I take every opportunity to eat it! I use it for:

  • Sandwiches, of course (ham and bologna especially)
  • Smoked brats and Polish sausage
  • Marinating chicken (with buttermilk, garlic, honey, soy sauce, etc.)
  • Topping butter crackers to eat with summer sausage or salami
  • Topping salmon patties
  • Homemade salad dressing
  • Coating pork shoulders and ribs to help BBQ rub stick
  • GIFTS!
The finished product.

Mustard is not only tasty, but it’s good for you. So if you make your own, you can feel especially good about piling it on because it is fresh, cheap, and healthy!

Continue reading “How To Make Fermented Mustard”

Foraging Acorns For Acorn Flour

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Something everyone interested in homesteading, self-sufficiency, or just the general outdoors needs to look into is foraging. There is still time to get into acorns this year, and so to make some of the tastiest cookies you’ll eat.

Making Acorn Flour

The acorn mast is hard to predict; a great crop comes every 2-5 years. Under certain trees, the spread and number of nuts resemble a brown gravel road in a good year. I once found some white and chestnut oaks near a ridge that dropped some massive acorns and gathered about eight pounds in about that many minutes. I figured it was time to take action and see just how much work goes in to making acorn flour.

Step One: Float Test

Honeybee helped me fill a washtub with water and we dumped the acorns in and stirred. After a couple of minutes, we discarded those that floated (they are bad). We stirred some more to knock any dirt off the good acorns.

Step Two: Drying

We then placed the acorns on towels and laid them where they’d get the most sun on those unseasonably warm, early-October days. Drying the acorns separates the nutmeat from the shell somewhat, making for easier cracking and shelling. I let them go for 2-3 days. They could have dried longer, but I was afraid they might go rancid.

Step Three: Cracking and Shelling

I found the best way for me to get the nutmeat was with a nutcracker and knife, sitting at the kitchen table listening to audiobooks. As I removed the nutmeat (you’ll still have some acorns with grubs in them FYI), I placed it in water to keep oxidation to a minimum. I then coarsely ground the nutmeat in our NutriBullet.

Step Four: Leaching

I chose the cold-leaching method so that the product would stick together during cooking (and it seems to be the easiest method). I placed the coarsely ground acorns in an old gallon jar filled with water and stuck it in the fridge. I changed the water several times a day. This process removes the tannins, which taste bitter. When there was basically no taste whatsoever, I knew it was time to move to the next step.

Step Five: Drying and Fine-Grinding

For the first batch, I spread the damp, coarsely-ground acorns on a baking sheet and placed them in our $17,000 dehydrator. Remember that unseasonably warm and sunny weather? That allowed me to dry the acorns in our Honda Civic. I left a couple of windows lowered slightly to allow moisture to escape and for air circulation. I finished that batch off that evening after the sun went down in our oven on its lowest setting. For the second batch I made, I used my parents’ Nesco dehydrator.

After drying, I placed the coarse acorn flour in our coffee grinder (hand-crank BTW) and went to cranking. It took a while–it was a workout–but it was worth it. What I produced was a beautiful, light-brown flour that I made chocolate chip cookies with. They were spectacular! Perhaps the healthiest cookies I ever ate.

Overall Thoughts on Acorn Flour

I won’t get into the details of the process or the history of acorns, or the healthfulness of avoiding grain flour, but I will say that acorn flour is gluten-free and that if I had to, I could produce flour for my family. It’s not hard, but it is time-consuming.

Starches are referred to as the “forager’s dilemma” since they’re hard to find and harvest in any significant quantities, but we can at least rely on a good nut mast every few years if that were our only option. In the meantime, I’ll still buy White Lily and King Arthur.

Fermentation 101

Making sauerkraut.

Books upon books have been written about fermentation. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive post on the subject; this is a basic overview of fermentation and the science/art (scart?) of fermenting.

I hope to lure you into the wonderful world of friendly bacteria and yeasts; let’s put these little microscopic critters to work!

Continue reading “Fermentation 101”