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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wild Edibles: How to Make Elderberry Jelly

Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!
Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.
With the summer coming to a close here in New England, one of my favorite wild edibles that I seek out in the late Summer and early Fall is the Common Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). In this article I’ll be showing you how to properly identify the Common Elderberry, where to find it, and how to process it into a delicious jelly.

How to Identify Common Elderberry

Here are the main things you’ll want to look out for in order to properly identify the Common Elderberry:
Compound leaves: Common Elderberry leaves grow opposite each other and are divided into 5-11 coarsely toothed, elliptical, pointed leaflets (each around 3-4 inches long).
Corky bumpy branches: Besides the bumpy “pimples” on the branches, if you crack open the branches or the twigs you’ll find a spongy, white pith.
Late spring/Early summer — white, lacy flower clusters: The flower clusters spread over 6 inches across and are flat-topped to slightly rounded.
Late summer/Early fall — purple-black to black berry clusters: Similar to the flowers they grow in clusters. Each juicy berry is about the size of an airsoft BB (1/4″ across) and the clusters are large and heavy enough to weigh down the branches causing them to droop. A note of caution: Stay away from the red elderberries (a different species of elderberry), these are toxic and will make you sick

Where to Find Common Elderberry

Common Elderberry can be found growing in large thicks stands. They seem to prefer moist places with a good amount of sunlight. You’ll want to look for it along roadsides and riverbanks, in marshes and in moist woods, and thickets in the eastern part of North America.
Here’s the range map indicating where Common Elderberry has officially been found:

How to Make Elderberry Jam

This recipe will make 3 pints (6 cups) of Elderberry jelly.

What You’ll Need

  • pectin
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 6 cups of elderberries

How to Make Elderberry Jelly

Step 1: Remove the elderberries from the clusters with a fork doing your best to make sure not to include any of stems or other plant materials. Wash these in cold water.
Step 2: With the heat set to medium/medium-high cook the elderberries in a pot crushing the berries with a potato masher until the natural juices are released. I’ll sometimes add a little water to this recipe (1 cup of water for every 6 cups of berries). Bring to a boil allowing it to cook for around 15 minutes.
Step 3: Pour cooked berries and juice In a colander lined with a cloth (t-shirt, multiple cheese cloths etc) allowing the juice to collect into a bowl. Since this will be very hot, let it sit for an hour to drain through and cool off.
Step 4: Once it has cooled off, begin squeezing any left-over juices through the cloth filter.
Step 5: Pour elderberry juice in a cooking pot, add sugar and pectin (for the proper amount of pectin, see instructions indicated on your packet) and bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Let it boil only about 1 minute.
Step 6: At this point it’s a good idea to test a small amount of the liquid to ensure that it’s setting properly (thickening into jelly). To do this, take a spoonful of the liquid and pour it into a bowl or a small plate and place it in the freezer. After a few minutes, if there is enough pectin, the liquid will have jelled up into the consistency you desire. If not, add some more and bring to a quick boil and test again. If all is well, pour the liquid into canning jars and process those canning jars in a hot-water bath or as desired in order to make an airtight seal. Properly sealed jars of elderberry jelly will store for at least a year without issue. You’ll want to finish open jars within 2 weeks since there are no preservatives.

Elderberry Nutrition Information

Elderberries are very nutritious. They are particularly known for their immune boosting capabilities and can be made into an effective cold medicine (more on that in a future article). Here is a comparison chart with other fruits:

Related posts:

  1. Wild Edibles: The Daylily
  2. How to Make Survival (Sumac) Lemonade
  3. The Fantastic Four – 4 Essential Wild Edible Plants that May Just Save Your Life

How Long Will the Food Last? Now let's do a little math.

Example of an American grocery store aisle.Image via Wikipedia
How Long Will the Food Last?
Now let's do a little math.

1. Let's assume that a prepared family has a three-month emergency food supply.
2. Let's also assume that for each prepared family there are 99 other families with one-week or less of food in their homes.
3. If all the food of the one prepared family is distributed equally to all the other 99 families, then each of the other 99 families will receive an additional one-day's worth of food.
4. Therefore, after about one-week all 100 families will begin to starve to death.
5. After about three more weeks, or a total of four-weeks, all 100 families will have died of starvation (if you do not consider cannibalism).

Don't like the above math? Well let's change the numbers and be more optimistic as follows:

1. Let's assume that a prepared family has a one-year emergency food supply.
2. Let's also assume that for each prepared family there are only 49 other families with one-week or less of food in their homes.
3. If the food is distributed equally (due to voluntary charity, or requisition, or confiscation, or theft) then each of the 49 other families will receive an additional one-week's worth or food.
4. Therefore, after about two-weeks all 50 families will begin to starve to death.
5. After about three more weeks, or a total of five-weeks, all 50 families will have died of starvation.

Still don't like the above math? Well let's change the numbers and include all the food stored in every local grocery store and every local food warehouse. Current estimates are that each geographical area has about three-days worth of food within its geographical boundaries. That means there is enough stored food to feed everyone in each geographical area for approximately three-days. If the food distribution network comes to a standstill, then there will be no more food. On your own, please add three-days of food for every family to both of the two above math examples and see what the revised answer is with all the stored food added into the original equation. (Note: Some people may not believe the math in this example because they look at all the food in a big grocery store and they know that if they had all that food then their family could survive for several years. What these people don't realize is that they are not the only family that depends on that grocery store. There are usually thousands of families shopping at that store every week, and the food supplies in that store would not feed thousands of families for very long. The truth is that the food would only last about three-days if every family got an equal share of that food. This is the reason the bullies will attempt to take control of the food. The bullies do not want to share that food with anyone because then the bullies would also starve to death in a very short period of time. Therefore, to make sure that they live as long as possible, the bullies will keep the vast majority of the food for themselves and for the individuals who help them to defend the food once they have it under their control.)

Still don't like the above math? Then let's include all the stored food in the entire world. According to a variety of different estimates there is about a three-month world wide food supply if the food was shared equally with everyone in the world. Even if you assume that each government allows half of its citizens to starve to death, there would still only be a six-month food supply for the remaining one-half of each country's citizens.

The above math is the reason that bullies will attempt to confiscate, requisition, or steal all the food within a geographical area. And once they have the food in their possession they will not be distributing it for free to anyone for any reason, even though they solemnly promised to do so before they got control of the food. The bullies aren't stupid and they completely understand the above math but they have no intention of sharing this basic knowledge with you because then you wouldn't voluntarily go along with their plans.

Therefore, if you are one of those individuals who has decided not to prepare because you expect your charitable neighbors to feed you, or you expect the local bullies to feed you, then the chances are very high that you will starve to death during a worst case breakdown in society.

If the bullies succeed in gaining control of all the food in a geographical area then nobody is going to take any of that food away from them except through the use of deadly force, or if a person agrees to become a willing slave and do whatever the bullies command. Unfortunately, the bullies will not need too many slaves so please don't expect to get one of these highly sought after and very desirable "starvation wages only" slave positions.

The bullies will also realize that their days are numbered unless they can somehow grow more food. Therefore, almost everyone (except for a few doctors and repairmen) who hasn't starved to death and who can still do a day's work will be put to work by the bullies in one way or another in growing food. The wages will be one day of food for one day of work. If you don't work, you don't eat. If you don't like the job assigned to you then there are 10 other people who do want your job. If you try to steal some of the food you are growing then you will receive the death penalty. If you try to work outside the established bully system to grow your own food then you will become an easy target for anyone and everyone who wants your food and the bullies will not do anything to protect you. And you won't be able to protect yourself because the bullies now have all your firearms, and anyone using a firearm will be reported to the bullies for not complying with their original demand to surrender all weapons and ammunition.


Cooking with cast iron

Cast iron panImage via Wikipedia
Cast iron can cover just about everything that you need it to in the kitchen. There are a few things that are better suited for other utensils but that's why you have a few big, stainless steel pots under your counter as well as a bunch of cast iron.
So what do you want to avoid cooking with your cast iron? If it needs to be boiled then grab a stainless or aluminum stock pot. You can probably get away with boiling in a well seasoned cast iron pot but boiling is a good way to get the seasoning to break up and get nasty. You have better options when you want to boil something.
If it calls for vinegar or wine then you should use something else. Vinegar breaks up that cast iron seasoning very efficiently. Especially when you cook with it. So does wine. You might be able to get away with it every once in a while but with regular use you'll start to see chunks of black in your food and bare metal in the bottom of your cast iron pan.
So what can you use it for? Everything else, really. If the recipe calls for oil then it's probably OK. The oil will reinforce the seasoning and ensure that nothing that you're cooking sticks to it too badly. The same goes for any kind of butter or fat. Anything that needs to be fried, grilled or roasted can be cooked perfectly in cast iron.
You can also bake in cast iron cookware. Obviously, tossing them in an oven is the easiest way to ensure a reliable, consistent temperature but you can also bake with them on a stove or over a campfire if you know what you're doing. That's why they call them "dutch ovens". It takes a little bit of finesse to bake in a dutch oven over a campfire but it's not exactly rocket science. Try it a few times and you'll be amazed at the results.
The properties of cast iron are what make it so good to cook with. It's porous so it absorbs fat and that fat is then cooked and carbonized on the surface. At normal cooking temperatures this carbonization holds up very well and is almost as effectively non stick as teflon only much healthier. Cast iron is also extremely thick and heavy so it retains heat very well. Once you get it hot it will stay hot for a while. Quite often I just heat my pan up then turn off the stove and cook whatever it is that I want to cook. Another good characteristic of it is that it's extremely durable and can last virtually forever. If you maintain it you'll be passing it on to your grandchildren's grandchildren. If you know how to season it, maintain it and you use it to cook what it's meant to cook then you'll probably find yourself using it a lot.

Letter Re: A Recommended Vehicular G.O.O.D. Kit Packing List

I developed the following vehicular bug out bag (BOB) or "Get Out of Dodge" (G.O.O.D.) kit packing list.
[JWR Adds: There is no "one size fits all" for G.O.O.D. lists. Your own list should be tailored for your personal circumstances. Your age, climate, local terrain, local hydrology, population density, physical fitness, and many other factors will necessitate changes to the following list. There are also vast differences between "what you can carry in your car" versus "what you can carry on your back" lists.]

Food & Water:
  • ­­3 – 10 days of lightweight food
_____ MRE (1 = 1 meal, 3/day)
_____ Emergency food bars (1 = 1 2400 cal bar, 1/day)
_____ Freeze-dried camping food (1 = 1meal, 3/day)
                        _____ Total (meals; days)
  • 2 days of water
_____ Water packets (1 = 1 4oz)
_____ Water bottles (1 = 1 Liter)
_____ Water gallon jug (1 = 3.3 Liter)
_____ Total (Liters)
  • Water Purification Means
_____ Military tablets (1 tab = 1L)
_____ Water filter (inc. # of L poss.)
_____ Iodine (inc. # of L poss.)
_____ Total (L poss.)
  • Food prep equipment
_____ Stove
_____ Stove Fuel
_____ 1 quart pot
_____ Fry pan
_____ Stainless steel mess kit
_____ Utensils
_____ Basic spices
_____ Bottle of bleach
  • Water and food storage
_____ Aluminum water bottle
_____ Clear hard plastic water bottle
_____ Collapsible water jug
_____ Canteen
_____ Canteen sleeve
  • Shelter & Sleeping
_____ Tent
_____ Emergency tent
_____ Emergency blanket
_____ Tarp
_____ Sleeping bag/blankets
_____ Sleeping pad/bed roll
_____ 20 small nails
_____ 100 ft. paracord (550 cord)
_____ Garbage bags
  • Clothing
_____ Underwear (4 pair)
_____ Socks, cotton/wool (2 pair)
_____ Socks, hiking (2 pair)
_____ T-shirt (2 cotton)
_____ T-shirt (2 synthetic)
_____ Long sleeve shirt (2)
_____ Fleece/wool sweater
_____ Water resistant jacket
_____ Jeans
_____ Shorts
_____ Pants
_____ Thermal underwear (1 set)
_____ Beanie
_____ Hat/cap
_____ Sneakers
_____ Hiking boots
_____ Water shoes
_____ Poncho (army)
_____ Bandana (> 3)
  • Tools
_____ Leatherman multi tool
_____ Folding knife (3-4 in)
_____ Fixed blade (4-6 in)
_____ Hatchet/camp ax
_____ Machete
_____ Leather gloves
_____ Compass
_____ LED Flashlight
_____ Crank flashlight
_____ Light sticks (4)
_____ Solar/crank multi-band radio
_____ Whistle
_____ Matches, waterproof/strike anywhere (50)
_____ Disposable lighter (3)
_____ Magnesium fire block
_____ Binoculars
_____ Entrenching tool
_____ Fishing line (50 ft)
_____ Fishing hooks (3-5)
_____ Fishing line sinkers (2)
_____ Duct tape (2)
_____ WD-40
_____ Super glue
_____ Sunglasses (2)
_____ Waterproof watch
_____ Candles, long lasting (2)
_____ Manual can opener
  • First Aid & Medical
_____ First aid kit
_____ Blister cream
_____ N95 Masks (2)
_____ Exam gloves (4 pair)
_____ Ace bandages
_____ Gauze
_____ Spare contacts, glasses
_____ Prescription medications
_____ Lip balm (2)
_____ Petroleum Jelly (1 jar)
_____ Sunscreen
_____ Warmers, hand/feet (2)
_____ Coolers, hand/feet (2)
_____ Ibuprofen (50 pills)
_____ Aleve (50 pills)
_____ Benadryl (20 pills)
_____ EpiPen
  • Personal Hygiene
_____ Comb/brush
_____ Toothbrush
_____ Toothpaste
_____ Floss
_____ Nail clippers
_____ Soap (solid or liquid)
_____ Washcloth
_____ Hand towel
_____ Bath towel
_____ 1-3 oz shampoo
_____ Antibacterial wash
_____ Disposable razor
_____ Sample size shaving cream
_____ Toilet paper
_____ Feminine products

  • Miscellaneous
_____ Signal mirror
_____ Carabiner, climbing (2)
_____ Carabiner, non climbing (4)
_____ Deck of cards (2)
_____ Roll of quarters
_____ Cash (>$200)
_____ Waterproof box/bag
_____ Passport/ID
_____ Local city map
_____ State map
_____ Topography map
_____ Regional map
_____ Map with Bug Out routes highlighted
_____ Paper
_____ Pen/pencil (2)
_____ Permanent marker (2)
_____ 2 way radio (1 pair)
    • Copies of important papers:
_____ Insurance
_____ Birth certificate
_____ Passport
_____ State/local ID
_____ House/land deed
_____ USB device loaded with document copies (encrypted)
_____ BOB bag(s)
Notes: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  • Recommended
    • Firearms
_____ Pump action shotgun
_____ Sling
_____ Waterproof case (optional)
_____ 00 buck shell (75)
_____ Birdshot shell (25)
_____ Battle Rifle .308 or .223
_____ Sling
_____ Scope, red dot sight (4X)
_____ Magazine, spare (4)
_____ Ammo (JHP/FMJ, 300 rounds)
_____ Gun cleaning kit
_____ Magazine pouch
_____.22 LR Rifle
_____ Sling
_____ Magazine, spare (4)
_____ Ammo (300 rounds)
_____ Pistol, semi-automatic, .45 ACP or 9mm
_____ Holster
_____ Magazine, spare (2)
_____ Ammo (75 rounds)

_____ Shooting goggles
_____ Night vision device
_____ Body armor/load bearing vest
_____ Ballistic helmet
_____ Waterproof GPS
_____ Portable solar panel charger
_____ Rechargeable batteries (AA, 4, AAA, 2)

Audio Podcast: Episode-506- Why We Prep – The Real Reasons

I am always asked why we bother prepping or why should people become “survivalists” or some other variation of this question when I am interviewed by the press.  In most instances I give what I consider a “soft answer” the answer is factual and helps people understand, more importantly it fits in the brief segment [...]