Chicken-Ginger Soup

So yummy and choked full of good cool weather goodness.  My sister-in-law (SIL) introduced us to this soup and it was an immediate hit – even with Ronnie, who is not a ginger fan.

When SIL cooks, it is usually without measurements, so this recipe is a suggestion that allows you to embellish as you wish.

  • cooked chicken chunks
  • chicken bouillon/broth
  • grated fresh ginger root
  • celery
  • carrots
  • mushrooms
  • green unions
  • sesame oil
  • dashes (or more, if you like) nutmeg, curry, and allspice
  • soy sauce/Braggs Amino Acids
  • Texas Pete

I usually cut up the chicken into chunks and brown in the soup pot with the sesame oil.  Once browned, add the chicken broth, ginger, celery, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, and spices.  Once veggies and chicken are cooked through, serve it up hot. The soy sauce or, in our case, the Braggs is added when serving; DO NOT ADD salt until AFTER this step or your soup will be too salty (do not ask me how I know this). We let those that want the hot sauce, add it to their individual bowls.

Today, I had to make the following substitutions: celeriac for celery and egyptian walking onion greens for green onions.  We’ve also used hen in the woods mushrooms instead of the traditional button mushrooms.

The great thing about this recipe is that it is most forgiving and mutable – use what you have.  Enjoy!

We have a floater!

I had this morning off and hoped to finish the lye water boil down.  A few hours later, including cool down, the potato floats!  The mixture did need to be transferd to a bowl with a deep enough bottom to see if it would float.  Since lye water is made from passing water through ashes, the resulting lye water is tea colored therefore, soap made from this will not be a pretty white color; I’m thinking more coffee brown?  Cocoa?

I have not yet measured how much lye water the 5 gallons made, and will post that when I measure out for the soap.  Five gallons is quite a bit to boil down into what appears to be about a quart – more than enough to make a few batches of soap.

Along these lines, not having an extra funnel in which to dedicate to lye making, I free poured the remaining mixture from the pot into the plastic storage container and from this bowl into the same storage container; some of the lye dropped onto the pavement.  I am not worried about the lye eating at the pavement however, I was concerned about an animal, or Luna, getting some of the mix on their feet or in their stomachs.  This is where the vinegar comes in.

Because lye is a caustic though weak alkaline, one neutralizes an alkaline with an acid. Vinegar is a weak acid that neutralizes a weak alkaline.  My vinegar spray bottle went outside with me and the pavement received a good spritzing down.  Then I used water to ‘push’ this puddle into the ground along the side of the drive.  If/when lye comes into contact with your skin, vinegar is not the instant cure.  From what I’ve read, vinegar or dish washing soap, will still create an exothermic reaction (burn) yet will quickly lower the pH of the lye and thus halt the burning process.  It will still hurt like Hades.  I have not yet experienced this.

Sadly, this little blurb needs to be present:

The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I am not a medical practitioner. I do not say or imply it is safe for YOU to use vinegar on your lye burns. Use your best judgment when handling lye and seek medical attention immediately if the burn cannot be contained or if lye gets into your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Next step … soap!


Making lye water

wood ashes

In my mind, being self sufficient includes being able to make soap; not saying that we will never buy another bar made by someone else, just saying I want to know how… from scratch.  This soap will be made from we already have on the homestead; wood ash (lye water) and lard.

Buying lye is the quick way, if your local hardware store carries it; ours does not (strange, eh?). The hardware store is ordering lye for me, leaving time to start the process of making lye water.

 !! caution !!

Before starting this adventure, there are a few rules:  Always, always wear gloves and protective eye wear when fooling with lye and/or lye water.  This stuff is caustic and will cause you much grief if it gets onto your skin/face, etc.  Be kind to your future self; WEAR GLOVES, PROTECT YOUR EYES, and keep some vinegar in a spray bottle to neutralize anywhere you did not protect.  Keep your kids, dogs, unprotected friends/neighbors out of the way when working with this stuff.  Do not get distracted, pay attention to what is going on and what you are doing. 

Ok, on to the advanture. . . In the past, the ability to make a hard bar of soap was an accomplishment and the grounds for boasting; soft soap was viewed as a failure and not shared.  The type of wood ash used to make lye water determines the hardness, or not, of the soap. We burn mostly hard wood in the wood cook stove, while the outside wood furnace gets everything else.  That being said, I expect the soap made with this lye water will be middle of the road. There are a slew of DIY tutorials on how to make lye water, with differing opinions on whether to/or not use cast iron, how to set up your leaching buckets, etc.  My method is a blend of these sources:

  1. Take two 5 gal buckets (in retrospect, I only needed one), install a spicot in each.
  2. Layer straw and wood ash, beginning with straw on the bottom then a layer of ash, layer of straw, etc. until you are within about two inches from the top of the bucket.  Some DIYs have your first layer of stone, then straw, then to the top with wood ash.
  3. Pour rainwater (or distilled) over the top, drain out of the bottom, pour back over the top, rinse and repeat until the water resembles the color of tea.
  4. Boil down in a cast iron (cleans the pot) or stainless steel pot (NO ALUMINUM), outside or in a well ventilated area.  You know you have the correct ratio of lye to water when a potato floats in the cooled water.  A quarter sized part of the potato should be above the surface.

So far, after a few hours of boiling (one really does not need two 5 gallon buckets of lye water), my potato does not float.  This project (the boil down) is now on hold until my next day off  and the weather permits; temps in the teens and snow are in the forecast.  The lye ordered by the hardware store will be in today or tomorrow and I may make soap with that while waiting to continue the lye water boil down – this skill will be mastered, even if it takes a few days to finish.

Have you made lye water to use in soap making?  If so, what did you do?

How to make apple cider vinegar



My new passion is fermentation and all the goodness we can create with just a little time.  Our little apple tree has produced several bushels of organic apples (no spraying here!) and this year while processing these golden green orbs into applesauce, I realized that the peel/core palooza could be made into apple cider vinegar.  There are several sites that share variations of the same apple cider recipe and I liked this one best.

Basically, throw the apple leftovers into a  jar, the wider the mouth the better, add enough sugar/water to cover the peels (1/4 c sugar for every 1 quart of water), cover with a clean, breathable cloth, and leave at room temperature for a week to ferment.  I used a plate and weight, like what is done for sauerkraut, just to help keep all the leavings under water.

After a week, taste (should be appley sweet) and assuming this is the case (appley sweet) remove the peels/cores, and allow the liquid to ferment for another 2-3 weeks (stirring occasionally) until the vinegar taste is to your liking.  You may now transfer to clean containers for use.  Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

We use this for salads though it is important to note that if you are going to make pickles with your vinegar, you’ll need to get some litmus paper and make sure that it is at 5% acidity.  Linda Ziedrich wrote a great article about how you could still use 4.3% acidity (as found in rice vinegar) and be safe to make pickles and such.  Litmus paper can be ordered from Amazon, swimming pool supply stores, & health food stores to name a few.

Canning Ketchup

2016 was my first year making ketchup.  I know everyone has their favorite recipe and not having made any before, I ran with this recipe from BHG special interest series; it is simple yet uber tasty.


  • 8 lbs of tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2″ stick cinnamon, broken
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp salt

Just wash, core and quarter tomatoes.  In a large pot, combine tomatoes, onion, and cayenne pepper; bring to a boil (stir often). Reduce heat, simmer (covered) for 15 minutes.

Press tomato mixture through a food mill, discarding seeds and skins.  Return mixture to the same pot and add sugar.  Reduce mixture by half, stirring occasionally.

Once halved, in a separate pan, combine vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, and celery seeds; bring to boiling and remove from heat.  Strain vinegar mixture and discard spices.  Add to tomatoes along with the salt and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is the desired consistency.  Do not forget to stir!

Now you are ready to can this tastiness; ladle hot ketchup into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims, adjust lids.

Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.


This recipe is da bomb though my new favorite is tomato chutney; oh my!  I’ll share that recipe in another post.