When I post pictures of my jar-filled freezer on social media, I get lots of questions about it, usually along the following lines:
Is it safe to freeze food in glass? (Yes)
Do you use special glass for the freezer? (No)
Don’t your glass containers break? (Only that one time…)
I have had little trouble freezing food in glass. I do however take a couple of precautions:
Always leave headspace when freezing liquids. I prefer wide-mouth jars for freezing or at least jars without shoulders (i.e., straight sides all the way up to the top). I have broken only one glass container in the freezer—it’s one of those things you do only once. I filled a narrow-neck milk bottle with liquid (likely broth, I forget exactly). Even though I had left head space, when the liquid froze, it expanded and snapped the narrow neck cleanly off the (very nice) bottle. Oops.
Occasionally I’ll use pyrex round or rectangular containers with plastic lids, which I bought before I went plastic-free. I don’t use these very often in the freezer because I like to keep the glass portion of them free for roasting food.
Don’t overstuff your freezer with jars stacked all over the place willy-nilly. When you open your freezer door, jars might fall out onto the floor and break.
While coconut oil has dragged itself out of the muck of vast misrepresentation over the past few years, it still rarely gets the appreciation it truly deserves. Not just a “good” saturated fat, coconut oil is an exceptional healing agent as well, with loads of useful health applications.
Some examples of “good” saturated fat include
Fat-burning: Ironic, isn’t it? A saturated fat which can accelerate the loss of midsection fat (the most dangerous kind). Well, there are now two solid, human studies showing just two tablespoons a day (30 ml), in both men and women, is capable of reducing belly fat within 1-3 months.
Brain-Boosting: A now famous study, published in 2006 in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, showed that the administration of medium chain triglycerides (most plentifully found in coconut oil) in 20 subjects with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, resulted in significant increases in ketone bodies (within only 90 minutes after treatment) associated with measurable cognitive improvement in those with less severe cognitive dysfunction.[i]
Clearing Head Lice: When combined with anise spray, coconut oil was found to be superior to the insecticide permethrin (.43%).[ii]
Healing Wounds: Coconut has been used for wound healing since time immemorial. Three of the identified mechanisms behind these healing effects are its ability to accelerate re-epithelialization, improve antioxidant enzyme activity, and stimulate higher collagen cross-linking within the tissue being repaired.[iii] Coconut oil has even been shown to work synergistically with traditional treatments, such as silver sulphadizine, to speed burn wound recovery.[iv]
NSAID Alternative: Coconut oil has been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic and fever-reducing properties.[v]
Anti-Ulcer Activity: Interestingly, coconut milk (which includes coconut oil components), has been shown to be as effective as the conventional drug sucralfate as an NSAID-associated anti-ulcer agent.[vi]
Anti-Fungal: In 2004, 52 isolates of Candida species were exposed to coconut oil. The most notorious form, Candida albicans, was found to have the highest susceptibility. Researchers remarked: “Coconut oil should be used in the treatment of fungal infections in view of emerging drug-resistant Candida species.”[vii]
Testosterone-Booster: Coconut oil was found to reduce oxidative stress in the testes of rats, resulting in significantly higher levels of testosterone.[viii]
Reducing Swollen Prostate: Coconut oil has been found to reduce testosterone-induced benign prostate growth in rats.[ix]
Improving Blood Lipids: Coconut oil consistently improves the LDL:HDL ratio in the blood of those who consume it. Given this effect, coconut oil can nolonger be dismissed for being ‘that saturated fat which clogs the arteries.’
Fat-Soluble Nutrient Absorption: Coconut oil was recently found to be superior to safflower oil in enhancing tomato carotenoid absorption.[x]
Bone Health: Coconut oil has been shown to reduce oxidative stress within the bone, which may prevent structural damage in osteoporotic bone.[xi] [Note: Osteoporosis is a Myth, as presently defined by the T-Score]
Sunscreen: Coconut oil has been shown to block out UV rays by 30%. Keep in mind that this is good, insofar as UVA rays are damaging to the skin, whereas UVB rays are highly beneficial (when exposure is moderate).[i] Make sure to check this list of other sun-blocking oils.
Of course, when speaking about coconut oil, we are only looking at one part of the amazing coconut palm. Each component, including coconut hull fiber, coconut protein and coconut water has experimentally confirmed therapeutic applications.
[i] Mark A Reger, Samuel T Henderson, Cathy Hale, Brenna Cholerton, Laura D Baker, G S Watson, Karen Hyde, Darla Chapman, Suzanne Craft . Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. Neurobiol Aging. 2004 Mar;25(3):311-4. PMID: 15123336
[iii] K G Nevin, T Rajamohan . Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2010 ;23(6):290-7. Epub 2010 Jun 3. PMID: 20523108
[xi] Mouna Abdelrahman Abujazia, Norliza Muhammad, Ahmad Nazrun Shuid, Ima Nirwana Soelaiman. The Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil on Bone Oxidative Status in Ovariectomised Rat. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012 ;2012:525079. Epub 2012 Aug 15. PMID: 22927879
They are said to have grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Elizabethans enjoyed them in tarts and stews. Thomas Jefferson planted them at Monticello. Medieval cooks stuffed them into pies. The colorful, sweet root vegetable known as the beet tends to spark an impassioned response from folks who either love it or loathe it. In the anti-beet camp are President Obama of beets, while others can’t stand the thought of them.and his wife Michelle, who asked that they not be planted in the White House’s organic vegetable garden. Many complain that beets have an “earthy” taste, which isn’t far off the mark. Beets contain a substance called geosmin, which is responsible for that fresh soil scent in your garden following a spring rain. Humans are quite sensitive to geosmin, even in very low doses, which explains why our beet response ranges from one extreme to the other. Some people adore the earthy flavor of beets, while others don’t.
Beets are most commonly a dark red color, however they also come in other hues ranging from white to yellow to a “candy cane” red-and-white variety known as Chioggia. Not only are they colorful and full of flavor, they are rich in antioxidants, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. They also contain unique antioxidants called betalains, which are currently being studied as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer. Betalains give beets their red hue. The rosy betalain-rich juice of red beets was used as a cheek and lip stain by women during the 19th century, a practice that inspired the old adage “red as a beet.”
Humans originally ate beet greens but not the thin and fibrous roots, which were occasionally used in medicine. The large beet leaves and stalks were consumed like chard, a close relative. Despite only growing well during spring and fall, beets were so well regarded in Ancient Rome and Greece that methods were developed for producing them during the hot summer months. The root part of the beet was cultivated for consumption in either Germany or Italy, first recorded in 1542. Its earliest form more closely resembled a parsnip rather than the bulbous shape we’re now familiar with, which began appearing near the end of the 1500s. This variety is thought to have evolved from a prehistoric North African root vegetable. Soon it became the most recognizable form of beet, but it wasn’t a worldwide culinary success until two centuries later. Northeastern Europe was the first area to embrace the beet root as a dietary staple; it was valued as one of the only vegetables that grew well throughout winter.
In 1747 Andreas Sigismund Marggraf, a chemist from Berlin, discovered a way to produce sucrose from beets. His student, Franz Achard, perfected this method for extracting sugar, leading him to predict the inevitable rise of beet beer, tobacco and molasses, among other products. Though not entirely convinced that beets had a bright future, the King of Prussia eventually subsidized a sugar beet industry. The first plant was built in what is now western Poland. It turned out to be a solid investment. Today, around 20 percent of the world’s sugar comes from sugar beets. Beet sugar production requires 4 times less water than sugar cane production, making it an attractive crop throughout Europe as well as in more arid countries like Egypt.
Beets have long been considered an aphrodisiac in many cultures. Ancient Romans believed that beets and their juice promoted amorous feelings. Frescoes of beets decorate the walls of the Lupanare brothel in Pompeii. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, ate beets to enhance her appeal. This quaint folklore actually has a basis in reality. Beets are a natural source of tryptophan and betaine, both substances that promote a feeling of well-being. They also contain high amounts of boron, a trace mineral which increases the level of sex hormones in the human body.
It has been beautiful in the daytime here in the Appalachian Mountains, but it gets cool at night, and a good fire is so cozy. Winter days can be more comfortable with a fire in the wood stove and summer nights are just more fun with a bonfire. But not all wood is the same, so let’s talk about choosing the best firewood.
Which wood is best for fireplaces? Which wood has the best heat value? And how can you make your own firestarters? I’ve got the answers right here!
Choosing the Best Firewood for Heat Value
Not all wood is created equally. Some will burn fast with little heat, while some burns slower and puts out more heat. Here’s a list of the best types of wood to use for the best heat value:
Rowan (Mountain Ash)
In general, one cord of wood can equal 200-250 gallons of fuel oil. Wood is not cheap anymore, at least not like it was when I was younger. A cord of wood can run around $200 for aged oak, less for some other types. Be sure your wood is aged from 6 months to a year. Green wood can have a lot of moisture in it, which can cause spitting and crackling. Bubbles or steam indicate a moisture content of 25% or more. While that may be romantic, this is often an indication of sap besides the moisture.
Sap, or resin, can cause buildup of deposits on the inside of your flue, creosote being one. These deposits can catch fire easily and are a cause of many chimney fires each year. Be sure to have your chimney inspected and cleaned yearly. Stay away from pine and it’s relatives. They contain the highest sap content.
While green wood is not good to burn, it can be much easier to split. Split your wood in the summer and stack it with a tarp over it to keep rain off. You can discourage bugs from inhabiting your wood pile by sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the perimeter. Any bugs that crawl through it will carry it with them and work it’s magic. Apply it to cracks and crevices if bugs seem to be a problem. (Find diatomaceous earth here.)
Coppicing is an old method of producing firewood from an existing tree. Typically a tree is cut down and left alone. When the stump has no tree to put it’s energy into, it can produce shoots, often called water sprouts or suckers. Some trees are better at suckering than others. These include:
Sweet chestnut is the tree of choice in England. Coppicing has been done with these trees for centuries. Coppicing has not found a place here in the US yet, at least not on a large scale. Some trees can be harvested in a few years, such as birch, which can be cut into brush bundles in 3-4 years. Some varieties, like oak, can take decades. Most trees will produce usable coppice wood in 7-20 years.
Easy Homemade Fire Starters
To get your fire started, you can take paper or cardboard and light it beneath twigs. Then add more wood, gradually getting sticks that are bigger around, until you get to a log. Sound easy? It really can be, but sometimes wood can be harder to start. I make my own fire starters from scrap shavings and old candles.
DIY Fire Starters
Place a few muffin liners in a muffin pan. Fill them about half way with wood shavings. Melt some wax and drizzle it over the shavings. Allow them to harden and store them in a quart jar. To use them, place one under some crumpled newspaper with a few twigs placed over it. Light the edge of the muffin liner and it will burn readily. I take these camping just in case the wood is wet when I get to my campsite. Scrape off the wet wood on some twigs and use the firestarter to get your fire started. The wood will dry out the rest of the way and burn nicely.
Another simple fire starter you can make requires a few things you may already be throwing away or recycling. Save your empty toilet paper rolls and dryer lint. Wrap dryer lint in some newspaper, scrunch it up, and insert into toilet paper tubes. These can be stored in a jar or zip-top plastic bag until needed. (Note: If using these DIY fire starters, you’ll want to make sure you’re using natural laundry methods so you don’t have chemicals from dryer sheets or other commercial laundry products present in the dryer lint that’s burning.)
Using Your Ashes and Char
When your fire is done and all the heat is gone, you can sprinkle the ashes in your garden. Don’t apply more than a light sprinkle a few times a year, or the soil pH may end up too high. Wood ashes can also be sprinkled on wood or concrete in the winter to prevent slips and falls. The larger pieces of charred wood can be placed in your compost for a while to absorb nutrients and micro-organisms. This is known as biochar and has been used for centuries. You can read more about it here.
Whether you use firewood for heating or for fun, it’s best to be safe. Keep water or sand nearby. Get a fire permit or let the local fire department know you’ll be burning. Many municipalities have a limit on recreational fires of 3 feet by 3 feet. Keep kids away from the fire. Use a screen if you can. Many fire pits now come with screens.
Don’t build a fire too high or use gasoline to start it. (You don’t want to know what can happen!) If you’re burning outside, have a safe zone of green grass and rock around it, just in case stray sparks drop to the ground. And lastly, don’t build your wood pile over a few months and then just set fire to it. Animals have a habit of seeking shelter in woodpiles and can be caught by the smoke and flames. Move your woodpile before starting your fire.