"I love the intuitive approach to real food and seasonal eating in Kate Downham's A Year in an Off-Grid Kitchen. Recipes are thoughtful, nutrient-dense and, above all else, approachable.” - Jenny McGruther, Nourished Kitchen
Learn the skills that helped our ancestors to thrive in harsh times...
When the the panic buying, empty shelves, and restrictive rations hit in March 2020, it was not a problem for Kate and her family, because she knew these skills, and knew how to feed her family without the supermarket system. With the help of this book, you can learn these skills too.
Learn traditional methods of preserving pork without electricity. Make your own cheese, butter, and other dairy essentials. Learn sourdough bread recipes that take only 5 minutes of hands-on time to make. Learn to preserve fruit and vegetables in many ways - from failproof fermenting through to jams, chutneys, pickles, and water bath canning.
Learn one skill at a time while also finding recipe inspiration in seasonal local recipes that are designed to be cooked in everyday homestead life.
These recipes have been tested in many different kitchens, and will work on wood stoves as well as conventional electric and gas cookers. Many variations and ingredient substitutions are included to help you make the recipes with whatever ingredients are on hand at the time, along with useful indexes to help make use of seasonal abundance.
After reading Kate’s first book, I was really, really looking forward to this one. The title was the hook and “off-grid kitchen” really caught my interest, as did “homestead kitchen skills,” “real food,” and “resilient health.” The book did not disappoint! Here’s why I think you’ll be interested in it too.
The book begins with the author’s story and will strike a chord with anyone who is seeking to harmonize a healthy, seasonal diet with a healthy, natural lifestyle. She then defines real food and resilient health. Following is a discussion of the tools useful for the off-grid kitchen, and an excellent how-to for cooking on a wood cookstove. Lots of excellent tips in this section. Next comes “Ways to Keep Food Fresh Without a Fridge” and “Cooking and Living with Small-Scale Solar.” I especially appreciate the small-scale solar section, because it shows that we don’t need a huge expensive system to meet our kitchen needs. The last section in the introduction is “Ways To Make Real Foods Work in Real Life.” So practical! Lots of tips and tricks in the section.
The sections that follow are organized according to season. They include both recipes, how-tos, and preservation techniques. Recipes are keyed: GF (gluten-free), P (paleo-friendly, grain-free), DF (dairy free), V (vegetarian), and O (options). The options plus recipe notes and useful tips are scattered around the book in purple boxes. The recipes include both Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures, and metric and imperial measurements. To tempt your appetite, there are loads of gorgeous color photos!
Winter begins and ends the book. Recipes include bone broth, soups, and stews, with handy, informative sections on “Crafting Your Own Beautiful Soups, Stews, Pottage, and Curry,” “Cooking a Perfect Roast” (on a wood cookstove!), and “Home Butchery: Starting With Chickens.” The season focus is on root cellar vegetables.
Spring begins with eggs and greens (both garden grown and foraged). These form the backbone of a variety of recipes, including rice bowls, soups, and casseroles. Dairy is added in late spring, after kidding and calving. Dairy recipes cover the how-tos for a good range of basic cheeses, butter, sour cream, yogurt, and kefir. Informational sections for Spring include “Foraging and Drying Nettles as a Storable Superfood,” “More Edible Weeds and Wild Plants in Spring,” and “Keeping Dairy Fresh Without a Fridge.”
Early summer moves into fresh vegetables! You’ll find recipes for a variety of vegetable dishes, dips, and hummus. Late summer includes fruits and preserving the harvest. You’ll find “Preserving fruit without cane sugar,” “Apple Core Cider,” “Making Jam the Old Way, Without Cane Sugar or Pectin,” and “Making Herbal Medicines.”
Summer preservation techniques include dehydrating, pickling, and water bath canning. In regards to canning, it’s important to note that the author is Australian, and so follows Australian protocols for canning. She encourages those who follow USDA recommendations to do so. All recipes are easily adaptable to USDA guidelines.
Autumn introduces lacto-fermenting with a variety of recipes to try. The seasonal focus is on potatoes, fruits of the season, and preserving tomatoes. Late autumn turns to “The Yearly Pig,” emphasizing utilizing all parts of the pig. Informational sections include “Parts of the Pig,” a daily schedule for processing the pig, “How To Butcher Without a Saw,” “The Art of Stuffing Sausages,” and “Rendering Lard and Other Fats.” You’ll find instructions for making your own ham, bacon, and sausages.
The last section, “Grains, Sourdough, and Year-Round Recipes,” is also excellent. It includes discussions on grain intolerance versus glysulphate intolerance, soaking and cooking grains, and whole grain baking. There are loads of tips, tricks, and recipes for sourdough, including gluten-free sourdough. I especially appreciated the off-grid approach for baking bread in both winter (when it’s too cold!) and summer (when it’s too hot!) Recipes include crispy Dutch oven bread, tortillas, pizza and foccacia crusts, pie crust, crackers, and sweet baked goods. Kombucha and condiments round out the year-round recipes.
If someone is looking for a comprehensive book on the off-grid kitchen, this is it. It’s not only a recipe book, but a reference book as well. Add to that interesting reading, and it's an excellent addition to every homestead library.
Way more than a cookbook! An essential guide for making your own food from homestead to table.
I'm not a cookbook person and generally wing it when cooking, but this is a book I will actually use. The book is full of straightforward, practical, doable recipes and techniques specific to the needs of a homestead kitchen. Coming from an offgrid mindset this book offers recipes catering to ingredients available to us whether grown in our garden or foraged from nearby. There are helpful tips for recipe variations and replacing ingredients. Variation notes are a helpful, inspiring touch, and a great lesson on how to change up recipes in general.
Recipes such as "any fruit crumble", "any vegetable gratin", "grains, sourdough, and year-round recipes", "cooking with whole animals" show the versatility of this book as useful anywhere in the world with harvests form any garden.
Many recipes are foods that I imagined as exclusive to a "modern" lifestyle and near impossible to reproduce on my own in a homestead setting. Foods I thought I would have to depend on the grocery store for or give up entirely like crackers, sweets, bacon, cereal, cheese, condiments. For me at least, I knew these foods must have been prepared with traditional techniques on homesteads in the past, but I just thought of these as such far away, almost unreachable skills. The presentation of traditional skills in this book in everyday, accessible language with insights and tips from the author's experience brings them within reach for me.
Mouth-watering pictures capture the beauty and simplicity of the dishes. They look like something I can imagine on my own table, and give motivation to try the recipe myself. The organization of the book by season gives it a kind of follow along quality that makes it fun and gives a feeling of connectedness to the author and other homesteaders. I imagine others are probably cooking the same seasonal dishes or working hard to preserve the surplus of a seasonal harvest.
Definitely recommend to anyone who dreams of providing all their own food someday!