Sometimes you just have one of those weekends where nothing feels right:  the weather is lousy, your mood is low, the to-do list is long but the motivation stick is short.  It’s those kinda times we all look for a little comfort, and food is sometimes the only way to find it.

When I first started this blog I called it “starting from scratch” for a very good reason:  I really was a total greenhorn, both living in the south and especially living in this remote rural area.  There were those who thought it silly, at best, that I would begin writing about something I know so very little about.  Usually homesteading material covers the practical side, and with no practical skills, what could I possibly offer an audience?

But now that I have learned a thing or two I figure I can finally add those into this big blog mix.  So following are a few southern tips and some of that rural common sense stuff I was talking about a couple weeks back.

For the best fried chicken ever marinate the chicken pieces in buttermilk or milk with a bit of lemon juice for several hours.  A combination of corn meal and flour (even gluten-free varieties) works great for the coating.

The secret to the best nachos is farmer’s cheese and homemade refried beans–they are far better than canned, like everything else, and it’s so easy to do.  And it is so much better with a little added pork fat.  Sorry.  If you love guacamole too, add diced cucumber, a shot of milk, and a bit of farmer’s cheese for a delicious twist-and never skimp on the cilantro-and since it’s so easy to grow, why would you want to?!

Pecan pie is most delicious with a teaspoon of bourbon in the filling, you can’t taste it in the end, but it adds a nice depth to the flavor.

I can’t remember where I learned this one, but two tricks for those tricky poached eggs are shot of vinegar in the water and then to swirl the water in a circle like a whirlpool before adding the eggs so the whites pile up on top of the yolk in the center.

Old toilet paper rolls work great to start seedlings, just cut them in half and set them on a cookie sheet.  Thanks to the garden-guru neighbor for that one!

When it comes to comfort foods some people crave sweet, but others crave salty.  If you’re the salty type like me and crave potato chips and olives when you’re feeling low, then you really have to try curing your own meat.  The flavor is much more subtle and the texture much finer than eating salamis or smoked salmon.  The cured deer recipe that follows is not southern at all, but rather northern, about as far north as you can get.  It comes from a chef and is based on an old Norwegian recipe, thank goodness for the internet and foreign friends!   I know people get a bit creeped-out by home-cured meats, but I’ve been eating this for months now and it’s absolutely fabulous and hasn’t sent me to the hospital once!  (Another little country know-how tip: When you are slaughtering an animal it’s best to scald the butchered carcass if you are having trouble removing the tough, coarse hair.)

So, for the cured deer.  Choose a small cut about the size of your wrist, because it makes cutting paper-thin slices much easier once it’s cured.  Pick your favorite fresh herbs; strongly-flavored ones like cilantro or rosemary work great.  Finely chop them along with spring onions (regular onions will be overpowering), maybe some celery root if you have that (but not celery stalks, again, overpowering) and a carrot.  Make sure to thoroughly wash and dry the herbs and vegetables first.  Combine two parts salt to one part sugar and pour half that mixture into a small dish like a loaf pan and then cover the meat and herbs with the rest of the mixture (about a cup combined covers a small cut of meat).  To hasten the curing process, drizzle a couple tablespoons of alcohol over the top, like gin or vodka.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and keep in a cool room for about 24 hours.  You can also use the fridge, but it will take a bit longer.  It’s finished curing when the texture is firm when you squeeze it.  Rinse off the meat, dry it, wrap it in clean plastic wrap and place immediately in the freezer.  Every time you crave a little slice you can cut it easily while still frozen, so you never need to thaw it out.

Tune in again when, once garden weather returns, I will be experimenting with “hardcore homemade” comfort foods, all from scratch, from the bar-b-que sauce, to the homegrown corn for the homemade tortillas, and all the fixings from the garden, even the boar will go from our trap to the grill.  Let me know if you care to share this meal with me!

Nachos with our own ground meat!

Nachos with our own ground meat!

Best fried chicken and sweet potato chips EVER!

Best fried chicken and sweet potato chips EVER!