“Wandering children have an uncanny ability to find things adults easily miss,” says Jonah Curtis as he looks back on childhood days raised on family property at the end of a dirt road in northern Michigan. “I was given a lot of freedom to explore on my own.”
These sort of early memories instilled a love of wanderlust and foraging in Curtis, which has now successfully translated into his own homesteading journey, broadcast to the world via his Mighty Muskquatch Instagram account.
Taking a moment out from homesteading duties, we spoke to Curtis about the importance of food security and the advantages of freeze-drying. We also got the story behind some ginormous foraged Pheasant Back mushrooms.
The Importance of Preserving Food
Preserving food is a key part of Curtis’s approach to homesteading and utilizing the land.
“We grew, foraged, hunted or caught quality food,” recalls Curtis of his upbringing. “That type of food often comes in bulk, and so we wanted to preserve food for other seasons. Also, our family did not have much money. We needed thrift to assure that we would have plenty despite any financial difficulties.”
It’s a mentality that has stuck with Curtis throughout his life. “I continue it for a few reasons,” he says. “I enjoy quality food and I find the best way to assure quality is to do it myself. I also still consider food security very important and choose to handle that myself. A third reason is that I enjoy being outside as often as possible, alone and with my family.
“These reasons have all been magnified by my life as a husband and father, as it is now my duty to care for my family.”
Stop Cutting Corners
When it comes to food preservation tips, Curtis says that number one is to avoid cutting corners.
“I’m pretty fastidious by nature, so this is not often an issue for me,” he explains. “However, I have been crunched for time and rushed steps and have found this can lead to poor results or even dangerous outcomes. Now I make sure to do each step correctly.”
Read more: Focus on removing bottlenecks to improve farm efficiency.
The Benefits of Freeze-Drying
Along with canning, Curtis also advocates for freeze-drying as a way to preserve food.
“The benefits are that the food is shelf stable, light, quickly and easily used and keeps a very high level of nutritional value,” he explains. “It is not for everyone, though, and to get proper use and value from the machine, one would need to use it quite a lot.”
Behold Pheasant Back Mushrooms
Back in September, Curtis showcased some giant Pheasant Back mushrooms he’d foraged.
“I used a bit of it in a turkey soup, sautéed some slices for burgers, and freeze-dried the rest in chunks and slices to be used in winter soups,” he says of the mushroom that’s also known as Dryad’s Saddle.
Read more: Grow your own mushrooms for flavor and profit!
Finding Focus Through Farming
Looking over what his homestead means to him, Curtis says “this answer has moved for me over time.” But over the last few years, he says he’s found himself focusing on a clear answer.
“The most rewarding part now is knowing the story of the food that my family consumes and being able to spend time on our homestead working with my wife and our children.”
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