Let The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How be your guide
By Meredith Clarke
When you read The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How by Andrea Chesman, a few things become apparent quite immediately: 1) This woman knows what she’s talking about; 2) Homesteading is a lot of work; and 3) This is the only book I’ll ever need, maybe ever again.
Homesteading is not for the faint of heart, and Chesman has provided those who’ve decided to make the lifestyle switch with an exhaustive, recipe-filled, wisdom-rich how-to that will get you going and keep you cooking. Chesman caters to all levels of homesteaders, from those just starting out to those looking for new ideas, and peppers tips for experts amid advice for novices, creating a catch-all guide for healthy reminders and hearty insights. Above all, Chesman is realistic; while she provides instruction for ideal-circumstances gardening and food prep, she realizes that there are very human limitations, such as cost and space, that could interfere with running a home kitchen, and she helps you through them like the seasoned veteran she is.
Chesman starts from the very beginning. Her first chapter, titled “Setting Up the Homestead Kitchen,” spells out exactly what types of pots, pans, knives and other equipment you’ll need (cleavers are necessary) in order to run a successful home kitchen. After 35 years of homesteading, she’s made all of your mistakes for you and gives you good advice on how to avoid them yourself.
After you’ve got your kitchen set up, Chesman then teaches how to harvest, handle, and cook fruits and vegetables, while providing a few recipes along the way. But just because Kitchen Know-How is organized flawlessly doesn’t mean you have to read it front to back, and sometimes you shouldn’t. Say you wanted to make granola. You’d turn to page 69 and start reading up, then be redirected by an in-text parenthetical to page 82 where you’ll learn how to make apple cider syrup. Or perhaps you forgot the shelf life of your fresh eggs when reading about how to freeze them on page 167. Chesman kindly points you back to page 85 so you can check out the chart and find your egg.
Kitchen Know-How is also packed with tons of helpful charts and diagrams that help with complicated cooking instructions and the sometimes overwhelming amount of information you’re presented with. But maybe the best parts of Chesman’s guide are her recipes and food-specific cooking instructions. Anyone can benefit from Kitchen Know-How, and new cooks should be especially interested—in just the second chapter, Cheman tells you how to prepare and cook some of the most common household vegetables, quite literally from artichokes to turnips. She includes recipe blocks here and there throughout her instructional text, but the last 75 pages of the book details breakfast, vegetable, poultry and meat dishes, and desserts.
So for those who’ve just moved to a vast acreage and are ready to provide for yourselves, or for those who just want helpful tips to start incorporating natural foods into your diet, even if you didn’t grow them yourself, The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How is there to help you every step of the way.
Meredith Clarke is a recent graduate of Ithaca College and an ardent food-lover.
This story was originally featured in our March/April 2019 issue.