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Growing their own

By Staff | Oct 18, 2013

JILL ELSE PREPARES a meal in her kitchen in rural Holstein. Else enjoys gardening and with a few exceptions, her family eats what they grow, including their own beef.

HOLSTEIN – Jill Else not only keeps busy as a labor and delivery nurse at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake, but also works hard at feeding her family of seven as much of their own homegrown produce and meats as possible.

She and husband Stuart Else raise their own pork and beef in addition to a large garden that will usually yield enough for Else and her family to fill their freezer.

“We’ll eat off of it all year,” said Jill Else.

Else said she learned how to garden and to can and freeze her produce from her mother, Dee Ann Paulsrud, who still has a large garden of her own.

“She taught me at a young age to can – to use your garden,” said Else.

“I like to live off of the land. I really don’t know any better, that is how my mom taught me.” —Jill Else Holstein

The Elses grow tomatoes, potatoes, beans, asparagus, rhubarb, onions, peppers and cucumbers. When it becomes time to harvest, the entire family pitches in to help get the crops preserved for later use.

“All five kids have a job,” said Else. “I like to include the family with what we are doing.”

By involving the children, Else said, it helps them to learn their way around the kitchen. She said she hopes someday they will take their lessons on growing and preserving food with them when they grow their own families.

Not only is it an opportunity to teach a practice that isn’t so commonly used anymore, it is also a family-building activity.

“It keeps us together,” said Else. “When they are working alongside me, it is time spent together.”

Besides her children, Else said she’s taught her friends the skills of canning and preserving food.

“Learning by doing is the best way to learn,” said Else, because canning and freezing is just so much more than a recipe.

The Elses like to preserve their apples by making applesauce, apple crisp and even apple chips in their dehydrator.

Other goods they make are spaghetti sauce, salsa, pickles and jams.

“I take full advantage of my harvest,” said Else. “I feel guilty if I let something go.”

Eating in this manner is her attempt to stay away from as many processed foods as possible.

“I like to live off of the land,” she said. “I really don’t know any better, that is how my mom taught me.”

Else advises always having a stocked pantry.

“Have your staples in there. That way you are ready,” she said.

She also enjoys recipes from her favorite cookbook, “Supper’s On the Table, Come Home,” by Rachel Masters with 13 weeks of meal plans.

Else said it provides a timeline of how to prepare the meal.

“I love it, I use it almost daily,” said Else.

Apple crisp

(This is a recipe Jill Else said she uses when she has many apples and wants to freeze for use later.)


4 cups peeled and sliced apples on bottom of an 8-by-8-inch aluminum pan

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


Blend together:

1 cup brown sugar and 2/3 cup margarine

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup quick oatmeal

Prior to placing the apple crisp in the freezer, add two layers of plastic wrap and one layer of heavy duty foil and place pan in a one gallon freezer bag with air pushed out before sealing.

Baking directions

Remove foil and plastic wrap. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. This can be put into the oven frozen.

Spaghetti sauce

1/2 cup salad oil

4 medium garlic cloves

16 pounds of tomatoes peeled and sliced

2 12-ounce cans tomato paste

3/4 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons parsley flakes

2 tablespoons oregano

2 tablespoons salt

2 bay leaves

4 medium onions

Cook oil, onion and garlic until tender (about 10 minutes).

Add tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients.

Heat to a boil, decrease heat and cook for two hours.

Discard bay leaves and place in freezer containers.

Dee Ann’s meatballs

1 1/2 pounds ground pork or beef

3/4 cup oatmeal

1 cup milk

Onion (dried or fresh) chopped fine

Crush one tablespoon of oregano, sweet basil and thyme

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine and make into small balls and brown.


1 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons onion (dried or fresh).

Combine and boil in the microwave.

Add meatballs and simmer for about one hour or until done.

Cookout casserole

Grease an 8-by-10-inch glass pan.

Layer these ingredients:

1 pound hamburger with onion browned; 2 to 3 raw potatoes: do not peel; 1 cup diced cheddar cheese.

Mix together:

1 15-ounce can of pork and beans with 1/3 cup ketchup and 1/3 cup brown sugar and pour into pan.

Bake covered at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Optional: During the last 15 minutes of baking, browned bacon bits can be added to the top of the casserole.

Calico beans

1/2 pound of hamburger

1 cup ham, minced (optional)

1 No. 2 can lima beans, drained

1/2 to 1 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup of catsup

2 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound of bacon, cut up

1 No. 2 can pork and beans

1 No. 2 can kidney beans, drained

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

Cook hamburger, bacon and ham in frying pan and drain.

Add rest of the ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to one hour.

This also works great in a slow cooker, Else said, and a can of drained butter beans can be added along with the rest of the beans.

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