3 Traditional Home Skills Worth Learning | Omega

Whether you want to live a more frugal life, lower your environmental impact, refine your urban homesteading, or simply express your creativity, there are a number of traditional home skills that you may want to learn. Here are three to get you started. Becoming proficient will take time, so be patient and allow yourself to enjoy the journey. 

Bake Your Own Bread

No matter the style of bread you make—a hearty, country-style loaf, a light baguette, corn bread, tortilla, pita, naan, or a gluten-free variation on any of these—learning how to make one of the most basic foods there is for yourself can be powerfully nourishing.

Several years ago, editor of Resurgence & Ecologist Satish Kumar described the power of bread, saying, “Bread diversity is a symbol of cultural diversity. Regional varieties represent grain diversity as well as diversity of style. Baking bread is an act of meditation. Through this simple action we are able to slow down, pay attention, and reconnect with tradition. It is something to share and to celebrate.” 

Get started: Try this recipe for Zucchini Corn Bread, and then explore countless recipes on cooking websites that have risen in the past several years. 

Make Baskets by Hand 

Humans have been making baskets from woven and coiled natural materials for at least 12,000 years (probably longer, considering that basket materials decay), with the oldest preserved baskets coming from Egypt. Though for most of us baskets have moved from a daily necessity for carrying or storing our stuff and into the realm of fine art or decoration, learning this craft can connect us with an ancient tradition, as well as provide us with practical skills in environmentally friendly technology. 

Dive in: YouTube is a great place to start to get a sense of the skills you’ll be learning and the required materials.

Pickle & Can at Home

You’ve committed yourself to buying more local, seasonal produce, or growing more of your food yourself. Great! There are a lot of important reasons for doing so. But what do you do outside of the growing season? It’s time to learn to preserve the harvest. 

Pickling, using brine or vinegar (or in places such as South Asia, edible oils) to ferment and preserve produce, has been around for at least 4,000 years. The earliest pickles were apparently cucumbers, in India. 

Canning is a much more recent invention, only being practiced since the early 1800s, after the French government offered a prize to anyone who could develop a method of preserving large amounts of food for its army then fighting a war with England. After the Napoleonic Wars ended, canning technology spread to the United Kingdom and the United States. But it wasn’t until World War I that demand for canned food really took off. 

Don’t worry, home canning and pickling don't require an army, just the right kit.

Preserve it: With both pickling and canning, you need to follow some very specific procedures to ensure your food stays safe for eating. The USDA guide to home canning lays out the steps and materials required to preserve fruits, vegetables, jams, jellies, and other foods in glass jars. As for the pickling process, Eating Well’s step-by-step overview is a good place to start. 

If you want to step lightly into the world of pickling, without the bottling, this recipe for Summertime Zucchini Pickles from Omega FoodWorks former executive chef Christopher Fotta may be just right for you. For a more structured introduction, check out Omega’s Preserving Our Edible Bounty workshop.


© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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