If you want to have a sustainable oil source (that’s not from animal fats), then consider growing and pressing your own seed and nut oils at home.
In this post, my guest Bevin Cohen and I are breaking down everything you need to know about pressing your own seed and nut oils.
We’re clarifying the misinformation that all seed oils are unhealthy, as well as discussing the supplies needed to press your own oil and the sustainability of pressing enough oil for your family each year.
Why Pressing Seed Oils is Important
When thinking about how to be prepared on the homestead, as well as building up a well-stocked pantry and long-term food storage supply, one of the things that I began thinking about is what I would do if I couldn’t get access to my favorite olive oil.
Here in North Idaho, the climate isn’t conducive to growing my own olive trees, and while I love our lard, I’m not willing to melt my home-rendered lard or tallow to pour onto a salad for dressing. Yuck! This led me to look deeper into what it takes to produce my own oils at home.
That’s how I first found a book written by Bevin Cohen called The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils: Growing, Foraging, and Pressing. After reading his book, I knew I needed to get him on the Pantry Chat podcast to discuss this topic.
About Bevin Cohen
Bevin is an author, herbalist and educator and he offers lectures and workshops across the country teaching about the many benefits of locally grown and wild harvested plants, seed saving, oil production, and much more!
Bevin’s garden is the heart of Small House Farm. This is where he and his family meditate, harvest seeds and learn about Mother Nature’s many wonders. Bevin and his family are avid seed savers and amateur plant breeders. They believe that each seed is a connection to every grower that stewarded that variety before us.
Bevin also wrote the book, The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils: Growing, Foraging, and Pressing.
Are Seed Oils Healthy
Seed oils have really gotten a bad rap. If you take to the internet to search whether or not seed oils are healthy, you’re likely to find that they aren’t. In fact, seed oils are getting blamed for multiple health issues.
However, Bevin shares that when you’re comparing commercially produced seed oils to home-pressed seed oils, they may as well be two completely different things. How oil is processed and produced plays a huge role in the health of the actual oil itself.
For example, many commercially produced oils aren’t pressed, they are chemically extracted using hexane. Then the oil is sent through a process of deodorization, bleaching and degumming in order to be shelf-stable. This process alone turns a healthy product into one that I don’t want to find on my pantry shelf.
In comparison, pressing oil at home is a simple mechanical process of squeezing oily seeds to remove their oil content. It doesn’t use any chemicals, but rather a simple, old-fashioned press (or even a simple electric press). You can even grow your own seeds at home so you know exactly how they are grown!
Homesteading Hack: If you’re not ready to jump in with pressing your own oils quite yet, be sure to check out Bevin’s website. They sell their oil online and don’t even press the oil until the order comes in. You can also look for expeller-pressed oils at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Be sure to check expiration dates and choose the freshest oil as possible.
Do Seed Oils Go Rancid Quickly
We do know that seed oils tend to go rancid quickly, and rancid oils are carcinogenic. So how do we know how long our seed oils are safe to consume?
Bevin mentions that in his book, they go into great depth of proper storage temperatures, how to store the seeds, how long the seeds can be stored, etc.
But the beauty of having your own seed and nut press is that we’re never storing the oil, we’re storing the seeds. The seeds will have a much longer shelf-life than the oil. It’s similar to flour vs wheat berries. The wheat berries can be stored almost indefinitely, whereas once ground into flour, the flour will go rancid much more quickly.
Bevin recommends pressing a week’s worth of oil at a time. Then you’ll always have the freshest and healthiest oil at all times. There’s no need to sit down and press a year’s worth of oil at once and when you only press a week’s worth it takes just a few minutes.
What Plants Can Be Turned into Oil
When it comes to producing oil on the homestead, there are many options available for pressing into oils. In fact, in Bevin’s book, he lists fifty different plants that can be grown or harvested for their oil.
A few of these plants include:
- Hemp Seed – 35-40% oil within the seed. You can press it in the shell. The seed cake (or the leftover pulp after pressing the oil) is completely edible and can be consumed or fed to animals.
- Flax Seed – Another incredibly nutritious oil that has an edible seed cake.
- Sunflower Seed – 30-35% oil within the seed. You can get approximately one gallon of oil from ten pounds of seeds. An acre of sunflowers can produce upwards of 200 gallons of sunflower oil, which means that about a 400-foot row of sunflowers can produce a few gallons of oil. Enough for most average-sized families for a year. The seed cake is also edible and can be ground into a flour-like powder and consumed or fed to animals.
- Sesame Seed – If you live in a place where you can grow sesame seeds, this is another great oil for home production.
- Pumpkin Seed – If pumpkins grow well, then consider growing them for their seeds. This is a high-dollar fancy oil that can be made at home for a fraction of the cost. You can even find hull-less seeded pumpkins, however, Bevin mentions these pumpkins tend to be bland and boring. Try a butternut squash seed oil instead! It’s one of Bevin’s favorites.
- Peanuts – If you can grow peanuts, this is a wonderful crop to use for oil. The by-product of pressing peanut oil is peanut butter. Then the oil itself has a very high smoke point, so it’s great for high-heat cooking or frying.
- Walnuts – Amazing and healthy nut oils can be made at home. While you do have to shell these first, they are a great way to use up your extra walnuts from a productive tree.
The easiest plant to grow for most people will be sunflowers. Oil seed sunflowers were developed in Russia and can grow in most climates.
When pressing seeds into oils, there is virtually no waste. Bevin shares that they pressed mainly hemp seeds and would feed the hemp cake (what’s left over after pressing the oil) to their pigs.
This would produce extremely healthy pigs and they were actually able to sell those pigs for more money. We’d like to try feeding it to our Kune Kune pigs.
He also would grind up the hemp cakes into a flour and add it to pancakes, breads and other recipes. Furthermore, after pressing out the oil, there will be sediment that sinks to the bottom of the oil. If you filter that out, Bevin says this is the finest seed butter you’ll ever come across and it’s delicious.
Supplies Needed for Pressing Oil
There are a few options when it comes to pressing oil at home. We have an electric press that only requires me to push a few buttons, and the machine does its thing, then I wash a few parts when it’s done. I can literally press a week’s worth of oil while I’m cleaning up the kitchen.
Bevin mentioned that on his website, they offer a complete oil pressing kit that comes complete with a hand-driven PITEBA oil press and book combo. This is a simple setup that would be perfect for household use and can press up to eight cups of oil per hour.
Bevin also shares in his book how to hook the machine up to be bicycle-powered. With “pedal power” you can produce plenty of oil with very little effort (even the kids can press the oil)!
Here are the supplies needed for pressing oil:
- Oil Press: Bevin recommends the hand-driven PITEBA oil press. It’s a great starter press. There are some knock-off brands that Bevin says to avoid!
- Seeds or Nuts: You’ll need the seeds or nuts for pressing oil and proper storage containers for keeping the seeds and nuts fresh. Bevin mentions that the black oil sunflower seeds sold as bird seed are some of the highest producing seed oils you’ll find.
- 2 Containers: One for catching the oil after it’s pressed and one for catching the seed cake as it comes out.
- Jars & Bottles: Jars for catching the oil and letting it settle after pressing, then bottles for storing the oil.
- Nut Cracker (optional): You’re not going to want to run hard shells such as walnuts or hazelnuts through the press, so these will need to be cracked out ahead of time.
- Oven (optional): For some seeds or nuts, it’s recommended to either toast them or warm them slightly in the oven prior to extracting the oils. A baking sheet would also be necessary for this.
- Bicycle & Sprocket (optional): If you plan on attaching the oil press to a bicycle, there are a few other elements you’ll need to make this happen. In this case, I highly recommend getting Bevin’s book for step-by-step directions on how to do this.
Hand-Crank vs. Electric Oil Press
When it comes to small-scale production, Bevin says a hand-crank oil press will be all you need. Even for larger families, being able to hook the press up to a bicycle will produce plenty of oil with very little effort.
However, if you’re wanting to produce oil on a larger scale, or perhaps in order to sell for a business, You may be interested in an electric machine. Here is the electric oil press that I have.
How to Store Oil
The great news is that the seeds used for producing seed oils usually store really well, still in their husks or shells, at cool room temperature until you are ready to press them into oil.
How you store your oil depends on the oil you’re pressing. If you’re pressing hemp, flax, pumpkin, and sesame seed oils, you’ll want to store them in the refrigerator to extend the shelf-life beyond the one-week recommendation.
Sunflower and peanut oil can be stored at room temperature. However, Bevin never recommends storing it above your stove. That’s the hottest place in the house and the worst place for your oil. Store these oils in a cool dark location.
Tips for Cooking with Home-Pressed Oils
When it comes to cooking with home-pressed oils there are some things to be aware of. Those oils that require refrigeration are best used fresh and unheated. They don’t tolerate the heat well and will break down much easier.
Try making your own DIY non-stick cooking spray out of flaxseed.
Saute and stir fry with your peanut and sunflower oils. In fact, this is why Bevin recommends getting started with sunflower oils because it’s such a versatile oil.
Where to Find Bevin
Be sure to check out Bevin and everything he’s up to at the following places:
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Carolyn: Hey you guys and welcome to this week's episode of the Pantry Chat, Food for Thought. This week we are talking about something that I am actually really getting passionate about. This is something that's really interesting to me, and that is producing your own oils at home, growing the plants, pressing your own oils. This is a really, really important topic that I think more people should be thinking about right now because you may not have thought about how hard it is to get the fats and oils that you need in the time of any sort of a crisis or supply chain breakdown, or anything like that.
Actually, some of the harder things to get your hands on in any sort of a crisis or harder things to produce is your fats and your oils. And we've been doing a lot with lard lately in the last few years here on the homestead. But I started asking myself the question, "What if I couldn't get my favorite olive oil in?" I'm not going to melt lard and put it in my salads. So how would I produce my own oil here in far North Idaho where we don't have any olive trees? And that really led me down this path. And so I asked author Bevin Cohen to come in and join us. And so I'm really excited to have him today. So Bevin, welcome to the Pantry Chat.
Bevin: Hey Carolyn, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Carolyn: Be here. Yeah, I was so excited to find that you wrote a book on this exact topic, so I just want to lead with that because you wrote the Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils: Growing, Foraging and Pressing.
This was the only book I could really find on the topic when I started asking myself the questions about what would I do if I couldn't get olive oil and realized what a lack of resources there were in our area, in our local area for oil. Even though I live in an area and they grow commercially grow grape seed for canola, and we've got a lot ability to produce seed oils here. We just really don't. And we haven't experienced that.
So anyways, I was so excited to see your book, but just so you guys know, Bevin is an author and an educator. He offers lectures and workshops across the country teaching about the many benefits of locally grown and wild harvested plants, seed saving, oil production, and much more. Also, herbalism, I know you've got a book out about herbalism, so some of our top favorite topics around here, lots of fun things. So if you haven't checked him out, make sure you check him out at his website, smallhousefarms.farm.com or his podcast. He also has a podcast, seedsandweedspodcast.com.
Hey, how's spring treating you?
Bevin: Hey, spring is wild right now. It hasn't rained here at Small House Farm in a very long time, so it's very, very dry, which is really a difficult time for when we're getting our garden started. It was very cool to begin with. So we really pushed things off later than we normally would to get it out into the ground. And then as soon as it was warm enough, it's so dry. So it's a challenge and you know how it is? Every year there's new challenges out there and that's part of the fun of it. We get to learn new things and adapt with the seasons, if you will, just like our plants do.
So it's been a busy time and experiencing some new challenges just this time of year, this almost exact date a couple years ago, we were practically underwater in the floods. So you know how it is? You get the extremes here. There's no middle ground anymore, but things are going well aside from the challenges, we're having a good time here. We're trying our hardest to have the most fun we can out there.
Carolyn: Put it in context. What part of the country are you in?
Bevin: I'm right in central Michigan, right in the middle of the mitten, in a little village. Sanford is the village. I doubt any of your listeners know it. It's a very, very small place. But we're right in the center of the state of Michigan.
Carolyn: Well, as homesteaders, or gardeners, or really anybody who's working outside, you learn really quickly how to be, let's say fluid. I would like to say flexible, but I heard one time flexible indicates like implies rigidity and that it could break, right?
Bevin: Oh sure.
Carolyn: If something's flexible, it could also break. So we want to be fluid, right? Fluid with the seasons and just kind of go with the flow a little bit and learn how to work with it instead of against it. But boy, there's always something new getting thrown at us in the homesteading world.
Bevin: There is, but at the same time, I mean the opposite side of that coin is there's always something exciting and new happening too. So this year, every year I fall in love with a new plant. And I'm sure this is the same for a lot of gardeners. It's just something I get obsessed with every year. Last year I was really into Asian greens. I was obsessed with them. Komatsuna from Japan, all these wonderful things, bok choy, of course.
And that sort of evolved this year into a bunch of Italian greens. So now we're doing like radicchio and escarole, broccolini and broccoli robs all these different things, which was wonderful considering how cool it was early in the spring, all those crops really did well out there. They're struggling now, but that's a different story. Through my explorations of Italian seeds looking for these greens, I came across this beautiful golden radish, which is completely new to me.
We do a lot of radishes here, but we do, you know you got your red, your white, pink and purple, all these different things and their fun and the kids love them. But I have yet to have ever seen a yellow radish. So we got those seeds, we're growing them. I have yet to harvest one this year, but I'm telling you what I'm stoked about these yellow radishes. It's just such an exciting thing. Nature's bounty, and beauty, and diversity is just so incredible. And I've been out here in the garden for a very long time, many seasons, and this is a brand new thing for me. So I'm learning new things and it's just so exciting.
Carolyn: That's really fun. And yes, I think that's something that everybody who really loves gardening at heart, it's like we have to try new things. We have to see what's out there and paint with different colors, maybe. For me this year I'm may be back where you were a year ago with the Asian greens, but I've just discovered the winter choys, which being in Michigan, you'll appreciate this with the cold weather is that we have a lot of, not main growing season time. We've got a lot of the year that we can still grow, but we're getting hard frost, even freezes. And these yellow hearted winter choy are the ones that I've been playing with and they are so beautiful. You could just have them in your garden as an ornamental, but then they get so big and they just hold, they don't care how cold it is, they just keep trekking along and it's like, I love this stuff. It's amazing.
Bevin: Yeah, yeah, I'm familiar actually with that. We grew it last year. We got the seeds through Baker Creek and it was a beautiful, and for me it didn't really start to get that yellow coloration until the cold weather hit. And those cold temperatures really brought that color out. It was gorgeous. I almost didn't want to pick it, like you said, it was just a work of art, you know?
Carolyn: Yeah, something about the flat top of it too. And the way the leaves just spread out, it just, I don't know, I've never grown anything that's looked remotely close to that. So I think it was like a novelty, but it was delicious in the kitchen too. So it's one that's going to stick around quite a bit.
Okay. So here we are talking about producing our own oils at home. And historically, something that I really like to do is read a lot of the historical household and farm manuals. And it's really fascinating to see. We've really been playing with bringing in fat on the homestead from the milk cow and getting our own butter and ghee that way. But then also realizing how much work that is for how little return. I mean, we all like our butter, right?
Bevin: Sure, oh yeah.
Carolyn: But, it is a lot of work and it isn't that much return and you have to keep up with it week, after week, after week, even though we've got a great jersey cow, it gives us tons of cream.
So we've started looking at pigs and doing more and more with our pork. And it has really dawned on me why people used to breed and keep the type of pigs that are called lard pigs. We have meat pigs, we have lard pigs, and some of the heritage breeds are lard pigs. And it's because you need that amount of fat to keep a household running. And fat is just, it makes everything go round from literally greasing things on the property to oiling your leather, to oiling our cutting boards, to all of the cooking. You know, don't need to be on a keto diet to really appreciate fat in your diet. You need it.
Bevin: Sure, absolutely. You have to have a, it's important for brain function and everything. It's critical, right.
Carolyn: Everything works better. And I think a lot of the no fat or non-fat movement that we've just come out of, or maybe that's a popular thing still in dietary circles, but it goes hand in hand with the amount of depression that we see in the country because of our brain. Like you're saying, we need that good, healthy fat for our brains to function well and to feel the happiness and the joy of life. It's just necessary, but it can be a challenge to get healthy fats. And so not everybody wants to have pigs in their backyard. Not everybody wants a bunch of lard. And you are not really going to pour melted lard all over your salads. So-
Bevin: I wouldn't recommend it, no.
Carolyn: I'm not going to. So that brings us to oils. And there are a ton of things that you can grow in your own home and produce your own oil. So let's start with that. What plants can you grow to produce your own oil on a home scale level?
Bevin: There are so many plants that you can press for your oil, but I want to back up real quick and talk about pigs a little bit more.
Bevin: 'Cause we've raised pigs here at Small House as well.
Bevin: We were mostly in it for the bacon, but the lard was definitely an added bonus that we didn't expect, we didn't anticipate how useful that lard was going to be until we had it. And you're absolutely right. It's incredible. But there's a lot of work that goes into this and a lot of space to grow healthy pigs. And that's not something that everybody has, but that lard, most certainly is wonderful, not only in the kitchen, but even for making soap and all sorts of wonderful things. But it's not something that's feasible for all people to do. But seed and nut oils most certainly is.
And that was really where we focused in on the book was seeing how accessible this sort of thing could be for practically anybody. Even if you don't have a place to grow things, there are a number of wonderful wild crops out there that you can harvest, walnuts and hazelnuts and that sort of thing that you can bring in that produce a luxurious and delicious oil without any growing space at all. It just takes the time to gather it.
In the book we talk about, I want to say it's 50 different crops that we discuss and 20 of those in heavy depth because those are the ones that are the most common, but 50 different plants that can be grown or harvested, foraged, or whatever it might be for their oil. Lots of them, when I speak to folks that are new to it, I try to hone in on just a handful of those that are the easiest to grow, most certainly.
And the one that I always come back to always is sunflowers. That I think that sunflowers is a perfect place for people to get started with. It's easy to grow. There's a variety of sunflowers that can live its entire life cycle, all the way to seed production practically anywhere that you live. Oil seed, sunflowers were developed in Russia in a very, very cold short season area. So it's something that pretty much all of us can grow and it's very easy to harvest and process, and you get a lot of oil out of it. So that's where I always recommend folks go.
Carolyn: Sunflowers is where I started, when I started even thinking about this. I had this aha moment that here I had all these sunflowers growing and I love them, but there's only so many sunflower seeds you're going to consume as a snack, really.
Bevin: Right. Sure.
Carolyn: And it's like, well, I need an excuse to grow these, so what do I do with all these seeds that doesn't require me to crack each one of them and have some machinery or something for cracking all of these and removing the kernel out of the seed hole? And that was where I really had this aha moment that here in North Idaho, while I can't grow olives, I could grow tons of sunflowers in a very small space in a very short season. And last year when I first tried it, we had a season about like what sounds like you're having this year. It started off very cold, very, very cold for a long time, and then it went instantly hot and dry. And even with that, I produced pounds, and pounds, and pounds, and many, many pounds in a very small growing area of sunflower seeds, and I'm now pressing those for oil. So I can attest to that. What a great win-win you have ornamental, it's pretty, it grows just about anywhere and then you can use it really efficiently in the kitchen.
Bevin: And if you have the right variety, if you have an oil seed, sunflower variety, one that's oil heavy, they're going to be about 30%, 35% oil, and you can get from 10 pounds of seeds about a gallon of oil, which that's quite a bit. So if you grow an acre of sunflower seeds, you're looking at about 200 gallons of oil, which is, that's a lot of oil if you think about it. It's more than you are likely even going to use throughout the course of a year.
Carolyn: Yeah, it's an amazing amount. And one thing that for me is instantly I switched from using olive oil to using my homegrown sunflower oil is I do a lot with herbs throughout the year, and I make a lot of herbal oils for salves and for different cosmetic purposes, different things like that. And bringing in that decent quality olive oil that isn't adulterated with other things. I usually get that from Azure Standard, I can get a really good deal on it, but that's still, we're talking $60 a gallon for good quality, decent quality. And so instantly it made sense to turn around these sunflowers and to be able to use those for herbal oils that I'm making for cosmetic reasons. So it goes even outside the food uses, doesn't it? Very quickly.
Bevin: Oh, absolutely. So here at Small House, and that's kind of the cornerstone of the commercial side of what we do here, is these herbal wellness products that we offer. And all of the products that we make are either, they're herbs that we either grow or forage right here out of the woods. We're across the street from 1,100 acres of forest. So we do a lot of foraging out there. And then all of the oil that we use is cold pressure right here on the farm, whether it's sunflower or oil, hemp seed oil, flax seed, whatever it might be. Yeah, absolutely. Because if you're going to take the time to use quality herbs in your product, you should be using quality oils in your products too, right? Just makes sense.
Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. I sidetracked you I think. So we're talking sunflower is a side as one of the easy ones to grow. What are some of the other easy oil plants that you can grow at home?
Bevin: We grow and press a lot of hemp seed. We use a lot of hemp seed oil so we've been pressing oil here on our farm for just over a decade now. And when we got started, we started with sunflowers because that was easily accessible and then quickly moved into hemp seed. And at the time, you couldn't grow hep seed here in Michigan, so we were importing it from Canada and it was quite involved, let's say that to get these hep seeds from Canada. At the peak of our business, we were bringing in around 1,800 pounds of seed over the border and that was a whole thing. So now luckily you can grow it here in Michigan, there's an organic farm not even far from here that I can go and get seed from. And hemp seed is a wonderful oil to press.
It's very high in oil, again, we're looking at probably around 35%, sometimes even 40% oil in the seed. It's one of those seeds just like sunflowers that you don't have to shell it so you can press it in the shell and everything right through. So it's super easy to run. It's incredibly delicious, wildly nutritious. It's great topically. It's a powerhouse of everything. And then the seed cake, and this is an important thing, is the seed cake, which is the leftover from pressing the oil, the dry seed that comes out the other end of the machine is completely edible, and useful, and wonderful. So you can eat it, you can incorporate it into your foods, we feed it to our animals. It's a zero waste operation regardless of what seed you're pressing.
Carolyn: So even if you put them in with their holes on, you can still eat the seed cake?
Bevin: Absolutely. Sunflower shells are actually edible, but you need to pulverize them because I mean you know how they splinter in that bit, and that's not good for your system here, but if they're pulverized like that, absolutely you can eat them. Hemp seed shells are completely edible. They can all run through and then you can eat that stuff. We used to sell our pigs commercially and all of our pigs were fed hemp seeds, which made them more nutritious and delicious, and we were able to even get a higher price per pound selling them because it was hemp fed pork. So it was quite a sweet system.
Carolyn: Wow, okay. So that's amazing. So you said you need to pulverize them. Would you pulverize them before they go into the press or after they come out as seed meal?
Bevin: After they come out as a seed meal. Yeah, the sunflower, the machine itself will pretty much pulverize it pretty well, and it'll come out depending on the machine that you got, either like a flat sheet almost, or it comes out kind of smashed, and I'll just run it through my food processor and turn it into a powder and then I'll put it in pancakes, and breads, and whatever.
Carolyn: Oh wow, okay. I absolutely love it, because that's got to be really high protein right there.
Bevin: Oh, yeah. And when you're utilizing an expeller press machine, and we could talk a little bit if you want, about what I mean by that, the different machinery here, there's still some oil left over in the seed cake, you're not going to be able to get all of it out, you know what I mean? So you still get some of those healthy fats, you get all of that protein, it's really nutritious stuff, and you shouldn't waste it by any means. It's delicious.
Carolyn: So this is just amazing. I'm taking something, and in the case of sunflowers that I'm like, "Gosh, I like these, but I don't really know what to do with all these seeds to make them edible and I'm getting oil." And then a really nutritious, you can almost rehydrate that into butter type of a sunflower butter I would imagine.
Bevin: You absolutely can. You're right. So a lot of the times now when you let your oil settle, you press the oil, there's going to be small particulates, little bits of stuff that still get into there, and you let it settle out and all of those sediments will kind of sink to the bottom and you can decant the oil out and that sediment at the bottom is nut butter. It's the finest nut butter you'll ever get your hands on.
Carolyn: Okay, I'm getting more excited about this.
Carolyn: This is really good.
Bevin: I want people to be excited about this when we think about this, and like you said at the beginning that you couldn't find another book like this one, because there is not a book like this one. When I started pressing oil 10 years ago, there was no resources to be found anywhere. That's why we wrote the book, because I want other people to try this. So all of my trials and errors over the last decade have been able to fine tune my process to be able to put it into this book, because people need to press their oil. It is a staple food. We utilize oil in almost every meal and certainly every day in some form or another. And when we want to talk about local food, or we want to talk about being self-sufficient, how can we do any of those things if we're not producing our own staple crops like oil? So I just want people to try it and realize it's actually a relatively simple technique. We've been pressing oil since biblical times.
Carolyn: Before we had electric machines to do it, huh?
Bevin: Right, absolutely.
Carolyn: Yeah. So we're going to get into the mechanics of pressing oil in just a minute, but do you want to rattle off a couple other plants that are great for home oil production?
Bevin: Absolutely. If you're in a place where you can grow peanuts, grow peanuts, you can make a wonderful peanut oil, which is great, it's a high heat oil, so you can fry with it if you've got enough of it, you can deep-fry your turkeys and things in it, right? It's delicious. And you get that peanut butter is the byproduct from pressing your own nut oil.
If you grow flax, flax seed oil, wonderful, incredibly nutritious, the seed cake is fantastic for you. If you can grow sesame, which many people can grow sesame, that's a wonderful easy to process seed that you can grow. Pumpkin seed oil, it is delicious. It's a high dollar fancy oil, but you can make it a home for a fraction of the cost, and it is just a luxury to have. It is so good and it's very easy to grow pumpkins or any sort of squash.
And that's the thing you'll see in Austria, they developed a hulless seeded pumpkin. So it's a seed that has no shell. And since then we've developed a number of those that you can get from a number of different seed suppliers, these naked seeded pumpkins, and that's great, but when you breed a plant to have a particular trait, you tend to lose other traits. So if you have a seed with no shell, 9 times out of 10, the pumpkin that it comes from is pretty bland and boring. It's good to feed to your animals most certainly, but it's not really enjoyable to eat in the kitchen. But what if you had butternut squash? Which we can all grow and it stores well, and it's wonderful. And butternut squash seed oil is incredible. You don't have to shell it, run it right through with the shells on, press it it's delicious. It's awesome. And pretty much all of us can grow that.
So there's a handful of places, there's some different seeds to get you started, to find out where you're at.
Carolyn: That's exciting for me because right underneath my big long row of sunflowers, I have co-planted squash, all sorts of winter squashes, and I said, "Whatever we don't eat just goes to animal feed." It's a great way to start augmenting the animal feed and reducing our dependence on that department. But how fun to be able to wait before you give it to the animals. Let me scoop out the seeds and then we'll share the goodie flesh part with them and save the seeds for us. So-
Bevin: Absolutely. Now I will say on the side, you should be saving your seeds anyways.
Bevin: I'm an avid seed saver and I strongly believe in the importance of that, but you should be saving your seeds to save to grow, but also to press for some oil. You can do both.
Carolyn: That is so great. So I want to change topics just a little bit here and talk about the health of seed oils, because seed oils have really gotten a bad wrap, and this is kind of an exciting area for me, but again, it's a hard place to find information because right now the health world says, "Just stay away from seed oils." Of course, 20 years ago, seed oils were the healthiest thing for us and we should not touch anything else. But now we're not supposed to touch them. Let's talk about why are seed oils kind of known as being not good for us in the health food world?
Bevin: To put it bluntly, it's because of the internet. People find misinformation on the internet and share it all day long, and we could have this be a topic of seed oils or a million other things that this happens on. People are notorious for wanting to... I mean with good intentions, sharing things on the internet that's not completely accurate. And so seed oils has become one of the latest victims of the internet, I would say.
Where I believe that this starts is when you look at commercially produced seed and nut oils that are large scale products available at most grocery stores, they are certainly not good for you. That's a fact, right? But not inherently because they're oils pressed from seeds, but the production methods that how these oils are being made is what's making them unhealthy for you. So people, again, with the best of intentions, unfortunately a lot of people don't understand how food is made, or how food grows, or any of those sorts of things.
They're very detached from that process. So many people, and we can't blame them for this because there's a lot of factors that come into play here, but they don't know that there's a difference between the commercial oil at the grocery store and the oil that you can press at home. They don't see that difference. They're not aware of that. So to them, it's one blanket product and they see that this stuff is bad. So it's all got to be bad, but that's certainly not the case at all.
When you get oils from the grocery store, large scale commercial oils from the grocery store, chemically extracted you utilizing hexane. And I'm not like a chemist by any means, but hexane is like two molecules away from being gasoline. All right? So that's what they're utilizing to extract these oils. And then these oils are sent through a process of deodorization, and bleaching, and degumming and all these things that make them incredibly shelf stable oils that will sit on the store shelves for a very, very long time.
It's a profitable way to do this. And sometimes, unfortunately, when people make decisions based on profit, sometimes their decisions aren't based on ethics or anything else. So they're profitable oils, but they're not necessarily the best foods for us to consume, right?
Bevin: But we can skip over that whole thing by simply pressing our own oils at home using mechanical extraction, the exact same technology that they've used. We could say it, since biblical times by pressing oils. The machine that I use is essentially the exact same technology that people have been pressing oil for thousands of years with, right? There's no hexane, there's no degumming, there's no deodorizing, right? So this is what this is, is a case of very well-intentioned people sharing something that they actually really don't know enough about to share, if that makes sense? If I can say that?
Carolyn: Yeah. Well, we even found this back with a grass fed beef is that we have all these studies out there about, oh, avoid beef, it's too much saturated fat, it's not going to be good for you, causes heart problems. Well, when you look at what the studies were all done on, they were all done on these CAFO raised beef that is just pretty much force fed tons of grain, and they're not living in a natural circumstance. Of course, their body chemistry isn't right, and it isn't healthy for you. It's not healthy for them.
But all the studies, all the health studies are done based on those things. We kind of have the same situation here where any study that's ever done is not done, on your home pressed oil that's been raised at home, that hasn't had all these chemical processes done to it, all the extra processing. And so you're just not really getting a true look at what's happening with the seed oils, what they really do, and what they do inside your body when you put them in. And so it's something we have to really look at with a grain of salt, and really stand back and go, "There is a world of difference between a commercially produced oil and what I can produce at home." And we need to take-
Bevin: A world of difference.
Bevin: Oh my gosh. Such a difference. I mean, people have been pressing seed and nut oils since practically the dawn of agriculture. So we're talking 10,000 years that people have been doing this, okay? Indigenous North Americans were extracting the oil from sunflower seeds for a very, very long time, and they were incredibly healthy people. It's not the sunflower seeds that are to blame for the health issues, that's just the way that it is.
Carolyn: So, but one issue we do have with oils that is important to note is that they do go rancid fairly quickly. That's why they process them for the commercial use, and for sitting on your grocery store shelf, is because oils do go rancid. And we do know that rancid oils are carcinogenic. So when we're talking about home production, how quickly does your home produced oil go rancid?
Bevin: This is an awesome question and I'm glad that you brought this up. So the answer to that is going to vary really from one seed oil to the next. It's going to be a little bit different, of course, because the chemical constituents and make up that each one of these oils is going to be a little bit different.
So in the book, for each of the seeds, we go into depth on all of these things, the proper storage temperatures, length of time that it could be stored, how to store the seeds, all that sort of thing to make sure that people have the best quality oil possible. But what really is the important thing to touch on here, I think, is that when we're pressing our own oils at home, we don't have the need to store oil ever, that's not something that we need to do.
You're not going to just sit down and press a year's worth of oil. That's not what I'm going to suggest to you. You're going to sit down and press a week's worth of oil, and then you have literally the freshest oil available. Now, let's back up, I guess, and let's not totally slam everything that's at the grocery store, because if you go to a store, there's certainly some quality products that you can find there. There's expeller pressed, mechanically pressed oils available at the store, your local co-ops, whatever it might be. And those are nice oils made by people that care about producing quality things. And they have that there, and you can certainly buy them, but sometimes those are a little bit older than you necessarily want them to be too, depending on the scale of their business. Sometimes those things go through warehouses, they're sitting on the shelves, that sort of thing.
They're definitely better than the chemically extracted oils, but we can improve upon that by doing it at home because you can have oil pressed this week. We sell oil on our website and hemp seed oil, and sunflower oil, or whatever it might be. I don't even press it until somebody orders it. When it gets ordered, I run it through the press. So it is literally as fresh as you get it. I press it, it decants, I bottle it, I ship it to you. That's how fresh it is, right? Because I want people to experience how fresh oil is. It's so different. The flavors, the colors, the nutritional content, everything about it is superior.
So although, in the book I do talk about how to ensure your oil doesn't go rancid, the real tip here is just press what you need for this week. All the oils are going to last a week, easily. Press it, use it, and then press some more. It's very easy to press and you can press a week's worth of oil in no time at all. It doesn't take a lot of time and effort to do that.
Carolyn: Yeah, I've been absolutely surprised how quick and easy it is. Now I've got an electric machine that's like a digital panel and I just push a button and it just does its thing. So it's really easy. But we've got 13 people in our household, so we have to simplify processes where we can. But it really doesn't add that much time to, gosh, if you're in the kitchen, you're cleaning, I get it started, push button and I just clean up and then I go over and push the stop button, and I have a few parts to wash on the machine and that's it, it's done.
Bevin: Well, right. You're right. But even for folks that don't want to buy an electric machine, and I've got a couple of those electric numbers too, but through the book we talk about those electric machines, most certainly. And we've used them for larger scale production, but the hand turn oil press that we discussed in the book, and we sell them on our website, you can buy it on our website, not just the press, but you can buy it in a little combo that comes with the book or little samples of oils. Oh, yeah. Very nice stuff, right?
Carolyn: Good stuff.
Bevin: But that hand turn machine is literally all that you need for a household use. So it's very simple to run. It's three parts. It's three pieces of machinery. So it's very easy to keep clean. You can run it by hand, you can produce quite a bit of oil in a short amount of time.
But then in the book, what I do is walk you through how to upgrade that machine to be bicycle powered. Well, I show you how to hook it up to a motor and do some different things about hooking it up to a bicycle. And once you do that, it's no work at all, really. It's a joyous bike ride, if you will. And by pedal power, you can produce all the oil that you need to put one of the kids on there, dangle the carrot in front of them, let them go, and you'll have tons of oil in no time for very little effort and very little investment. And that's the key, is I want people to be able to have access to the oil regardless of their budget. If they can afford fancy machinery, oh by all means, buy the fancy machinery I suppose. But you don't need to, you can for a very modest investment, you can get started pressing your own oil right at home. And I mean, never look back. That's all you'll need to do.
Carolyn: Yeah, that's great. So going back to the rancid issue for just a second, before we move on to the idea of different presses and how we actually... Like the mechanics, how we actually do this. When you press your own oil at home, should you store that in a refrigerator? Let's say you're doing it week to week. Every Monday you press what you need for the week. Should you stick that in the refrigerator to store it, to keep it from going rancid during the week? Or is it good just out on the counter?
Bevin: Good question. And that's going to again come back to the type of oil. So if you're pressing hemp seed oil, flax seed oil, those types of oils are going to need to be refrigerated. Having a refrigerator for them is going to extend their shelf life, far beyond the week that I'm telling you for. But putting it in the refrigerator. But other oils are more shelf stable. So we could look at sunflower oil, peanut oil, that sort of thing. If you're pressing those, those can sit right on the counter at room temperature and they're going to be perfectly fine.
Don't put your oil over your stove. That's where everybody likes to keep their oil is up over this. It's convenient. It's right there while you're cooking or whatever. That's like the hottest place in your whole kitchen. And you don't want that, right? You want to keep your oil cool and dark. So put it in a cool cupboard, like a lower cooler cupboard, keep it in your pantry or something like that if you're keeping it at room temperature out of the sunlight and it'll last easily. But some oils are a little more volatile and they're going to want to be refrigerated for sure. And like I said, we touch on each oil specifically in the book, but out of the ones that we just talked about, the five most common ones, pumpkin seed oil, hemp seed oil, flax seed oil, refrigerate, sunflower oil, peanut oil, counter.
Carolyn: Great. So let's dive into what tools and supplies we need to actually press our own at home. Because like you're saying, you can make it pretty simple. You can upgrade, you can do a little bit fancier, but I mean really at the heart of it, you need seeds and you need a press of some sort, that's pretty much it.
Bevin: That's pretty much it. You're going to want to a container to catch the oil when it comes out and a container to catch the seed cake when it comes out. But that's it. There's your most basic list. That's all that you're going to need. Seeds, press, couple of containers, bada bing, you're in the oil pressing business. If we wanted to get a little bit more involved in that, I'm going to recommend in some situations, maybe a nutcracker if you're dealing with hazelnuts, walnuts, that sort of thing. We have a couple different nutcrackers that we'll use to separate the shells, those hard shells, you're not going to want to run those through the machine, right? So something like that, nutcracker, to get those shells out of the way is useful.
Some seeds and nuts, I recommend putting through the oven, lightly warming them up a little bit. So in that case, you would need an oven and maybe a baking sheet, so you can heat these up. Now, there's two things that we can do here. Just simply heating the seeds up a little bit is going to coax more oil out of them. That heat is going to loosen up that oil that you're going to get a higher production rate, most certainly. But some of our seeds. We could toast them a little bit, you know you could toast some sesame seeds, toasting some peanuts, and that's going to bring out some different flavor profiles. So you can make different products with the same seed. You can have the raw seed, you could have the toasted seed, and you can get some different things out of it. So that's kind of a fun way to do it.
We have ours hooked up to a bicycle. So in that case, I'm going to need a bicycle. There's a special sprocket that you're going to need. I say special. It's not really special. It's pretty much the most common sized bicycle sprocket, fits right onto the pit of the machine that we have, fits right on there. So a longer bike chain. And in that case, I use a small funnel and attach the funnel to the press and then use a piece of aquarium tube that then runs down lower to the ground just so I have a large container so I don't have to stop pressing. So I can press a lot of oil. If you're using a small container, obviously it's going to fill up too quick.
But again, it's incredibly limited amount of equipment. It doesn't take much at all to get started. I can't think of more things. A few buckets, we buy some of those BPA free, food grade buckets from the local hardware store to store our seeds in.
Storing the seeds is key. You want to make sure your seeds are stored well. It's easier to store the seeds than it is to store the oil. They keep significantly longer. So we got a lot of the buckets of seeds that we keep out in the coal barn, so they're in a cool dark place or whatever, but really there's not a lot of equipment that goes into it, some jars to store the oil so it can settle, and then bottles to put the oil in when it's ready to go. And I think that's about all you're going to need.
Carolyn: Yeah, that's actually pretty simple when you're talking about projects that require supplies. If you're talking soap making, you need a ton more supplies than that. A lot of things need a lot more. So do you have a preferred or recommended oil press? If somebody's an absolute beginner, they don't want to put too much money into it, they just want to play with the idea, what would you use or recommend?
Bevin: So the press that we sell on our website, and you can buy it other places as well. There's a website that you can buy anything in the world that you need from. We won't mention it by name, but everybody knows what I'm talking about. They carry it also it's Piteba is the brand, P-I-T-E-B-A, Piteba. It's made in Holland and it is the finest machine. There are some imitators, there's some other versions of it that people sell on the internet. They are not as high a quality. The metal is thinner, the parts are weaker, it's going to bend, it's not going to last. The Piteba brand, it's red is the number one piece of equipment that you need. It's all that you need. You get that and you'll be in the oil pressing business. And it's essentially three parts. It's the main body of the press. It's a graduated turn screw that goes into the chamber, and it's the crank, that's all that it is. There's a couple little bits and bobbles here. There's some screws, so you can mount it, a couple of washers, that sort of thing. But for the most part it's just three heavy duty pieces of machinery. And that's the only thing that you need to get started pressing your own oil.
Carolyn: Do you know what the price range is of that? What people would expect?
Bevin: I want to say it's about $200. It varies. You know what I mean? I think everything, every minute gets more expensive it seems. But I want to say it's probably about 200 bucks to get one of those. So I mean, it's an investment most certainly, but it's significantly less expensive than buying anything else, a big machine or something.
Carolyn: Including too many gallons of oil.
Bevin: Including too many gallons of oil. You got it.
Carolyn: You're going to replace that cost really quickly, actually, which is exciting, especially if you're in a large household or if you're going through a lot of oils. We eat salads every day here in this house as through as much of the season as we possibly can. And we love homemade vinegarette. And so we are going through the oil. So that would actually pay for itself pretty quickly within a season.
Bevin: Pretty quickly. And I want to mention this too for folks, and I assume that most of your viewers and listeners are in a position to be growing a number of these things, homesteaders and that sort of thing, but you don't even have to grow these things if you don't have the space or time to do it. You can certainly source these seeds from other places. If you have a guy near you that grows sunflowers, you can get them. The sunflower seed that they sell for bird seed. The black oil sunflower seed for bird seed is the highest producing oil seeds you can get your hands on, right?
Carolyn: Oh wow.
Bevin: So you can get that. Like I said, there's a guy that grows hemp seed, it's organic hemp seed. It's a 15-minute drive for me. I can go meet the farmer, shake his hand and get a big sack of seed. And I don't have to grow, I don't have to utilize my space for that. I can get it locally grown and then I can press locally grown oil just the same way. So even if you don't have the space to necessarily do it, you can certainly source the seeds. There's online sources for seeds as well. There's lots of ways to get your hands on seeds, and all of it still becomes more cost-effective than buying the oil yourself.
Carolyn: Yeah, I went straight before I had enough sunflowers and I wanted to play with it before mine were harvestable. I went to Azure Standard and was able to get sunflower seeds straight in from them in a big sack, and good quality, organic and knew what I was getting into. And so you can find them, you can locate them in other places, which is a great note because sometimes you want to learn about something and learn the skill that it takes before you actually start doing all the growing and all the back work for it.
Bevin: Right on. But I tell you, once you taste that fresh pressed sunflower oil, you're going to start finding places to plant some seeds for sure.
Carolyn: Absolutely. Absolutely. So let's say, now a little backstory on this one is that about two years ago I went to our local farmer's market and there was a young couple there, and they were actually selling sunflower seed that they had done in their own home right around here. And so you know that they're working on a higher level of production than maybe somebody standing there and hand cranking. Maybe a bike would be good, but if you wanted to move up in size, would you go to one of... What would you do for [inaudible] production?
Bevin: Oh yeah, I mean so when we started the oil press business here at Small House, we were selling it commercially at farmer's markets and things, and I was pressing it by hand, hand cranked. And I quickly found out that that wasn't going to work out for me. I was selling it faster than I could press it, you know what I mean? There was such a demand for this quality oil that I just could not keep up with it. So the bike made a big difference. Utilizing the bike helped, but then we expanded the business outside of the parameters of Cottage Food Law, which is what we have in Michigan that allows us to sell small scale like that. But once we started selling it to co-ops, and grocery stores, and those sorts of things, I had to have a commercial kitchen facility.
And then immediately I was not allowed to use the bicycle in a commercial kitchen facility. So I had to buy an electric press, which is why I have electric presses. And to get a nice one is certainly more of an investment, but it was a business investment, and it was definitely worth doing. We bought our first machines through Alibaba, which is a large commercial type of product selling place. And it was the most cost-effective place to get a good machine that was going to work. And so we were running those and those were fantastic just like yours, you know you load the hopper, you flip the switch, you go do other things, you come back, you got tons of oil. And that really worked for scaling up.
For me, especially because we had to move to a commercial facility to do this. I found that almost every day I was leaving the homestead and going to this commercial facility to work. And I thought, well, that's the opposite of why I live on the homestead. That's not what I want to do. So we scaled that completely back. We shut down that portion of the business, we stopped selling it to co-ops.
I've still got the electrical machines and I'll use them every once in a while. If we get some big orders in or something like that, we go to the Mother Goose Fair, we're vendors there. So I'll press a bunch of electric to save my legs a little bit. But for me, and this is an issue that I have in my life, is I'm always trying to scale up, scale up. It's like my American brain is capitalize on this situation, and at the end of the day, that's not what I'm trying to do with my life.
So I scaled down, slow down, stop trying to do that. But for folks that are industrious entrepreneurs, you can certainly buy an electric machine. They're going to cost a little bit more, but it's going to save you your legs and you can produce a lot of oil with, I mean, no effort really. 'Cause you're just flipping the switch and your electric bill will do the work for you, I guess.
Carolyn: Okay, great. Good. So I think we've really covered this in this discussion, but you would in summary, like totally say that producing your own oil on the homestead is totally a sustainable way to be eating? It's a sustainable project, it's something that we should be doing to help ourselves to be more resilient in any times coming up even day-to-day living?
Bevin: Absolutely, absolutely. Without a doubt. I mean, let's break this thought down just a little bit here. Before the supermarket took over the landscape, that was the only way people had access to oils, was either raising the pigs and slaughtering the pigs, or by growing the seeds and pressing them with the machine, almost identical to one that I have.
So it's the most sensible way, we could say sustainable. We could say the most sensible way to do things. If we want to provide for ourselves, we have to learn how to provide the most basic things. And I consider seed and nut oils to be one of the most basic things that happens in my kitchen. It touches almost every meal. So yes, absolutely.
One of the issues that many people have is our time is very much divided. We have many things that we have to do. A lot of us are pulled away from the things that we'd want to do to do other things to fund these, right? There's a lot of moving parts in people's lives. So it's all about finding the time to do the things that you want to do. Do I think that pressing your own oil is worth the time? I would also say yes, because it turns out you can press all the oil that you need in a very small amount of time once you get started. So 100% worth it, any way you want to look at it.
Carolyn: Wow, okay. That is great. Well, and I think this is something that we need to keep talking about. I'm so glad you're doing what you're doing, but it's just one of these areas people talk about, "Let's raise our own meat." And here on our homestead, we raise almost 100% of our own meat. We bring in some salmon here and there for fun because we like salmon and we can't get it yet. But you know you talk about growing your own vegetables, your own fruits. We do a lot of our own dairy products here, but this is really a missing conversation is the fats. And as soon as the grocery store becomes non-available, everybody's going to realize that this was a huge missing link that life just doesn't keep rolling on without fat. It just doesn't exist. You have to have it. You have to be putting it into your diet. And great, do you have any last tips for anybody cooking with their homegrown and home produced oils?
Bevin: Sure. I mean, some oils are going to be better for cooking with than others. So we'll come back to those same oils that we had to put in the refrigerator, like our hemp seed and flax seeded oils. They're not really ones that you want to cook with. They don't really tolerate the heat well. It's going to break down that oil. You're going to lose a lot of that nutritional value, but you're more shelf stable oils like sunflower and peanut, you can most certainly fry with those. You can saute, stir-fry, deep-fry, salad dressings, whatever you want to do, which is another reason why I always try to steer people towards sunflower to start their oil adventure because it's easy to grow like we talked about, but it's also very versatile. We can utilize it in a multitude of ways in our kitchen, and we can enjoy it in practically any meal that you want to cook or use raw.
Carolyn: Yeah. Wow, that's amazing. Okay, well, we're all excited. We all want to jump in on this. You guys, we're going to have show notes for you that have the brand names of things we've just talked about some of the information and definitely links over to Bevin and his information there. So check out the show notes for that.
And Bevin, thank you so much for joining us. This has been a very exciting conversation. And you guys, I really, really hope you're going to take this seriously and start looking at what you're already growing that you may be able to use, because you probably already have pumpkins or we didn't talk about watermelons, but you can do melon seed oil, sunflower. You probably have some of this already growing in your garden, in your yard, or available to you very locally, very close to you somewhere. So start looking at that and seeing what you can do to produce your own healthy and amazing oils at your own home. It's an exciting thing. Go check out Bevin over at his website again, that's smallhousefarm.com And check out his podcast too. So thank you and we'll see you guys soon. Goodbye.
Bevin: Thanks Carolyn. Bye-bye.
Speaker 3: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Pantry Chat, Food for Thought. If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and review.
Carolyn: The show notes and any other resources mentioned on this episode, you can learn more at homesteadingfamily.com/podcast.
Speaker 3: We'll see you soon.
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