Saturday, December 1, 2012

Being A Prepper - Food Storage Spice

There are two big mistakes that people usually make when building up their food storage.  One has been covered already, and it is that they don't use it.  They store it away under beds and in closets with the vain hope that when the S hits the fan, they will be able to survive.  They may, indeed, survive, but at what cost?  Health?  Lifestyle?  Perhaps if you are storing up food to use only in the most dire of situations (and doing a little of that is not a bad idea), you can get away with storing up food for 20 years and never looking at it.  But if you follow the rule of eating what you store, and storing what you eat, then there's another big mistake you need to avoid.  This mistake is so easily overlooked by many people, yet it is so glaringly obvious.  No spice.  What?

So, you have 1,000 lbs of bread flower, or wheat and a grain mill.  And you have some sugar, some salt, etc.  But what about yeast?  What about ginger, cloves, seasoning, etc?  How are you supposed to make very basic foods without the necessary spices to go along with the larger bulk items you have?  Did you think to store up plenty of salts, sugar, spices, etc?  If not, look at the recipes you use to make you favorite dishes and then stock up accordingly.

There are so many varieties of spices out there that I couldn't go over them all.  Suffice it to say, your supply of spices will depend largely on what your eating habits follow.  If you have a lot of Mexican style foods stored up, then you will probably want spices that compliment that.  The same goes for Asian, Indian, and various foods from around the world.

What I will cover in this entry as some basics, like salt, sugar, brown sugar, yeast, etc.  I will also cover some easy tip ideas that will help those of you who maintain a rotating 1 year food supply, as there are great short term options for you.

Salt: Did you ever hear the saying "not worth his salt" before?  Do you know where it comes from?  Back in ancient times, salt was traded like gold.  It was the ultimate spice of choice for the most wealthy civilizations, and wars were fought over control of the salt mines of ancient times.  People used to trade slaves for salt, so if a slave wasn't working as hard as he ought to, he was "not worth his salt."  Salt has so many uses, it is hard to cover them all.  From preserving meat to adding flavor to otherwise bland foods, as a necessary ingredient in many breads, cakes, pastries, stews, and so many meals, to a barter item.  Wait, barter item?  I know I'm jumping ahead here, but when the crapola hits the fan, salt will become extremely valuable to people.  Think of how often you use salt, and think of how your dinners might be without it.  Indeed, salt is still a valuable resource the world over, and in times of need, it can help you obtain other resources as well as help you prepare great meals.  But more important than all that, salt helps you stay hydrated.  Electrolytes are salts that the body uses to regulate itself and without this precious mineral, you would dehydrate and die, no matter how much water you drink.  In fact, a great way to make an expedient sports drink is to mix water with salt and sugar, as it has about the same effect as Gatorade.

Sugar: This essential ingredient in most breads and other pastries is important as well.  As a sweetener, it can also help bland foods taste better.  As an ingredient in many recipes, including cakes, pies, and others, it can't be passed up.  Sugar is also an ingredient in improvised IV's, and can help you immensely if you have suffered blood loss.  It is also instant energy, and just like salt, will become a valuable bartering item if the time comes. There are many types of sugar, and I like to store up white granulated, brown, and powdered sugar.  Imagine French Toast without powdered sugar.  I shudder to think about it!  The point of this is that if you do as we do, and eat what you store, you will need a lot of sugar because of it ubiquity in so many recipes.

Yeast: This goes without saying.  Unless your idea of awesome eating it unleavened bread for the duration of a disaster, I suggest you store up plenty of yeast.  Yeast is interesting as it helps bread dough rise and can be used in other recipes where called for.  It is also extremely unstable, so once you crack open a container of yeast, you'd better freeze it.  We store our opened, unused yeast in a FoodSaver vacuum sealed jar in our deep freeze.  It will help the yeast stay good for the better part of a year.  Other yeast containers we buy in vacuum sealed packs and also freeze them.  For small baking jobs, it might be handy to have smaller containers, like the single use packets you buy at the store.  Just be warned that it is very expensive to buy this way and the yeast won't stay nearly as long as bulk shopping.

Now, these three are basics.  With these three incredibly important spices, you can live.  But what about other short term options?

In our house, we are huge fans of pre-mixed marinades and spice packets.  They make the mundane great.  With these simple packets, you can take a chicken and make it something marvelous.  We know because we've used these when we were expecting company for dinner.  Our guests are always floored when the find out that our delicious marinated chicken or pulled pork, or awesome steaks are seasoned with these packets.  Flavor has come a long way.  The benefit to these inexpensive options are that they negate the need for you to break into other stores as often, and make a quick meal a genuinely quick meal.  I've personally sampled everything in this picture, and like every one of them.  I'd even suggest putting the fiesta mix in with dried Taco TVP or ground beef to make excellent taco meat.  These packets are cheap, and you can usually find them on sale locally.  We usually get them when they're on sale for 10 for $10 or even when there are buy 5 get 5 free deals.

Other things to consider, for short term storage, are pre-mixed muffins, cakes, brownies, etc.  These boxes last about a year in storage.  For those of you who rotate your stock annually, they are a great thing, especially if you have kids.  These allow you to have things like blueberry muffins or other tasty things without having to store a bunch of rarely used ingredients that just seem to go bad on the shelf.  My wife buys these weekly, and we go through them readily.  My kids love them.  A good breakfast could certainly use some delicious muffins.  My favorite will always be cornbread.  With a beef stew or homemade chili, you can't go wrong with that.  I like cornbread mix because it doesn't take very many extra ingredients to make it (stuff that might go bad on the shelf) and it's easier to store than corn meal. Mind you, these are for short term food storage only.  By short term, I mean 1 year or less.  You need to consume these products and you need to rotate out the expired, or nearly expiring.  One way to get rid of unused food is to donate it to the local food bank before it expires.  There's no point in throwing it away when someone else can benefit from it.

Other ingredients to consider would be easy to use gravy mixes that require only water.  You should also store up locally made honey, as it has many uses.  Keeping smaller portions of rarely used spices, like ginger and cloves is probably better than larger containers because once a container is opened, the clock starts to tick.  you might also consider storing baking soda, baking powder, evaporated milk, and canned pumpkin.  No, not pumpkin pie mix, but pumpkin.  Think healthy!

I've also noticed that expiration dates may not be entirely accurate.  What I mean is that you can typically use a spice past it's expiration date as long as it hasn't been opened. You need to be careful though.  If a powder is clumped, it's typically not a good sign.  Also, a sniff test or taste test can tell you if something is bad or acceptable.  Just be aware that once a food goes past it's pull date, or expiration date, it may not be "bad" per se, but it's nutritional value starts to diminish rapidly.  That is exactly why it is important to eat what you store, and store what you eat.  It is the most effective way to rotate your stock and maintain an up to date food storage.

I will cover oils and honey in more detail in a later entry.

-James

2 comments:

  1. Personally, I don't really care for unleavened bread. My family's working on our personal food storage right now. Getting wheat and white flour. Getting canned goods. Stocking a first aid kit with everything in it. We're starting on our spices soon. I'm going to make sure we're going get salt, sugar, yeast, and all that good stuff. http://www.pantryparatus.com/our-store/pantry-staples/bulk-spices.html

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  2. Hi, regarding Yeast,
    you can make a sustainable yeast culture very easy like the one used in Brewing, just Google yeast starter. the point is simply to multiply and keep the yeast in a nutrinal media, usually sugar Water +protein source.
    btw if you dont have yeast you can easily capture airborne yeast, by making a sourdough from scratch, medieval style :), takes a Little week. mix flour and Water 1:1, let it stand uncovered for a few hours, cover it up and stir it a couple of times a day until you se boubling., wait another few days and your sourdough is ready to be used - if it smells putried discard it! this is not pure yeast, as some non pathogenic bacterias are also present, but it is safe and has been used for literally thousand years

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