Saturday, December 1, 2012
Being A Prepper - Food Storage Spice
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.
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?
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.