To me as a child, pioneering were the TV shows The Rifleman with Chuck Connors and Wagon Train with Ward Bond. (Yes, I am that old.) Little House On the Prairie was too sappy. My sisters watched that.
Those TV characters were seeking new western homesteads to build homes and families.
Using common, everyday skills for those times, they hunted game, grew fruits and vegetables, preserved extra food, and tended to injuries and ailments. They were pioneers.
When it comes to the food preservation of your garden successes, canning is the skill to master. Edible shelf-life of properly canned food ranges from one to five years. Canned product that’s freeze dried (think canned lentils) may last up to twenty-five, maybe thirty years.
If you’re a “canning beginner”, remember to use modern canning recipes only … and to follow the recipe exactly.
There are probably 12 to 15 must-follow canning rules. Here are five of the most important:
Safety Rules Of Canning
1. Don’t use jars larger than a quart. Home canning technology cannot guarantee that larger quantities will be sufficiently heated through for enough time. Rather, the food on the outside will overcook, while that on the inside won’t get hot enough for food safety.
2. A water-bath canner may only be used for high acid foods such as tomatoes, fruits, rhubarb, sauerkraut, pickles, and jams/jellies. A pressure canner MUST be used for low acid foods including vegetables, meats, and stews.
3. [Again] Use only modern canning recipes from reliable sources (especially when first starting out).
4. Never reuse jar lids. Used lids aren’t reliable for sealing correctly. If a screw-on band is rusty or bent, it won’t work right and should be discarded and replaced. That said, you might consider purpose-designed reusable Tattler lids.
5. Don’t use antique or ‘French’ -type canning jars. They aren’t as safe as the modern, regular ‘Ball, Kerr’ type.
Source: Another excellent post by Ken Jorgustin. Read the comments after his article for additional canning insights.
Image: Gerd Altmann
The End Of The World As We Know It.
It doesn’t matter how we got here. Things are bad all about us and hopefully we prepared well. The Eater website interviewed several dedicated preppers including Pat Henry of the Prepper Journal and Lisa Bedford, the Survival Mom.
There are essentially three basic prepper food rules that that will substantially increase your survival odds. This not new territory, but a good reminder of how you should be organizing and executing your food storage prep.
Bedford also offers additional insights on her 3-layer pantry storage strategy: from the grocery store, bulk items, and ready-to-eat.
Rule One: Keep Your Groceries Hidden
Though preppers are very active behind screen names on the Internet — on groups like the American Preppers Network or websites like the Survival Blog — they stay under the radar in real life. It’s not because they think their hobby is strange, but because when the end of the world comes, they don’t want the entire starving neighborhood to know that their house is the one full of potable water, heat, and enough food to last a full calendar year. ”
The first rule of prep club is you don’t talk about prep club,” says Lisa Bedford, a mother of two teenagers and a prepper also known as the Survival Mom. As a result, there’s not much in the way of hands-on education. “The community is online because people want to be very careful and cautious about who they talk to,” Bedford explains. Bedford says that she has cultivated a small group of neighboring preppers who she could rely on if SHTF (“shit hits the fan,” naturally). “But I have no idea how much they actually have.”
Rule Two: Don’t Store What You Can’t Eat
The main issue is that stored food is only as useful as your willingness to eat it. “Food fatigue is a real thing,” Bedford explains. If all that’s in the pantry is rice and beans, the monotony of the diet would eventually make anyone lose their desire to eat.
To get a varied diet, Bedford advocates a three-layer approach to stocking the pantry.
The first layer takes place at the grocery store — specifically in the canned food aisles. “The reason canned food is so important is that it’s shelf stable,” Bedford says. That said, don’t just purchase whatever is on sale. “Focus on things you’ll eat and your family members will eat,” she adds. And don’t forget the spices: Adding new flavors to the same base ingredients is an easy way to combat food fatigue while sticking to a few pantry staples.
Next are the bulk foods which Bedford believes are where most of a prepper’s time and money should be spent. Opening a can of ravioli might get you a meal, but there’s not much in the way of choice. With freeze-dried meat, shrimp, yogurt, and cheese (almost every food seems to have been freeze-dried) and a healthy stockpile of various pastas, dried beans, and grain, “you can make hundreds of recipes,” according to Bedford.
For people who don’t feel up to DIY recipe development, there are a number of resources to turn to. Many preppers blog and post individual recipes and tips on their websites. Prepping is also a (small) cookbook genre with titles like The Survivalist Cookbook or The Prepper’s Cookbook that speak directly to their intended audience. Plenty of other cookbooks focus on things like canned soup, jerky, or campfire recipes.
Finally, a good prepper wants to invest in some ready-to-eat meals. They’re not all that different from the field rations given to soldiers and, as a result, are not something the average person wants to survive on entirely. “You’ll get tired of them pretty quickly,” Bedford says. She recommends that the RTE meals comprise no more than 20 percent of total food supplies.
Rule Three: Get Out of the Pantry
Unfortunately even the best-stocked food supply doesn’t last forever. Bedford points out that food storage doesn’t exist in a vacuum. “You’ll open that can of beans and then what?” she says. “The purpose of stored food is to buy you time.”
In her family’s case, the year or so their supply could carry them for would be enough time to connect with other families, work together, barter, and so on. “Right now if there was a massive power grid failure, millions of households would only have a couple weeks of food,” she explains. “They have no margin.”
Henry supports the idea of keeping chickens both for meat and eggs as well as investing in the time to learn about technology like aquaponics or even hydroponics, which can both create comparatively large amounts of food in small spaces.
Surprisingly, he doesn’t advocate relying too much on hunting. “If you’re out there looking for food and things are that bad, chances are hundreds and thousands of other people are doing the same thing.” There are only so many deer and pheasants to go around.
Source: Another great and insightful article by Tove Danovich, a freelance journalist based in NYC.
Long-term viability of stored food is always the goal. And canning is the process to achieve an “almost-forever” result.
Although you can use the boiling water bath method for canning meat, it is highly recommended that you use a pressure canner. The concern here is the horrific type of food poisoning called botulism. Not a good situation on or off the grid.
If you have solar power or a wood-burning stove, the meat canning process is relatively straight-forward with a pressure canner: hard boil under pressure for the specified time. Canning using an open fire is not impossible but very problematic.
Regardless, here’s what’s needed to get started:
Materials Needed for Canning Meat
In order to can any type of food, including meat, you’re going to need glass jars, lids and rings. The problem that many off-grid people will face in the event of a disaster is that the jars and rings can be reused but the lids can’t. Or at least MOST of them can’t.
There are now a couple of companies that make lids that can be reused almost endlessly, so even if they cost a bit more, they’ll pay for themselves many times over. The reusable lids that I’ve used are Tattler brand. The second good thing about them is that they’re BPA-free.
When using these lids though, there are a couple of differences between them and the standard lids that you’re probably used to. When you put the lids and rings on the jar, you need to unscrew the lids a quarter of a turn in order to allow the hot air to escape while the contents are processing. Once the jars of food are processed, remove them from the canner. As soon as you do this, tighten the rings back down so that the rubber can seal correctly as the food cools.
When it comes to reusing your jars, always make sure that you thoroughly clean them and inspect them for any flaws. If there is even the slightest chip anywhere, especially along the mouth, then use it to store your dry goods or other items that don’t require a seal.
You’ll also need a pressure canner. The good thing about a pressure canner is that you can use it as a water bath canner for all of your fruits and veggies that aren’t low acid.
Source: Theresa Crouse always offers keen insights on off the grid lifestyle. She’s a West Virginia gal living in Florida and follows the philosophy of “leave nothing behind but footprints”.
Image: Mark Valencia