Monday, March 15, 2010

Man Does Not Live By Food Alone

It's great to store food for when times get tough.  Having food in the pantry is like having money in the bank.

But if you ever need your food storage to live on, you'll need a lot more than food:  medicines, soap, and toilet paper, for starters. 

But the most important thing to store is water.  We need at least a gallon of water per person per day.  That's roughly 1/2 gallon for drinking, and 1/2 gallong for cooking and sanitation.  And that is a bare minimum.

There are lots of resources on the Internet for how to store water, so I'm not going to go into it too deeply.  But I found one thing recently that I wanted to mention because I've only seen it mentioned one other place:  the WaterBOB(R). 

Many of use who live in rural areas know that if a storm is predicted, we'd best fill our bathtub with water because we'll need it if the power goes out.  But although that water is great for flushing the toilet, it isn't very good for drinking.  It'll pick up any bits of skin flakes, soap scum, cat hair, and dust that may be in the tub.  And you don't want to drink those.

Enter, the WaterBOB.  It's a plastic bladder that fits inside the tub.  You fill it with water, and use the manual pump on top to get water out of it.  It seems to be designed for the scenario I mentioned above, fairly short-term preparedness where you have some warning.  The website says it'll keep the water clean for up to 4 weeks.

I don't know whether it's recommended for longer storage.  Obviously, you wouldn't want to leave it in your bathtub all the time.  And you have to fill it before the power goes out.   But I'd think a reasonably handy person could build a bathtub-sized box to contain and support it, and fill it with purified water.

Anyway, it seems worth looking into--for short-term, predicted, situations like storms.  I'll put the link on the right side of the screen.

You Can Grow Hundreds of Pounds of Food in Your Yard

Did you know that you can grow--potentially--hundreds of pounds of food in your yard every year, without as much work as you might think.

By carefully selecting fruit trees, bushes, and vines, you can grow hundreds of pounds of fruit a year without much more work than growing strictly ornamental varieties.  You can have a gorgeous landscape.  And you get lots of fruit that is often much tastier than what you get at the grocery store--because you can select your favorite variety and pick it at just the right time for best flavor.

Need a beautiful tree in your yard?  Sure, you could plant a flowering pear tree--they are gorgeous.  But why not plant a self-pollinating fruiting pear tree that's almost as beautiful but that also produces awesome pears.  Or how about a persimmon tree?  Many varieties have gorgeous fall foliage and yummy fruit.

Need some shrubbery with fall color?  How about a few blueberry bushes?  Want an evergreen bush?  How about an evergreen huckleberry?  They taste better than blueberries and they stay green all winter (at least, here in the Pacific Northwest).

Got a patio or deck that is too sunny?  Why not build an arbor or pergola over part or all of it, and grow kiwi or grapes over it.

With any of these options you can have a beautiful yard and grow armloads of fruit that you can eat fresh, preserve (can, freeze, or dehydrate), trade with neighbors, or whatever you want.  That fruit can be wonderful now.  But if you ever need to rely on your food storage, it could be life saving.

We're lucky here in the Pacific Northwest, because we have two awesome nurseries that specialize in fruiting plants (trees, bushes, and vines) for home growers:  Raintree Nursery, and One Green World.  Not only are they great suppliers, but both their catalogs contain a ton of information on growing the fruits.  If you're interested in growing fruit, I highly recommend you check out these two nurseries, or any similar nurseries in your area.  The links to both of these nurseries can be found on the right side of the screen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Couple Pictures of My Yard

OK, I admit that this isn't food-storage related.  But I took a few pictures while walking around my yard the other day, and I can't resist posting them.  It was a nice, sunny winter day, so there were no leaves on the trees and bushes.  So it was easier to see mossy stumps than it normally is.  For some odd reason, I really like mossy stumps.

This first one looks like it was probably a douglas fir tree.  The trees around it now are fairly young big-leaf maples.  And there's red elderberry, some salmon berry, a red huckleberry, and some sword fern.

Spiced Cranberry Apple Fruit Leather

I'm making spiced cranberry apple fruit leather.  It's still drying.  In fact, it's taking a long time to dry.  But I think it's going to turn out really well.  The puree sure tastes good.

1 47 oz jar unsweetened applesauce
1 or 2 12 oz bags cranberries (mine were frozen)
sugar to taste
cinnamon to taste
pinch of nutmeg

To make the sauce, put the cranberries into a 3-quart saucepan with one or two inches water.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the berries begin to burst when you stir them up, 3-4 minutes.

Being careful to not burn yourself, pour the berries and water into the blender and blend until they are pureed (add more water if needed).  Pour the puree back into the saucepan, and add sugar a little at a time, stirring and tasting between additions, until you like the sweet/tart balance.  Then add cinnamon to taste and a little bit of nutmeg.

Add the jar of applesauce and stir with a spoon until well blended.  Spread the mixed apple/cranberry puree onto lightly-oiled leather trays (or mesh trays covered with parchment) and dehydrate for several hours until leathery but not tacky.

Peel the leather from the trays, roll into tubes, and cut into bite-size pieces.

The more sugar you add, the longer the puree will take to dry.  Also, the more water you add while blending, the longer it will take to dry.

Depending on how dry the leather gets, it may be difficult to cut with a knife.  I find it easier to cut with an electric knife.

I Made Beef Jerky From Hamburger

While grocery shopping at my local Fred Meyer store one day a couple weeks ago, I discovered that they had a "Jerky Express" on sale for $19.95.  It contains a Nesco dehydrator and their jerky gun with three different nozzles, 5 sample packages of jerky seasoning, and 5 packages of jerky cure.  A jerky gun is like a cookie press, but instead of making spritz cookies, you make jerky strips from hamburger.  Even though I already own a dehydrator, I just "had" to have the Jerky Express.  The jerky gun kit alone is normally $20, so it was like getting the dehydrator for free.

So I went home with the Jerky Express and a pound of hamburger to try out.

I mixed the hamburger with a package of teriyaki-flavor seasoning and a package of the jerky cure.  I used my hands to mix the seasoning in well, as if I were making meatloaf (the spoon in the picture was for scooping it into the jerky gun. 

Then I loaded up the jerky gun and pressed out some jerky strips.

The press held a little less than 1/2 pounds of hamburger.  Pressing it out in strips the way you see here, I almost filled 4 dehydrator trays.  Then using a lamp-timer set to 6 hours, I turned on the dehydrator and went to bed.

When I got up the next morning, the hamburger had dried into leathery strips.  I put them on a cookie sheet and stuck them into a 160-degree (F) oven for an hour to make sure there were no nasty bacteria.  Then I pulled them out and blotted the grease off with paper towels. 

I took the jerky with me when I went to visit family for dinner the next evening, and we darn near polished off the jerky, so I had to make some more a couple days later.  It was that good.

The Jerky Express came with 1 each of 5 different seasoning flavors, so the next batch I made was the Original Flavor.  While this one tasted good, I found it too salty.  The little booklet said that if it's too salty you can make it with 1 1/2 pounds of hamburger instead of just a pound of hamburger.  So I'll probably do that next time.

All in all, I'm happy with my purchase.  I like the hamburger jerky:  it's cheap to make, and it isn't as hard to chew as sliced jerky.  And even though I already had a dehydrator, it's handy to have another one with the same size trays.  Both are expandable to 7 trays, so I can use the trays from the new dehydrator to expand my first one. 

The Jerky Express dehydrator isn't as powerful as the one I already had.  It's only 350 watts, and my other one is 425 watts.  But it worked will with the jerky.  I made fruit leather with it today, though, and it did take longer than with my other one.  It's good to have options.

Making Celery Powder

I hadn't done much with my dehydrator yet this winter, so I thought I'd better get started (before warm weather gets here and it gets too hot to run it).  So I decided to make celery powder.

Celery powder is very easy to make.  Simply dehydrate chopped celery until it's hard, then process in a food processor or blender it's as powdery as you want it.

But it takes a lot of celery to make celery powder.  I started with an entire bunch of celery from the grocery store, and when it was all done I had about 1/3 cup celery powder.  Fortunately, the flavor is concentrated, so a little goes a long way.

Here's how I made it:

I got one bunch of celery from the grocery store.  I chopped it up and spread the pieces on 4 dehydrator trays.  I used flexible fine-mesh tray liners, because the pieces get very small.   Then I dried it for 6-8 hours.  It needs to be dried until the pieces are hard.  Here are the dried pieces in a stainless bowl, and then on the cutting board.

Then I put the celery pieces into the blender and blended until they were in very small chunks.  I put the powder in an 8-oz. spice jar.  You can see that one bunch of celery processes down pretty small.

This powder can be used to flavor soups or stews, spaghetti, salad, or anything else that goes well with celery. 

In Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook, she recommends processing asparagus this way and using it to make asparagus souffle.  She says it's fluffier than souffle made with asparagus pieces because the water in the asparagus weighs down the souffle.  You don't have that problem with dehydrated vegetable powder.

You can make powders out of all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  Mary Bell also recommends making strawberry powder from dehydrated strawberries.  You can mix the powder with sugar for strawberry sugar.  It's great on cereal or for sweetening...anything that tastes good with strawberries.