Friday, August 31, 2012

Preserving Foods

There are so many ways of preserving foods.  There is dehydrating, canning, pickling, salting, jerking, brining and the list goes on.  Almost every year the government comes out with new standards for safely preserving your foods.  Sometimes it's a new way of doing things and other times its just an adjustment on time or temperature.  I always contact my local Farm Office to see if there are any new adjustments I need to make prior to starting my canning season or dehydration season.

 I do a lot of canning and dehydrating during the summer and the things I froze fresh but didn't have time to can or dehydrate during the summer I will do during the winter.  I take advantage of the section some stores have where they will put produce that is starting to turn brown or is a day past the date.  This is a great way to get things like mushrooms, apples, bananas, potatoes, etc at a greatly reduced price and bring them home to process.  I never pass up a box of mushrooms marked down to 99 cents.  I bring them home and clean them up then dehydrate.  You can do the same thing with any fruit or vegetable.  I have 3 dehydrators, all are garage sale purchases and one I got free.  They all work just fine and I have had one of them for about 30 years. 

Today I want to discuss preserving things like eggs, butter, milk and meats.  Yes, eggs can be preserved !  So can milk, butter and meats.  We will go into each type of food and how its done.  Let's start with eggs.

When eggs are laid by the hen they have a protective coating on them which nature has designed to protect the embryo inside from bacteria.  Today many people buy their eggs at a store.  The hens that laid those eggs have never seen a rooster and their eggs will not be fertile but they still are laid with that protective coating.  In these large factory egg farms the eggs are collected and washed before going to the store.  The protective coating once gone allows the egg to quickly deteriorate unless it is refrigerated and even then it usually has to be consumed within a few weeks.

Below is a factory farm, this is where most "grocery store" eggs come from.
 Eggs are washed and scanned with a computer/laser for defects

Hens below are real free range hens not the kind the grocery stores call "Free Range".
The hens below are commercial "Free Range" laying hens for brown eggs.  Many people see brown eggs in the cartons and visualize something like the picture above.  The reality is the picture below.
The home grown variety eggs from the back yard chicken coop usually are not washed right away unless they have some dirt on them.  They will keep in your kitchen on the counter for quite awhile as long as they are not washed and in your refrigerator for several weeks.

Did you ever wonder how to tell if your eggs were fresh or not?  Here is a quick way to tell:  Fill a container with several inches of cold water, it's better if it's a flat bottomed container like a pot.  Gently drop your eggs in the water a few at a time.  If the egg floats to the top it is full of gas and has started the process of breaking down inside the shell.  It will probably be an off color if not green and it will smell quite bad.   If the egg lays on it's side at the bottom of the container it is quite fresh. If it is standing on it's small end but not floating, it's still good  (it's just not as fresh but still edible). 

I hard boil those that stand on their small end as they peel easier than a fresh egg.  I generally boil the eggs, take the pot off the heat source and let it cool down with the eggs still in the water.  After the eggs are very cool I find they peel much easier. 

Going on to preserving fresh eggs.  There are a couple ways to do it.  You can break them into a bowl, beat them as you would for say scrambled eggs then put them in containers and freeze them. You should label how many eggs you have and the date as they should be used within 6 months. You can also break each egg into an old fashioned ice cube tray, freeze and then put them in either a freezer bag or container.  Lable and date.

You can pickle them too!  Hard boil them and peel, put them in hot, clean jars.  In a small pan put about 2 cups of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of pickling spice and bring to a scald not a boil.  In the jar with the eggs put 1 teaspoon of salt, one clove of garlic and if you like some heat add a half or a whole hot pepper.  Pour the vinegar over the eggs to cover making sure you get some of those pickling spices in the jar as well.  Tap the jar to remove the air and put on a lid.  Date the jar on the lid and put in the refrigerator for 3 weeks to allow the spices to mingle with the egg.  These will keep a long time in the refrigerator, I don't know how long exactly as they don't really last much past that 4th week at my house..

The last way I have to tell you about egg preservation is oiling.  You will need a bottle of mineral oil and fresh eggs and the cartons they come in.  If you are using your own hen's eggs you will need to either buy some cartons online or ask your friends to save their cartons for you. 

You begin by examining your eggs carefully.  Look for any tiny cracks or lines, these eggs are not good for preserving, they already have a bacteria breech and are probably already contaminated.  I wouldn't eat them myself as cracked eggs sometimes get salmonella.

 Once you have made sure your eggs are crack free, pour a small amount of mineral oil into a small container and dip the end of the egg into it.  With your hands then rub the oil over the entire egg and put the egg back into the egg carton, small side down.   Date the carton.

 Now is the interesting part. Store these eggs somewhere the temperature is most constant and under 80 degrees F. I suggest about 75F or under. Once a week for the first 8 weeks gently turn the cartons over and re stack them all upside down, then next week rotate right side up. After 8 weeks you can reduce the rotation to once a month. Each time you rotate your eggs be sure to visually examine them for cracks, discoloration or smell. Discard any eggs that don't look or smell right.

 These eggs will stay good and usable for about 6-8 months.  I recently used some eggs that I preserved in February to make a very large cake.  You could not tell the difference between the preserved eggs and the fresh eggs.  I water tested the eggs I wanted to use and they all stayed on the bottom of the pot.  They did stand on the small end but they were still quite good.  Below is an egg I took from the carton under it (8/29/12).  This egg is a few days over 5 months old, stored on my kitchen counter.  As you can see the yolk is still intact, high (less fresh eggs flatten as they get older) and in good color, there is no smell at all as it should be.

Below, the egg on the left is one I just pulled out of the chicken coop, the one on the right is the same egg as above and 5 months old.  As you can see there is little difference.  The darker color of the egg on the right is not an issue.  Anyone that has hens can tell you some eggs are yellow and some are orange. A lot has to do with the chickens' diet and breed.  Many commercial egg farms add marigold flower petals to their chicken feed to make the yolks an orange color.  Much like some butcher markets add a red dye to the meat to make it look "fresh".  (now illegal in many states).  Both eggs have a spot on them, the one on the left the spot is at about 12 o'clock while the egg on the right is in the center.  These spots tell me the eggs are fertile as I have a rooster in the coop so that I can incubate or let a hen hatch the eggs as I need to replenish my stock. 

Wether the eggs are fertileor infertile it has no effect on the taste of the egg.  Some people prefer fertile eggs as they supposedly have more protien and more food value but I do not know if this is accurate or not.  Eggs are a good source of protein anyway and the opinion of "experts" change so often regarding eggs that we just eat them as we want.  What you decide to do regarding your particular diet is between you and your Doctor.  I won't get into an egg debate!
It is so much better to make a cake with a real egg than a powdered egg.  Powdered eggs are better than no eggs but not too tasty to eat are they? 

Powdered eggs on the left and real eggs on the right

Next blog we will discuss canning meats and butter.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Where can you go?

One of the important issues to discuss is where you are going to go if you have to evacuate or are forced to leave your home.  Some people think that staying put is the right thing to do.  Others don't have a formal plan but just think heading to the "mountains" would be a good idea.  Still others have thought they would head for mom's house or grandpas house.  The ideas are all good but only if you have a definate plan in place. 

So you decided to stay put, you live in an urban area with several houses per block, the corner mega market etc.  The issue here is how protected are you when your neighbors run out of food or water?  How protected are you when street gangs start going house to house looking for food, water, weapons and anything else of value?  Have you made a plan to protect yourself and your family?  How secure is your home?  How long can you stay there before you have to leave to find food and water?   Most of the food stores are going to be empty within 3 days of an event.  Two weeks after an event most of the rioting and looting will have began and people will have already either cleared out or barracaded in.  One month after an event half the looters will be out of places to go for food and water and will start heading for other places.  If its an event in which there is a gas shortage or vehicle shortage most people can only get approximately 30 miles out in any direction and will start looking for farms, dairies, agricultural areas etc.

Most serious preppers have either located a safe place to go immediately after an incident or are already living in their retreat.  If you have a place planned to go to then you need to prep that place too.  Making sure you have food, fuel, heat sources, and a way to replenish your food supply with either the ability and knowledge to grow it and protect it from both wild life and wandering people or a way to barter for what you need.  Both are acceptable and I would be preparing to do both.  If you think that this is unnecessary and believe the government will help you out or FEMA then I urge you to read this article:  about a government official that also has been prepping for years because he KNOWS what to expect from the government or FEMA.

 You will need to start with reading everything you can about growing food, animal husbandry, food preparations, food storing and water collecting.  A lot of people believe they can always use a generator for their electrical needs and they can if they have planned a way to store fuel to run it.  Fuel does break down if it doesn't have a life extender added.  You would also have to store an awful lot of it if there is a major grid breakdown.  The other thing to think about is that a generator is loud and could attract attention by undesirables.  You could cook with wood if you have a way to adequately store enough to get thru the winter and a supply nearby for replenishing your stock.  The wood stove could be as simple as a wood stove used for heat or as elaborate as an old fashioned cooking stove.  It could be moved outside in the summer and inside in the winter for a combined use of heat and cooking. 

The bottom line is whatever you have decided to do make sure your kids and family members knows what the plan is and where they need to be if you are all separated.  You might be at work miles away, the kids might be in school or on a field trip or even at college a state or more away.  How will you reunite and where?  All things to plan for practice. 

This is the best time to get things in order, before something happens.  You just never know when an earthquake or fire might cause a major evacuation.  Weather issues in some parts of the US is very serious be it tornado's or hurricanes there are ways to be ready and to prepare. 

We are going to go into some more food preparations for beginners in the next few weeks, I want to talk about some international foods that would serve us well as good food sources both filling, tasty, and full of good things for your health as well as just plain old filling. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thiings to think about

We are going to talk long range.  What if we have some type of emergency that lasts for say 3-6 months or longer.  Believe it or not there are lots of things that can happen in this day and age we just don't think about.  Chinese parts being sold for power grids that are cheap and not designed to last long but are used way over the suggested replacement time, civil disruptions, terrorism etc.  I never used to think about those things but once 9-11 and Katrina happened my thinking changed from believing something would never happen on American soil and that the government would be on the quick to help after a major incident involving earthquake, weather, etc. .  I want to have the comfort of knowing that I am preparing for anything for my family.  I need to know my family will eat and be safe no matter what happens.
This is a picture taken during Katrina, residents were not prepared in any way.  Waiting for the government to help might not happen.

 And guess what? If nothing happens and I have done all this preparing, so what ?  Who has been hurt by it?  At the very least we have extras to help someone else through rough time or a job loss. I feel strongly that I am doing what God wants me to do. 
This picture was taken during the Great Depression, but it could have been taken yesterday at one of the many food banks now straining to provide people with daily food.

Ok so you know you need to have a food inventory and you need to decide how much you will need per person for whatever time you think you should prepare for and the number of people you should prepare for.  But what other kinds of things should be on your list?  The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has a site with suggestions for a two week emergency plan you can view at: . 

The LDS (Latter Day Saints or commonly known as Mormons) have long practiced food storage as it is part of their doctrine.  They have tons of knowledge on this subject and you can benifit from that too.  They have a "food calculator" that is easy to use by putting in the number of adults and children you want to prepare for and it will automatically tell you everything you need for your family.  Of course you have to realize that this calculator is designed to include all aspects of food preparation from seasoning to grain.  They consider what  you need to make a loaf of bread and include that in the calculations.  It is very detailed and I would suggest you use it as a guide and modify it.  Remember however, if you can't get to a store how will you have bread or any prepared foods for that matter.  (perhaps you should include a few old fashioned cookbooks ?)

What about medication?  Do you or does someone in your family take medications daily?  Medications that without them there would be a problem with their health?  Diabetics, heart patients, asthmatics, high blood pressure, cancer.  Many people with those problems and no medication for even short term will not survive.  Plain and simple, if you have diabetes or say your child has diabetes and you have only enough insulin to get thru for a couple of weeks or a month, what will you do when that runs out?  Let's say you have it for a 6 month period, if there is no power and you don't have a generator or the gas to run one for 6 months how will you keep that insulin cold?  You cannot count on the government or the stores or even the Dr's to have it and give it to you when you are in need.  Help may not come for a long time (Katrina) and when it does supplies may be so limited that you might end up on the short end of the triage stick. 

These people are lined up for medical help.  Do you have what you need to get by? Have you considered what might happen with no blood pressure meds or insulin?  Have you considered holistic or natural alternatives?
There are many online pharmacies that you can use to get a supply of meds.  Many people use pharmacies in Canada or Mexico to order their medications, just remember to use them before the expiration dates and rotate your stock, reordering when needed.  Some people are worried about using medications from other countries but remember this, a good number and percentage of the medications we use right now from this country are made or the ingredients are made in India or China.  They are put together here or in Canada but they originated in other countries where it is cheaper for the pharmaceutical company to obtain.  Many people are learning about holistic healing and herbal medicine to help with these issues.  There are some things like antibiotics that are available for pets without prescription.  I am not a Dr and I won't advise anyone on those ideas but a good website to learn about this process is this Dr is a real Dr with real life medical expertise.  He has a very good blog. 

Vitamins are another item that it would be a good idea to have on hand.  A bottle of vitamins
 could save your or your child from simple things we don't worry about now days, scurvy, malnutrition etc.  It could also make a good item to include in a give away bucket.  The "Dollar Store" is a great place to get those items, just watch for the expiration dates and be sure to rotate your inventory so the oldest stuff gets used first.

What about antibiotics?  Did you know that not too many years ago if someone did something as minor as cut their hand it could kill them?  There were no antibiotics to prevent infection.  When people crossed the prairies in covered wagons there was a terrible survival rate, many died from something as simple as that.  If there isn't a way to keep clean with hot soapy water and a way to keep injuries clean as well then you are in store for an infection.  Many people have thought to have plenty of water on hand but in a long term crisis washing things like clothing and bodies will be on the bottom with the water saved for drinking.  Check out the Survival Doctor's blog on antibiotics to use in emergency.

There are so many things to think about when it come to medicine.  I think a list would be a good way to start, write down all your prescriptions, all your OTC meds and then think of all the things you needed in the past year, for instance band aids, ace bandages, ointments, aspirin, peroxide etc.  Then make your trip to the dollar store and be sure you check those expiration dates.  Buy only the ones that go out the farthest. 

You really do have to think of everything and how it relates to everything else.  A good book to read about people who didn't plan and prepare is one called "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen.  It's about a community of people who never expected something to happen in America that could bring out the best and the worse in people.  The things to think about in this book is that it brings to mind the events and circumstances we often don't think about and how they can impact an entire community and even beyond.   There are lots of books about people who were super prepared and people who went to extremes in preparedness and how they did it but not many about someone who didn't.  It's quite a lesson in why you should prepare. 

Will you be writing this on the street in front of your house after an emergency situation?

The thing about preparedness is that it is all up to you to decide how prepared you need to be, how long you feel is enough and how many people you think you should be prepared for.  When do you say no to your neighbors?  When do you say no to feeding neighborhood children at the risk of your own or your children's health.  Many people have prepared "give away buckets" that have some dried food, energy bars, soap, dollar store vitamins, a fire making kit and a couple of plastic cups and a small pot for heating water in.  It's totally up to you what you choose to do for others.  Remember however, if you have food and items to give away some folks will suspect you have much, much more hidden away and it might make you a target. 

I personally would help my neighbors but I would have to weigh out the circumstances before helping anyone else.  It would be tragic of course but my own family comes first.  If I decided to help someone with a give away bucket I personally would add a small New Testament Bible, a small first aid kit with instructions, a sewing kit and map, toothbrush and paste in addition to the food items. Most of these items are available at your local dollar store.   I would give them some advice about not staying where they are not familiar with the surroundings.  If your going to help someone keep in mind spiritual and mental health are often what will keep a person alive just as food and water.

You might want to check out an article on about things that are important in planning for the immediate or long term future.  It is an excellent article and may help you with prioritizing. 

I am not going to give any information or suggestions on personal protection or weapons or self defense.  I feel those topics are not what I am about here.  If you feel the need for weapons, you can talk to just about anyone in a sporting goods shop about type, availability etc.  I will only urge you to learn all you can and then practice if you choose a weapon.  Learn from those who know and practice often.

I have given you plenty of things to think about for now.  Think about it, pray about it and if it's in your heart, DO IT.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fire Starters 101

One of the main needs in life is warmth or heat.  You cannot survive well without it.  It keeps you warm, brings you comfort on a dark and stormy night and cooks your food adding more comefort to your life.  Cooking on an open fire is so simple but often getting the darned fire going is the hard part.  This brings me to my next "How To". 

When I was visiting Vietnam I was astounded at the amount of sidewalk restaurants.  There are no laws governing what a "restaurant" has to have, look like or even health regulations.  If a person there wants to have a restaurant he or she just finds a good location with enough sidewalk, brings in a way to cook, sets up a few little plastic stools and a supply of small bowls and chopsticks or spoons and they have a restaurant!  Pedestrians often have to walk in the street or gutters due to the huge amount of sidewalk vendors in busy areas.  Many of the "stoves" consist of a few bricks and a supply of wood or small canisters of propane inserted into small hibachi-like barbeques. 
The point being that you can have a perfectly working kitchen just about anywhere!  A couple of bricks 18" apart with the rack from an old oven or barbeque set on top and you have a grill or a place to set your pots, pans etc for cooking.  You can use wood underneath or even briquets.  I have even seen this kind of setup using sterno fuel.  So maybe you even have a woodstove in your house and can cook on that, I have used my own woodstove for that purpose.  That kills two birds with one stone, heat and cooking.  Heck you can even move it outside if you need to use it for cooking during the hot months. 

A lot of folks use a gel or those compressed wood things to get their fires going.  You may not like the idea of using paper or have a lot of kindling wood to use as a starter.  Lots of oldtimers know about homemade fire starters and so do lots of youngtimers...

You need something that will light easy, stay lit and get your bigger wood going.  Here is how we do it.   First you need some old candles or candles you get a really good deal on. Old crayons work too.  I pick them up at garage sales quite often you can get a bag of old crayons or half used candles or just old and dusty candles for pennies.  I bought some at a dollar store the other day pretty cheap (4/$1.00) You could use household parafin but that has really gotten expensive!
Remove the little metal disc that holds the wick from the bottom of the candle
Then using the pliars if neccesary, pull the wick out completely.

You will need a clean empty tin can, squeeze one side to form a pour spout and using the pliars fold one part of the edge of the can down to make a place to grip the can with the pliars.  Place the candle in the can and the can in a pan with an inch or two of water and put it on medium heat on the stove.
Next you will need toilet paper tubes or the tubes from inside the foil, wax paper etc.
You will need to save your dryer lint for a few washdays, as shown I keep mine in an old coffee can that has a lid and just push it in the can and put the lid on to keep it dry.
Put the dryer lint inside the tubes, not too solidly, leave it a little loose.
When the wax has completely melted, very carefully pour it into the tubes a bit at a time.
Let the wax cool, flip the tubes and repeat the process at the other end of the tubes.

Light them with a match and they burn for a long time (10-15minutes) giving a good ignition to the firewood in your woodstove, campfire or cookfire.  I make them every few weeks all summer long then store them in  ziplock bags which I put in plastic bins under the bed or in the pantry (wherever I have room) .  My husband loves them and its so easy to throw a bag in the car or camper when we go deer hunting or camping out.  Some people make these from old cardboard egg cartons and that would work fine too, you would follow the same process then after they cool you would cut them into single use plugs.  I don't use the egg carton idea only because I need the egg cartons to put my hens eggs in.  (I recycle them use after use). 

Step 1.