FOOD STORAGE 101

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FOOD STORAGE 101

Postby chlamor » Fri Mar 14, 2008 6:08 pm

FOOD STORAGE 101, PART 1, By Sharon Astyk
Tuesday, 04 March 2008


Welcome to the very first day of my month-long food storage class. I’ll be posting material every Tuesday and Wednesday about how and why to preserve and store food. Today, we’re starting with the very basics - the reasons why I believe everyone should store food, and the very basic hows and whys. I’ll finish this pairing tomorrow.

First of all, I’ve had a couple of emails asking whether I’m talking about Food Preservation - that is, canning, dehydrating, lactofermenting, etc… or Food Storage (bulk buying, putting food away for some future hard time). The answer is both - that is I believe it is prudent and wise simply to have a reserve of food for the future, and I also believe that some of that food should come either from your own garden or local food production. But some of it probably won’t - thus, we need both techniques. They are inter-related anyway - if you put up the food, you have to know how to store it well, so that you don’t lose it. Even if you don’t can your own, it is helpful to know something about the process, so you can understand expiration dates. And whether you are root cellaring your own onions or buying bulk oatmeal, there are real practical questions to be answered. Where do you put them? How do you keep them in optimal conditions? And how, oh how, do you integrate them into your diet regularly?

Food Storage: Not ”Emergency Supplies” but the Stuff of Daily Life

The one thing this class is NOT about is storing food you don’ t eat - that is, I think that everyone ideally would have a minimum six month food supply, but I also think that ideally, everyone would be eating that food regularly, as part of their regular diet. That is, it isn’t a matter of rotating, so much as eating all the time the way we should/might need to. And that means a lot of the discussion will focus on two things - first, how do we eat this way now, and second, how do we store what we (and our families) will actually eat. For some of us, this is easy. For others, much, much harder.

There are, however, compelling reasons to integrate food storage into your diet. The first is the economic ones. I’ve posted enough links here recently about rising food costs that I won’t bother repeating them. But the truth is that bulk buying represents a substantial savings - I recently priced out groceries through amazon groceries (excluding shipping) and bulk prices, and found that bulk purchasing generally saves between 25-70% on food costs. Given that food prices are inflating rapidly (wheat jumped 25% in one day last month), food you buy now in bulk is likely to be cheaper than food you would buy later.

The other reason to do so is appetite fatigue. Several studies from World War II Britain suggest that when people are suddenly forced to shift to an unfamiliar diet, most people will adapt quite well. But some percentage, usually children, the ill or disabled and the elderly will simply stop eating. Most of them will start again eventually, but the toll taken by even short term malnutrition on children or already frail people is significant. And there were some deaths. That is, if you believe you may ever rely on your food storage, you want to make sure your family is already familiar with the foods you will be eating in a crisis.

Another good reason for this is that some people do discover food allergies or intolerances when they are suddenly exposed to large quantities of a food they have thus far only eaten in small ones. Wheat is a famous example - many people, especially children, cannot tolerate huge quantities of wheat in their diet. Some people may have wheat allergies or celiac disease. These are not things to find out in the middle of a crisis.

Finally, think back to the last really stressful, miserable, rotten time in your life. Think about what you wanted to eat. I’m going to bet that at no point did you want to think “well, this is interesting…” In difficult times, all of us want our food to provide us with comfort and consolation, and if it doesn’t, that’s just one more straw on the camel’s back. Why not store food that makes things easier and better, that reminds you of better times and helps your family feel reassured and safe?

Whether we’re talking about the short term (six months to a year) storage of fresh fruits and vegetables or the long term storage of dried grains and beans, unless your food storage consists primarily of ramen and twinkies (gah!), the odds are good that eating out of food storage will be eating the way we’re supposed to. That is, lots of whole grains, beans and roots, fewer preservatives, fewer chemicals. The more we actually eat what we store and store what we eat, the better off we actually are.

What Are We Storing For?

Ok, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty practicalities of food storage. How much? In figuring this out, it helps to sort through what the reasons are for storing food. Why on earth are we doing this?

* - To Save Money - you can get the same amount of food for 25-75% less money

* - Self Reliance and independence! Cycles are normal, preparedness makes sense - Don’t Have to Worry about “what If?”

* - For personal security - in the event of a job loss, a medical crisis or other problem, you don’t have to worry about food, you don’t have to take charity.

* - For community security - so we won’t be dependent on emergency support that might or might not arrive - Fema/American Red Cross expect us to have 2 weeks of food and water. For a longer energy/environmental crisis.

* - To be able to help and share - with family, charitably, in an emergency.

* - To reduce your impact on the world: to minimize packaging, buy fair trade or direct from farmers, support local and/or organic producers.

* - Less dependent on fossil fuels: transported in bulk, fewer trips to the store.

It helps to distinguish between these reasons when we look at the question of how much food to store. If you look at this from the perspective of someone concerned about an emergency, perhaps a short term crisis like an ice storm, hurricane or earthquake, your answer is going to be different than if you look at this through the lens of your long term food budget.

I think there’s a tendency, when we talk about food storage, to leap immediately to the end of the world, or if you don’t buy those scenarios, to dismiss the value of food storage with the apocalypse. But that’s not the primary merit of food storage, in my opinion. The primary merits of food storage are that it saves your family money, gets you better quality food than you could for the same expenditure, and is environmentally sound. I also think the fact that it can insulate you from a crisis - whether purely personal or national - has merits. And that’s where many of us start - and where I’m starting today. But I do want to remind everyone that food storage is as much or more about your day to day diet than about your opinion about the likelihood of any particular crisis.

2 Weeks Minimum Emergency Food Storage

But beginning from the idea of storing for a crisis, it is worth noting that FEMA and the American Red Cross both expect all Americans to have 2 weeks stored of food, water and medications, because some people may not be “gotten to” in a crisis for that long. Now if Hurricane Katrina didn’t make that point for us, it is worth noting that disasters in which no aid is available for 2 weeks or more are not that uncommon.

For example, after a major earthquake in Kobe, Japan, it was more than 2 weeks before some city-center residents were reached by rescue workers. This was despite the fact that Kobe famously has one of the best earthquake preparedness programs in the world. In my own region in 1998, a massive ice storm put out power for 10 days to 3 weeks for thousands of people in the Northeast. The reality is that every one of my readers should be prepared to care for themselves for a minimum of 2 weeks in an emergency.

A two week supply of food for 4 people would look roughly like this:

4 people would use

* - 85 Gallons of Water
* - 2 weeks of medications
* - About 25lbs of grains/or equivalent calorie dense root vegetables
* - 10lbs of beans or other legumes
* - 3 lbs of sweetener
* - 12 cans of fish or meat
* - 5 lbs dry milk
* - 12 cans of vegetables
* - 2 lbs dried fruit
* - 1 quart of oil
* - Some Treats
* - Just under 50 multivitamins
* - Salt, baking soda, vinegar, baking powder, yeast, spices

Estimated Cost, At the Supermarket (excluding Medications): $158.96

Estimated Cost, Ordered in Bulk (Plus You’d Get Extras): $ 103.50

I should note that this is my own recommendations. It includes twice as much water as FEMA suggests, but remember, the FEMA minimum (1 gallon per person per day) meets only drinking needs, and includes no extras for very hot weather, cooking, washing, etc… But the truth is that no one, ever wants to go 2 weeks without washing - nor should you for health reasons. So I strongly recommend the larger quantities. It isn’t necessary to store this water if you have access to water somewhere else - a spring, a hand or solar pump nearby, etc… I will write more about the mechanics of storing water in tomorrow’s post.

I’ve also included foods that aren’t on some other lists - treats and dried fruit. But if you have to switch diets in an emergency, constipation is a potential concern, and dried fruit makes that transition easier. And IMHO, treats - whether some nuts to nibble, popcorn or the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies are of important psychological value. I’ve also included more high-protein foods than are strictly necessary, because protein is valuable when people are ill or under stress, and most rich world denizens probably eat a lot of protein - so this helps soften the transition.

Now this is emergency food, and the assumption is that these are minimums. But they do give you the basis of an emergency supply. If you don’t have a 2 week supply of stored food in your house, a means to cook it without electricity, water, medications, basic first aid materials and other necessities - get them. Do it as quickly as you can afford to. Because the simple truth is that none of us is safe from a disaster - and weather related disasters are on the rise.

But as I said, that’s not my primary interest here - yes, I think you need a 2 week emergency supply at a minimum. But it is only a minimum, and storing two weeks worth of food won’t get you the real benefits of food storage - the money savings, the positive diet, the long term sense of security, the environmental benefits.

So we’ll talk about that in my next post!

Meanwhile a few links to look at:

Check Out Sue Robishaw’s Solar Dehydrator that works even in humid climates like mine and her solar oven plans: http://www.manytracks.com/Homesteading/ ... dDryer.htm

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sharonfoo ... message/91

If you don’t know the incomparable Jackie Clay, take a romp through her advice columns and essays in Backwoods Home on food storage and related topics: http://www.backwoodshome.com/advice/advice.html

Alan T. Hagan’s exhaustively researched Prudent Food Storage FAQ contains up to date information about how to store almost everything:

http://www.survival-center.com/foodfaq/

Pat Meadows wrote a great series a while back about meals in which you can combine grains and legumes - here are some ideas: http://entire-of-itself.blogspot.com/20 ... terns.html and

http://entire-of-itself.blogspot.com/20 ... terns.html

Shasha Cedar wrote two recent posts about specifically storing rice and black beans here:

http://simplicityfirst.wordpress.com/20 ... ting-rice/

http://simplicityfirst.wordpress.com/20 ... ack-beans/

While there are definitely some things in the Mormon Food Storage Calculator that I don’t want to include, it does provide you with some nice basics on how much food actually is required for a family for a year: http://lds.about.com/library/bl/faq/blcalculator.htm

Here’s a source of some terrific food storage recipes: http://www.mormonchic.com/recipe/recipe ... torage.asp

If you are canning or preserving your own, this site has the most current safety information and a lot of other good stuff: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/

Finally, here are some of my own writings about food preservation and food security:

http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/12/low-e ... servation/

http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/04/food- ... democracy/

Much more to come today and tomorrow - recipes, links, cookbooks - fun stuff!

Sharon

http://carolynbaker.net/site/content/view/358
Liberal thy name is hypocrisy. What's new?
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Postby chiggerbit » Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:49 pm

I'm really fortunate to be close to a Mennonite bulk grocery store in an area with a lot of Amish. I can get things like old fashioned rolled oats in four or five pound bags, and different kinds of wheat (which I shouldn't eat due to celiac's) in 25 pound bags, as well as bulk spices. Same goes for buckets of peanut butter, and honey by the gallon.

I need to scout around your links a bit more, but I'm looking to find a way to store rice long-term. I had some that was a couple of years old that got a bit rancid. It probably was still edible, but I prefer not rancid. I still boiled it up, fed it to the birds, learned that one of the doggers liked it enough to steal it from the birds.

My mom got a load of pecans years ago on a trip down south, and she canned them.
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Postby sunny » Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:11 am

chiggerbit wrote:My mom got a load of pecans years ago on a trip down south, and she canned them.


How did she can pecans?!
Choose love
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Postby chiggerbit » Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:56 am

Hmmm, I don't know, but they were shelled.

Ok, I tried calling her, not home, so I googled it:


http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can_nuts/nut_meats.html


How do I? ...Can Nuts

Selecting, Preparing and Canning Nuts
Nut Meats
(Note: Freezing is easier and produces as satisfactory a product.)

Please read Using Pressure Canners and Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.

Hot Pack (dry) – Shell nuts. Spread a single layer of nut meats on baking pans and place in a 250°F oven. Stir occasionally heating only until the nut meats are dry but not browned. Watch carefully that they don't scorch. Pack hot nuts into half pint or pint jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Do not add any liquid to the jars. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids and process.

Option 1 – Process in a Boiling Water Canner with the water in the canner 1 to 2 inches below the tops of the jars:

Table 1. Recommended process time for Nut Meats in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 3,000 ft 3,000 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or Pints 30 min 35 40 45

Option 2 – Process in a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner OR in a Weighted Gauge Canner at the following pressures dependent upon altitude:

Table 2. Recommended process time for Nut Meats in a dial-gauge pressure canner
Canner Gauge Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 - 2,000 ft 2,001 - 4,000 ft 4,001 - 6,000 ft 6,001 - 8,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or Pints 10 min 6 lb 7 lb 8 lb 9 lb



Table 3. Recommended process time for Nut Meats in a Weighted-gauge pressure canner
Canner Gauge Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 - 1,000 ft Above 1,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or Pints 10 min 5 lb 10 lb


This document was extracted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.
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BUY SUGAR

Postby annie aronburg » Sat Mar 15, 2008 1:33 pm

sugar
mason jars
bands and lids


make friends with old people who remember what to do
it's all in me
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kraut and kimchi make bland food delicious and nutritious

Postby annie aronburg » Sat Mar 15, 2008 1:49 pm

Get yourself some salt...

I own this crock in the 10L size and I can't recommend it enough.

This book is worth perusing as well

The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition
it's all in me
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Postby chiggerbit » Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:48 pm

http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/89 ... nolds.html

By Gail Reynolds
Missouri


It's a given: Tomato sauce, tomato juice, dried tomatoes and even frozen ones are great extenders of the summer season's bounty. Ditto for modern ways you can store other vegetables and fruits and prolong their usage well after the garden has gone to frost.

But, in early to mid-winter, haven't you ever craved the fresh product-non-altered and naturally fresh and ripe?

In the dead of winter, just one last ripe sliceable juicy red tomato (instead of the canned variety), for example, would be nice, wouldn't it?

And a fresh head of cabbage now and again (instead of sauerkraut)...or a crunchy ripe apple (instead of apple sauce)-around say, Thanksgiving, for instance-would elicit very welcome and tasteful memories of last summer's garden or orchard harvest.

Preserving some of your harvest in this manner can be accomplished-if you're willing to give a turn-of-the-century food storage method a try.

What we're talking about here is underground or above-ground cool, covered dry storage of your harvest-the same method our forefathers employed to "keep-over" and extend the season's bounty "in its natural state"-long before the advent of electricity and the invention, dream or concept of today's most modernized storage methods became a viable choice or option.

When it comes to storage of your late summer and fall harvest, in some instances this "old way" may just possibly work well for some of the Countryside readership-given their circumstances-and for all readers as far as prolonged enjoyment of some produce or fruits in their natural state, well beyond frost and even into the dead of winter.

We've attempted holding over some of the very last of the season's bounty this way and it works.

Here's how we go about it. You may want to give it a try.

During the heat and peak of the season and toward its end, we at Timberlakes, always and ritualistically convert our weekly fruit, veggie and herb overages into usable, self-sustaining off-season after-harvest goods, by canning, freezing, and dehydrating them.

But somewhere in late September or throughout October-whenever the threat of a our Ozarks' first autumn dangerous frost or freeze is on the agenda, we change gears and put up the last-of-the-last in cool, dry, covered storage.

What to store
Vegetables ideal for this type of storage (which, for the sake of brevity, we'll term "underground storage" although the method does not necessarily have to involve a storage spot that's truly "under" the ground) are root crops (beets, carrots, rutabaga, turnips), cabbage, sweet peppers, potatoes and sweet potatoes, pumpkins and winter squash and tomatoes (particularly the green ones).

When it comes to fruits, we've found apples and pears work well and we've had some luck with peaches (but not a lot).

Where to store
Most likely, the term "underground storage" is derived from a time when pretty much everyone had a root cellar-which was at least partially underground.

However, nowadays, you can copy the method above ground, as long as the area is dark and cool and in some cases (with certain fruits or veggies) has a level of high humidity.

The storage ideally should be kept between 35-40ºF. What you really aim for is a point near (but just above) 32ºF.

However, unless you have a separate room thermostatically equipped to keep the temperature "just there" and never to actually go down to the freezing point-the 35-40 degree range should do just fine.

Some viable options can be a barn, a well-house, an above-ground "box" constructed with square hale bales; a trash barrel sunk at least partially below ground level; an above-ground mound; a pit; or some combination thereof.

Root cellar: If you are fortunate enough to still have a root cellar, by all means, use it (this is the purpose for which most likely it was originally constructed).

Here at Timberlakes, we are not that fortunate.

Barn: Frankly, we just put most of our storage-keep in a portion of the barn where it's dark; bank straw bales around and below, and close the doors and window shutters accordingly to keep out drafts that might permit the temperature to go to or below the freezing mark OR to keep out heat that might create an area warm enough to spoil the bounty.

We simply hang a thermometer in the storage area and check the weather outside, fairly much going by the seat of our pants on this one-yet, it works out fairly well.

I can't say we always get a 100 percent success rate doing it this way, but there's usually enough useable fresh stuff in mid-winter to make us happy campers and that's our sole goal.

Also-and this is only my opinion-some of the kick out of storing veggies and fruits this way is the nostalgia of it all. And if you have to go "high tech" to go back to the old ways, you might be missing the point altogether.

Well-house: Another area we use for this type of storage is our well-house, which is insulated and maintains a pretty steady cool temperature and is, of course, always dark. The well house is particular great for fruit and vegetable varieties that require a high humidity storing environment.

In any event, you'll want your storage area to be dark, so cover the windows with some opaque material, or cover up your storage bins or crates with a page or two of newspaper to keep the light out.

Basement: The basements in many modern homes are often too warm (well above 40ºF) to handle this type of over-winter storage; however, if you're lucky enough to reside in an old farmhouse with an unfinished (earth floor) basement or crawl space underneath-check the temperatures there as this could be a perfect spot!

Trash cans: If you have heavy farm equipment that can dredge a ditch deep enough to sink in a couple of trash cans (don't buy the tallest ones-several shallow ones work better), this method works very well.

You'll stack your harvest, covered with hay or wrapped in newspaper, in the can; then sink the can into the ditch, covering it with hay or wood at ground level.

Mounds: While some say you can create a mound of straw or hay and store your stuff, plain, in the bottom portion-we have found that the mound works best if you first place your harvest, stacked and wrapped in containers-at ground level and then build the mound over it.

Perhaps we're lazy, but digging into the mound for the plain stuff in the cold weather is too much of a hassle, and often times our warm winter days in the Ozarks causes the mound to heat up just enough to spoil the harvest...and after all that digging, it's a major disappointment.

The greatest problems we have encountered with the mound method in general, is that while you are trying to cover the products in storage, you must allow for some type of minimal air circulation-and you're in a total mess if you get a flooding rain.

Pit storage: Jim's father used this method often and the report is that it was successful. Once again, you'll want to dig a ditch or hole. Line the bottom with straw (or other materials, such as newspaper, sand, or sawdust) and then stack your vegetables upward in layers topped with a covering materials, such as straw.

Storage containers
For this type of storage, it is best to use a container that allows for some type of air flow.

The old woven bushel baskets and old crates work very well, if you can still get your hands on some.

If not, try using some of the plastic laundry baskets, or the stackable plastic crates often found in dollar and discount stores. Cardboard boxes with air holes punched through are okay in a pinch.

The method:
Line the bottom of whatever container you select to use with your layering material. We always use straw because it's readily available, but as mentioned above-sand, sawdust, or newspaper work just fine.

Then, set down a single layer of the product (either wrapped, if called for) or side-by-side plain; and top that single row with another layer of protective covering. Many of the root crops (carrots, beets, turnips etc) can be safely stacked in multiple layers.

With more tender and pliable juicy produce, such as green tomatoes, you'll want to keep your layers at a minimum of two deep.

General rules
For this type of storage, it is essential that only un-bruised, perfect produce be used.

The old adage "one bad apple can spoil the bunch" definitely applies in this instance, so take care when selecting products for this storage procedure.

As a rule (unless otherwise specified such as in pumpkins) we "wipe" but do not wash any fruit or vegetable before storing it in this manner. Residue moisture, we have found, on even one item in a storage box or bin can quickly spoil the entire unit.

We prefer to store all of products separately-cabbages in one bin; carrots in another; tomatoes in a separate bin, etc.

Vegetable specifics
Root crops: Harvest carrots, turnips, beets and other root crops for this type of storage when late fall evening temperatures go down to about 30 degrees. These should be stored un-washed and do not need to be separately wrapped as you lay down your single row layers. Each layer, however, should be separated with a protective covering material, such as straw. Humidity levels here should be in the 90% range.

Onions: After pulling, leave onions on the ground for 2-3 days; then place in crates (with no covering) in an open shed airy shed for 4-6 weeks. At this point remove the tops and store in bins or string bags in an area which keeps a fairly steady temperature range of 35-40 degrees. Onions enjoy a 60-75 percent humidity environment.

Potatoes: These can be stored in the dark for about 4 months in practically any storage spot; however, to keep them from sprouting and to enjoy a longer keep period, store them in that same 35-40 degree location. Note: because the lower temperatures have a tendency to convert the starch of potatoes into sugar, the product will gradually sweeten-so you will want to keep tabs on the product and experiment with these.

Tomatoes: Harvest these just before the threat of the first killing frost and separate out the completely green tomatoes from those that have some red color to them.

While some authorities recommend just placing the tomatoes in two layers on trays or open boxes in a 55-70ºF environment; we do it somewhat differently here.

The tomatoes that are showing some red are simply placed on windowsills where they will naturally ripen within a few days from the sunlight and warmth.

The green tomatoes are individually wrapped with sheets of newspaper and then placed in bins side-by-side in only two layers. The bins are protected on all sides and the top & bottom with bales of straw and gradually ripen at about two months and thereafter.

Pumpkins: After picking, we wash out pumpkins and squash in a water bath doused with a low concentration of bleach. When they are completely dry (they can cure outdoors for a week or so-as long as the temperatures are not close to the freezing point) coat them with a protective sealant such as vegetable oil. Place the pumpkins side-by-side (but not touching) on shelves or in crates or bins; store them in a dry place; and they should keep well for several months.

Cabbage: After picking, remove the loose outer leaves of the cabbage as well as its roots and stem. Wrap each cabbage head individually with newspaper and store in boxes or bins at temperatures just above the freezing level and no higher than 40 degrees.

Fruit specifics:
Apples: We follow the same rules as tomatoes for our apples. Apples however, do the very best in a high-humidity situation.

Pears: Pears should be harvested "just under" ripe and dark green. Store first as you would tomatoes or apples (wrapped); and then keep checking because you'll want to pull them out of the colder storage and in to room temperature while they are still somewhat green and hard. They should ripen to full maturity indoors with no problems.

Peaches: Authorities on the subject say that peaches can be stored up to two weeks in a cool storage area. As I mentioned, we have been unlucky on this endeavor, but it's probably worth some experimentation.

As with any form of storage, you'll want to keep tabs on the progress. Some items may ripen more rapidly than you had anticipated because of variance in temperature and humidity. And, unfortunately, some will spoil-most likely because of an imperfection gone unnoticed at harvest, or again because of temperature fluctuations.

Watch the progress of each given storage unit fairly frequently. Pull and discard the spoiled ones. Pluck up the ripe stuff and enjoy.
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Postby chiggerbit » Sat Mar 15, 2008 4:16 pm

Drying is a great option for food storage.

http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/84/84-5/MMC.html

Our family especially enjoys fruits. It was hard to imagine giving them up (Y2K), or limiting ourselves to the apples and strawberries found within walking distance of our house. Yes, we could purchase fresh fruit and can it but that presents quite a storage problem. Last summer we set a goal of storing a reasonable-sized serving of fruit (one-half cup) per day for each of 10 people for one year. Doesn't that come to something like 456 quart jars?

Forget it! Forget it on the basis of dedicating that many jars to fruit - on the hours spent doing the canning - on the amount of fuel used - or on the basis of several other things that I can't even think of right now. Foremost on my feeble mind, though, was storage space. Four-hundred fifty-six quart jars of fruit? Nope! No room! No way!

Out of necessity and out of curiosity, we tried drying fruits for long-term preservation. Drying out the moisture shrinks fruit down to one-half or one-quarter its original size. No more storage space problems! We knew nothing about drying foods. But since when does "not knowing what we're doing" stop a homesteader?

I believe that if a thing can be done, then I can probably turn out some semi-adequate version of it. That attitude, an armful of how-to books, and helpful daughters, worked us through a summer, fall and winter of learning to dry food.

We found that resource books are helpful but, in the end, if you want to learn to dry food, you just have to dry food. The two important factors in preserving food by drying are temperature and ventilation. There are numerous variables, though. How thick is the slice of food? How high is the heat? How often is the food turned? How high is the room's humidity? How dry do you want the finished product? And there are personal preferences. When do you want to do the drying? What method suits you? How long at one time can you devote to drying a rack of food?

We learned that drying food is a creative method of preservation. Food can be dried in a regular oven; outside in the sun; in a commercial dryer; in a home-made dryer; even in the back window of a car!

Last summer, so much money had gone to other Y2K preparations that we just did not want to spend any on this project. We also didn't want to spend any time on devising a home-made dryer. The alternative we chose was to use our regular oven. And it worked out well.

We learned to slice food 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick; place it on cookie sheets one layer deep - no piece touching any other piece - and dry it in an oven which was turned on anyway.

Several resource books taught that food should be dried to 10-20% moisture content. We had no way to measure that, so we decided to over-dry (and lose some quality) rather than to under-dry and risk spoilage. We dried fruits and vegetables to something between leather-tough and crisp.

We tried to keep the heat at about 140ºF. We propped the oven door open to provide ventilation and air-flow to let the moisture out. We learned to open the door every two- to-four hours to let accumulated moisture escape. (It would fog up my glasses!)

Drying food was simple and easy once we trained ourselves to turn fruit over two or three times. If left unturned, it sticks badly to the cookie sheet. We ruined two pans before we "learned to turn."

The resource books taught us that drying food is a forgiving method of preservation. Dry the food. Cool it. Store the food in air-tight, moisture-proof containers.

Check it regularly for condensation inside the container. If there is condensation but no mold, re-dry the food and re-pack it. If there is mold, throw out the food.

Simple. Easy. Space-efficient.
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sexy fruit leather

Postby annie aronburg » Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:23 pm

My problem with drying food is the dryers are all too small and it's impossible not to eat the dried food as it comes off the racks.

At my last communal living situation we had a housemate who brought home organic bananas from work all the time but once those bananas were converted to chips they were eaten immediately, there was no "saving" them.

This year's food drying project is to grow/wildcraft and dry a year's worth of delicious nutritious herb tea. Since I live in an area filled with orchards I imagine some dried tree fruits will find their way into the mix.

I assume people are going to be more stressed out in the future, so I think spearmint, catnip, coriander, fennel, rosehips, lavender, linden, chamomile, skullcap, hawthorne and elderberry will make a tasty blend.
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Postby chlamor » Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:08 pm

chiggerbit wrote:I'm really fortunate to be close to a Mennonite bulk grocery store in an area with a lot of Amish. I can get things like old fashioned rolled oats in four or five pound bags, and different kinds of wheat (which I shouldn't eat due to celiac's) in 25 pound bags, as well as bulk spices. Same goes for buckets of peanut butter, and honey by the gallon.

I need to scout around your links a bit more, but I'm looking to find a way to store rice long-term. I had some that was a couple of years old that got a bit rancid. It probably was still edible, but I prefer not rancid. I still boiled it up, fed it to the birds, learned that one of the doggers liked it enough to steal it from the birds.

My mom got a load of pecans years ago on a trip down south, and she canned them.


As for the rice storage. Get them into glass containers immediately and use one bay leaf per container. Store in a relatively cool, 55-60 degrees, place if possible.

A tip on where to get fairly large glass containers:

Look for local delis- even the large commercial ones e.g. Subway- and ask for the old pickle containers. Most of the time the employees will give them out for free and look at you oddly.

Brown and White Rices
Brown and white rices store very differently. Brown rice is only expected to store for 6 months under average conditions. This is because of the essential fatty acids in brown rice. These oils quickly go rancid as they oxidize. It will store much longer if refrigerated. White rice has the outer shell removed along with those fats. Because of this, white rice isn't nearly as good for you, but will store longer. Hermetically sealed in the absence of oxygen, plan on a storage life for white rice of 8-10 years at a stable temperature of 70 degrees F. It should keep proportionately longer if stored at cooler temperatures. Stored in the absence of oxygen, brown rice will last longer than if it was stored in air. Plan on 1 to 2 years. It is very important to store brown rice as cool as possible, for if you can get the temperature down another ten degrees, it will double the storage life again.


Storage Life of Dry Foods:
http://waltonfeed.com/grain/life.html#rice
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thrifty canning supplies

Postby annie aronburg » Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:34 pm

My neighbour is a very thrifty canner.

Last summer I helped him put up dozens of jars of apricots and peaches which have added sunshine and flavour to smoothies and desserts all winter.

He's a senior on a fixed income who complains the cost of lids had gone up sixty cents from the previous summer! (He has several year's receipts on hand for comparison.)

He collects and sterilizes the mason jars (and caps) from gourmet pasta sauce out of the recycling and uses the caps in place of rings. This way he only has to purchase lids, no jars or rings.

He doesn't use any sugar in his canned fruit, just water with 20 minutes processing. He leaves a few pits in the bottom of each jar to boost flavour.
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Postby chiggerbit » Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:47 pm

make friends with old people who remember what to do


Good advice. That's where I learned how to do budding, a really simple form of grafting, quite a number of years ago.
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Postby Joe Hillshoist » Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:38 am

Great thread guys, cheers.
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in a pickle

Postby annie aronburg » Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:17 am

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