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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cooking Methods for the Future!

Have you thought about how you will be cooking your foods? Most of us do the majority of our cooking in our kitchens on our electric or gas ranges.   What would you do if there were no power or gas to cook with?  Many of us have a propane or charcoal grill and do some of our cooking in the summer months on it outdoors and I would also imagine that we keep at most one tank of propane or one bag of charcoal to fuel this grill.  Am I right?

Well, that also will run out fairly quickly.  So what will we do now?  I don't know about you but I don't care much for eating canned foods cold unless it is fruit or tuna fish!

If you don't have much money there are some cheap alternatives for heating canned foods or cooking quick cooking foods.  Hobo stoves were used a lot during the depression by the really poor or traveling families or single men on the road.  You can use several kinds of fuel with these such as; small pieces of wood like branches broken up or small pieces of leftover lumber, also you can gather pine cones and pine straw for fuel if it is plentiful.  One of the best fuels I have found is Buddy Burners, that are made from cardboard coiled in a tuna fish can and then saturated with melted candlewax from junk candles which would essentially be free if you have access to old candles or candle stubs.  Lastly you can use several candles placed in a circle to increase the heat for your food to be heated with.  The Buddy burners and candles can be used in the house if it is cold, wet or dangerous outdoors to cook.  Do a search on how to make hobo stoves and Buddy Burners to get your directions for making these.

Next I would suggest a small contained cook fire in your backyard if you have one (backyard I mean),  You must be very careful with campfires that you don't let them get out of hand due to the fact that Firestations may not be working in a scenario without power due to communications problems.

I would suggest you gather yourself  a small metal drum or a large metal can and cut them off at about 4 to 6 inches from the bottom then put some slashes or drill holes for air and then place them on some concrete or cinder blocks to bring them up to a height that is more comfortable for you to sit on a bench, log or chair to make it easier to stir and watch your food.  Learn to lay your firewood in such a way that you have air circulation around and under your fire.  You don't need a large fire to cook your food.  Think about how large your burners are on your range.  They aren't huge so keep your fire small and feed it fuel as needed.

You can use a campfire and a hobo stove to bring longer cooking foods to a hard boil and then you can combine thermal cooking methods with the boiling foods to complete the cooking process.  Thermal cooking can be done with several different things. 

Have you ever heard of how the Pacific Island people cook their whole pigs?  Well they get a fire going and use the hot coals to line a pit dug in the ground then they put wet banana leave or other fragrant leaves on the coals to protect the meat then they place the cleaned and gutted pig and then they place more wet leaves on top and place more coals on them then place the soil back over the pit to cook everything slowly the coals keep the buried pig hot and steam and roast it with residual heat.  There is no flame just coals and the meat comes out moist and succulent 12 hours or more later.  That was probably one of the first thermal style of cooking done.  Today we have come up with other ways do thermal cooking.

We can do some cooking in good thermos bottles.  Rice, spaghetti noodles, small cut and cubed vegetables, etc. can be cooked in a thermos by adding the room temperature food in the thermos and adding boiling water.  Remember some foods expand with cooking such as rice and noodles.  So leave room for expansion.  It works really well and saves fuel.

Another way to cook thermally is the haybox style of cooking.  You take an item which is to a boiling state and in a pot like cast iron and wrap it in towels and place it in a box lined with an insulating material such as hay, straw, blankets, comforters, etc.  Leave it cook for at least 6 hrs before checking it and then if it is not done bring it back to a boil again, re-wrap and wait for approximately 2 to 3 more hours.  Works great!  My Uncle used to make whole hams this way for family reunions and it was so moist and tender and succulent we would beg it to be done the same way next time......

The next method of cooking is the Rocket Stove.  These can be bought and are fairly reasonably priced but they also can be made for next to nothing with castoff items.  This is another item you should do a net search for the directions to make one.  The rocket stove is a healthier option for cooking because it puts off very little smoke or carbon monoxide.  The missionaries in third world countries are teaching how to make these and use them for the health of the people as well as for conservation of fuel.  The Rocket Stove uses very little fuel and uses it very efficiently.  It is also a very versatile stove in the fact that you can use most any kind of flamable material to fire your stove.
Pine cones, sticks, straw, needles, paper, cardboard, and wood of course.  If you are needing to keep the smoke down for security reasons then this method is a good choice.   If you use a cast iron pot with a lid you can heat the pot and contents and cook for a short time then leave it over the fire as it dies down then put in a thermal wrap and let it finish cooking.  This method is a good fuel saver.

Next is solar cookers.  There are several kinds starting with the least used which is parabolic solar cookers.  The requires a parabolic or convex lens to cook with.  It is a little more dangerous in the fact that you can get burned if your are not careful with this method.  Search the net for it and see if this is a style of solar cooking you would be interested in. 

Secondly is a popular method in the 3rd world countries and is spreading rapidly there especially in desert countries or countries with little or no wood.  This method is a Solar Cookit.  It is a metalic or aluminum covered cardboard that reflects and concentrates the suns energy toward the food in a black pot and cooks the contents on the inside of the pot.  This is extremely useful for people who are so poor that they cannot afford fuel and food.
This way they can concentrate on just buying the rice and other foods that they need for survival.

Lastly is the Solar Box Ovens which are the most popular in this country.  They can be homemade but are rarely as efficient as commercially built ones.  If you can afford to buy this one then please do so.  You can bake, roast, boil, steam, and do just about everything but fry in a Solar box oven.  It cooks similar to a slow cooker.  Bread, cookies, potatoes, rice, casseroles, meats, soups, deserts, and many more things can be made in these.  This style of cooker works well in the cold or hot summer as long as there is sun shining you can cook.  If it is very overcast and rainy you need to use another method such as the hobo stove, rocket stove or combination of those with themal cooking.  It has the added plus factor of creating no smoke or pollutants.  That is not to say that the delicious aromas won't escape.  So you will probably have to guard your cooker with an eagle eye or you will be fighting off the neighbors who smell your delicious cooking.

My suggestion is to build yourself a hobo stove and buddy burners, a rocket stove and to purchase a good box Solar Cooker.  You will be set then for indoor or outdoor cooking.  Do some research on alternative non-electric and non-gas cooking and on the methods I mentioned above.  You will find directions and all kinds of alternatives that I have not mentioned such as alcohol stoves,  Don't forget that you can stockpile propane and wood to have alternative methods which would be dependable.

There is no substitute for your own research.  You Tube and the Net are full of great teachers and you can then learn to be self sufficient in this one endeavor.  The last thing I would like to leave you with is to have many 3 or more hand operated can openers so you can use your commercially canned foods.

Happy Journey into your own Survival Kitchen!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cooking and life in the 1800's

Cooking like they did in the 1800's was much different than it is today. If things go awry and we have to go back to basics do we all have the knowledge, recipes, and or equipment to accomplish what we will need to do to be self sufficient. We would have to eat differently, cook differently, obtain our food differently than we do in todays world. That is why I think that many people will have a hard time surviving any collapse of society. The ability to live without electricity alone would be totally catastrophic to most people. We have only been slightly inconvenienced by power outages in the U.S. in my lifetime. The longest I have had to go without power was 2 1/2 weeks. Many had to do without in the U.S. for much longer after some of the weather and seismic anomalies. Most of us haven't really had to do it on our own though. Fema came in and supplied water and ice and offered shelters in the local schools and other large buildings. We cannot count on the Government to come to our rescue when the whole country is having a problem. They just don't have the resources to take care of all of us. Let's take a look at how we would eat when we are without power and running water. Also when we don't have grocery stores to go to when we are out of something. We will have to make do or do without. I know that we will be eating much less meat even it we have food storage if we live in a city or suburb. We can only store so much meat in most situations. So we will be eating much more rice and beans, garden vegetables for those of us who will be gardening and will gradually use the items that we have put aside. Instant potatoes, dehydrated foods, commercially canned foods, home canned/bottled foods, etc. will have to be spread out to give some relief from food boredom. I personally plan to have meat as a flavoring in dishes instead of having it as a meat course. Beans will be much more pallatable with ham flavoring to give it a boost in flavor. Chicken will be a welcome addition to a rice casserole. But even that will have to be sparingly done or we will run out of meat very quickly. If you live in an area that will allow you to raise chickens and rabbits then by all means do so. The eggs from the chickens would give you a much more varied diet than having beans so often. I have started cooking dried beans much more often and I use them on their own for the first meal and then as refried beans in burritos, or in chili, or on salads. I also have been getting my family used to eating bean chili with only a some beef bouillon for flavoring in the chili. Next I will be adding lentil and breadcrumbs to my ground beef for cooking things like spaghetti, stroganoff, and soups made with ground beef. I am hoping that getting my family used to seeing and tasting the beans and legumes in their ordinary dishes will acclimate their digestive tract to them as well as help them to transition to meals with no meat in them. Homemade bread made from whole grains is another food we need to acclimate our digestive system to as well. I don't want to spend the first month I have to make everything from scratch on the toilet as I am sure would happen to us after the drastic change from processed white breads and cakes to the whole grain varieties. We will be eating more bread than we do now because it is filling and comforting. When a child is hungry a slice of toast with cinnamon sugar or jam is a good holdover for them. When kids are presented with foods that they don't like but you have to prepare such as beans and rice. A slice of bread and a bit of peanut butter my give them a reprieve once in awhile or should I say the rest of the family a reprieve from hearing the child argue and fuss. Learn a lot of things you can do to hide beans in to increase the family's protein intake. Mashed beans can be hidden even in brownies! It makes a good oil substitute and makes the brownies healthier and no one can tell. Most kids will eat refried beans in tacos or burritos and lentils you can hide in spaghetti sauces and casseroles. Most kids love vegetable or minestrone soup so make sure you have beans in these. My family is not big rice fans but they will eat it with gravy or as spanish rice or in a casserole so I will have to be creative. They also like fried rice with bits and pieces of leftovers in it. If you are going to grow rabbits to eat. Don't expect city raised children to eat it if they see you dispatching the animals. Do it when they are sleeping or busy elsewhere and then cook it in a way that they will think it is chicken, like soups, pot pies, or rabbit and dumplings. Let the children feed and take care of the chickens if you have them. They will collect the eggs and be proud that they are bringing protein to the table. Also let them help in the garden. Planting seeds, weeding with supervision, and harvesting will make them want to eat their greens and broccoli much better. After all everyone should praise them about how wonderful the food is and how it is due at least partially to their hard work. This is the way it was in the old days except back then the kids would watch the animals being butchered from birth and thought of it as a natural process. They will have to be adapted to it gradually in the new society of our future. They will adapt but I don't want them to starve because they are eating Peter or Brier Rabbit. You might let them have a Doe rabbit as a breeding pet and then let them know upfront that the babies for the most part will be raised for eating. And promise that every couple of years you will let them have another Doe for raising as a breeder when the other rabbit becomes too old to breed well anymore. Well, I will stop here for the time being and write more another time. Thanks for reading my ramblings.

Chain Meals

Chain Meals - In this post I will explore a favorite system that I have for cooking what I call chain meals. This is a frugal system that I get a lot of satisfaction in using. Day One.....Let's start out by making a nice pot of dried beans. This can be made from kidney beans or pinto beans or a combination of both. Make them by overnight soak method and then fix them with your own seasonings and onions and you can even add some salt pork or bacon or ham if you want. This first night you serve your beans with rice and cornbread. Yummmm..... Day Two.....You will make a triple batch of spaghetti sauce with ground beef and your favorite recipe of spaghetti sauce. You will serve one third of this sauce on your favorite spaghetti noodles. Make garlic toast and a fruit salad to serve with it. Day Three.....You will make a large green salad and serve some of your leftover beans and fruit on the salad. I usually rinse the beans so they are not messy with the jelled broth on them. I have always loved salad with lots of toppings. I also offer grated cheddar or monterey jack for the salad as well. Day Four.....We are making Chili with the leftover beans and Spaghetti Sauce. We are going to make Mashed Potatoes to serve it over and we will sprinkle it with the leftover grated cheese. I usually just heat the Spaghetti sauce, add the beans, add a packet of chili seasoning or my own blend of spices and heat it. (If you don't like mashed potatoes with chili then you can serve it over rice or with crackers, but please try it I think you will love the combination of mashed potatoes and chili.) Day Five.....Mash and reheat the beans which will be the same as refried beans and make Burritos with your leftovers of the week. Your lettuce salad fixings and homemade refried beans and cheese make absolutely delicious burritos. Make sure you cook those flour tortillas or corn tortillas so they won't taste like raw flour paste. Day Six.....Chili Mac is on the menu. Leftover Chili mixed with cooked macaroni and topped with your favorite cheese. Serve with corn bread if you like. Now you may spread these meals out by freezing some of your beans and spaghetti sauce. I have done this for freezer meals with the directions for what I want to make with the items on the bag. There are other things that I do similar chain cooking with such as a ten pound bag of chicken legs and thighs. I will cook one meal of barbeque chicken with as many legs as it takes to feed our family out of the bag. Then I will boil the rest of the chicken to make chicken salad, chicken pot pie, chicken tortilla soup, and if anything is left it will go into a fried rice for a change of pace. Don't forget that you can always make the old standby chicken noodle soup with the broth that you cooked the chicken in and add some chicken boullion to make it richer and just a half of a cup or so of chicken that has been deboned. You can come up with chain meals for pork roast by making roast pork the first day and then make pork perlau which is like spanish rice with pork in it, then make barbeque pork to serve in toasted buns with cole slaw. You can also make curry if there was any leftover, curry with pork and apples is delish! Beef can be made as a pot roast and then you can make shepherds pie, stew, and shredded beef tostados. You can also make many other dishes with beef and your only boundary will be your imagination. Now the whole idea is to cook one or two main dishes in sufficient quantity to make a large variety of other meals. Cut up the remainder of your meats and package for other meals. Leftover rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables, etc. go into zip lock bags and put in the fridge or freezer to use for those other meals. You can make a list of meals that you can make with the ingredients in a small notebook that you put into your kitchen drawer or laminate a typed sheet with all the meals and tape it inside your kitchen upper cabinet door. That will remind you what you can make. Just take the foods from the fridge or freezer, defrost if necessary and you will have a 30 minute meal with very little work. I make my large meat meal for the week on the weekend and divvy it up into meal sized portions and mark it with a marker stating what it is and what I want to do with it. Such as the leftover beans for chili and another pack of beans for refried beans. Meats portioned out for the pies, casseroles or curry's. Mashed potatoes freeze well but they will need to be thinned with some fresh milk to get them back to the consistency you want. Rice freezes wonderfully and can be used for so many meals that it pays to cook a large amount and freeze meal sized portions for your fried rice, casseroles, soups, and as an accompaniment with gravy or curry. Most of the Oriental dishes you can make with rice, Southwest and Mexican foods also use a lot of rice. Bake up corn muffins in quantity and take out as many as you need for a meal and reheat in the microwave in a covered casserole dish with a damp paper towel in the dish with them. I hope you will try some of these dishes or at least the method with your own dishes and recipes. It is fun to see how many meals you can get from your beans, ground beef, pot roasts, ten pound bags of chicken and your pork shoulders. With one large piece of meat or cooked beans you can eat a whole week with a new dish each day. It will keep you from boredom and save you money at the same time. God bless you on your journey!