Andy Fleming writing on preserving food…
The establishment constantly tries to push the idea that you need to buy more stuff…more gadgets, more products, more services.
But one of the key steps to becoming an independent, self-sustaining individual is being able to do more with less.
We need only look to traditions of the past to discover ways of living comfortably without any outside help—specifically, ways of living that don’t require utilities or necessitate any connection to the grid.
For example, many people see their refrigerator as the only convenient way to store food, when techniques for electricity-free food preservation have existed for centuries.
Whether you want to be prepared in the event of an energy crisis—or if you’re just interested in pairing down your reliance on the grid—learning to preserve food without refrigeration is an invaluable skill. Everyone interested in a self-sustaining lifestyle should immediately become familiar with these techniques.
There are two types of canning— the “pressure canning” method, which requires the use of a pressure cooker, and the “boiling-water bath” method, which requires only a few cans and a large pot.
Pressure cookers can be used to preserve meat, seafood and poultry by heating them to a temperature of 240°F (boiling water only heats to about 212°F). This temperature is required to kill spores which produce Botulism toxins.
Foods with a pH above 4.6—such as fruits, preserves, pickled vegetables, jams, and jellies—are too acidic to house Botulism spores and are perfect for the “Boiling Bath” method. You can add lemon juice to foods like tomatoes and figs, to make them safe for the simpler method. Remember, you don’t need electricity to heat water, gas works just as well. Get started canning by visiting the National Center for Home Food Research.
Fermenting (or pickling) vegetables is more than just a great way to extend their shelf-life, it also makes them taste better. By storing produce within an acidic brine, you selectively introduce certain helpful bacteria into your food. These bacteria then perform double duty, killing off bad bacteria and preventing molecular breakdown.
Fermentation is a great way to reduce storage space needed for produce as well. An entire head of pickled cabbage reduces to the size of a single canning jar.
Pickling or fermenting food is as simple as preparing a brine made with salt, sweetener, or whey; weighing down your vegetables, and shoving it all into a container. In many ways it’s simpler than canning, since no heat is needed. Check out Cultures For Health and UNL Food for a ton of recipes and tips.
3. Curing and Brining
If you want to preserve meat without the need for a pressure cooker, curing is the way to go. This method has been used to great effect since the time of the Romans and requires very little in the way of equipment and ingredients.
By mixing salt and sugar into meat, you’re creating an inhospitable environment for bacteria, most of which cannot survive in an environment with salt concentrations above 10%. Combinations of salt and nitrites also draw moisture out of meat by osmosis, drying and preserving it.
The most important thing is that you have access to a location that remains consistently cool such as a pantry, basement, or attic.
Brining is a similar process which exchanges fluid in the meat with a mixture of salt and water, allowing you to preserve meat without drying it. The brine must be changed frequently, making this a more labor-intensive process. Off The Grid News has a few simple curing and brining recipes to get you started. You can go a step further, using some of these Charcuterie Recipies to prepare preserved meat so that it requires no cooking.
Image: ©iStock.com/John Sigler
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