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Archive for the ‘Preserving’ Category

Recently here in blog land several of the fine bloggers that I enjoy reading have started participating in a weekly theme of posting about food storage, and it has put me to thinking about why I store food.  I mean, I store food.  Compared to the average person on the street I have a fairly good stash going on, while compared to others what I have is a drop in the bucket (I’m looking at you, Farmgal 😉 )  And while having a deep pantry is something that just feels natural to me and I know is a good thing, I have never really examined the whys behind it enough to allow to me to articulate it to someone who thinks I’m a touch crazy for what I do any further than prattling off a list of reasons. 

 There is a ton of information on the internet about food storage, and sifting through it you will find a gamut of people posting about it ranging from the bunker-dwellers who are almost looking forward to the collapse of society all the way  to the people looking for ways to save some money and put a little bit of summer away for the dark days of winter.  Obviously the reasons for storing food are numerous, but in the end, they are a personal thing. 

For me, examining why I do it started with Canadian Doomer’s post on her household’s sudden loss of income.   CD was looking at an uncertain road ahead, but one made easier by that fact that she stores food.  Things may have been hard but at least her family would eat, and eat well I might add.  For me this really struck a chord.  For those of us who like to talk about these things, we can speculate and philosophize all we want about the collapse of food systems and thriving in an energy depleted world, but I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that seemingly mundane things like unemployment are a lot more likely, and a lot more urgent.  There were no zombies in CD’s story, just a Canadian family and a very personal emergency.  It was a change of perspective and a good lesson for me, and happily things have worked out for her in the end.

So why do I store food?  I think I have narrowed down my motivations behind it, and as someone who considers herself fairly average (I’m neither a hard-core doomer nor a prepper, although that is highly dependant on my mood), I think I have boiled down why storing food is a good thing, even if you don’t worry about zombies in the wee hours of the morning.

1.  Emergencies Rarely Call Ahead- CD’s example is a fine one and I think the most easy to relate to.  In my opinion the loss of income is the single biggest reason to store food because it is the most likely to happen.  It is said that we should have at least three months worth of expenses saved, but really how attainable is that for most people?  So many people live paycheck to paycheck as it is, or rely on credit to get by.  Ask yourself:  if you had to live on unemployment, what would be left over at the end of the day?  Mortgages/rent, heat, hydro – these things tend to not to be negotiable, and what ends up on the cutting room floor is groceries.  Having food stored means you get to shop from your pantry and use your money to pay the bills you can’t do anything about, and maybe save yourself from going into debt to do so.

Another part of the emergency category are natural disasters and the weather.  People who live in parts of the world that have frequent violent weather know how important having some stores of food and water are, and they are often reminded to have them. Here in Canada we are, for the most part, spared the worst of what mother nature has to offer, but consider this.  When I was but a wee babe my little part of the country was hit with a blizzard that has gained something of a legendary status (and I may be outing myself geographically here for those in the know).  The school bus Big Brother and Uncle B were on got stuck about three minutes away from the farm, and the entire bus load of kids had to spend the next four days taking shelter in the house of an older couple before they could eventually be taken out one at a time on snowmobile.  Can you imagine what that must have been like for that older couple, having to feed a bus load of children?  Big Brother said they did so admirably, although by the end they had pretty much picked the place clean and had resorted to cutting hot dogs into fours.  There were a lot of other stories that came out of that blizzard, things like people being out of food after only a couple of days and having to have someone bring them groceries on snowmobile and the like. 

Looking back this obviously left an impression on Mom, as around this time of year she always started stocking up “just in case”.  And although I was too young to remember any of it, it left its impression on me as well.  Not only because my mother taught me to prepare for the winter, but also because the school bus goes by my house every day and I can’t help but think “what if?” with a little bit of awe and fear.  I don’t think the average person needs to worry about feeding a bus load of kids, but it’s a good idea to have some supplies socked away so that if something happens on the day you were planning on getting groceries you’re not left with an empty cupboard and wondering how you’ll feed the cat (or the kids for that matter).

2.  Storing Food Saves Money – This is actually pretty simple.  Having a lot of food in the house means that I don’t have to get groceries every week if I don’t want to.  What this means is that I can take the money I have budgeted for groceries for the week and shop only the sales and loss leaders in the stores to stock up.  This has sort of became a cycle where I am now pretty much only buying what is on sale, and most everything I have stored was (other than what I grew) purchased at a really good price.  It’s a cycle that feeds on itself in a very agreeable way. 

3.  A Well Rounded Pantry Means Selection – Because of our food storage, we can have pretty much what we want, when we want it.  If we want mexican we just go to the cupboard.  If I get a craving for apple crisp, I just make it. No running to the store involved.  What can’t be pulled from the storage (things like sushi and spring rolls) are saved for special occasions that actually feel special because we’re not going out all the time. 

4.  Storing Food Means The Best Of The Seasons – Of course this also involves preserving it.  I have a big garden so I am also not paying for what I sock away, but by putting up the bounty I am storing high quality (organic) food for when it’s not available.  Think vine ripened tomatoes or sun-kissed blackberries.  Preserving something while it is in season allows me to not only keep the costs down but also have some of these seasonal foods long after the season has passed.  And while some preserved foods are no match for the fresh version, I am for the most part against eating anything out of season and shipped half way around the globe.  I would rather wait and eat it when it is growing here again and in the meantime fall back on the preserved version.  That only seems natural to me, and better for the planet as well.

Of course, nothing I have said here hasn’t already been said before, and much more persuasively and eloquently at that.  Sharon Astyk is arguably the queen mama of such things, and you can find her blogs here and here.  Sharon is a wealth of knowledge and I guarantee she will make you think.  What I have presented here are simply my (non-zombie) reasons for doing what I do.

So if you are reading this, tell me – do you store food?  Why do you do it?  How long do you think you could go without buying anything?  If you don’t, what are your reasons not to?  And aren’t you worried about that bus load of kids? 😉

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Hey kids, it’s been a while, I know.  Things have been hectic and unfortunately the blog is at the bottom of a long list of things that must  be done, and done right now.  Three flogs from a wet noodle for me.  The up side is that I am now on two, count ’em, TWO weeks of lovely, beautiful and in the nick of time vacation, so hopefully things will get back in order around here and I can write about all the adventures I’ve been having.  I strategically took vacation right now in anticipation of the glut from the garden (the glut that really isn’t happening, more on that later) in hopes of socking away a much as possible for the winter stores, but also because meine beste Freundin is visiting from Germany and when you only get to see your sista from anotha motha once a year attention must be paid.

As far as putting up for the long winter ahead, things have been going rather dismally.  The garden just hasn’t cooperated one tiny little bit this year and my whole system is out of whack.  Having to fit in putting away a winter’s worth of food around a job that takes you away from home roughly 11 hours a day makes for a challenge in the best of times, but throw in other time demands and produce that thumbs it’s nose at your schedule and everything gets cranked up a notch.  Let’s just say my dehydrator has been a lifesaver, and I have developed a new fondness for it for allowing me to toss a bunch of stuff in and go to bed.  I love how it does all the work for me while I am sleeping or at work, and I’m not using the freezers to boot!  I would love to  be able to can everything but the time demand just  makes it impossible.  With that being said I am hoping to take a day this week or next and spend a whole day canning up lots of pickles.  I am also catching on that fermenting is the busy woman’s friend. 

Here you see me cutting up cabbage the hard way for the first batch of kraut. Just kidding...it's not that hard.

I’ve got a batch of sauerkraut on the go now out in the back kitchen, with much more in the works.  I just love how I don’t have to do anything with it once it’s started. Oh kraut, how I love thee.  I’ve got some lovely turnips waiting in the garden that may just become sauerrüben (that’s turnip kraut) and I might do beets as well.  I’m planning to ferment lots of hot peppers into sauce (if the jalapenos ever ripen I’ll use them, but I’ve got lots of hot bananas so I’ll just wing it) and I have about a metric ton of chard that is just  begging to become kimchi.  With the weather turning cooler at least the fermenting part of my game plan is on track.  Work with what you’ve got, kids.

So without further ado I really should get cracking around here, but I’ll leave you with my Grandmother’s yummy recipe for bread pudding.  I had a loaf of homemade bread kicking around that was on the stale side, so I made this last night.  Perfect chilly night comfort food.

Grandma Sandybanks’ Bread Pudding

3 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 quart  (4 cups) milk

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or more)

3 slices (or cups) of ripped up bread

cinnamon or nutmeg (optional, to taste)

raisins (optional, as many as you want)

1.  Combine the first 5 ingredients together, then add the bread.  I say 3 cups of bread because some people like this more custardy, some not so much.  I just use up whatever bread I have until there’s no more liquid to cover it.

2.  Let the bread soak up the liquid a bit.  Squish it down if you have to.

3.  Put into an oven proof dish and sit this in a pan of hot water.  Bake at 350F until an inserted knife comes out clean.  The time this will take will depend on the depth of your dish.  If you bake it in a wide, shallow dish it will cook more quickly.  I made two last night, one in a loaf pan and one in a 1 qt casserole, and both took about an hour.  This stuff is good cold, but heaven when warm.

Just a couple of notes, this recipe is very forgiving.  Like I said earlier, use whatever bread you have and don’t worry about the exact amount.  Bread pudding is one of the ways our grandmothers came up with to use up what needed to be used up.  I like more bread in it because I think it improves the texture, but texture is a very personal thing.  You can use whatever bread you have too, even waffles.  Do what you like.  I also tend to use less milk, simply because I don’t want to use up all of my milk.  Last night I decreased it by a full cup and it was great.  I give the original recipe as my Grandma wrote it down so you can go by the base and work from there (and because that’s how Grandma did  it, and Grandma knew what she was doing).  Just wing it, it will be fine. 🙂

Bis später, kids.

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Auction Score!

I just have to show off my new favourite thing.  Tonight there was an estate auction in town, and since I had read in the paper that there were going to be crocks up for grabs I just couldn’t miss it.  The auction started too early for me to get there after leaving work, so I sent Dad out to scout the goods, get us a number and bid if I didn’t make it in time.  Luckily I got there before they got to them, and after some fast and furious bidding I am now the proud owner of a lovely 6 gallon crock. 🙂

I think it is lovely since it is plain and sturdy (sort of like me), but most importantly intact with not a crack to be found except on the lid.  And since I intend to use it for the purpose it was created for this make me one happy gal.   After a quick perusal online for what similar crocks are going for, the $33 I paid for it also seems mighty fine indeed.

I hope somewhere out there the woman who owned and obviously used this (it’s still rather dirty inside from the last batch of whatever ) is happy knowing her crock has found a new home in my back kitchen where it will be more than just decoration.

I’m already planning the pickles.  And the kraut.  Oh yes, there will be kraut. 🙂

 

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Ok, you’re really not making them, but “Repurposing Something You Probably Have Anyway To Make Freezer Bags” didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Did you know that milk bags make really excellent freezer bags?  I don’t know where I picked up this tidbit of information, but since I rely way too heavily on my freezers for my food storage I am really glad I did.  I don’t know about elsewhere in the world, but here in Canada our milk comes in bags that you put into a pitcher (well, it comes in cartons too, but that’s beside the point).  You just pop one into your pitcher, snip a corner off and douse your Lucky Charms.  Mr. S and I typically go through at least three of these bags per week, and since I repurpose them, that means three free freezer bags for me.  Add that up over the course of a year and that’s a pretty good stockpile ready for when the garden starts producing.

To reuse them simply cut the top off the bag, turn it inside out and swish it around in some hot soapy water (I usually do this when I’m doing dishes since the hot soapy water is there anyway).  Rinse it off and dry and you’re good to go.  How easy is that?  What I really love about using these is that they are heavier plastic than commercial freezer bags.  My freezers generally get pretty darn full, and over time all the rooting around we do knocks the bags of frozen food around and they eventually get little holes in them.  This isn’t good for the keeping ability of the food, and a recipe for a huge mess if thawing something in your fridge without a bowl under it.  So far I have found the milk bags hold up awesomely to the punishment, with not a hole to be found.  Plus I have found that the zipper-type commercial freezer bags more often than not have a tiny little hole in the corner where the zipper part meets the body of the bag.  Not good if you use them to freeze something really juicy like tomato sauce (like me) since that little hole will let the contents seep out of the bag before they are frozen (it did).  I actually prefer using the milk bags for anything very liquid since holding liquid is exactly what they were designed for.

So here’s a picture of, what else, a freshly washed bag ready to dry and be added to the stash.  On the right is a bag of corn I froze last year using one of the bags and pulled out for dinner tonight.  Exciting picture, I know, but have you ever tried to take a photo of a clear plastic bag?? 🙂

One thing if you’re going to try this – you need some way of sealing the bags.  I just hoard all of the twist ties I come across throughout the year and use those.

Happy Freezing, kids.

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