As a mom, the first thing that comes to my mind when prepping is feeding my family. I love MREs and dehydrated food because they are easy to store and can last for such a long time. However, I think it’s important to educate yourself on a few food preservation methods that go beyond just simply canning and dehydrating. When in a disaster-stricken situation being able to provide a few home cooking comforts will go a long way to refresh and recharge your family in a way only their favorite meal can. That is why I constantly am looking for other food-saving tips and methods to make sure my family has the good and nutritious food they desire.
Pass the Cheese, Please…
Wax Your Cheese – Waxing cheese is a simple way to extend the shelf life of any of your favorite hard cheeses. You can obtain cheese wax from various stores on the Internet, as well as from some specialty culinary stores. You will want to melt the cheese wax in a double boiler over medium heat. You may want to consider using a pot or pan that you will only use for cheese wax or one you can throw away as the wax becomes incredibly difficult to clean after use.
Using refrigerated blocks of your chosen cheese, you can begin dipping each side. A good rule of thumb is to dip for 3 seconds, then hold for 30 seconds before dipping again. I always use at least 3 coats and if necessary, I will use a brush to fill in any air holes that the wax may not have covered. You can also adhere a label with the preservation date to the wax as it’s cooling. Once waxed, the cheese can store safely in a cool, dry place. Any unused wax can be saved and used again.
Make Cheese from Powdered Milk – Rather than just storing cheeses, you can also make it out of one of your stockpile staples. Many people stockpile powdered milk and it’s a great idea to do so. However, it is not just good for making milk in a pinch, you can also make more complex dairy foods like cheese.
Combine 1 cup of powdered milk to 2 cups cold water and then stir over a medium-low temperature until hot, but not quite boiling. Then add a tablespoon of plain white vinegar or lemon juice; you should at this point see the curds separating from the whey. Keep on the heat for a few minutes until the curds completely separate and the whey turns a golden color. If it’s too milky still try a little more vinegar or lemon juice. Then pour the curds and whey through a cheese cloth or fine cotton fabric to squeeze the whey from the curds. Now you can rinse the curds and you’ve got about a cup of crumbly cheese similar to a ricotta that will be a great comfort and nourishment when you need it most.
Eggs are Essential
Eggs & Mineral Oil – A great trick most of our ancestors probably knew was how to preserve eggs for long term storage. Did you know if you simply rub your eggs generously with mineral oil it will create a seal keeping oxygen out? This means your eggs will be good on a shelf for up to one year.
Make Powdered Eggs – Many preppers who dehydrate their own food, don’t immediately think about preserving eggs, but farmers who have often more eggs than they can deal with, have been drying eggs for centuries to use and store for emergencies. You can dry eggs in a dehydrator, in a very low heat oven, or even air dry them, but any method you use the process is the same. Simply crack your eggs and mix them thoroughly until the white and yolks are completely blended. Spread out the mixture on a baking sheet or on your lined dehydrator tray. Once dried, the eggs will be in chunks about the size of cereal flakes. I like to break them down further in a blender to get powdered eggs, which are easier for storing and cooking later.
A Meaty Issue
Dry Curing – There are quite a few ways to preserve meat actually, which is not a surprise when you think about our ancestors who had to get by without electricity and refrigeration; and dry curing is one of the oldest methods for a reason. There is also wet curing, which involves preserving the meat in a salty brine, but for today’s purposes we’ll go over the tried and true dry method.
Meat spoils because of bacteria, and bacteria loves growing in watery conditions, something meat has plenty of, especially in the muscle fibers. That is why salt is such an effective preservation method, as it expels the water from the meat creating an environment bacteria cannot thrive in.
You can cure most meats, but beef, pork, fish ,and venison are the most popular. With your meat, you will also need curing salt and brown sugar. Make sure your curing solution include sodium nitrate, found in most curing salts, but also in Himalayan pink salt and many leafy greens. Sodium nitrate is particularly good at fighting off botulism, a very insidious bacteria. A good recipe for a curing mixture would include approximately ½ pound of curing salt with ¼ brown sugar to cure about 10 pounds of meat. You can also add any other herbs and seasonings you like. If you’ve got a taste for the gourmet, you can find many recipes that play with different flavor profiles, but I like to keep it pretty simply for survival’s sake. Slice your meat in thick slabs and cover it heavily with the salt, then stack the slabs tightly, the less air the better, in crocks for storage. Store for about a month in a refrigerated area or root cellar, just make sure it is below 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
After that, take each slab out and wrap it up, air tight, in either butcher paper or plastic. It will now store in a cool, dry place until you are ready to consume.
Lard Storage – One incredibly simple way to preserve your meat, on a shorter term basis, it by using lard. This is a great application for many meats, but I usually use pork chops. Simply submerge the meat you want to preserve in lard. The easiest way to is to melt your lard at the lowest possible temperature and begin filling a crock, then add one layer of meat, and then cover that lay with more lard. You will continue these steps, ensuring each individual piece of meat is completely covered in lard. Then store in a cool place, preferably a root cellar, until ready to use. This method preserves your meat for around 6 months though I usually keep mine on about a 3-month rotation.
It’s Better with Butter
Butter Ghee – Butter ghee is used in cooking delicacies, but the truth is, it has a lot of great potential for preppers too. Butter ghee is basically just clarified butter that has been cooked until the milk fat is gone. That means it can be stored right on a shelf, without refrigeration, for up to one year.
Start with high-quality, unsalted butter and melt it slowly in a sauce pan. Cook for 30 minutes on low to medium-low; you do not want to burn the butter, you are looking for a steady bubble, but not a boil. At this point you should see the milk protein has separated and there is a layer on the top and bits on the bottom of the pan. Skim the milk fat layer off the top and discard.
Continue cooking another 5 to 10 minutes until most of the bubbling stops and the milk protein bits on the bottom of the pan begin to brown, but not burn.
Cool the butter and then strain through a cheesecloth. If unopened, the ghee will store at room temperature like this for 9 months to one year, not to mention it tastes pretty amazing too.
Make Butter From Powdered Milk – Like the powdered milk cheese, butter too can come from dehydrated milk, another simple and easy recipe to add some great taste to your meals in a time when that luxury might be few and far between.
For about 1 cup of butter- take ¾ cup of powdered milk with 1/3 cup water and ¼ oil, you can use vegetable, coconut, olive, whatever you have on hand. Mix these ingredients in a food processor for about 3 minutes. You can do this without power if you are off the grid, but like all butter it will take some work. After it has mixed, it will have a margarine-like consistency. You can also add salt, or even butter flavoring, for taste at this point if you desire.
Food preservation comes in many forms. Canning and dehydrating are just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes it’s revisiting old ways, like salt curing or waxing cheese, and sometimes it’s finding a new way to make something out of what you already have, like making butter from powdered milk. No matter what, educating yourself in these techniques could mean the difference in the survival of you and your family later.