Prepping for the apocalypse, whatever its form, is an important task. Depending on how the Schumer hits the fan, it may be necessary to have 20, 30, or more years of supplies laid up for you and your family. The easiest and most cost effective way of doing this is to buy large quantities of stable, storeable food products, such as rice, beans, grains, pastas, and other dried items.
Once you’ve taken care of the bulk of your preparation, it becomes time to focus on the level of comfort of your preparation, because let’s face it rice and beans can only take you so far. Think about this: thirty years of plain rice and beans will keep you alive, but you have to eat plain rice and beans for the next 30 years.
Variety, it’s the spice of life, right? You prep a variety of weapons and ammo to meet different needs. You prep band aids for cuts and field dressings for GSW’s. There is no reason not to prep a wide variety of food products, too. It will help ensure your health, your sanity, and your survival.
In my previous submission I discussed the need to stock up on herbs and spices when preparing your food stores. There are many reasons, but the two most important I think are morale and health. Herbs and spices can help alter the flavor of your rice and beans, bring some variety to your daily life, and will even help your group maintain a higher level of health. After all, the first doctors were herbalists, and the first medicines were herbs and spices. In this submission I will expound on this idea, widening the idea to include dozens of flavors and products, so that you too can include healthful, delicious, cost effective, long lasting, and multi-purpose food products to your pantry.
Prepared Foods Are Made To Store; Dried, Pickled, Salted, Cured
The first thing to remember is that most of the world’s great food products are inherently made to be stored, either dried, pickled, salted, and/or cured. These are the words of the gourmet culinarian as much as they are the devoted prepper. In times past, everyone was a prepper because that was how you lived; you worked, you produced, you stored, and along the way we learned to appreciate the unique flavors and processes that have become the buzzwords of modern 5-star cuisine.
I’m going to start with mustard, because it is one of my favorite culinary products and leads me into ketchup, which is another one of my faves. Mustard is one of the most useful culinary products in the kitchen and even has application outside of food preparation. In terms of food science, mustard is an emulsifier. This means it breaks down water tension and allows the mixing of oil and water. In the kitchen, this process is used to emulsify salad dressings so that they don’t separate, to make mayonnaise, hollandaise, and many other sauces, as well as to add flavor. A teaspoon of mustard, dry or prepared, is enough to emulsify between two and three cups of vinaigrette; a tablespoon or two is enough to make that vinaigrette into Dijon Vinaigrette.
There are a wide variety of mustards and each has a unique flavor and application. Yellow mustard, such as French’s, is great for basic uses and for emulsification. It’s great in deviled eggs and tuna salad. Add to this a few jars of Dijon (French flavor profile, which can also be substituted anywhere a recipe calls for yellow mustard), spicy brown, like Guldens (German/European), German-style spicy senf (no better mustard in my opinion, if you like it hot), and a Chinese variety. Each of these will cost $3 to $5 dollars for a name brand jar about 12 oz and will last for decades unopened and many years opened. In order to maximize your mustard prep, I recommend adding ground dry mustard as well as dry mustard seeds, both brown and yellow.
Cooking Tips: Use mustard in marinades for meats, especially game meats and fowl. It can also be used as the “glue” that holds a crust or rub onto your meat. A tablespoon of Dijon, or the mustard at hand, in a pint of gravy turns it into Diane Style, a classic steak dish with mustard-mushroom gravy.
Ketchup (Mustard Is Really Ketchup)
I could segue into ketchup a number of ways, who doesn’t associate these two condiments together. I like to start out by saying the mustard is really ketchup. Yes, that’s right; it’s really ketchup. Let me explain. Ketchup, by definition, is a vinegar-based sauce with a single primary flavor ingredient– usually a vegetable product. Mustard is a vinegar-based sauce flavored primary by mustard seed– a vegetable product. Like mustard, ketchup is made to be stored and will last for decades unopened and for a ridiculously long time after opening. (It is basically pickled ripe tomatoes, salt, and sugar– what I call preserved tomatoes.)
Ketchup has a long and distinguished history as well, another reason why I like it. It dates back several thousands of years to Asia, where it was known regionally as ke-tsiapp, a sauce made of fermented fish similar to today’s Thai fish sauce. (Get a bottle of this, too; you’ll use it a teaspon at a time, and it’ll last you the rest of your life and help make delicious Thai and Vietnamese inspired cuisine.) It was “discovered” by Dutch, English, and Portuguese sailors during the eastward expansion. These fellas, sick of eating moldy hard tack and wormy salt beef, embraced the pungent sauce and its preparation, put their own spins on, took it back to Ye Olde Worlde, and now we have dozens of inspired sauce condiments, including Worcestershire Sauce and A-1 to thank for it. Ever wonder why the label says “Tomato Ketchup”? It’s because commonly made ketchups include mushroom and walnut among many others. One gallon of Heinz Ketchup will cost about $6 and can be purchased in #10 cans, plastic jugs, or bags.
Random facts: Ketchup is the world’s #3 condiment behind salt and pepper; the ketchup industry spends less on advertising relative to its income than any other food industry.
Ketchup Can Save Your Life. A typical one tablespoon packet of tomato ketchup has 20 calories, 125 mg of salt, 2 grams of sugar, lycopene (cancer fighting antioxidant) and trace amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals. A few of these in your pocket are the equivalent of a power bar, gel, or half of a pb&j sandwich and can mean the difference between making it out alive and completely bonking. I’ve used them myself after big bike rides when I ran out of other food.
The unifying theme between mustard and ketchup is vinegar and that is another area of your pantry that needs attention! The bulk of your vinegar needs will be met by white distilled vinegar, but it is not the only one you need. It has the highest acid content of any commercial vinegar, the most neutral flavor, and is widely used in preservation, pickling, and canning. After this you are going to need a number of other vinegars, each of which imparts a unique flavor, has unique uses, and special flavor profiles.
The next most commonly used vinegar is cider vinegar, made from apples. It is a high acid vinegar, has a potent flavor, and is also good in pickles and basic vinaigrettes. After this, go after wine vinegar, both red and white, and splurge a little. Avoid the cheap $2 brand, and go for the $3 or $4 brand. You will notice a difference. These are very good for vinaigrettes and to go on sandwiches, like subs, hoagies, grinders, po’boys, heroes and Dagwoods. Also good for marinating cucumbers or onions to go on the table.
Recipe Tip: Take a 1-gallon jug of Apple Cider Vinegar and remove 1 cup; reserve that for another use. To the jug add 2–4 tablespoons of crushed red pepper or whatever dry chili product you have, adjusting heat to taste, 1 tablespoon of dry garlic, 1 tablespoon of dry onion, and ½ cup of brown sugar. Shake vigorously and then allow to sit, until you are ready to use it, and voila! You have Eastern NC BBQ sauce great for marinating, brushing on to grilled meats (that monster boar you shot last fall?), and sprinkling on cooked foods.
After this the options for vinegar open immensely, but I will pick Balsamic as the next choice; it is well known, can be found in any grocery store (usually several brands and qualities), and is relatively low cost. It is good in vinaigrette, marinating vegetables, marinating meats, and is really good served with cheese and fruit. To serve with cheese or fruit, I recommend a higher quality that is thicker, sweeter, and has a better flavor; for general use, get a lower quality. Other vinegars that are useful to have include Sherry vinegar (adapts well to Asian and European style flavor profiles), Champagne Vinegar (excellent for dressings or applications using raw vinegar ie cukes, onions etc), Rice Wine Vinegar (great for Asian flavor profile, has the lowest acid and sweetest flavor, adapts well in many situations) and Malt Vinegar (Fish and Chips!, and other condiment situations).
Balsamic comes in two classifications and a number of subqualities. Those labeled Balsamic Of Vinegar Of Modena are made for commercial purposes and export. They may be blended with red wine vinegar or other and come in four levels or leafs. One Leaf being the lowest and good for everyday use, Four Leaves the highest and recommend for drizzling over fruit, ice cream, cheese and special recipes. One leaf varieties may cost $4 or $5 a gallon, Four Leaf may cost as much as $30 a pint. Balsamico Tradizionale is the real deal, top shelf balsamic made by slowly allowing reduced verjus, unfermented wine grape juice, to evaporate from within a sealed wooden barrel. This is not a true vinegar but an intensely flavored, sweet-acidic, syrupy grape juice with a flavor you will never forget. It can only be made using traditional methods, is aged for at least a dozen years, and must be judged acceptable before labeling. It’s only to be used with your besties; five ounces of 12-year-old may cost $30, the same bottle of 30 or 40 year Balsamico may cost upwards of $300.