What’s For Dinner?- Part 5, by J.R.

Juice

We store juices for drinking as well as cooking. Most juices come in plastic bottles and function as part of our water storage. Store what your family likes.

We also store juices for baking and canning as well. Bottled lemon juice is called for in many recipes for jam and other home-canned products. Even if you are lucky enough to have fresh lemons, you should always use bottled lemon juice for your canning. This is because the commercially-canned product has a set level of acidity, while the acid levels of fresh lemons can vary widely, and it is critical to have the correct acidity when canning products at home.

Bottled lime juice is called for in desserts, dressings, and many Mexican recipes. We store a few bottles but not many because when TEOTWAWKI hits, refrigerator space in our tiny solar and propane refrigerators will be at a premium. So we also store packets of powdered juices. True Lemon, True Lime, and True Orange are available in many grocery stores and online. They work very well in all the recipes we have tried them in.

Vegetables

Canning Vegetables

We prefer to have all our vegetables as fresh as possible, so we grow all we can in our garden and extend the season as much as possible in both directions. We eat all we can, and what we can’t we can (or freeze or dry).

As with fruits, I’m not going to cover commercially-canned vegetable products. You know what you like. Plan to store at least one can of vegetables for your family per day. Two cans would be better.

Now onto learning something new.

Potatoes- The absolute hands down favorite, with no contest, in this house is canned potatoes. How can this be? I shall explain. Plain ole cut up canned potatoes are not really exciting, and they are kind of a hassle because they have to be peeled first. Also, for making mashed potatoes they don’t have a perfect texture, but if you buy a French fry cutter from Amazon for about $15 (use the blade for large fries) you will get the “Mom (or Dad) of the Year” award. Here’s how:

After receiving your French fry cutter, buy a bag or box of No. 2 size Russet potatoes. These are large potatoes but not the monster size. Scrub the potatoes well, but you do not need to peel them. (When canning, potatoes that are not intended for French fries must be peeled to remove all traces of dirt. Soil is what harbors the botulism spores. However, the French fries are intended to be fried at very high temperatures—350-400 degrees—for several minutes, plenty hot and long enough to render harmless any botulism that may have developed.) Cut your potatoes and carefully place them in a wide mouth quart jar, stacking them as if they were cord wood. Add salt and boiling water and can them per instructions from your Ball Blue Book (reducing the initial boiling time for the potatoes from ten minutes to three minutes).

When you are ready to eat your fries, open the jar and dump the fries into a strainer. Rinse and drain very well to remove any excess starch. Fry them in peanut oil until they are a golden brown. Salt, eat, and sit back and enjoy the multitudinous praises from your family.

Tomatoes- Diced or stewed tomatoes are some of the more popular items for home canning. However, something that most shy away from is making your own tomato sauce. Most object, understandably, to the long cooking times. Here’s how to make the job go a whole lot quicker:

First, wash your tomatoes, core, and cut into very large chunks. Place the tomatoes in plastic containers and freeze. When you have enough frozen tomatoes to make a batch of sauce, the night before your canning session remove your tomatoes from the freezer and thaw them on the counter. Freezing breaks the cell walls of the tomatoes and lets the water escape. Drain off the water, and send the tomato pulp through your juicer or food mill to remove the seeds and skins. Process tomatoes according to your Ball Blue Book. Keep in mind that home-canned tomato sauce, due to being canned in glass jars, has a longer shelf life than commercially canned tomato sauce.

Zucchini- Yes, most people, who wish to preserve zucchini for later, dry or freeze it. So why can it? For one, dried zucchini does not re-hydrate perfectly for using in baked goods. It’s okay, but it’s just a little tough or chewy. Also, there are those who either don’t wish to rely on their freezers in a TEOTWAWKI situation or simply do not have the freezer space. So, if you have the jars available, canning works. Simply shred the zucchini and pack it into your jars. Add the appropriate amount of salt and boiling water and process according to directions in your Ball Blue Book. When ready to bake, drain the zucchini and use as fresh.

Drying Vegetables

Most of us already know that vegetables can be dried quite successfully and then rehydrated in making various soups.

Potatoes- I prefer buying commercially-dried potatoes; I just haven’t been successful making a visually-appealing product, so my time and effort is better spent elsewhere.

Onions- I prefer commercially-dried onions (also available at the LDS Home Storage Center). I can dry onions easily in my dehydrator, but I really don’t want the smell in my trays.

Zucchini- Dried zucchini chips are popular with some for snacking, but I use most of my dried sliced zucchini in soups. I prefer to use shredded or powdered (shredded, dried, and then pulverized in food processor) zucchini. Powdered zucchini can be used to substitute for some of the flour in baking or used to thicken soups.

Freeze-dried Vegetables

Of course, freeze-dried vegetables are a bit more expensive, so in this house we have to limit those to vegetables that just aren’t successfully preserved in other ways. For us, that is mostly broccoli, which just doesn’t work being canned or dried, and some green beans. We really loathe home-canned green beans and aren’t too fond of commercially-canned either.

Spices

The herbs and spices people choose to store and the amounts are going to vary so widely that recommendations cannot realistically be offered. All herbs and spices should be stored in a cool, dry place. Ideally, because the oils in herbs and spices are volatile, they should be vacuum sealed with oxygen absorber packs. If at all possible, store whole herbs and spices and then use a spice grinder. (Whole herbs and spices will retain their flavor much longer than ground ones.)

We take our spices for granted now; they are so easily and relatively cheaply obtained. Historically, however, spices were highly desired commodities and many a sea voyage was launched in hopes of finding new sources and faster means of satisfying the demand. Today, India is the leading exporter of spices, accounting for approximately 85% of the world’s supply. With as crazy as the world is getting, it might be a good idea to stock up now. Also, you may wish to have extra for barter. Spices can be purchased in bulk from online companies.

Pepper- We use black pepper every single day for seasoning meats, vegetables, soups, and stews. A few pounds would be a good idea.

Dry mustard- Believe it or not, mustard is the world’s second most important spice. It is essential in making mayonnaise and an ingredient in many salad dressings. While it can be raised in this country and Canada leads the world in production and export, it would require a lot of manual labor to produce enough mustard to meet a family’s needs. The French consume 1.5 pounds of mustard per year; storing at least one pound per person would not be unreasonable.

Chili powder- This is one of those spices where a little does not go a long ways. My chili recipes all call for at least a tablespoon of chili powder and maybe two, and we’ll be eating a lot of beans. While chilies can be grown and dried in most parts of the U.S., it would still be a good idea to have at least a couple of pounds on hand.

Cumin- Cumin is used in chili, Mexican, and Indian recipes. India produces 70% of the world supply of cumin. We make a lot of chili and Mexican dishes, so I have at least a pound on hand at all times.

Cinnamon- We use a lot of it in cinnamon rolls, cinnamon toast, muffins and other breakfast items, and cookies. It’s also used in smaller amounts in other foods. A couple of pounds would not be unreasonable, and this is one spice that it is better to purchase in the ground form rather than in stick form. Grinding up cinnamon sticks just takes too much effort in a situation where we don’t have the luxury of time. Virtually all the cinnamon in the world comes from Asia and Africa.

Ginger- It’s an essential ingredient in many Asian recipes. It is also an ingredient in dough conditioner, which is used as an aid in baking bread. Again, almost all the ginger in the world is raised in Asia and Africa.

Nutmeg- It’s mostly used in dessert recipes, at least in this house, but much more common in potato dishes and processed meats in Europe. I probably wouldn’t worry about storing much personally, but my husband thinks he will die without it. I think that’s why he keeps bringing home bottles of the stuff. Anyway, according to an article posted at livescience.com, in medieval Europe a pound of nutmeg cost seven fattened oxen and was a more valuable commodity than gold. Maybe they were small oxen, or maybe it was due to the fact that in Elizabethan times nutmeg was believed to ward off the plague. Indonesia and Grenada produce about 95% of the world’s supply.

Herbs- The most important culinary herbs—basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, and Dill—can all be grown rather easily and in sufficient quantities to provide for your family. Harvest the leaves when appropriate, wash, dehydrate thoroughly, and store whole leaves in vacuum-sealed jars or bags. If you choose to buy in bulk from an online company, keep in mind that 16 ounces of any herb is going to be a lot, volume-wise, up to four quart jars.

Condiments

Sometimes in life, it’s the little things that make all the difference. How much you store of each depends on what your family eats. This list is provided to help you consider ideas you may not have entertained in the past.

Ketchup- For some people, ketchup is a food group unto itself. I have not yet made ketchup that my family is happy with, so we continue to purchase upper-end ketchup made without high fructose corn syrup. We go through about 32 ounces of ketchup per month.

Mustard, pickle relish, salad dressings- These may be important to you and depend upon your tastes.

Soy sauce- This is very important for Asian cooking, marinades, and Asian salad dressings. I usually have at least a gallon of soy sauce on hand.

Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, browning sauce These are used in marinades and gravies and beans dishes.

Salsa- It goes with scrambled eggs in the morning and tortillas and beans in the evening.

Pepper jelly- In addition to the usual reasons you make and store this, it is also a perfect substitute for egg roll dipping sauce. (Yes, we are planning on having egg rolls; we grow the veggies and make the wrappers from scratch.)

Asian condiments- Hoisin sauce, black bean sauce, and some other Asian sauces are really not easily duplicated at home, so consider buying a few bottles.

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