I’m starting to get into food preservation in a big way again.
Me and like every other homesteader on the planet I think.
There’s been a lot of noise about food, food stability, supply chains, and access lately. And it’s completely understandable, when our time is now measured ‘pre pandemic’ and ‘post pandemic’ it’s a little…naive to not recognize that we’re in a period of massive upheaval.
I should tell you that I’m a homesteader and prepper by training but I was also raised in a HEAVY hard science family, from rocket science into meteorology…and medicine. I will not tolerate conspiracy theory, how ‘they’re suppressing the facts, man’, bs insults like ‘sheeple’, or how you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who can like totally prove it’s all media noise.
I also live in the second largest city in New York. I am ready for a fight y’all. I get angry under stress and I’m telling you I’m not above fighting in my own comments.
Anyway. Food preservation.
I have some tips for food preservation in a time of upheaval. I have written on this in the past but without some of the fun and interesting complications of a global disruption events. This is written more for the people who are truly just hitting the ground running so this is going to feel very intro level. And this is going to be a longer entry than what I normally write.
Getting into Food Preservation
There are a couple very obvious ‘big name’ preservation types that will probably come to mind even if it’s ‘zombie invasion’ memes or your grandma, frankly. As an aside, I was promised on Facebook that this was going to be ‘fae come back to the mounds and start eating us’ month and you gave me murder hornets. I am unimpressed. I am actually less afraid of the sluagh than I am of stinging insects.
This is the future the discordian gods want.
You may need to think beyond canning. I will get into why in a second. I have been drying basically anything I can get onto my Nesco. I even dried yogurt the other day (that’s still up in the air in terms of repetition, but you can do it). Dehydration, freezing, air drying, fermentation, oven drying, meat preservation like biltong which yes is just a fourth style of drying, tinctures, and yes, canning.
I am telling you that you might want to get beyond canning because the entire world is now telling you to start canning at the time of year when it was already low canning supply stock season on top of manufacturing disruptions. As in…you may literally not be able to find lids here soon if everyone is telling everyone else to ‘just can stuff’. And yes, I love canning and there are things that are better handled by canning than say dehydration. I can’t tell you what next month will bring and maybe we’re going to be able to easily access supplies but we also could be feeding all that excess milk to our Hoard overlords, I rule literally nothing out as a Pagan homesteader in 2020.
*Under normal circumstances I would never say stuff like this and I KNOW it’s controversial so don’t make noise about it. Don’t do anything that you are not fully comfortable with and I can’t make that call for you as a person. You can in theory re run canning lids. The issue is are they going to seal, and if they do, are they going to fail in the long run. That’s why they tell you do not re run lids, the failure rate is much higher and much more chaotic/random than with new lids. But you CAN do it. Supposedly older lids have a better success rate with this. You also have a higher access to food grade plastic than you might be comfortable with and in an era with harder access to glass canning jars with is when I suggest shifting to it and saving as many jars as you can for actual canning. Coffee cans and Gatorade bottles are both good for holding dried items and are already tested for food storage. Several brands of spaghetti sauce and other store sold food items come in Ball produced jars and you can run them in water bath canners. Water bath. I’m stressing that. Water bath.
Also, reminder, you can do high acid foods in a water bath but if you want to do beans, meat, etc you’re going to need a pressure canner. Or freeze it.
This is always important but it may be hella important for at least the next growing season. Watch what’s in season, google it if you have no idea what you’re looking at. Seasonal food, even when purchased from a conventional store, is going to be higher quality and cheaper than trying to work with out of season foods. Sometimes you might have no choice/just want to mix foods that aren’t in season but you can help keep pricing down by using seasonal guides, as in, if you want to work with lemons mix them with strawberries in early summer.
This will also be helpful because as a person who grew up in a farming community with a giant backyard garden, as in I’ve been around plants for decades, please stop telling people a victory garden is a guaranteed path to food stability. I have gotten into a LOT of fights about this over the past few months. I am NOT telling you not to plant if you have the ability, I am telling you that flooding, droughts, pests, mineral depletion, time restraints, health concerns, and old fashion shit luck are all things and crop failure exists. You can find yourself with a thousand tomatoes and literally nothing else. That’s great because you don’t need to buy any tomatoes for the year. You’re probably not going to want to live off of just tomatoes. So find your seasonal charts and preserve off of that once you have your stockpiles to where you want with your basic foods.
*It’s not as pivotal if you’re buying already preserved foods unless you’re going straight to producer for them, in season. Know that when you go to Aldi or similar regardless of time of year that frozen and canned food is probably not in season food. If you buy pickles at a farmer’s market next to a mountain of cucumbers they very well may be in season but they’re already preserved so you have to ask yourself your personal feelings on that one, does it actually matter? I can’t answer that question for you.
I’m not touching on wildcrafting because I really don’t have that much of a knowledge base there. By all means go for it if you do or can access someone with the skills base, and it will DEFINITELY be driven by seasonal shifts.
Know Your Stockpile Limits
A family of 10 is going to have radically different needs than a couple with no children. I’m guessing you do not have lion’s mane and reishi next to your carrots the way that I do. Part of a successful food stockplile is knowing what you actually need and how much. I am drying increasingly large amounts of apples and bananas every week because I haven’t hit the ceiling yet with what a functional amount of both looks like for me. I dried one eggplant once and haven’t done that since.
There’s a lot of factors that go into this including household size, frequency of use, storage space limitations, and monetary restraints. This will require an investment in overhead at first. There are ways of mitigating that but yes there will be a required amount of money put into it one way or another. The easiest way to start with what you need to put into your stockpile is ‘what do you already eat in the highest quantity’ and go from there. My husband takes dried fruit every day on the truck so we go through a lot. That eggplant is still sitting there. If you never use jelly don’t make it. If you hate pickles don’t get into pickling. It seems obvious but I have had a lot of conversations over the last decade that amounted to ‘I don’t know why I made three gallons of bread and butter pickles, none of us like them’. There will be failures of one form or another as you go (cough: eggplant) but you will definitely cut down on them by thinking about what you already use.
The big thing with this is a rotting stockpile is a waste of space and money, and is arguably immoral. If you have fifteen pounds of carrots to put up at the end of harvest rock out. But don’t buy more carrots in three months unless you actually drained those carrots by that point. When you’re first preserving you might find yourself feeling like crap this is a ton of food, but it’s easily it’s a ton of food -right now-. It’ll get easier a couple of years in when you can watch your stash for things like I still have jam from 2020 I should pull back there.
I don’t have yields this week, I wasn’t paying that much attention for the sake of recording it.
Assume dried if not specified like jam
-five pound bag of fuji apples (baked with some), both plain and spiced
-2 1/2 pints strawberry ginger jam
-quarter pint dried ginger and turmeric root
-dried oranges and lemon, plain
-dried citrus, spiced
-apple strawberry fruit leather, one tray
-spinach and kale