Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Emergency Preparedness: Food Preserving

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A little over a year ago, I started posting on emergency preparedness. At the time, many of you questioned why you would want or need things like food storage or 72 hour kits. Sadly, I think many people now have a real reality as to why these things are helpful. You have a lot of these things "just in case" and of course hope to never need to use them. We have had quite the year for natural disasters, with extreme rains that led to flooding in some places, hurricanes where we don't usually see such things, tornadoes destroying much of the South, earthquakes in strange places, and droughts that led to extreme fires that took the homes of many. I have heard from some of you thanking me for the emergency preparedness information. I am so sorry it has had to be used, but I am so glad you had the resources available to you!

Because of extreme droughts and flooding, a lot of food prices are rising. It wasn't a great year for corn, and that affects not only corn prices, but gas prices and livestock prices. This is a time when having a food storage supply that was built up when food was less expensive comes in handy. For example, we literally bought a huge case of chicken on the last right day. We got talking with the manager of the meat department at our local grocery store and he told us how much chicken prices had jumped in one week. The store was having a great sale and they were actually to the point of selling it for the price they were getting it because the price had jumped so much in the week.

Anyway, it has been a year that has shown us starkly why we want to have what emergency preparedness in place we can. Today I will talk about food preserving. 

I am relatively new to preserving my own food. Let me tell you--I love it! I know exactly what ingredients go into my food. My food will also keep longer than it would if I went and bought it at the store. 

I like to preserve my food if it is food that would otherwise go to waste. This is handy when you grow a garden. I am getting over 1/2 a bushel of tomatoes a week right now. We love tomatoes and I make a lot of fresh salsa, but we could never come close to eating those many tomatoes. So I have canned salsa, spaghetti sauce, and plan to can tomatoes later today. 

You can also find things at you pick farms that are very inexpensive. I plan to can applesauce this fall. I have a contact with an apple orchard where I will be able to go pick my own apples and get a great deal to make my own applesauce at home. 

You might also be able to get things for free from neighbors and family. My parent's neighbor gave me 30 pounds of strawberries last July. I made freezer jam with them (in addition to us all eating strawberries constantly). 

This last summer, I also had some blackberries I got from Bountiful baskets that were about to go bad and we were leaving out of town. Rather than let them go bad, I made some blackberry freezer jam. Fabulous. 

If you don't want to make things, you can easily freeze foods. I canned pints and pints of green beans, but also froze a whole bunch, too. The risk with freezing is that if your power goes out, unless you have a generator, your food spoils. Also, frozen food does not last as long as food that has been preserved. 

I also froze raspberries this year. My mom loaded me up with raspberries this year. After eating them and making batches of jam, we just froze what was left. For more details on freezer jam, see this post on Children's Learning Activities: http://learningdevelopmentactivities.blogspot.com/2011/07/freezer-jam.html

So that post will take you through freezer jam. 

For freezing and other preserving methods (like canning), a great book to buy is the Ball Blue Book. This is a link to the one I have, but I think there is one newer than this: The Ball Blue Book Of Canning and Preserving RecipesMine is only two years old, though. Everyone I know who cans uses this book and swears by it. However, I must say that often the way it is written, they assume you know things that you would not know if you didn't grow up around canning. I didn't. My mom never canned anything. I am lucky that I have a neighbor who is the queen of canning and she helps me. 

But when I am looking at by Ball book and don't know what they are talking about, I google it. There are blogs out there that give step by step instructions with pictures on how to do it. One I like is http://www.simplycanning.com/.

Canning with a pressure cooker takes some monetary investment. You can start by canning foods that only need a hot water bath. Most fruits (maybe all?) are this way. Tomatoes are this way. Spaghetti sauce is this way. Here is a hot water bath:

Peaches, pears, and tomatoes are all quite simple. But I won't go into it too much. There are entire blogs dedicated to these things. I just want to expose you to the possibility. I promise it is easier than you might think. If it is something you have an interest in, absolutely go for it. I made a listmania list on Amazon of the products I use. I didn't buy these all in one year, and there are more things in my future :)


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