How to make your own apple cider vineger

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Maddie

We all know the health benefits of real apple cider vinegar-and just how expensive it is. I decided to make some and used information from a couple of older books. It is easy to do and you don’t need a cider press, just patience as the fermenting and souring process take time.

CAUTION!! Remember that any vinegar you use in canning must be 5% acidic to be safe. Do not use city water because the chlorine will kill your bacteria and yeast. Do not use metal containers – only glass, plastic or ceramic crocks.

  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • 1/2 gallon water – well or purified
  • 1/2 cup each of honey and organic sugar
  • apple cores and peels – any variety will work, but I like to mix tart and sweet
  • 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 1 teaspoon dry bread yeast – if needed

PATIENCE

I started small on my first batch, using a gallon size glass sun tea jar with a spigot and lid. The spigot is handy for draining off some of your product to check (you don’t want to stir up your mix too much) and then to empty the jar when the vinegar is done. I boiled 1/2 gallon of well water and let it cool, then stirred in 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup organic sugar and poured the mix into the gallon jar. Add enough apple peels and cores to fill the jar to within 2″ of the top. If you have any apple cider vinegar (ACV) that is raw and unpasteurized, add 1/2 cup of that and stir to help get the fermentation process started. Put the lid on the jar loosely and set it to the side in a warm area of your kitchen. If your mix hasn’t started bubbling after a week, gently stir in 1 teaspoon of dry yeast. Mold on the surface is OK, just skim it off very carefully so you don’t stir up the mix. If there is a milky film in the mix, leave it – it’s the “Mother” and mean your ACV is alive.

After 4-6 weeks, it should stop fermenting and start souring – unless you decide to try the hard cider first. After 8-10 weeks, you should be able to use your own ACV in your cooking and recipes. If you want to use it in canning, try comparing the taste and tartness with commercially made vinegar that you know is 5% acidic. If it isn’t about the same, you need to let it sour longer. When it is done to your satisfaction, use the spigot to drain the ACV off into glass or plastic containers, add lids, and enjoy. You can filter it through a coffee filter if you wish, but I didn’t mind the cloudiness and didn’t bother. Compost the old peels and cores.

I got braver for my second batch because my apples were getting ripe. I used an old Coleman 5 gallon industrial water cooler with a spigot that I got for $2 and multiplied the ingredients. I ended up with a gallon of nice vinegar that I used in salad dressings.

Be sure you record what you used and the amounts so you can tweak your ACV flavor. I used a mix of tart and sweet apple peels and cores in the big batch and liked how it turned out better than the small batch made with just one type of apple parts. Or your ACV may not start doing anything and your notes will show you what may have caused it.

References: “The Little House Cookbook“, 1979 by Barbara M. Walker – Reader’s Digest “Back to Basics”, 1981

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Prizes For This Round Include: (Ends July 29, 2016)

First Prize:

Second Prize: 

Third Prize:

PREPAREDNESS TIP: REFRIGERATION IN HARD TIMES

by Andrew Skousen – Worldaffairsbrief.com

One of the most immediate problems during a prolonged power outage is keeping the food in your fridge and freezer from spoiling. In the coming hard times we expect the power to be out for a long time—estimates vary from a few weeks to over a year depending on your location. How will you keep food from spoiling during that time? And what will you do with the valuable food in your fridge and freezer as it warms up?

You can buy yourself more time by keeping spare space in the top of your freezer full of ice (frozen water bottles or ice packs that can be moved in and out as space permits). The ice will act as a temporary emergency backup and keep the food below it frozen longer. A full freezer also runs more efficiently. You can put a few ice containers in the fridge to keep it cooler too. In the 40s and 50s many houses had an “icebox” instead of a refrigerator. These were small insulated containers that were literally cooled by a block of ice in a container on top. The ice was harvested in the winter from lakes in massive blocks by teams of men and horses. It was stored in barns or big cellars covered with deep piles of hay as insulation.

For most Americans, the fridge is just a temporary place to keep fresh supermarket food that is artificially maintained during all seasons (and prepared foods like frozen entrees). If you are smart you will start now to reduce your dependance on store-bought ready-made foods and grow your own staples. When you do you will find the seasonal nature of food requires a good root cellar more than a fridge, and other long-term methods of preservation are crucial, such as canning,dehydrating, pickling or lacto-fermentation, and salt curing. Although a small fridge is still useful.

If you have a generator, we recommend using it to keep the fridge and freezer cold, but ration the fuel as much as possible by running it only in the morning and evening after meals and don’t open the fridge or freezer in between. Generators run most efficiently at about 80% capacity, so use any extra capacity during these times to charge batteries, wash clothes or run lights as needed.

Before your fuel runs out and things melt and spoil, pull the meat out package by package and cure it in salt (keep a large amount in your stockpiles). Just the cuts of meat with salt or soak it in a salty brine. Salt draws out the water and stops the spoilage pathogens. Here are sample instructions for curing with salt. Salt is also a critical ingredient for pickling or lacto-fermenting vegetables, which is a good way of preserving any fresh or frozen vegetables, but it too takes practice.

If you live in a dry climate you can also spread vegetables out in a thin layer and dehydrate them in the sun. Salting them a little will speeds the process. You can also dehydrate the meat into jerky by cutting it thinly, rubbing the surface with salt and dehydrating it. In humid climates you may have to dry meat over a fire or in a smoker. Solar ovens can also be used to dehydrate.

Next week I will talk about more efficient refrigerator options, so that even with a moderate solar panel setup you can keep some food cool and frozen without burning precious fuel.

Modern Americans like big refrigerators to stock up on store-bought goods, but you can get by with less fridge space in hard times. Many things in your fridge can last in medium-cool environments. Before refrigeration people stored fruit, vegetables and crocks of pickles and sauerkraut in root cellars or cool, dry storage areas. Condiments like butter, peanut butter, mustard, jams and jellies were often stored in a “larder,” a small room or cabinet in the coolest part of the house. Unwashed eggs have a natural coating that preserves them for a long time at room temperature.

I mentioned storing ice from winter for an icebox last week. Some homesteads used a spring house—a small, insulated structure built over a cool water source like a spring or diversion from a stream. The cool water would flow into the bottom of the house over a flat stone or shelf where a jug of milk or yogurt would be placed to keep at least as cool as the water. In dry climates people use evaporation to reduce temperatures inside containers by as much as 15 to 20 degrees—enough to keep fruits and vegetables from drying or wilting. The “zeer pot” is the best example.

But nothing compares to a freezer and some fridge space. The key is to find efficient units that won’t break your budget for solar power. Even modern “Energy Star” refrigerators consume between 400 and 500 kWh per year (for 18 to 22 cubic foot units)—second only to the power consumed by the air conditioner in most houses. The compressor draws a lot of power at startup for a split second so your inverter or generator must be rated for this “peak power draw.” Before you spend thousands upgrading your solar capacity for your fridge consider more efficient options.

Some off-grid homes use propane or natural gas refrigerators to reduce solar panel cost. These have few working parts and are fairly robust, but they use an inefficient absorption-cooling process powered by heat and can burn 1/3 to 1 gallon of hard-to-replace propane per day. The gas/electric or gas/DC/AC options are not any better because they use the same absorption process with the option of heating electrically which is also very inefficient.

Modern motor-driven compressors have resulted in vastly improved cooling efficiencies but these are offset by our desire for conveniences: Icemakers and water dispensers waste a lot of power; freezers on the bottom are less efficient than freezers on top; auto-defrost requires a heating element that uses energy; large refrigerators designed for limited kitchen spaces results in less insulation; and upright units lose more cold air when open than hard-to-access top-load units like chest freezers. The high-efficiency fridges and freezers mentioned below gain some of this back:

SunFrost is the most efficient and the most expensive. Their 16 cubic foot unit (around $3,500) only uses about 372 kWh per year and comes in a variety of DC or AC options running the very efficient Danfoss compressor with low peak power draw at startup. “Manual defrost” requires removing freezer foods but the ice buildup comes off easily after the freezer portion has been off for 20 minutes (freezer and fridge are operated by separate compressors). The RF19 is nearly the same price with a larger freezer, but it uses more power.

NovaKool has DC and AC refrigerators that are medium and small for marine, RV and truck use. Designed for moving platforms they built well and durable but lack thick insulation because they are designed for small spaces. $1,200 to $2,000 depending on size. Available at many RV wholesalers.

SunDanzer has top-load refrigerators and freezers with the high efficiency Danfoss sealed compressors makes these units some of the most efficient options. 5.8 cu. ft. costs $1,020 and uses only 37 kWh / year (as a freezer it uses 124 kWh/yr). For $1,090 there is an 8.1 cu. ft. option that uses 51 kWh/year as a fridge and 183 kWh/year as a freezer. Backwoods Solar has them in both DC or AC option.

There are several refrigerated ice chests on the market with thermoelectric coolers that run on 12 volts DC or on small solar setups but they only drop the temperature in the cooler by about 30 degrees, so they don’t work well as true refrigerators in hot climates, let alone freezers. The ARB Portable Coolers on the other hand are very efficient and get truly cold. They come in ice chest sizes with a split are for freezer and fridge. Rated highly, and I like how easily they are powered by a small solar setup or from DC and AC options. Also available at Amazon for $805 to $1225 depending on size. Convenient now and in hard times, but expensive per cubit foot of space.

These are the best off-the-shelf options I have found thus far, next week I will cover adjustments you can make to standard refrigerators and freezers to improve their efficiency.

How I Do Long Term Food Storage

Today’s Featured YouTube Video : Homesteading Skill Sets and Tips

Hunter Gatherer Skills That Every Survivalist Should Have

By Shane S

As a survivalist, you will be hunting and maybe raising your own food. With that comes the responsibility of knowing how to do these things and how to store them effectively. You will need to know how to hunt, raise, preserve, and how to prepare it.

Hunting

huntingBeing able to hunt on your homestead or other grounds can provide you a variety of foods. From fishing to deer, you will be able to have several different meat sources. Be sure you understand your local regulations because every state is different. Check with your local game warden if you aren’t sure about the specific laws.

  1. Bow hunting – Bow and crossbow hunting can be used for a broad variety of game, including deer. Wild turkey and wild hog are also popular choices when it comes to bow hunting. Be sure to practice your bow hunting skills to ensure success while hunting.
  2. Shotgun – Okay, you may not find a hunter-gatherer using firearms for hunting, but our frontiersman-forefathers did. You can hunt small game, like rabbits, squirrels, and a variety of birds with a shotgun. Not many people hunt deer with a shotgun yet it can be done if you know what you are getting into. The range will be much less than a rifle.
  3. Rifle Hunting – Rifles cover a broad range of calibers and that means that you can hunt a variety of different animals. The big advantage over shotguns is the high degree of accuracy at a distance that you get with a rifle. You can hunt small game like squirrels or opossums to much larger game like deer, elk, moose, and even bear.
  4. Snares – Trapping with snares is popular for many different kinds of small game. Animals like groundhogs, wild rabbit and even possums can be caught by this method.

Raising livestock

Raising your own livestock is a great way to know where your food is coming from. You get to determine how your food is raised and you control what they eat and what kind of supplements, if any are given to them.  There are many different animals that you can raise on your homestead or compound depending on the space you have.

  1. Small herd animals – Goats and sheep can also provide food by meat and milk. They are generally easy keepers and are versatile around the homestead.
  2. Fowl – Chickens are a favorite among survivalists, homesteaders, and preppers. (It turns out survivalists, homesteaders, and preppers have a lot in common.) They are easy to raise and provide two different sources of food with their meat and their eggs. They are relatively low cost to feed and easy to breed. And then there are turkeys have the same needs and environment as chickens, and they get along pretty well. Turkeys can provide a good bit of meat to store, and they can easily be raised.
  3. Rabbits are a great source of meat and most people think they taste like chicken, perhaps a little more gamey. The rumors are true about rabbits –they easily reproduce, creating a self sustaining meat source. Rabbits are also popular for their fur as well.

 

Cooking Off Grid

Once you have the meat (or other food) you have to do something with it — cook it! When you are cooking off grid, unless you have a solar panel, most of your cooking will either be done outdoors or on top of a wood heater. Knowing how to properly cook your food items is imperative. These skills take practice, but with time you will have no trouble cooking off grid.

  1. Smoking – Smoking is a great way to prepare your food and every week or so you may find me smoking a pork butt or some brisket. A smoker or even a smoke house can be created on your homestead with a minimal amount of effort. This method will give you great tasting food and even help you to preserve your food items.
  2. Campfire cooking – A broad variety of foods can be cooked over a campfire. From stews to meats, campfire cooking is highly popular. You will need to make sure that you have the proper items like wood (dense hardwood if you have it) and a large cast iron dutch oven.
  3. Underground Oven – Cooking underground will allow you to cook anything that you would like and can help to cook things like bread and even biscuits. Vegetables and meats can also be prepared by cooking underground.

Making the Food Last – Preservation Techniques

canned food picPreserving your food is a good skill. Whether you hunt or grow your own, you will often have an abundance of food leftover. You will need food for long term storage so it is imperative to know how to preserve your food.

  1. Canning – There are many foods that can be canned including meats and vegetables. Canning your food allows it to stay good for a year or more. Canning can be done on top of a wood stove with ease. Make sure you do your research and learn how to properly can your food without any risk of bacterial contaminants.
  2. Dehydrating – Just by using the sun, you can dehydrate your foods. The great thing is that you can dehydrate almost anything: fruits, vegetables, and even meats. This is a good way to store a broad variety of foods for future storage. After dehydration, you will want to make sure that you a proper way to store the food.

Conclusion

Raising your own animals, hunting, and preserving are all must-have skills of a survivalist or prepper. There will have to be a trial and error process but with practice and research, you will have no trouble finding or raising, and preparing your own food.

Bio: When Shane isn’t hunting, hiking, or fishing, he blogs about all things outdoors at Outdoorsman Time.

M.D. Adds : If you’re interested in learning these skills (you should be) then as a first step I recommend that you order a copy of – The Modern Hunter-Gatherer: A Practical Guide To Living Off The Land.

Food Freezing Tips: How Long Can You Store Meals in Your Freezer? [Infographic]

Click on infographic for larger view…

Frozen Food - Recommended Storage Times

Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part IV

bam bam pic 1

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – by Bam Bam

I would be remiss if I wrote a series on fermentation and neglected to mention yogurt. So, last night I made my first batch of yogurt. I can tell you it is incredibly easy (and delicious). The total cost was just over $2 for a half gallon of yogurt (not counting the starter). Score!

Here’s what I did. First, I bought some plain Greek yogurt (with active cultures) as I normally do. Greek yogurt is significantly thicker than ordinary yogurt. (I didn’t include the price of the store-bought yogurt because this is something I would have purchased anyway, and I can keep using a half of a cup of the homemade yogurt as the starter for the next batch. Like kombucha and kefir, you only need to purchase the starter once.)

When I got home from the store I set out a half of a cup of the store-bought yogurt in a bowl on the counter to let it warm as I started making the homemade yogurt. Next, I poured just over half a gallon of milk into my Dutch oven and heated it on medium-high to 200 degrees. It took about 20 minutes, standing in front of the stove whisking the milk to prevent scorching. Next I cooled the milk in a water bath. (I just put the whole pot into my sink filled with ice water, and stirred it a few times to prevent a skin from forming on the top of the milk.) I did this until the temperature of the milk dropped to 120 degrees. This took about ten minutes. (This initial step is necessary to alter the structure of the milk protein.)

While the milk was cooling another five degrees (to 115 degrees), I scooped out about a cup of warm milk and mixed it with the room temperature store-bought yogurt. When the pot cooled to 115 degrees I poured the diluted yogurt-milk mixture into the pot, and whisked it well. (This step inoculates the warmed milk with the live yogurt culture.)

Next, I put the Dutch oven in a homemade warmer box. The yogurt should stay at about 110 degrees for six hours. For my warmer box, I put an electric heating pad in the bottom of a cardboard box that was just bigger than my Dutch oven. (I had to cut a hole in the box for the cord.) I turned on the heating pad, wrapped the Dutch oven in towels and set it in the cardboard box. Then I insulated it with additional towels and a pillow. (Note: If you have a cooler that is just bigger than your Dutch oven, that will work as well. Just put the Dutch oven in the cooler with several bottles of hot water.)

bam bam pic 2After six hours I removed the Dutch oven from the heating box, and set it in the refrigerator overnight. (Homemade yogurt will last 7-10 days in the refrigerator.) We just finished breakfast and the yogurt was delicious. It was full of probiotic goodness and had no added sugars. This is another product I won’t have to purchase from the grocery store, and that frees up money for other preps. My fermentation adventures have given me a sense of independence. I realize now, looking back, that my goal has been to learn to make as much stuff at home as I can.

In the last two days I’ve watched seven of the eight episodes of BBC’s Wartime Farm. This documentary is about three people who spend a year working a farm in the English countryside as if it were WW2 England. (All eight episodes are available on Youtube.com.)

Prior to the war England imported two-thirds of its food. The Germans began sinking cargo ships, which put a stranglehold on imports. So food, fuel and other necessities were rationed.

This series impacted me greatly. I came to realize that I have been seeking the confidence that if I came into a windfall of a particular type of food during times of shortage, I could preserve it without fear of waste. What would you do if food was scarce and you were suddenly handed 10 gallons of milk or 20 pounds of cabbage? Would you have the skills to process it without loosing any to spoilage?

The longer I prep the more I realize that the material goods we stock are only to get us through the first year or so. Beyond this, it’s all skill—food preservation skills, self-defense skills, hunting and trapping skills, carpentry and engineering skills, etc.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping Survival.com, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms.com
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.

Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part III

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – by Bam Bam

Also Read – Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part One and Part Two.

FERMENTED MILK PRODUCTS

Kefir

Kefir is fermented milk that tastes like tangy yogurt. To make kefir you will need some kefir grains, which really aren’t grains. They are a starter culture. They look like a spoonful of cottage cheese. I bought my kefir grains on Ebay for $5.99. They arrived in the mail a few days later packaged in a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag. I was not at all impressed by the squished white stuff. But I followed the directions that arrived with the grains.

kombucha scoby

kombucha scoby

I filled a clean jar with half a cup of milk and added the mushy white stuff. (They did not look like grains at all.) The next day I poured the milk through a fine-mesh strainer and dumped the milk down the drain. I did this for three days while the “grains” grew and acclimated themselves to my kitchen. On day four I strained the liquid and reserved the grains, as I had the three previous days. But on this day I made my husband try the liquid. He said it tasted like buttermilk. It has been about two weeks now and my kefir grains have more than doubled in size. I am making a quart of kefir a day.

So here’s how you make kefir. Order some kefir grains and follow the instructions, just as I described above. After a few days, the grains will acclimate to your kitchen and you can begin making kefir in earnest. Pour 1 Tbs. kefir grains into a quart of milk. Kefir was traditionally made with goat milk. Raw cow milk can’t be sold in the state of Florida. So I use regular whole milk from the grocery store. Just add the kefir grains to a quart of milk and set aside for 12-24 hours.

You know the kefir is ready when the whey just begins to separate from the curds. (You will see little pockets of clear liquid begin to separate from the more substantial white curds.) At this point you want to strain the kefir and remove the kefir grains. Use the kefir grains to start another batch. You only have to purchase kefir grains once. You keep taking them from the finished batch and adding them to a new batch.

I like to do a second fermentation on the kefir once the grains are removed. To do this, add a handful of fruit to the kefir. I prefer to use a handful of squished blueberries. Shake the kefir and let sit on your kitchen counter for another 12-24 hours. Refrigerate.

Kefir Smoothie

One of my favorite uses of kefir is for smoothies. I take two quart-sized jars full of second fermented blueberry kefir and pour them into the blender with a couple of bananas, some blackberry yogurt and some homemade vanilla and blend. Viola. You have a smoothie. I keep a half gallon mason jar of smoothie in the frig almost all the time. The mixture will last about a week. If it sits in the frig longer it gets a vinegar taste.

Kefir Oatmeal

I like to make no-cook kefir oatmeal for breakfast. We eat this just about every morning. The night before, mix ¾ cup of oatmeal and 1 cup of kefir. Stir, cover, and then put in the refrigerator. The liquid will soften the oatmeal. In the morning, add a bit more kefir and some banana, blueberries, strawberries or fruit of your choice. No-cook oatmeal has a better texture, and you don’t need to add sugar or salt.

Kefir Ranch Dressing

If you want to make kefir ranch dressing, do the second ferment with the peel of a lemon. Mix about 1/3 cup of kefir, 1/3 cup of sour cream and 1/3 cup of mayo. Add 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. parsley, 1 Tbs. dill, and some salt and pepper. Mix well and put in frig for a couple of hours for favors to gel. This will make a pint of salad dressing. Once you try this you will never buy ranch dressing from the store again. This will last about a week in the frig.

Kefir Vanilla Ice Cream

To make homemade kefir ice cream mix 2 cups of kefir, 1 cup of heavy cream, ¾ cup sugar and 1 Tbs. real vanilla. Pour into ice cream maker. The result is a soft serve ice cream. If you want to make other flavors such as blueberry or peach ice cream, use blueberries or peaches in the second ferment of your kefir. Refrigerate. Once chilled, pour kefir in blender. You can add more blueberries or peaches, if you like. Then pour into your ice cream maker. Play around here. You can add chocolate syrup to make kefir-chocolate ice cream.

(Note: If you do a lot of baking it is a good idea to make your own vanilla extract. Order some vanilla beans on Ebay. When vanilla beans arrive, slice them open lengthwise and then cut into one-inch pieces. Put several pieces in a pint jar and cover with 100 proof vodka. Get the cheapest vodka you can find. Let mixture gel for at least six weeks. Remember to shake the mixture every few days. Homemade vanilla extract makes excellent Christmas gifts.)

kefir grains

kefir grains

Kefir Soft Cheese/Sour Cream

Okay, I couldn’t help but mention kefir cheese, as I just finished making some. This is the easiest recipe ever. Do the second ferment with a lemon peel. After 12-24 hours remove the lemon peel. Place a coffee filter inside a medium-sized colander, and use to filter the kefir. After 12-24 hours the whey has drained through the coffee filter and you are left with kefir cheese, a soft serve cheese. You can roll the cheese in nuts or herbs to make a cheese ball and serve with crackers or veggies. Kefir cheese makes a good substitute for sour cream.

FERMENTED BEVERAGES

Fermented beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) have been used by just about every culture throughout history and pre-history. Fermentation is the transformation of sugar into ethyl alcohol. The first documented fermented beverage comes from the Sumerians in the year 3200 BC. Historical records indicate that the Sumerians enjoyed beer. No doubt, man has been fermenting beverages much longer than historical record indicates. The most plausible explanation for the long and virtually universal use of fermented beverages is that fermentation was necessary for survival. Clean water would have been difficult to find. Fermentation kills the bad bacteria, thus rendering the liquid safe.

Note that the fermented beverages discussed below all contain a minute amount of alcohol.

Kombucha

Like Kefir, you will need a starter to make kombucha called a “scoby”. This stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. I ordered mine on Ebay. Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. Like kefir, it’s easy to make. Brew up a half of a gallon of black tea. (This is the ordinary, every day Lipton tea you see in every grocery store.) Add a cup of sugar. When mixture has cooled, pour into a half-gallon canning jar. Add the scoby and some kombucha. (When you purchase the scoby, make sure some kombucha is included. Ideally, you will add 2 cups of starter and the scoby. I started with just a ½ cup of kombucha.)  Note that you will only need to order the scoby once. After that, it keeps growing and growing and growing.

Allow to kombucha to ferment for one week. You can either refrigerate the kombucha or do a second ferment. I like to do a second ferment to add some flavoring. My favorite so far has been homemade peach syrup or maybe the ginger bug (see below). (Note: My new favorite is now crangrape kombucha—just put half a cup of crangrape juice in for the second ferment.) If you do a second ferment, add some flavoring and allow mixture to ferment for another two days. Refrigerate for several hours before opening. Note that the contents will carbonated. So open the jar over the sink.

Every book I’ve read on making kombucha issues a warning about the possibility of the pressure building up enough to cause the kombucha to explode. I suspect such warnings were inserted by publishers who were weary of being sued. I have no fear of exploding kombucha jars. If these canning jars can go through my pressure canner, they can handle kombucha. (Note: I have left the second ferment kombucha on the counter for a week without any adverse consequences.)

Ginger Bug

Making a ginger bug is the first step in making old-fashioned ginger ale and old-fashioned root beer. And it is so easy. Add 2 cups of filtered water to a quart jar. Mix in 1 cup of sugar and 2 Tbs. freshly grated ginger. Shake jar to mix. Every day for the next five days, add 1 Tbs. of sugar and 1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger. Shake jar to mix. After the first day you will see the mixture begin to bubble.

Ginger Ale

Old-fashioned ginger ale takes some planning. You’ve got to start with your ginger bug. Once that is ready, making ginger ale is a piece of cake. In a saucepan, simmer 2 cups of filtered water with 3 Tbs. grated ginger for five minutes, then strain out the ginger pieces. (This mixture is called a wort.) Add ½ cup of sugar and 1 Tbs. molasses. Stir well. Allow mixture to cool. Pour into a half-gallon canning jar. Add ½ cup of ginger bug and ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Fill the rest of the jar with filtered water. Shake well. Allow mixture to ferment for 3-4 days. Refrigerate for several hours before opening. (Note: The ginger ale will be carbonated, so make sure you open the canning jar over the sink.)

Root beer

Put half of a gallon of filtered water, ½ cup of sassafras bark, ½ tsp. wintergreen leaf and a cinnamon stick in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and return liquid to pot. Add 1 cup of sugar and 2 Tbs. molasses. Stir well. Allow mixture to cool. Add 2 tsp. real vanilla extract and 1 cup of ginger bug. Pour into a half-gallon canning jar. Allow mixture to ferment for 3-4 days. Refrigerate for several hours before opening. (Note: The ginger ale will be carbonated, so make sure you open the canning jar over the sink.)

CONCLUSION

I want to learn everything I can about ancient methods of food preservation. I would like to learn how people in Mediterranean prepared sun-dried tomatoes and brined olives. I would like to know how pre-Columbian cultures in Peru and Bolivia freeze-dried potatoes and how ancient Japanese and Koreans freeze-dried fish and other meats. I would also like to know how native peoples of the Americas preserved meat with pemmican.

Knowing how to preserve food is an important skill and in a post collapse, grid down society, it will be essential. Modern methods of food preservation—canning, mechanical refrigeration and freezing, and irradiation have only been around for a hundred or so years—and may not be available in the future.

Please share your thoughts below.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping Survival.com, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms.com
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.

Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part II

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – by Bam Bam

Also Read – Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part 1

Getting Started

You don’t need a whole lot of stuff to start fermenting and I suspect that folks here have just about everything necessary already on hand. If you’ve got a well-stocked kitchen, you are set. You’ll need a vegetable peeler and some sharp knives, a couple of large bowls and the stuff you use for canning—mason jars, canning funnel, etc. I prefer to use the white plastic lids for many of my ferments.

Another nifty contraption is an airlock. (Airlocks are plastic devices that replace the lid of a canning jar. They allow carbon dioxide to be released without allowing oxygen in.) If you don’t have an airlock, you will have to burp your ferment every day–you will have to open the lid, and press down on the contents of the jar in order to release the bubbles. You can order an airlock on Ebay for a few bucks. But note you will still have to check your ferment everyday—the fermentation causes the chamber of the airlock to fill and sometimes overflow with brine. This needs to be emptied to the fill line.

Of course if you get serious about fermenting (and you’ve got the rest of your preps in order) you can have a bit of fun. I would love to have a boleslawiecs, an old-fashioned Polish sauerkraut fermentation crock, and an authentic Korean onggi for making kimchi. But canning jars with airlock lids will do for now.

In what follows I will discuss three different kinds of ferments: vegetable ferments, milk ferments and fermented family-friendly beverages such as kombucha, old-fashioned ginger ale and old-fashioned root beer. (The fermentation of alcoholic beverages is beyond the scope of this post. But do note that fermented drinks do contain a very small amount of alcohol, though you would have to drink gallons to feel a buzz.)

Now it’s time to have some fun. Unless otherwise noted, the recipes below make one quart. The recipe can be adjusted if you would like to make several quarts. But it’s best to start in small batches. That way if something goes astray, you’ve only lost a few dollars worth of produce.

FERMENTED VEGETABLES

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is one of the easiest ferments. In its most basic form, sauerkraut has only two ingredients: cabbage and canning salt. The fist step is to pick the freshest green cabbage you can find—one that is heavy for its size. To make a quart of sauerkraut you want about a 2 lb. cabbage.

Core the cabbage and remove the outer leaves. (Reserve the leaves, as they will be used later). Quarter and core the cabbage and then cut in ½ inch strips. Place in large bowl. Sprinkle 1 ¾ Tbs. of canning salt for a 2 pound of cabbage. (If your produce is very fresh and you are limiting your salt intake, the amount of salt can be reduced to 1 Tbs. per pound of cabbage.)

Massage the salt into the cabbage. Don’t forget to wash and salt the outer leaves of the cabbage. The idea here is to get the cabbage to release its liquid. That’s why you want to choose a cabbage that is heavy for its size—you want one that is fresh and hasn’t dried out. Massage in the salt very well and set aside until the cabbage has reduced in size by one half.

Taste the cabbage. It should have a nice flavor but shouldn’t be overly salty. Add more salt if necessary.

Pack the mixture in a clean (but not necessarily sterilized jar). As you fill the jar, press down the contents of the jar so the liquid rises. Continue to pack the jar leaving at least one inch of headspace. Make sure you get out all the air bubbles.

Take one of the reserved outer leaves and press into the jar so that the reserved cabbage leave acts as a barrier, preventing the shredded cabbage below from floating to the top of the jar. You want to make sure that the brine covers the cabbage at all times. Oxygen is the enemy of fermentation. That’s why the airlocks come in handy.

If you don’t have an airlock you will have to check your ferment everyday, making sure the contents of the jar are below the brine. If necessary, add more brine.

Kimchi

Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and in traditional households it is eaten with every meal, even breakfast. (Having different kinds of food for breakfast is a distinctly Western tradition.) Kimchi is fermented cabbage in a chili pepper fish sauce. Traditionally, kimchi is made with napa cabbage, green onions, daikon radish, carrots and homemade chili paste. I will first give a traditional version of kimchi and then give an Americanized version.

‘Traditional’ Kimchi

To make “traditional” kimchi, select a 2 lb. napa cabbage. Remove the outer leaves. Cut cabbage into bite-sized pieces. Pour 2 Tbs. of salt over the cabbage, and massage thoroughly. Set aside for a few hours to allow the cabbage to expel its liquid. Cabbage is ready when it has reduced in volume by half. Drain brine using a colander and rinse cabbage thoroughly. Squeeze out excess liquid. (Do not reserve brine.)

While cabbage is draining prepare remaining ingredients. Cut daikon radish and carrots into matchsticks (use about 1/3 cup of each). Slice a handful of green onions. Some recipes call for an Asian pear or an apple, peeled and sliced. Most Koreans would add dried shrimp. Next, prepare the sauce. Mix fish sauce, Korean red chili flakes (also called Korean red chili powder), sugar, diced garlic and diced ginger in a blender or food processor. Add filtered water if necessary to form a sauce. Unless you are familiar with Korean cooking or are accustomed to spicy foods, I would suggest using no more than 2 Tbs. of hot pepper.

Next pour cabbage, remaining vegetables and hot pepper sauce into a large bowl. Put on a pair of surgical gloves and use your hands to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Pack into clean jars, taking care to remove any air pockets. (This recipe should make 2 quarts of kimchi.) Allow kimchi to ferment for five to seven days.

Note that in warmer environments food ferments more quickly than in cooler environments. If your kitchen is very warm, your kimchi might be done in a day or two. You need to taste it to see if it suits you.

Americanized Kimchi Recipe

Koreans love fermented fish sauce and dried shrimp; many Americans do not. So I played around with the recipe just a bit. (Note: there is no such thing as “the” recipe for kimchi; every family has their own secret recipe—sort of like every cook has his or her own unique way of making chicken soup.) I prefer to use green cabbage instead of napa cabbage. I think it retrains its texture better and has a superior flavor. I also like to add red onion and more carrots. So here you go.

Take a 2-3 lb. head of green cabbage and cut into bite-sized pieces. Work in 2 Tbs. of salt per pound of cabbage. Set aside until cabbage reduces in volume by half. Meanwhile, cut carrots into matchsticks. I prefer to use a cup of sliced carrots. Slice a medium red onion and a handful of green onions. Peel, core and slice an apple. Meanwhile, mix the hot pepper paste. I prefer 3 Tbs. sugar, 1½ tsp. hot pepper, 2 Tbs. of grated ginger, 2 Tbs. minced garlic and ¼ cup fish sauce. Mix paste in blender. Add filtered water so that it forms a sauce. (You don’t want to use tap water in your ferments. Most tap water contains chlorine and other chemicals that kill bacteria. And fermentation is all about inviting the right kinds of bacteria in to do their jobs.)

As before, put on surgical gloves and mix all ingredients. Pack into ½ gallon or two quart-sized jars, being careful to remove air pockets. Allow to ferment for three to five days. Note: There’s no way to really mess up kimchi. Play around with the ingredients until you hit upon a mixture that is pleasing to you.

How to Use Kimchi

Traditionally kimchi is a side dish served at every meal. A traditional Korean meal would include rice and kimchi, along with some steamed vegetables and a small portion of meat, usually fish, pork of chicken. Still today, beef is expensive in Korea. Kimchi can also be used to make a stew.

To make kimchi stew, add oil to a skillet and brown some diced onion. Cook until softened, usually about five minutes. Add some salt and chili pepper, cook for another minute. Add additional vegetables, if desired. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, soy sauce and kimchi. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add tofu and an egg. Cover and simmer for another two minutes until the egg whites are set. Serve with rice and kimchi. (If you are not the tofu type, use cooked chicken instead.)

My own heritage is Polish. I grew up eating my grandmother’s golumpki, which is stuffed cabbage. To make this, core a large cabbage and boil for five minutes. Meanwhile, mix cooked rice and raw hamburger (or pork, if that’s what you have on hand) along with some garlic and diced onion. When cabbage is finished submerge into cold water to prevent the cabbage from becoming mushy. Remove cabbage leaves one at a time, and roll cabbage leaf around stuffing. Place in Dutch oven. Cover with a broth of diced canned tomato, beef broth and a can of tomato soup. My grandmother always served golumpki with homemade sauerkraut. Don’t tell my grandmother this, but golumpki is even better served with kimchi.

Kimchi also works well with most curry dishes. To make a basic curry, melt a few pats of butter in large skillet. Dice onion and add to skillet. Cook for five minutes. Add diced carrots and chopped celery. Add curry powder, garlic powder, turmeric, red chili powder and lots of cumin. Cook for about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth. Add a can of diced tomatoes, a can of chickpeas and ½ cup of lentils. Let cook for 30 minutes. Serve over rice with kimchi on the side.

Fermented Carrots

Fermented carrots are just plain fun. Grate 2 lbs. of carrots. I own a Salad Shooter, which makes grating carrots (and bars of soap for laundry soup) a piece of cake. Work in 2 Tbs. of salt. (This can easily be reduced to 1 Tbs.) Once carrots have released their liquid (and reduced in volume by half), add 2 Tbs. grated ginger. Pack into a quart jar, being careful to remove air pockets.

Use an air lock or check jar every day to make sure carrots are below the brine. If you don’t have an airlock you will need some contraption to keep the carrots below the brine. You can use a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag partially filled with water. Let this ferment for one week.

Fermented carrots are great additions to stir-fry. They are also good on salads. You can also make a carrot-ginger salad dressing or dipping sauce. Combine ½ cup fermented carrots with a bit of rice vinegar (or vinegar of your choice), a neutral oil (olive oil works fine but sesame oil would be interesting) and some water. If you have some white miso on hand, throw that in as well. Mix well in a blender.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping Survival.com, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms.com
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.

Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part I

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest –Bam Bam

Introduction

bam bam picAlong with drying and freezing, fermentation is one of the oldest known methods of food preservation. Archeological evidence suggests humans began fermenting foods as early as the Neolithic period. Of course the chemistry involved was not understood; primitive cultures often attributed the chemical transformation of fermentation to the deities of the day. The earliest ferments were likely mead, beer, wine, leavened bread, pickled vegetables and the various fermented milk products (yogurt and kefir).

Fermentation is the chemical transformation of raw food by microorganisms such as molds, bacteria and/or yeasts. Fermented foods are living foods—they contain live bacteria and live enzymes. In contrast, most food people eat today dead. For example, canning foods involves sterilization. The milk we drink is pasteurized. The problem is that sterilization and pasteurization kill not only the bad bacteria; such processing also kills the good bacteria. And without the good bacteria our guts are poorly equipped to break down and absorb nutrients, and to fight off bacteria which cause illness.

The health benefits of eating probiotic-rich fermented foods are clear. Fermentation increases the level of essential nutrients over the raw ingredients, and makes these nutrients more bioavailable. For example, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is rich in vitamin C. (That’s why ships back in the day carried barrels of kraut.) Although this may sound gross, think of fermentation as pre-digestion. Fermented foods are easy on the digestive system because bacterial has already begun the process of breaking down the food.

Consuming fermented foods improves the immune system. Did you know that 80 percent of your immune system originates in your gut? A flourishing microbiome helps reduce inflammation, eliminates toxins, reduces the risk of allergies and other pollutants, promotes mental health and reduces risk of a wide variety of diseases including autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and autism. (For more information on this, see David Perlmutter’s Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain—For Life. Dr. Perlmutter is a board certified neurologist.)

So now we know that fermented foods have a long and rich history, and that they optimize health. Why would a prepper be interested in fermentation? First and foremost, that’s how folks preserved food before the invention of refrigeration. In a post-collapse, grid-down society we won’t likely have access to refrigeration. Second, although drying and freezing are important, in a grid-down situation they would be contingent on weather conditions. Third, although canning is great, it requires canning jars and lids, as well as a heat source—canning will require a lot of wood, a precious commodity in a grid-down situation.

Fermentation is an ideal way to preserve food because it renders food more bioavailable, it preserves food without refrigeration and it does not require a source of heat. In its most basic form fermenting requires only fresh vegetables and salt (and a container to hold the ferments).

As this post is very long, I have broken it down into multiple parts. In the remainder of Part I, I give an overview of salt, the one absolutely essential ingredient in most ferments. If you have salt, you can ferment just about any kind of vegetable; the only exception here seems to be tomatoes. But tomatoes are a summer crop and can easily be sun-dried. Part II briefly outlines the equipment necessary to get started with fermenting, and covers vegetable fermentations. In Part III, I discuss milk fermentations and fermented beverages.

My aim in writing this post is to start a discussion on fermentation. In a post-collapse, grid down situation would you know how to preserve food if you didn’t have access to refrigeration or canning jars? Cultures the world over used fermentation as a means of food preservation. There is a whole range of know-how that was lost with the advent of refrigeration. I want to rediscover that ancient wisdom.

A Primer on Salt

Salt is an essential nutrient. Our bodies cannot generate salt. Therefore salt must come from the foods we eat. Without salt you will die. Without salt your family will die. It is that simple.

Salt comes in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Most people are familiar with the basic kinds of salt: table salt, kosher salt, canning salt and sea salt. These salts are not readily interchangeable in recipes. You need to know what you are doing if you want to do substitutions.

Table Salt

Table salt is the most common type of salt used in the U.S. and most of us know this under the brand name “Morton”. Table salt contains iodine, an element necessary for healthy thyroid. (It also contains anti-caking agents.) In 1924 the U.S. government asked Morton to add iodine to table salt because soil some regions of the country (Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes) were deficient in this element. Prior to this time, 90 percent of people who developed a goiter (thyroid problem) did so because of an iodine deficiency. Today goiters due to lack of iodine is exceedingly rare in the U.S., although it continues to be a problem in developing countries.

The downside of adding iodine and anti-caking agents to table salt is that table salt “can’t” be used for canning or fermenting. I put the word “can’t” in scare quotes because in a post-collapse situation, I wouldn’t hesitate to use table salt if that’s all I had on hand. The only reason table salt is not ideal for canning or fermenting is that the additives discolor the fruits and vegetables, and make the brine cloudy.

Although table salt is highly processed (much like white bread is highly processed), white table salt still has some use—it is ideal for cleaning woks.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is often preferred for cooking because it doesn’t have iodine and typically doesn’t have caking agents (though you need check the label to make sure). The primary use of kosher salt is for preserving meats. It is coarse-grained with an irregular shape, which renders it ideal for drawing out blood during the butchering process. Kosher salt is also great for making rubs for meat. I prefer to use kosher salt for soaking my Thanksgiving turkey and rubbing my Christmas prime rib.

Kosher salt is not ideal for fermenting because it is much saltier than canning salt. (If all you have on hand is kosher salt, make sure the brand you are using doesn’t have anti-caking agents and reduce the amount of salt by 50 percent. One and one half cups of kosher salt is equivalent to one cup of canning salt.)

Canning Salt (Pickling Salt)

Canning salt (also called “pickling salt”) is the purest kind of salt you can buy. It doesn’t contain iodine so it won’t discolor the vegetables. It doesn’t contain anti-caking agents so it won’t discolor the brine. Canning salt is very fine grained so it dissolves quickly. For these reasons, it is ideal for fermentation.

The only downside of canning salt is that it doesn’t contain anti-caking additives. That means it will tend to form clumps in humid environments. If I could only stock one kind of salt it would be canning salt. It can be used for cooking, baking, preserving, fermenting and canning.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is a bit of a misnomer. All salt comes from the sea, either from the oceans that exist today or from ancient seabed deposits. And all salt is composed of the same two elements, sodium and chloride. So what’s the big deal with sea salt?

Well for starters sea salt has a pyramid-like shape so it dissolves quicker than other types of salt. Sea salt is also less processed than table salt. Sea salt contains trace minerals, which give the various kinds of sea salts their distinctive colors. Many recipes for ferments call for sea salt. That’s fine. But I tend to stick with canning salt, as canning salt is typically less expensive than high-quality sea salts. I will discuss only a few kinds of sea salt though there are numerous varieties.

One of the most common sea salts is Himalayan sea salt with is pink in hue, a result of its abundant trace minerals and high iron content. This salt is hand harvested from ancient seabeds near Pakistan. Himalayan sea salt is prized because it is both pure and unrefined. It is 250 million years old and hence untouched by the pollution of the modern world. Himalayan sea salt can be used just like table salt; it is, however, superior to table salt in that it has a much softer flavor. If you could choose only one gourmet salt, I would recommend Himalayan sea salt.

Sel Gris is a gray colored salt from France. It is harvested by hand using only wooden tools. It gets its distinctive gray color from the clay that lines the salt ponds in the Brittany area of France. Most people use kosher salt for meat rubs but Sel Gris is superior—it makes for a more moist roasted meat.

Fleur de Sel is the crème de la crème of finishing salts. It comes from the Guérande region of France and it is harvested by hand using traditional Celtic methods. Fleur de Sel is very expensive and is typically only used by professional chefs on salads, steamed vegetables and grilled meats.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping Survival.com, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms.com
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.
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