This guest post is by Mary in GA and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
I’m sure that most of the Wolf Pack is already aware of the foods that are called “Forever Foods”. You can find the list many places, but for anyone who isn’t aware of them, they are: Sugar, pure vanilla extract, white rice, corn starch, honey, hard liquor, salt, corn syrup, maple syrup and distilled white vinegar.
The problem with this list is that other than rice, none is a stand-alone, substantial food. I’m not discounting the importance of the other items. We all know that vinegar and salt are priceless for helping us preserve foods such as pickling cucumbers and other vegetables, or salt for curing pork and storing fish. I use corn starch in gravies and count on it as a thickener. For baking; sugar, honey, corn and maple syrups are vital and vanilla extract adds much too. Hard liquor has its place, but each person can decide if it’s for stress relief or barter, LOL!
Many of us store rice and dried beans as the mainstays of what our after TSHTF meals would be. Even though beans didn’t make it on the list, if stored properly, they will last for many years. Most of us also have long-lasting condiments, ie: Tabasco sauce, soy sauce and other seasonings to help break the monotony of endless meals of rice and bean dishes. Most of you, like me, have probably stored freeze-dried vegetables to further add to and give diversity to bean and rice dishes. With all of that being said, many people would crave proteins that aren’t from beans (and other legumes) and that aren’t dependent on hunting and fishing skills.
Awhile back, while having lunch with a great friend and fellow prepper and Wolf Pack member GA Mom, we were brainstorming about additional food storage. Imagine that!! I relayed something that I had thought about, but just never saw through. I was at a local grocery store, about 2 years after I had started prepping, when I noticed some country smoked hams.
Having worked at food storage very hard for 2 years, I had accumulated most of the typical items. I had canned goods, afore-mentioned rice, legumes and freeze-dried vegetables, ditto for Ramen Noodles, coffee, sugar, condiments, etc. I was at the point of looking to expand. I had read about food fatigue, picky eaters and knew that I would need more variety than what I could grow, or my husband could shoot.
I noticed that these hams were not refrigerated, just out on a table in a wide aisle. I remembered things I had read about the pioneers and old-timers who didn’t have refrigeration smoking and curing hams. Actually, one better, when I was a child we lived on a mini farm for a while that still had the original old smokehouse. My Dad always wanted to learn to use it, but sadly, never did.
I picked up one of the hams and started looking for an expiration or sell by date, and there were no dates on it at all. I asked to see the Manager of the Meat Department and when he came out he knew about as much as I did, in other words, he really didn’t know how long you could store them. He was middle-aged like me though and said, “Didn’t people used to store them for years, hanging in their cellars?” I told him that was my understanding, but neither of us really knew, so I bypassed them, thinking I would go home and do some research.
The fact that this happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas ended up with me just never getting around to following up. I recounted this to GA Mom at lunch and she made a note, promising to look into it and let me know what she found out. Later that night she emailed that she had looked online and contacted a couple of companies that sell country hams.
She at first got an answer of 2 years, I believe, but after pursuing the question, was told that it was probably much longer, but they guaranteed two years. She and I both ordered some right away. Before I wrote this article, I felt that I should look for some references and did find a few.
Two quotes from this site are worth mentioning. One is “Mold-ham’s badge of honor-just wash or trim it away.” I have read this other places as well, sort of like cutting mold off cheese which I’ve done many times. The other notable quote was, “Such preservation makes the shelf life of a country ham practically unlimited…” I have read that it is important to leave them in their original wrapping, keeps insects off them and to hang them so that rodents can’t get them.
I also found a site with very simple directions for curing a country ham at home.
In the email from GA Mom, she asked a great question, “How about fruit cakes, don’t those things last forever?’ Actually they pretty much do. I accept that you can’t discuss fruit cakes without the typical frowns and “ughs”. That goes for me too. My grandmother made these things for years and I hated them. Fruit cakes are definitely like Martha Stewart, people love or hate, no in between! Still, it was worth some research, and I found some interesting facts.
Fruit cake aficionados will NOT consider eating a fruit cake until it has aged for at least four years. Some people eat fruit cakes twenty-five years after they were baked. Wow, this gave some respect for the old red-headed step-child when it comes to long-term food storage.
I researched how to store them to get that 25 year shelf life and it is like most things, how you store it. For the longest storage, you simple wrap it in liquor soaked cheese cloth, then coat it with powdered sugar, put it in a cake tin and store in a cool, dry place. Every 3 or 4 months, take it out and re-soak the cheese cloth with liquor, recoat with powdered sugar and put in the cake tin and restore in cool, dry place.
I received the 4 fruit cakes that I had ordered yesterday and picked up more cheese cloth and powdered sugar today. Most people soak them in brandy, rum or bourbon. I intend to soak 2 in some of my husband’s Jack Daniels and 2 in Grand Marnier. I think soaking them in Grand Marnier will give some added flavor and I may actually like them! At any rate, I figure they’ll last a long time, and if they don’t, I won’t be the first person who ever snuck one to the trash can!! Some references for the fruit cakes:
The last thing I’m going to mention is bog butter. I just don’t know about this one, but felt it was worth mentioning. Apparently before refrigeration people made and stored butter in bogs to make it last. It apparently does last, and last, and last…..This butter has been found and eaten many years after it was stored. Some scientists say it is between 2000 and 3000 years old. People would wrap the butter in burlap, animal skins, or store it in hollowed out wood and bury it in a bog. Students at a school were given some that was ancient and the students tried it. They said that it looked and smelled like butter but didn’t taste very good.
Best to the Wolf Pack and happy storing and preserving!!!
This contest will end on October 10 2012 – prizes include:
- First Place : $100 Cash.
- Second Place : $50 Cash.
- Third Place : $25 Cash.
Contest ends on October 10 2012.