Thursday, March 20, 2014

Food Storage for Frugality

Given the expected (I mean really...isn't it always true?) increase in grocery prices, I plan to reduce my waste and do more preserving when things are available at a reasonable cost from local producers.  I like to prioritize local producers whenever possible because I believe that it is best to always have a community based food network.  I ALSO enjoy my coffee from ethiopia and sumatra (nothing like a dark roast sumatran espresso to start my day...) but I know that this is an extreme luxury in the long term and global scheme of foodstuffs.  So, I'm going to focus more on my local folks.

Here's what I've started doing to preserve local (and other) food when I can get it and I'd love to hear other food preservation methods folks use.  Since I'm hoping to live off grid soon, I'm focusing on things that don't require long-term energy use like freezing does.  More on the methods that allow for passive storage.

1) root cellaring.  Well, sort of.  I turned my north room into cold storage for the winter a few years ago.  A little regulating of the heat vent keeps it between 35 and 45 degrees.  This winter I only had a few potatoes sprout beyond what I consider worth eating (too much to cut around).  The rest (onions, garlic, apples, squash) stored well.  I just discovered 2 more onions in the corner of a box and they are fine.  After that the cold room is tapped out for this year.

2) fermenting:  I made extremely successful sauerkraut with red cabbage.  About 4 quarts of it (start small...).  It's beautiful and still crunchy and fresh tasting.  I did transfer it to the fridge for long term storage mainly because the north room, while cold enough, is carpeted and I rent.  One blown leaky jar of red cabbage ferment juice and I'd be buying new carpet for the landlord.  Also didn't know if i could ever get the smell out if a jar leaked in there.  I plan to have a root cellar with a fermented foods area someday so it won't be in the fridge.   Also made really successful fermented carrots.  Just grated them up with some sea salt (didn't have any whey or I would have thrown some in).  Just finished those.  I only made a quart.  It's really just a condiment.   I'm thinking of grabbing some cabbage that's on sale everywhere this week and makine another couple of quarts of kraut to get me into summer.

3) dry storage.   I got bulk seeds to sprout so I'd have fresh salad-y things all winter.  It's worked well.  dry seeds store much better than fresh greens!  I do a few mung beans in the mix to get some protein in there.  I've been sprouting about 6 tablespoons of seeds a week for a total of 4-6 cups of fresh sprouts.  I could do more if I had more counter space.  I use the rinse water on my plants and they seem to enjoy it.  And of course flour, rice, mustard seeds, etc.

4) dehydrating (this is sort of dry storage I supposed).  Once the inititial electric input (electric dehydrator) is finished the items go in quart, pint or half pint jars (or whatever I have around and not currently in use) with the lid screwed on tightly.   Dried down to crisp, rather than leathery, and in closed clean jars, I’ve had things last years and years.  No other inputs.  I don’t purposely keep the jars a stable temperature but I don’t think they’ve ever frozen.

5) canning.  Buckets of tomatoes, apple sauce, ketchup and pickled beets anyone?   I've got them.  It's been good.  I should probably can more next year.   This is water bath canning.  I've done plenty of jams too.

6)  canning redux.   Learning to pressure can.  By "learning" I mean "intending to learn.  I've helped one friend pressure can, watched another do EVERYTHING wrong (I totally did NOT eat that stuff) and gone to a pretty un-useful class in it.  Also watched some youtubes, read some books, and thought things through.  Without refrigeration, pressure canning will be the way to go with my non-acid veg and all meats.   Well, the ones that don't get dried.

I'm open to suggestions.  Perhaps I'll try smoking but I'm not sure that's a super long term method.  I'll look into it.

Happy Vernal Equinox!

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