FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Whether it be a natural disaster or one that's manmade,
being prepared can mean the difference between life
or death. Many of you readers know me as a writer and
a wilderness survival instructor. This is World Survival
Institute's 25th Anniversary year of teaching people
the skills and knowledge they need to stay alive in
most any emergency. We constantly emphasize to our
students the value of being prepared.
Putting food up for the future is a very important
aspect of being prepared and is usually one of the
first things most of us think about. There are a number
of good companies out there that sell M.R.E.'s, freeze-dried,
or dehydrated food for backpackers and for storage.
You may well choose to have some of their products
as part of your overall emergency preparedness inventory.
However, it is just as important that you know how
to preserve food yourself, especially meat.
Meat is a significant part of most people's diet. From
it, our bodies receive vitamins, minerals, electrolytes,
and precious muscle-regenerating protein. In most wilderness
survival situations, wild game and fish are very easy
to procure if you know how. This makes meat and fish
a natural way to go.
Whether you are in the wilderness or in the city, putting
up meat is a wise idea. However, there are certain
considerations that we have to think about when dealing
with meat or fish. Depending upon the ambient temperature,
meat can spoil very quickly. Meat by its nature is
very heavy and if it has to be transported in the future,
this should be of great concern, Especially if you
have to pack it on your back.
There are many ways to overcome these problems either
in the field or at home. First of all we have to know
why meat spoils and what to do about it. We will address
this issue soon but for now let's take a good look
at the logistics and solution of the meat/weight problem.
Your first concern is your plan. What I'm talking about
here is a complete plan. Nobody knows what is going
to happen tomorrow but we should plan for the most
likely emergencies. Your plan could make the difference
between life or death for you and your family.
As mentioned above, many people are stocking up on
M.R.E.'s, or cases of freeze-dried/dehydrated meals.
These, plus water and whatever you normally keep in
your kitchen cupboards should be the first part of
your plan. Having extra food and water at home during
and after a disaster means you don't have to worry
about battling the mob down at the supermarket-if it
is open. Let's call this plan "A." But you
and I both know that whenever you have a single good
plan some SOB will probably mess it up. This is why
you need plan "B."
Depending on the circumstances your plan "B"
may have to be initiated. This plan would be implemented
if you chose or were forced to move from your dwelling.
Many people believe they will be able to use their
trucks and cars to transport all their stuff to a safe
haven. But what if the roads are closed? What if a
natural disaster has destroyed bridges and covered
highways with debris? I believe that it is a good idea
to have your vehicles set up but don't depend on it.
You may end up only being able to take what you can
carry on your back, and folks, that ain't much. Remember
that flies can easily get into the ole ointment.
The next plan is plan "C." This plan should
be a part of all the other plans. And that is having
the KNOWLEDGE and SKILLS to make these plans work,
maybe even to having a plan "D" in reserve.
This plan I don't even want to think about but I-and
you-must. You may have to take off with what is only
on your person, no bags, no backpacks. Knowledge at
this time is worth far more than gold. You'll have
to find your food as you go and be able to transport
it (with reduced weight) for tomorrow.
When you are in a wilderness survival situation and
on the move, you must procure food wherever and whenever
you find it. Let's say you come across a nice lake
abundant with fish. Naturally you are going to take
some fish for dinner, but what about tomorrow and the
next week? If you are on the move, you may not find
another good food source for days. If the fishing is
good, you'll want to catch as many as you can NOW.
Let's say you take in 44 nice fish averaging 1 pound
each. You cook and eat 4 fish during that day. There
are still 40 fish left, which equals 40 pounds. This
is far too much weight to transport on your back, and
if freezing conditions do not exist, they will spoil
You are going to have to dehydrate (dry) and smoke
the fish. When you are done your 40 pounds of fish
will weigh only 6-8 pounds. This you can easily carry
and it's a 10 day supply of food for one person. Also,
any part of the dry smoked fish you would normally
discard like skin and bones will become bait for small
Once you trap or snare a small animal, you will do
the same with them as you did with the fish, cook and
eat what you can and dry the rest. You can see at this
point that you are not only eating well but you have
also created variety. This couldn't happen without
the drying process. Even animals like squirrels deliberately
gather and spread out food to dry, like mushrooms.
When putting up meat for the future at home you will
be cooking, drying, and packaging it. You may want
to smoke some for the taste it gives the meat. Most
important will be the different ways you will be packaging
the meat for your back up plans.
The meat you stock in your residence is to stay there.
You can cook, dry and smoke the meat if you like. You
can simply can the meat in canning jars. The weight
of the jars is not important for this plan. If canned
properly, meat will keep for many years. I've eaten
meat that I've canned ten years before.
The weakest part of this system is the lids. All lids
are not equal! Over the years I've done a lot of canning.
When I use my fish wheel to take in sockeye salmon,
it's not uncommon to catch several hundred 5 to 8 pound
fish in a night. And that represents a lot of jars
Once the jars are filled, they are placed in a pressure
canner and cooked at the proper heat, pressure, and
length of time. Afterward, the pressure is relieved
from the cooker and the jars are left to cool slowly.
As they cool, the center of the lids will be sucked
down toward the contents of the jar. At this point
the screw rings that held the lids in place can be
removed. The jars of meat are ready for storage.
Any lids that are not sucked down warn you that there
is no vacuum in that jar and you DO NOT have a seal.
The contents in these jars will spoil. This situation
is called a "failure." I've found over the
years that the best lids with the least amount of failures
are Ball lids. If you have a failure it's usually because
of a inferior brand of lid, a defective mouth on the
jar, or you didn't clean the rim of the jar well enough
after adding the contents. Stick with Ball lids and
you will be in good shape.
When you pull a jar from the shelf later, always check
the lid. The center of the lid should still be sucked
down very solidly. Tap it with your finger: it should
sound solid and not move. If the lid sounds hollow
and moves up and down, you have a failure. DO NOT eat
Another little trick is if your jars are stored in
your freezer, or are stored where they are subject
to being frozen in the winter, always leave at least
1 inch of head space at the top of the jar. If you
do this, the jars will not break when frozen. I've
had jars that were packed in this fashion that experienced
ambient temperatures of 70 degrees below zero and none
When I can meat it may be in chunks or in other forms.
My store house does have meat in chunks but it also
has many jars of my favorite homemade chili, Moose
stew, and sausages in sauce. This way you can open
a jar and your meal is already prepared for you. All
you have to do is heat it up.
This whole operation only requires reusable mason jars,
lids, screw rings, a good pressure cooker, and a 1,200
pound moose. The type of pressure cooker you purchase
is important. I've used many and feel the ones made
by American Canner are without a doubt superior in
every way except weight. They are heavy but they are
built to last.
They also have many safety features that the others
don't have. The best thing is that they use no rubber
O-ring. It's a metal-to-metal seal that will never
wear out. Let's say you are set up at your wilderness
home and it's two years from now. The rubber seal goes
bad on your cheaper cooker. Where are you going to
buy a new O-ring? The scary part is right then you'll
need this cooker to put up more food, or you and your
family could be in dire straits. It's something to
think about now!
The next way to go is to preserve the same food in
metal cans like those you see in the supermarket. It's
easy to do and you have the advantage of lighter weight
and no glass to break. This is a good way to go if
you have vehicle transport. You will need cans, lids,
a pressure cooker and a mechanical can canner. I put
up a lot of food this way each year. Also you can seal
up most anything from ammunition to medical supplies
(You won't be using the pressure cooker for these items,
especially the ammo!).
The difference between canning in jars and in cans
is the procedure. With jars you add heat and pressure
and then the sealing happens. With cans you mechanically
make the seal then add heat and pressure. The lids
on the cans will suck down, just like the canning jars.
Your next step is to put up the light weight stuff.
This is the food that you can carry on your back. Also,
if you have a storage problem as far as space goes,
cooked dried meat is the way to go. Not only does the
meat lose weight, but there is a considerable reduction
in its size. These are all plus factors for you.
One way that I do this is to take some very lean meat;
game meat like deer is the best. You can use beef,
but make sure that it's lean. Usually the more inexpensive
cuts are the leanest. That's good news! Take the meat
and trim off any fat you can find. Put the meat in
a pan on the cooker rack in a pressure cooker. Add
about 1 inch of water to the cooker, put the top on,
and you are ready to go.
You'll want to cook the meat until well done. Once
you've gotten the water boiling and the steam gauge
has risen to the right amount of pressure, you will
be cooking 12 to 15 minutes for each pound of meat.
You should keep the pressure at 15 p.s.i. during the
entire cooking time. When the cooking process is over,
the meat, no matter how tough it was, should easily
flake into small slivers with the use of a fork.
Next spread these flaked pieces of meat out on a cookie
sheet or sheets. All you have to do now is to dry it
completely. This can be done in many ovens at very
low temperature with the door cracked open for ventilation
and to get rid of moisture. This can also be done in
a food dryer or a small smoker oven (The Sausage Maker
company in Buffalo, NY makes several different size
smokers, all of them excellent.).
As soon as the meat is completely dry, take it out
and put it in containers that exclude all moisture.
Vacuum sealers work very well for this purpose, and
can be applied to canning jars and plastic resealable
bags like M.R.E. packages. You can dry vegetables and
add your favorite spices, mix it all together and then
package it. When you need it, just add hot water and
you have a meal ready to eat. You will want to cook
the veggies before you dry them or they may be too
tough for your liking. Pre-cooked dried rice or beans
are a good addition also. Remember: cook it, dry it,
keep it dry and it will last.
When putting up any meat for long-term storage, start
with fresh meat, keep it cold, and process it as soon
as possible. Bacteria like the C. Botulinum need a
nice moist environment that lacks oxygen in order to
grow. When we are canning meat we are creating this
very environment. Luckily, the bacterium needs one
more thing in order to survive, and that is the proper
temperature. So when we can, we do it in a pressure
cooker at 15 lbs. p.s.i. This creates a temperature
of 250 degrees F., much too hot for the bacterium to
live. This procedure is similar to sterilizing medical
instruments in an autoclave.
The C. Botulinum bacterium cannot survive jerky making
either, because in making jerky you take away the moisture
and fully expose the meat to the air. As an added precaution,
if you wish, you can also add a cure such as Prague
Powder #1 to the marinade. This cure destroys the bacterium.
Let's make some jerky! Jerky is easy to make and it's
delicious. It's something you may want to always keep
on hand. Because of it's nature, it's light in weight
and easy to transport. It's a nutritious snack and
good emergency food.
Start out with some nice lean meat. Beef works well
but, again, wild game is by far the best. Next, slice
the meat in strips 1/4 of an inch thick by 3/4 to 1
inch wide. I make these about 4 inches long. Make sure
any fat or gristle is trimmed off. This is the secret
to good jerky with a long shelf life. Fat can cause
the meat to become rancid.
The meat is then mixed in a marinade of your choice.
I will give you the recipe that I use. I'm sure that
you will like it, but remember that it can be easily
altered to your taste. Let the meat soak for no more
than 24 hours in the refrigerator. Stir it around several
times while it's soaking.
Next day, blot the excess liquid off the meat and place
on drying racks. The meat can be dried in many different
ways so long as you can hold the temperature somewhere
between 95 and 115 degrees F. Make sure there is good
air circulation so moisture can escape. Depending on
what type of drying system you use, the jerky will
be ready in 8-10 hrs.
Many kitchen ovens will do a good job drying jerky
if the heat can be kept low enough and the door is
left cracked open to allow the moisture to vent. A
food dehydrator or a small smoker also can be used.
You'll know when the jerky is ready. It will be dry
around the edges and rubbery in the center. It will
smell wonderful and have taken on a pretty reddish
color. At this point you'll probably be getting "
Old Betsy " out to guard your precious prize,
`cause if there's other people around, it'll disappear
as fast as you can make it. And nobody'll fess up!
At our survival school, the students make jerky in
several different ways, and they also add smoke to
it. If you like the smoke flavor, liquid smoke can
be added to the marinate. There is a liquid smoke available
that is very concentrated and all natural smoke. Or,
if you use the small smoker, you can smoke the meat
while you are drying it.
Jerky that is properly made will have a moisture loss
of 70-80%. You should store the jerky in glass jars,
like mason jars with lids. These lids should have several
holes punched or drilled in them to promote good air
circulation and prevent mold. If all the guidelines
are followed and it is kept in a dry environment, your
jerky will last for months. Here are two good recipes
for the marinade. This will do 5-6 pounds of meat,
reducing it in 8-10 hours to delicious jerky weighing
only 1-1/2 pounds.
* 1 tbs. salt
* 1 tsp. Prague Powder No. 1
* 2 tsp. garlic powder
* 2 tsp. ground black pepper
* 2 tsp. onion powder
* 1/2 cup soy sauce
* 2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
* 4 cups water
* 1 tbs salt
* 1 tsp. Prague Powder No. 1
* 2 tbs. ginger
* 2 tbs. garlic powder
* 1/8 cup (1-1/2 tbs.) ground red pepper
* 1/4 cup sage
* 1/4 cup onion powder
* 1/4 cup chili powder
* 1/4 cup black pepper
* 1 cup soy sauce
* 4 cups water
As you start out, I would suggest you get some good
books on food preservation. One I particularly recommend
is called, "Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing,"
by Rytek Kutas. It's the best reference book on the
subject I have ever seen. It is available from the
Sausage Maker Company listed below, and I know it will
be a welcome addition to your survival library.
Whether you decide to buy the proper provisions or
put them up yourself, you should at least learn how
to do it. These are important skills you may need in
the future, and learning them can be a lot of fun for
you and your family right now. Remember, knowledge
and skills are your best insurance for an unpredictable
Chris Janowsky is the founder of the highly respected
World Survival Institute, which offers courses in outdoor
survival and self-reliance. These folks also carry
a full series of video tapes which makes it possible
to learn many of these skills from home. For further
information you can write the author at P.O. Box 394,
Tok, AK. 99780; or call (907) 883-4243.