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Traditional preservation does not actually include canning, but we have included it here, because of the value for preserving seasonal harvests in a simple to use manner.
- We DRY a lot of foods. This is probably the most common traditional preservation method, being used for fruits, vegetables, and meats, and naturally occurring with grains, nuts, and legumes. We don't freeze dry, it is neither economical, nor efficient, and we simply do not have the time or money to fuss with it.
- We FREEZE a lot of foods. Also a traditional method, freezing was used by northern civilizations to store some foods through the winter.
- We COOL STORE some foods. The traditional is a root cellar. We use a basement, or a refrigerator, and sometimes a front or back porch area. Appropriate for potatoes, apples, cabbages, squash, onions, and other similar crops, and for smoked or cured meats.
- We CURE, PICKLE, or CULTURE some foods. Traditionally this is why we have pickles, kraut, cheese, ham, sausage, and other foods that are treated with salt or aged in a way that encourages beneficial microbial growth.
- We SMOKE some foods, in combination with drying or curing. Another longstanding traditional preservation method.
- We DO SOME oil or fat pack foods, but are careful about what we do, because some either do not store long enough to be worth the trouble, or they have too high a risk of deadly peripheral contamination to be worth it.
- We CAN many foods, a lot of them pressure canned, for quick fix, grab and go meals, and to make some meats more digestible (production breed meats are hard for me to digest unless the proteins are changed by cooking processes, and high heat is one thing that works). We are careful about methods used, and pay attention to nutrient loss. We use MANY "not recommended" methods, because our experiences have taught us that the government is not the only, or even the best, arbiter of safety where food is concerned! We use recommendations from around the world, and we learn the science, and figure out WHY things are tricky, and then develop methods for compensating. Our food is good, it is safe, and it is a huge benefit to us every day.
People have been preserving and storing food for as long as they have been eating food. Healthy food preservation is part skill, and part art, but once you get going on it, it really ISN'T all that hard!
Cabbage and Potatoes. Have you ever EATEN cabbage and potatoes mixed together?
You WON'T like it!
As a side dish, IT STINKS. Often literally if they have overcooked the cabbage and it has all gone to a sulfurous ill wind.
But here I am, eating Colcannon for the first time, and ENJOYING it. It is a delightful surprise. And yes, I am having this, for lunch, even as I write.
But there are myths about Colcannon.
One is that it is just cabbage and potatoes, and if you are desperate, perhaps it is. (But if I were that desperate I'd eat them separately.)
Colcannon is NOT the poverty dish that Burgoo or Haggis is. But Colcannon is the thing you always have. It is the staples that GET YOU THROUGH The winter.
Colcannon is made of the Preserved ingredients that you use from all winter. The cabbage that lasts until early spring, and the potatoes that HAVE to last all winter long. It has CURED meats, because they store in the attic for many months of winter. It is WINTER food. If they ate it on St. Patrick's Day, they did so because that is what was left at that time of year, of their winter food.
So cabbage and potatoes it MUST have - unless you are one of those weird people that substitutes Rice or Noodles for the Potatoes, or one of those sorry beings who thinks turnips are food, and uses them IN or INSTEAD OF the potatoes. Sorry, no substitute for the cabbage.
Colcannon (Irish and Scots name for it, in Wales, Kolknyn), is now described as a Side Dish, and it isn't meant to be. It is meant to be the Entree. Often the entire meal.
It uses MORE ingredients than are often listed. It is a HEARTY meal when you make it right.
I suppose you want a recipe? Well, I have one. But it isn't the ONLY one.
Just so you can be discriminating, I'll tell you, it should have MORE than just cabbage and potatoes. It should have MORE than just cabbage, potatoes, and onions. And even more than just cabbage, potatoes, onions, and BACON!
It should be so loaded with nutrient dense food, that you eat it and feel satisfied.
So here is MY recipe. It was WELL WORTH making.
Olde Scots Colcannon (Given to me by an Old Scot of the Duncan Clan)
- 2 cups mashed potatoes (with MILK or cream, and BUTTER - LOTS OF BUTTER, and SALT)
- 2 TBSP bacon fat (Do NOT leave this out. Do NOT reduce the amount. Add MORE if you want, but NEVER LESS. It won't be Colcannon if you do.)
- 1/2 package (or more) bacon bits (or fresh fried bacon)
- 1/2 cup smoky ham pieces
- 1 small head of cabbage (should be LESS than the amount of the potatoes - I had a LEETLE WEE cabbage head.)
- 1 small chopped onion
- Optional seasoning salt.
Cook tender in butter. CAUTION... don't overcook the cabbage to gray mush that smells of dog farts. Please. Just keep it sweet and firmly tender.
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- Sprinkle of seasoning salt and salt.
Assemble into a casserole dish. Layer Potatoes, and cabbage, and pour HALF the eggs over. Repeat.
Wensleydale Cheese is traditional, but Colby, and Cheddar are also frequently used. The funny thing about Wensleydale is that it was NOT a commercial cheese until recently. It was a COTTAGE made cheese, and other than being firm and crumbly, had no defining characteristics other than that it was made in the region and called Wensleydale. Even today, flavors vary widely between manufacturers. So Wallace apparently has a corner deli that makes their own cheese that he frequents.
Top the casserole with a good layer of cheese.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the egg is set all the way through, and the cheese is melty and browned on the edges.
Serve with fresh bread or rolls, and stewed tomatoes or baked beans, or green beans.
- Other cured meats can be used. Smoked Sausage, or bulk savory sausage are good choices.
- Mushrooms may be added.
- Parsnips can be added in a separate layer.
- Carrots can be added with the cabbage (shredded and cooked with it)
- Celery can be cooked in with the cabbage.
Part of the process of recovering from Crohn's Disease has been learning how to combine foods so they digest and metabolize more easily. The right food combinations can really help in both instances.
The first thing I learned was how to eat eggs and tuna again. Eggs need ketchup or salsa. Tuna needs relish or mustard. If I eat them that way, then I never have indigestion from them, and rarely have anything but mild diarrhea (instead of severe). I also learned to eat beans again - overcooked, and with tomato.
The common factor for meats being acids - fruits, pickles, etc. And cheese. Cheese also works.
Vegetables have been a whole different thing. They don't respond to fruits like meat does. They needed something else.
The first guess was fats. And fats it has been.
Butter, lard, bacon fat, coconut oil, and other fats. But mostly ANIMAL fats. Animal fats supply elements that vegetable fats do not.
And here we have Colcannon. We don't LIKE potatoes and cabbage together, because our bodies can't USE them without other things added.
The bacon fat in the Colcannon is more than just tasty. It is magic. When you put a bite of this into your mouth, your body knows EXACTLY what to do with it. The eggs, milk, cheese, and meat also help round out a more complex digestive and metabolic combination.
From Colcannon, we progress to other foods that are difficult to appreciate. I hear that overcooking, adding butter AND bacon fat, and adding a seasoning salt with MSG can even help people enjoy eating TURNIPS! I'll have to try it some day, when I can grow, or buy, a turnip. Because that is ONE VEGETABLE that I do not eat. So if combining THAT with something makes it edible, we really have a method going on!
So keep trying new foods. Keep trying old foods in new ways. The combinations really do matter, and flavor really does tell your body how to use it.
Let Us Not Forget Funger
A Funger Sandwich, we are to understand, is not an enjoyable thing.
It is a funny word, and one which has been all but lost in history. When we know what it is, we know why Tartan bought his friend the dog.
Funger. That stuff in the fridge.
That meal we didn't quite enjoy.
The one nobody really wants to eat as leftovers.
The thing that is CLOSE to being inedible from decay, but NOT QUITE so funky we feel justified in throwing it out.
Oh, nothing growing actual MOLD, because Funger is NOT FUNGUS. It is just GOING TO BE if we don't EAT IT FIRST. Not the "The Creature That Lived In The Refrigerator, Behind the Mayonnaise, Next to the Ketchup and to the Left of the Cole Slaw" that left Garfield in terror.
The whole guilt trip over wasting food that drives us to EAT THE THING we do not want to eat.
You know, FUNGER.
This is a word I have recently learned the meaning of. (Yes, I know. Keep your participles to yourself.) A word which ACTUALLY has APPLICATION in my life... and in my fridge.
Funger sandwich, not so much.
Funger casserole? Maybe.
A plate full of funger. It has happened.
But often, it is just chicken food.
Geez... I wish I had a pig.
(Yes... this really IS food heritage. This really IS a Native American word. An English derived one, but Native American none-the-less. I have this on good authority, from a genuine Native American.)
And Then There Is Haggis
"I like Haggis." she said, when I made a comment about certain things online being like Haggis, in a derogatory way. "It's just seasoned sausage. Tastes good."
I didn't believe her. But Haggis is like that. People hate it, or love it, and it persists. The mere mention of it, we learn from National Treasure, is enough to inspire outrage.
But it is a thing. And I learned that it is like Burgoo. It is a food for a REASON.
It is referred to variously as a sausage or a pudding, and for some people it has a lot of blood and oatmeal and a soft texture, and for others it is meatier, and firmer. So the claim goes both ways.
There are regional names for various versions. The typical Haggis is mutton (scraps and offal) stuffed into a sheep stomach, along with some blood, oatmeal, poultry seasonings or sweet spices, onions, garlic, and nitrates, after which it is boiled, baked, smoked, or hung to cook over a peat fire. It may be eaten fresh, or dried, depending on the type.
So with that, we need to understand there are variants.
It may not be a sheep stomach. Not everyone has one laying around waiting to be stuffed with the remains after you take all the tasty bits off the sheep carcass.
Long Haggis is stuffed into sausage casings - Hog, Sheep, Goat, Beef, or Venison. It just depends on what you HAVE that you have enough of. Just like Burgoo.
Round Haggis is a stomach that encases it, but it isn't always sheep. There is Pork, Beef, Veal, Goat, and Venison there also.
But it is the STOMACH that imparts a particular flavor to the Haggis. Like tripe. Either you can eat it or you can't.
The meat is usually Mutton. Now mutton can be pretty cheap because it isn't something everyone can choke down. It has a strong somewhat stale taste like old cooked beef. That's the lanolin. Sheep, you know.
Sometimes the meat is Lamb. Wool lamb still has a mutton flavor, though it is less intense. Hair sheep have a clean savory beef-like flavor. Very tasty and no lanolin smell to drive you off.
But in other areas, you might make it WITH, or FROM other meats. The same ones you get the casings from (casings are just cleaned intestines, you know). When you put other meats in, you either reduce or eliminate the muttony flavor that combines with the tripe flavor to make people who hate Haggis hate Haggis.
It usually contains animal blood. Some Scots tribes claim the blood of any enemy will do just as well, but we hesitate to encourage that kind of thing.
The blood is not a binder, the blood is cooked, drained, and then the solids are tossed in. Makes the sausage moister and softer. Gives it a nice meaty and salty flavor.
Oatmeal is kinda a required thing. But sometimes you don't HAVE oatmeal, so you put in wheat flour, rye flour, or even rice if your bent runs that way.
The seasonings fall into three groups, as a rule - Savory, Sweet and Spicy, or Both.
They can run mild, or pepper hot. Depends on how bad the other ingredients are, I guess, and how much you need to numb your tongue.
Onions, Garlic, Parsley, and Nitrates are usually used, though there are some regions where Nitrates or Parsley are left out, and the onions and garlic are fairly spare.
But it is about what you HAVE, and what you need to USE UP.
Once you get that far, it is about how to make sure it does not spoil before you can use it all - hence it usually has some nitrates in it, though sometimes not enough to make it pink.
Sometimes it is smoked, and sometimes dried. Depends on where you come from, and what your parents taught you that normal consists of. And whether the peat fire was all you had to cook over, I guess.
My favorite recipe that I found (I did not try it, I just love the wording) is:
Highlander Haggis - Some kinda animal stomach, some kinda meat (nose to tail with blood), some kinda grain, whatever spices are left in the cupboard, salted (no nitrate), boiled or baked, sometimes sliced and dried, sometimes sliced and cased and dried - flavor could be anything
So you see, it can be just like Burgoo. Survival food. Hardship food. Something to eat from the ingredients that are left after you made all the things you really wanted to eat.
But I think it may be worth trying when I can get a large sausage casing. Because I sure as anything am not going to make the round Haggis in any kind of animal stomach.
There's Never a Recipe for Burgoo
I've written about Burgoo before. But not here. A more unappetizing pot of slop is pretty hard to imagine, but it does have its use and purpose.
If you look up recipes for Burgoo, you find that it is a precise mixture of three meats that are all dissimilar, typically including fowl, large red meat, and small game (the gamier the better, apparently!). It also includes specific vegetables, and suggests a wide variety is optimal. They seem to forget grains, but DON'T forget grains... they are an important ingredient!
What they don't say is this:
Burgoo is stone soup, without the stone. It is all the leftovers, none of which are enough to form a meal around, and all of which conflict with one another. It is the last of the food in the spring, the first of the weeds, and never enough to make anything, always unbalanced, and always eaten with visions of fresh food in mind.
You throw it in the pot, and cook it into submission - with the hope that if you cook it long enough, nobody will know what kind of stew it was supposed to be to begin with. Hopefully the ingredients will stop fighting by then. And it is always stew... not soup by then because everything cooks to mush.
But if you are in a survival situation, you may some day need to make Burgoo. The closest I've come is in considering adding a dab of leftover turkey rice soup to a smidgen of Aoudad stew. I've never had to cook it into submission.
I am assured that knowing you can cook it to merge the flavors may be an asset in my lifetime.
Long Ago, a Distant Relative Discovered the Value of Burgoo
"You need to learn how to make Burgoo." his mother said. She was putting things into a pot. Times were hard, they were down to the last, and nobody was going shopping. It was spring, and that was bad enough, since they were already measuring out the last and hoping it would be enough until the garden came in. Their home had been robbed of food the night before, and there was very little left.
She said, "The secret isn't in what you put IN, it is in the cooking.".
He watched, and helped, as she put in a jar of "molasses beans", a scrap of leftover chicken, a bit of tunafish with the mayonnaise, two slices of cut up ham, three wrinkled and sprouting potatoes ("They really should not be in here, for proper Burgoo." she joked.), a turnip, two beets, a quarter of a head of wilting cabbage and a small jar of spinach nobody wanted to eat for the last six years since it had been canned, and a little leftover applesauce that was edgy enough that nobody wanted to eat it, but it would be fine if it were cooked hot for a bit.
With nine people to feed, she knew it would not be enough. Two other family members brought in a fine parsnip, a chicken drumstick, a half pint jar of leftover peas, a cup of dry pearled barley (a thing to celebrate!), a piece and a half of dryish cornbread to crumble in - plus a pint jar of sugared sweet potatoes, and JUST enough flour to make nine small drop biscuits (she had a little bacon fat, some baking soda and vinegar, but no milk so water had to do). She passed up the jar of sweet potatoes - no matter how bad things got, she just could not eat those. That jar had been making the rounds of charitable food drives for about 15 years, and she wasn't about to break that tradition. She was pretty sure that it would make its way back to her at least another two or three times before someone opened it, tossed the sweet potatoes, and re-used the jar, since she'd had it returned to her cupboard four times already. She tossed a little bacon fat into the pot also, just to be sure it had enough fat.
She turned and said, "I really need a squirrel.". The pot was about half full, and a good Burgoo really does have to be pretty dense, you don't just top it off with water and call it enough!
His father said, "I'll go see what I can get." and headed out with the small rifle.
The young man went out to check the garden. Early spring, not much up, and last year's storage pretty well gone. You had to be careful. If you rob the early crops, you don't have enough for the year.
The garden had already been robbed. But just the lettuces and some of the cabbages. Nobody wanted the spinach, even fresh, and everything else wasn't edible as-is.
He skipped the new crops, and dug where last year's carrots had been. Nothing. The parsnip patch gave up one small and shriveled parsnip, and he struck gold in a weedy patch by the onions... Two large green onions, an inch around at the base, and a full 2 1/2 feet tall. You can eat ANYTHING in stew if you have onions! He found lamb's quarter, and Mom said to save that for tomorrow, along with the chickweed and plantain (that's just more spinach, you know!).
His father came back with a groundhog. We do not know if it saw its shadow or not. But Mom cooked it up in the pressure cooker, because groundhog needs a good long cook, and she didn't have time for that, and the cook time for Burgoo. Boned out, the groundhog and the broth went into the stew pot.
"You have to cook it into stew. You can't THICKEN it into stew, you have to just cook it down, till everything is falling apart, and the flavors blend." his mom said. "That's the secret to Burgoo. No matter what you put into the pot, if it is edible, you can eat it, and not mind, if you cook it good and long."
It wasn't good, he said. But it was ok. And it was filling. You didn't go away hungry. One brother complained, so did his wife. All the younger kids just ate, and nobody said a thing. It was just dinner.
The Mom said, "It was just STEW." Not any KIND of stew, just STEW.
And that is how Burgoo came to be, and why it survived, and then died out as a meal. We don't know how to survive a thin spring season anymore, and that is when Burgoo was traditionally resorted to. Not a meal you PLAN, or use a recipe FOR, but just something you fall back on because you HAVE to.
The war was raging, and his troops were nearly starving. Supplies were short, and the Quartermaster was handing out one can of K rations per man, per day. This is an 8 oz can of SOMETHING. You didn't get to choose what you got, you just got SOMETHING.
He didn't have many men under his command, and they were all pretty grumbly about the lack of food. About the third day of restrictions he opened a can of SOMETHING. Now usually, you could tell what you got. It might be vegetables, it might be fruit, or even stew or a can of ham, beef, chicken, pork, or turkey, or even tuna if you lucked out. If you were not so lucky, you'd end up with an experimental meal that didn't quite work out, or something they called Bread. If you were REALLY unlucky, the can you got would be puffed, and the contents inedible or deadly - this was a regular occurrence, and you did NOT get a replacement.
This can of SOMETHING wasn't one of those. It took a while to figure out what it was. The label said "Lasagna", but it clearly was not that! There were three slabs of something solid which may have been meant to be pasta. There was a pinkish orange sauce, and a marblish sized lump of something unidentifiable which was probably meant to be meat. Our officer shook his head, and the man next to him said, "What are you gonna do with something like that?".
The man next to him then said, "I have oranges. Just oranges." There were always oranges. No matter how bad things got, for some reason there were always mandarin oranges. And mushrooms. You just can't live on 1 can of mandarin oranges or 1 can of mushrooms, for 24 hours!
And then he remembered Burgoo.
"Bring it all in, men!" he called.
Good men, they did.
He cut up the "lasagna", and tossed it into his cookpot.
He looked at the oranges, and handed them out, one to a man. One extra to the man whose can it had been.
Next, green beans. Then turkey. Then mushrooms. Two more cans of meat, three more cans of vegetables, one of "bread", And one can of questionable, but not totally inedible potatoes and gravy.
Every man then added 1 can of water.
Cooked it for about half an hour, and served it up. One and a half cans of stew per man.
Pretty good deal, his men thought. Other troops watched, would not share with one another this way. But his would. Eventually a few other troops buckled down for it. It isn't like it was a new idea, it was not. It is just that most would snitch so much before putting it in the pot, that they could not serve up anything fair at all. A few did manage, by requiring full cans from anyone who wanted to contribute.
Thing is, if you share, you get a miracle. From Burgoo. Or stone Soup. Or Smorgasbord, or Potluck, whatever you want to call it.
One can a day, and you never have enough. Your body has one thing to work with, so it works crooked every day.
One bit of this and that and something from all the food groups (except they never had dairy), and you get sufficient variety of nutrients to function, even if you are losing due to slow starvation. You can just hold out longer.
Sometimes, you need to know how to make Burgoo.
About K Rations
These were used from WW1 through the Korean and barely into the Vietnam Wars.
They began as open kettled foods, and as a result, the shelf-life was not very long. About every third can was puffed, and ranged from barely edible, to outright deadly. They progressed to waterbathed, but this was not much better for low acid foods, and some foods that have a short shelf life due to grain or dairy content.
My father said that if it smelled bad, you could heat it really well and it would be edible but not very tasty. If it LOOKED bad, you just tossed it, there was no reviving it.
C rations were pressure canned, and combined with other items into a kit which usually contained a spoon, a napkin, a match, a packet of coffee, 1 cigarette, 1 piece of gum, 1 piece of chocolate, 1 - 12 oz can of food (generally a meal), 1 - 8 oz can of fruit, 1 - 8 oz can of crackers (later a plastic package of crackers), 1 - 8 oz can of cheese spread or deviled ham. There were variations on this. This was supposed to be 1 day's worth of food for a soldier who was engaging in intense physical activity. When things were "good" they got 2 of these. When they were not, they didn't even get this. The fortunes of war brought hardship both from the enemy, and from theft within their own ranks, and hunger was a common visitor, and sometimes a permanent resident.
During the second world war, most places in combat had just K rations. Some packed fresh, some leftover from some forgotten time ago.
Open kettled foods that are high acid, and either high sugar or salt, such as pickles, jam, juice, and even applesauce, will store well about 95% of the time, for 2 years or better. So, while waterbathing is BETTER, those are fairly safe to can this way, though the seal is a little lighter, and they don't seal well at high altitude, and if you transport them to high altitude from low altitude, the seal may break.
Open kettle means they are heated to boiling, and put into jars and lidded immediately, with no further processing.
Foods which normally require water bath canning may or may not hold when open kettled. The spoilage rate is about 50% within 6 months. About half of that can be compensated for by cooking the food after opening it, though flavor and texture may be changed.
Foods which normally require pressure canning have a very high failure rate if open kettled, and even if they DO maintain a seal, they may spoil in a way which can be compensated for by heating well before consumption, or they may be so gross you can't even try that. Botulism is not the only risk, we have Ptomaine (affects pork and chicken principally), Perfringens, and a few others that are no longer well known.
Perfringens has several varieties, and can affect dairy foods, meats, vegetables, and grains. It is generally NOT deadly, but will change the flavor, smell, texture, color, etc. Cooking with high heat renders the food "safe" to eat, but not necessarily tasty. This is also true of Botulism (which may affect any low acid food), except that it IS generally deadly when not heat treated. High heat will still render the food safe to eat.
About half the food received as K rations was contaminated with some form of food poisoning, which troops compensated for by either heat treating, or discarding. About 10-30% had to be discarded when things got really bad.
And this is how developed nations fed their troops during earlier wars.
Of course, MREs are not much better. The rate of pathogenic food poisoning is lower, but the rates of chemical food poisoning are 100%.
NOTE: Get real, folks, this is not advice on how to can food. This is HISTORIC information on what was done, and how the troops survived. Besides, it is scientific fact... So go argue with someone else about your food preservation paranoia.
In other words, this is a legal disclaimer. Food poisoning happens, use your brain, and follow the rules.
As to the historic facts, this is according to what was recounted to me by people who lived it.
The information on this site is presented for informational purposes only, and consists of the opinions and experiences of the site authors. It is not to be construed as medical advice or to be used to diagnose or treat any illness. Seek the assistance of a medical professional in implementing any nutritional changes with the goal of treating any medical condition. The historical and nutritional information presented here can be verified by a simple web search.
I do what I do because I understand the science behind it, and I've researched worldwide sources to verify the safety of my practices to my own satisfaction. Please do your own research, and proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK.