Heritage Preserving

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!

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 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.

 

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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 probably contained some 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.

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.

Now...

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, though flavor and texture may be changed.

Foods which normally require pressure canning have a very high failure rate, and even if they DO maintain a seal, they may spoil in a way which can be compensated for by heating well before consumption. 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.

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.

Why I Will Never Buy an Excalibur Dehydrator

I've been dehydrating foods for more than 40 years. I've experienced most kinds of dehydrators, from home-made, to no-heat, to no-fan, to temperature controlled.

I've dehydrated fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, meats, eggs, potatoes, herbs, leathers, various foraged weeds for animal feed, leaves for animal feed, fruit peels for animal feed, and a bunch of other things that the average person does not dry.

I can say with a strong degree of authority that ALMOST ANY dehydrator with a FAN and a HEATING ELEMENT is going to perform JUST AS WELL for 95% of users, as an Excalibur.

For those that need more, a heat control is ALL you need.

Excalibur is one of the most expensive dehydrators out there. And their customers RAVE about them.

But the fact is, if their customers had bought one of any number of less expensive dehydrators with comparable controls, they'd be JUST AS THRILLED.

I've noticed that the high price is one reason people tend to be OVER THE TOP TICKLED with a purchase. I mean, you spent THAT MUCH, you sort of have to justify it, right?

 

I began with a Ronco. That is, after I left home where my mother had us filling a homemade dryer every summer.

The Ronco is still out there - and it goes by several other names also. It was one of the first round stackables, and remains the lowest cost dehydrator out there.

It has NO FAN. Heat rises, and it has fairly large vents on top.

It isn't good for high moisture foods, and you do have to be careful not to overfill it.

I used it for about 6 years, and it did just great for apples, not so well for peaches, ok on pears.

When I upgraded I bought a $30 dehydrator from Wal-Mart.

It was almost the same as the Ronco, as it was a round stackable, but wider, with slightly shorter shelves, and IT HAD A FAN! After using the Ronco, I knew that was the ONE feature I just HAD to have.

That little dehydrator, along with its twin that I bought a few years later, kept us going for about 10 years. I loved them because they'd do apples overnight. So every night I'd cut a batch of apples to dry, and in the morning we'd bag them up. I raised 7 kids, all fairly close together, so dried fruit never stuck around long.

I was given a replacement after one of those two died.

It had a ROTATOR. If you set it up right, it rotated. If you did not, then it burned everything. I learned that the hard way. Once the rotator was functioning though, the thing was wonderful, and dried everything nicely. It had a fan and a single heat setting.

That one was stolen. Seriously.

My next food dryer was a cooling rack, set on a cookie sheet, and placed under a ceiling fan. Really.

I then set up a rack system for three cookie sheets, with a little fan blowing across.

PURE AIR drying. And it worked GREAT, for mushrooms, herbs, and other small or low moisture items. It was SLOW, and it just could not handle the volume of higher moisture foods I wanted to dry.

I started to get desperate for a faster dryer, so I bought a Della that looked bigger than it was, and the thing was $70.

Do not buy a Della. They have no warranty. And they need one.

The thing died SIX WEEKS after I bought it. SIX WEEKS of temperature decreasing, then going cold, then no life at all.

So next, I bought an $80 food dryer. EIGHTY BUCKS!!! But it had a temperature setting, and since I was doing some things with mushrooms, it seemed a good idea. I don't regret it.

About this same time, we were living with my mother. She has an Excalibur. The nine tray model. The $200 model.

So she's drying with that, and I'm drying with my $80 Open Country rectangular dehydrator.

They hold about the same amount.

They are both made of plastic.

They both have a fan.

They both have heat, and time, settings.

Hers has fan blown heat that blows across the trays.

Mine has a fan that blows UP through the trays.

Hers has a cabinet that holds nine trays.

Mine has a base with six large stackable trays and a lid, plus two height extenders (good for incubating things in bowls or pans).

Hers has a thin rigid black plastic tray framework with VERY wide holes (about 1 1/2" diagonal), that won't hold any food, with a plastic mesh sheet over it - think needlework plastic mesh, the kind we all make tacky crafts from. The tray flexes diagonally and does not feel strong.

Mine has a white plastic tray type shelf, with 1/4" wide holes in about 1/8" thick plastic. It is really strong. Mine has the SAME kind of plastic mesh as a liner for very small foods.

Neither one has a leather tray. We make do with teflon sheets, parchment paper, or small  1/8 size bun pans.

They dry equally fast, except when I overload mine. I do that. It works. It just takes a little longer.

Mine can do ONE THING hers cannot... A stackable adjusts to the amount you are processing. If she wants to do ONE TRAY, she has to heat the whole cabinet. If I want to do one tray, I heat ONE TRAY. Stackables are flexible like that.

The thing is, the materials are the SAME.... All plastic.

The controls are the same - time and temp.

They work equally well.

The flexibility is in favor of the Open Country.

The price is in favor of the Open Country... LESS than HALF the price.

Now, I've heard that Open Country dehydrators are now more costly. But the fact is, ALMOST ANY dehydrator with temp controls is going to work JUST AS WELL as an Excalibur.

Some may not LAST as long. This is why I say ALMOST any dehydrator with a fan and heating element!

So when you ask what brand dehydrator is good, you can be assured that dozens of people will pop up to tell you that you just HAVE to spend $200 on an Excalibur or you might as well not bother.

 

Please believe me when I tell you, buy a dehydrator that costs LESS than $50 for your first food dryer!

 

Just make sure it has a fan, and you WON'T be disappointed.

And don't bother saying, "Some day, I'll get an Excalibur!".

If you really want to move up, go for size, or stainless, or something that really matters.

You'll have all that savings to smile about!

Black Forest Loin Ham (Dry Cured)

  • 2-3 lb chunk of boneless pork loin (can sub beef, venison, mutton or other for "dried beef" style, as long as it is the loin so the size and thickness are right for this recipe)
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup sugar or maple sugar
  • 1 tbsp Morton tenderquick
  • 1 tbsp ground juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp ground marjoram
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground coriander or few shakes of nutmeg

Mix the salt, sugar and seasonings together.

Rub with mixture, make sure surface is heavily salted (as much as will stick to it), and get the salt into any cuts or pockets - actually all I do is sprinkle it on using a spoon.

Put into a zip bag.

Refridgerate for 5 days, flipping once a day, draining and resalting as needed (if you can no longer see a good coating of salt crystals on the surface, then re-salt - I resalted about every other day).

Scrape off salt (you can leave some herb bits on the surface, just no salt clumps), and refridgerate overnight OUT of the bag (I did it with a rack on a cookie sheet, and the hams set on the rack), and then either cold smoke, or apply liquid smoke wash and then let dry overnight again in fridge (omit this if you cold smoke it). (You may also use smoked salt in the initial curing process, at a rate of 1/4 cup of smoked salt per cup of regular salt.)

(Cold smoke if you have a smoker. Traditionally smoked with pine wood.)

Apply melted fat casing (brush on melted lard, or coconut oil). Let harden. Wrap in fabric to keep bugs off then hang. (Some people don't bother wrapping it, it depends on the risks in your home and region. I wrap in old t-shirt fabric, and then hang in a net bag which I crocheted out of white bedspread weight cotton, but pillowcases are also popular.)

Hang for 2 weeks (big hams hang far longer, this is a thin loin ham, so it is fast).

(Cure times lengthen with larger hams, and smoke and hang times are also longer.)

Don't Bother Buying a Waterbath Canner

The ONLY canner you need, is a pressure canner. It does it all.

Most people buy a waterbath canner, learn to can in that, and then buy a pressure canner. But you really don't NEED a waterbath canner if you have a pressure canner.

You can waterbath jars in a pressure canner, the same as you can in a waterbath canner, if you like. If you want to save time, you can use the pressure canner as a steam canner, and your life just got a whole lot simpler!

Ok, so a pressure canner costs a bit more, but it is worth paying the extra, to save money long term (if you are able).

When you choose a pressure canner, get one that allows you to stack jars, if you can afford it. Something as large as an All American 30 or 41 quart canner is HEAVY, and BIG, and presents problems of its own, so make sure you research well before you get something that big, make sure you can lift it, and the stove can handle it, etc.

I recommend a Presto 23 qt. It is a roomy canner, very easy to use (easier to use than an All American), and has a good manual (save you the price of the Ball canning book since it has reprints from it). There are many other canners of this size also, and it is a nice size to work with. You can stack pints and smaller, but not quarts.

You DON'T have to have the canner filled to run a cycle. You can run partial loads, and it is faster to do, because it takes less time to heat up and cool down, so it won't waste energy to do so. Ends up about the same running a partial load in a large canner, as it does to run a full load in a small canner.

You can STACK jars if you are using the canner as a steam canner, or pressure canner. You really CAN'T stack jars in most waterbath canners, the water just has to be too deep.

Skip the waterbath canner, just get a good Pressure Canner, and learn to can according to your comfort level. It is a great skill to learn!

Notice

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.

 

 

 


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