In a previous blog post I gave you a brief overlook of what our food stores look like. Many of you responded to my post wanting to know more and it made me realize there is a great need for us all to share how we become prepared. I can’t stress enough the first step to preparedness is knowledge. Find someone who is already partaking in the ancient craft or storing larder and become an apprentice. Start simple, learn to cook, make bread from scratch and can jam. Don’t feel the need to learn everything in a year, becoming prepared is a gradual process that never ends. Every year I learn a few new techniques and recipes to add to my collection.
Now to jump in to how I plan for my family. A good rule of thumb in our household is to keep 6 months worth of food on hand. For our family of five that looks like: 100# of rice, flour, and dry beans, 30 jars each of tomatoes, fruit and green beans/peas, a cold frame in the winter of fresh greens, a half of pig and a quarter beef cow in the freezer. I also have another hundred pounds of assorted meats pressure canned. This is an incredible way to create a quick meal for our family and also guarantees that we have an adequate protein source in the event of a long stayed power outage.
Learning to pressure can is an invaluable skill. Although water bath canning is also important it only preserves high acid foods like jam and pickles which I consider to be more of a luxury than an essential. Pressure canning allows you to preserve low acid food (you must use a specific pressure canner) in water and salt. This process allows you to store things like, carrots, squash, potatoes, peas and meats along with “ready made” meals like soups and casseroles. These meals I mentioned are a huge help for our extra busy nights I can simply prepare a pie crust and dump a jar of my pot pie filling in and bake! Delicious, nutritious and extremely convenient.
Another way I preserve is by lacto fermenting. My favorite is variations of sauerkraut and this time of year (after the first few frosts) is the perfect time to use up garden cabbage because it is extra sweet. Lacto fermentation uses salt or sugar and combines with naturally occurring beneficial bacteria to ferment vegetables or occasionally fruit into a nutrient dense, gut healthy dish! We serve up sauerkraut with almost everything. You can use this same technique to ferment pickles, salsa, hot sauce and even apple sauce and the flavor is incredible.
Lastly I prepare my garden in august and September for winter harvest by sowing cold hardy salad greens, beets, turnips cabbage and more. If the seed beds are properly established before the first frost and then covered with fabric they will effectively grow all winter long even in our freezing cold temps of New York. One thing to note is that they will grow much slower than what the seed packet says so make sure to account for that and plant more, in staggering dates so that you have enough of a harvest to last you until spring.
At first this topic and juggling act may seem overwhelming. I completely understand having grown up in Buffalo where the nearest grocery store was 5 minutes away. However, allow yourself to just embrace a few things at first. You will find your kitchen and your family will naturally fall into a wonderful food rhythm and you will then discover how absolutely convenient and delicious it is to be prepared.