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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pinole: The Ultimate Bugout Food

One of my readers (thanks Charles :) ) had recently turned me on to something I haven’t heard of before — powdered corn.
Although it known by many different names, in the western world it is most commonly referred to as the Spanish word “Pinole”. This “trail food” has been the staple for indigenous cultures world-wide and as it turns out, it’s the perfect bugout/travel food.
Here’s an excerpt taken from “History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations”, written by John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder, describing how the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares, prepared and used this emergency food:

Their Psindamooan or Tassmanane, as they call it, is the most nourishing- and durable food made out of the Indian corn. The blue sweetish kind is the grain which they prefer for that purpose. They parch it in clean hot ashes, until it bursts, it is then sifted and cleaned, and pounded in a mortar into a kind of flour, and when they wish to make it very good, they mix some sugar [i.e., maple sugar] with it. When wanted for use, they take about a tablespoonful of this flour in their mouths, then stooping to the river or brook, drink water to it. If, however, they have a cup or other small vessel at hand, they put the flour in it and mix it with water, in the proportion of one tablespoonful to a pint. At their camps they will put a small quantity in a kettle with water and let it boil down, and they will have a thick pottage.
With this food the traveler and warrior will set out on long journeys and expeditions, and as a little of it will serve them for a day, they have not a heavy load of provisions to carry. Persons who are unacquainted with this diet ought to be careful not to take too much at a time, and not to suffer themselves to be tempted too far by its flavor; more than one or two spoonfuls, at most, at any one time or at one meal is dangerous; for it is apt to swell in the stomach or bowels, as when heated over a fire.
Pinole is also the staple of the famous Tarahumara indians (sometimes referred to as “the running people”), a Mexican tribe of superathletes who run 50 or 100 miles at a time for pure enjoyment, seemingly without effort. Their fuel for these runs? They take with them small sacks of Pinole.

How to Make Pinole

What You’ll Need

  • frying pan (cast iron or non-stick preferred)
  • dried corn on the cob: For this you just hang some corn in a dry place in your home until the kernals are dry throughout and come off the cob without much effort. For a less auhentic but still workable solution, you can also dehydrate frozen or canned corn in your dehydrator.
  • blender, coffee grinder, or food processor: (or mortar and pestle if you want to really do it the authentic way)

How to Make Pinole

Step 1: Remove the dried corn kernals from the cobs (skip this step if you dehydrated frozen corn)
Step 2: Heat up a non-stick pan (or oiled pan if you don’t have one) to medium heat.
Step 3: Spread out the kernals on the hot pan so that none are on top of another. Heat until the majority swell up and turn round and light-brown.
Step 4: Remove from heat, place the parched corn in a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor and grind until finer than cornmeal (but not as fine as wheat flour)
I’d like to add that you can also make Pinole by taking cornmeal and cooking it over a pan in the same manner as above (don’t expect it to swell however).

Pinole Recipes

One popular method of consuming Pinole is to mix it with water (1 T to 3 cups) to make an energy drink. I personally did not like this all too much since it doesn’t dissolve completely in the water and feels like I’m drinking a glass of sand and water. The taste was good but the consistency wasn’t to my liking (and I’m someone who doesn’t mind eating bugs…go figure :) )
Instead, I preferred to take the tablespoon into my mouth and chug it down with water.Since the Pinole actually tastes pretty good by itself (I used the Tarahumara Pinole Recipe found below), I found this a lot more appetizing.
As a side note, I was quite surprised at how much it made me feel full. The Pinole must of swelled inside my stomach after a bit giving me that “full” feeling — and that was only two tablespoons of it. I can see how this would sustain you on long trips. I’ll have to definitely try this out before a run and let you guys know.
Here are some recipes I found online:

Tarahumara Pinole Recipe

  • 1/2 cup pinole, ground fine
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Runner’s Recipe

  • 2 cups Pinole
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. hemp or chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • This can be quickly blended together in a hot pot or pan and cooled until dry.
All of these recipes can be added to water and drunk (1 tablespoon to 3 cups water), cooked down in a pan with water to make a gruel (oatmeal-like consitency), or just shoved in the mouth while on the run (bugout, exercise, E&E etc).


In place of packing Cliff Bars or MREs into your bug out bags, how about some Pinole instead? If it can fuel the Tarahumara indians for a 100+ miles of running on a regular basis I’m sure it can benefit the prepper’s bug-out to a safe location. Try it out and let me know how it works for you!
Btw, if you’re interested in reading about the Tarahumara (as well as some info on Pinole), let me suggest a great book entitled, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
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Become a HAM Radio Operator in 10 Easy Steps

I wish we could get more young people interested in HAM (amateur) radios. When I was a kid, HAM radios, shortwave radios, and CBs were THE cool communications tools that kids were interested in. With text messaging and computers, the hobby radio industry has become almost obsolete which is unfortunate because it only takes one good disaster to reinforce how important being able to communicate via radio is. Here's ten easy steps that will both introduce you to an interesting potential hobby and make you extremely useful during a disaster:
  1. Study the exam materials and take your Amateur Radio Technician Level license exam. You can study alone or take a class in order to prepare for this test which will give you an entry level license so that you can officially use a HAM radio. Check this link for more info.
  2. Once you have your license (and call sign) you will want to connect with local HAM radio operators to get more information on radios, HAMNets, local amateur radio clubs and organizations in your area, etc. Find a club here.
  3. After you have connected with local HAM radio operators and picked their brains about what kind of radio you may want to buy, buy a radio. Hamcity is one place to buy online, you may have local radio stores in your city, and of course you can Google for additional places to buy your first radio.
  4. Learn how to properly use your HAM radio. Taking the Technician's licensing course gives you an overview of HAM radio use, laws, etc. What it doesn't do it teach you how to use your new radio. Local HAM clubs (see #2) are usually full of radio aficionados who would be more than happy to teach you the basics about using your radio.
  5. Get more involved with the HAM radio community. "Hamfests" are very popular events which draw all kinds of HAM radio enthusiasts; they also feature sales of radios and HAM related items, HAM radio competitions, etc. Click here to find local events.
  6. Use your skills to help the community. ARES and RACES are two services that use volunteer HAM radio operators to help with communications during a disaster. These local groups meet on a regular basis and participate in drills and exercises by offering radio communications at places such as fire departments, hospitals, and other critical services that will need radio operators during a disaster.
  7. Experiment with your radio. Subsets of the HAM radio community do all kinds of fun and interesting things with their radios--from integrating their radios with computers to "contesting", to seeing how far away they can contact people, to building antennas that could signal Mars--there's all sorts of challenging (and educational) things you can do with your radio. Check here for ideas.
  8. Advance your capabilities and privileges. You do this by seeking higher level general class and amateur extra class licensure.
  9. Mentor others. Once you have the knowledge and skills to become proficient at using your amateur radio, share your knowledge. You can do this by becoming a volunteer examiner, teaching courses through your local club, helping your local Boy Scout troop earn their radio badge, etc.
  10. Do other things to support amateur radio. You can donate to organizations that support amateur radio (like ARRL), donate radios to organizations that could really use them but can't afford them (rural volunteer fire departments), become a leader in your local HAM organization, etc.
Learning how to use an amateur radio is still a viable, and valuable, skill. When the power goes out and all other communications systems go down--as we've seen in the Haiti earthquake, and during Hurricane Katrina--HAM radio is going to be the ONLY way to communicate. Why not learn this valuable skill now before you need it?