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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Food Storage Sweeteners

Today we'll explore different types of sweeteners that you can store in your food storage. All the beans and wheat in the world will get pretty bland without a little sugar to lighten them up.

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Sugar Common table sugar is generally made from sugar cane or sugar beet.

Storage life:
White sugar will store indefinitely (aka forever) as long as it is stored in a cool, dry area. You want to cover your sugar, both for pests and because sugar is highly susceptible to moisture. When canning sugar using a canner, omit the oxygen packet, it will suck out all the moisture and make your sugar into a hard rock.

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Brown Sugar Brown sugar is basically just white sugar with added molasses, making it moist and giving it color. I don't know what I'd do without brown sugar on my oatmeal. Natural brown sugar or raw sugar is made from the first crystallization of sugar cane. Natural brown sugar is also known as turbinado sugar and other types of natural sugars.

Storage Life:
Since brown sugar is just a variation of white sugar, it's shelf life is similar. Brown sugar does harden over time though. Some ideas to keep it soft are to put a slice of bread or some apple slices into your brown sugar over night. The sugar will suck out the moisture and soften. You can also use a piece of clay (my mom has a cute bear shape piece) and soak it in water, dry the outside, and store it with your brown sugar. Make sure the sugar is in an airtight container, always covered.

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Honey Honey is a sweetener made by bees from the nectar of flowers. If you've never had honey drizzled onto fresh baked bread, you're really missing out! Because honey has a natural presence of endospores, you shouldn't give it to children under the age of 1 year old. Which is something to plan for when considering food storage.

Storage Life: Because of it's high content of sugar, honey has a very long shelf life. Keep it covered tightly and stored in a cool, dry place. Over time, honey will crystallize which will affect the texture, but not the taste or quality.

agave nectar
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Agave Nectar Agave nectar or syrup is made from the agave plant in Mexico. The same plant that gives us tequila interestingly. Agave is the sweetener of choice for vegans because it is natural and in it's raw form and is not made by bees. Here is a link for substituting agave nectar for other sugars. We've substituted agave for sugar in two recipes here on the blog: Fruit Leather and Raisin Bran Muffins.

Storage Life: 2-3 years is all the storage life is. That combined with the expensive price tag, doesn't make this my number one choice, but it is a nice alternative to have around.

Corn Syrup Corn syrup is made from corn (maize) and is not the same thing as high fructose corn syrup which is a swear word in today's society. If you've ever had a popcorn ball, you've had corn syrup.

Storage Life: Pretty much indefinite, open or unopen. Which is good because I don't think I've gone through the bottle I bought when I moved here 6 years ago. Whatever your feelings on corn syrup are, it is inexpensive and if money is tight, it might be a good thing to add to your food storage in a small quantity.

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Maple Syrup No I'm not talking about Mrs. Butterworth's syrup. Real maple syrup is a syrup made from the sap of maple trees. Just a random fact: in the Civil War, the northern states were encouraged to make their sugar last by sweetening their foods with maple syrup or maple sugar because sugar cane was produced in the southern states by the slaves. If you want to learn about making maple sugar, read "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder (my daughter and I are reading the books). Syrup is, of course, wonderful on pancakes, but it's also great as a topping for oatmeal and can be used to replace sugar in some recipes.

Storage Life: The shelf life of unopened maple syrup is 1 year. After opening the syrup, you have six months as long as it is stored in the refrigerator.

Did I miss your favorite sweetener? Could you live without a bit of sweet in your food storage? One sweetener I always have in my food storage...Nutella!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Old Fels-Naptha soap packaging, photographed a...
I finally made my own laundry detergent. I used the recipe from Hillbilly Housewife. Here is the basic recipe:

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

1 bar of Fels Naptha soap, shaved
4 cups of hot water to melt the soap
3 gallons of hot water
1 cup of borax
2 cups of washing soda
1 cup of baking soda
1 large Rubbermaid container about 4-5 gallons size

The full instructions are here: Homemade Laundry Detergent | Hillbilly Housewife

So far so good. The detergent leaves a nice smell to the clothes (including my Sons socks:eek:). And my towels are much softer, even with line drying (I do not use fabric softener on towels, just vinegar in the rinse).

I have enough of the Borax and washing soda to make at least 2 more batches so it seems that this will be very cost effective. Plus the borax and washing soda can be used to clean other things in the house.:D

Backpacking Sleeping Pad Choices

from Great Outdoors Information

When I first started backpacking, there was no such thing as a backpacking sleeping pad. We would find the most level spot we could, clear off the loose rocks and sticks and dig a hip hole for our hips. If there were any available, we would drag in as many pine needles as we could find. The trick was to not drag in pine cones (the little ones were hard to spot, especially after dark) along with the needles. Somehow, we slept.

Rolled sleeping padImage via Wikipedia
Image via WikipediToday, life on the trail is much more cushy and you have some choices for nighttime padding.

Three Types of Backpacking Sleeping Pads

I’ll briefly discuss three types of what we used to call “sissy pads” – backpacking sleeping pads.

Air Mattress

At one time in the past, if you wanted anything better than a hip hole, an air mattress was the only solution. Nowadays, you hardly ever see them on the trail, and for good reason. Imagine having to blow up an air mattress at the end of a long day of hiking. Huff, huff, huff. It’s enough to make you dizzy just thinking about it.

Yes, you can take a foot pump along, but that’s just more weight to add to your backpack. It’s also difficult to operate an air mattress foot pump inside a backpacking tent.
But, the main drawback to an air mattress is its annoying weakness for getting a hole in it. Phssssssshhhhh. Out goes the air for no obvious reason and down you go to the rocky floor of your tent.

Foam Pads

Foam pads are light, but bulky. They also provide a decent cushioning effect for the sleeper.
There are two types of foam pads: the roll-up type and the fold-up type.
The roll-up foam pad compresses more than the fold -up type. You can also cut it to size, giving a weight advantage to the ultralight backpacker. But, the roll-up foam sleeping pad has the nasty characteristic of having a hard time lying flat when it is time to sleep.
The fold-up foam sleeping pad stretches out flat more willingly than the roll-up type, but tends to rip at the creases where it folds. It is also bulkier than its roll-up cousin.
Foam sleeping pads are relatively cheap and give good value for their price. You’ll have to carry it on the outside of your backpack, though, because of its considerable bulk.

Self-Inflating Pads

A hybrid of the air mattress and the foam pad is the self-inflating sleeping pad. Instead of just air inside, this Ferrari of sleeping pads contains highly compressible foam. Open the valve fixed in one corner and you can roll up this pad to very small dimensions. Then, close the valve to keep these tight dimensions. Open the valve and air rushes in automatically to inflate the device. Close the valve when the pad has fully inflated (it just takes seconds), and you have a very durable and comfortable wilderness mattress.
They’re a bit heavier than their competition and a good deal more expensive, but self-inflating sleeping pads last a long time, And, in my opinion, they are worth the price in the long run.
Analyze your financial and backpacking situations and make your informed choice among these three types of backpacking sleeping pads. I hope you snooze soundly all night.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.
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