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Friday, February 25, 2011

Raising a Portion of your Food

By Joseph Parish

Have you taken notice of the increased emphasis being expressed upon raising your home food lately? We now see weekly articles in the home section of our Sunday newspaper, we view television shows which stress the value in growing our own agricultural products and we often hear our neighbors talking amongst themselves as to their springtime plans for small garden plots. All over we see and hear new revelations about home food production.

The bare facts of the issue center clearly upon some serious health concerns. Millions of Americans would be much better off if we as a nation were to revert to a home food raising society once again. Think back at how healthy your great grandfather and grandmother were in previous generations? Every person residing in America should try to create some sort of garden to boast their health and add to their pocketbook. Even the president of the United States could stand to give up his secret midnight hamburger and fries encounters towards improving his health. Eating more from that small White House garden would do him good. 

As stated above the initial reason to grow your own food is simply to eat better. Having a small garden also relives the constant pressures of your busy and hectic life. Additionally, by raising only a part of your food supply you gain a feeling of security in that you can if necessary get along without the supermarket. In a short period of time you will quickly develop an attitude that you are making the most of not only your life but your valuable time as well. With gardening you are afforded a rare opportunity to spend some quality time with other members of your family. I am a firm believer that life is simply too short and a person should at every chance increase their time quality time which they expend with their loved ones. Get out there in the fresh air with your wife, husband, sons or daughters and enjoy a better family life.

A physician friend recently remarked that there is simply too much time being spent diagnosing various illnesses which generate from poor food eating habits. We already have research reports which indicate that many of our diseases originate from the foods which we consume in excess. Most lack vital minerals and vitamins needed for a healthy body. A typical example of this is the white flour used in baking the commercial store bought loaf bread. 

In today’s society even the rich can perhaps starve when we consider the health aspects of our commercially purchased foods. This lack of minerals and vitamins in our food are costing us as we lose years of our lives. Examples include the lack of proper amounts of iron which causes anemia, a deficiency of calcium generates rickets in an otherwise healthy body and we experience goiter when we fail to have sufficient quantities of iodine in our diet. We should really be concerned and worried about how the foods we eat are affecting our health and those that we care about. 

Unfortunately, you can not simply look at the produce in the grocery store and pick out those products which lack the vital nutrients to promote a healthy body. Our commercial advertising has done little towards remedying this problem but instead has ended up compounding it. We are talked into eating grains which are stripped of any possible beneficial ingredients, our bread is created by manufacturing methods which are contradictory to good health and our society is on the verge of going to a complete genetically modified food stock within the next few years. There you have it in a nutshell. Would you not be interested in starting a small garden in order to better your health? If you raise at least some of your own food which you eat you will quickly realize the refreshing feeling that you gain emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Copyright @2011 Joseph Parish

Salvaging Meat That’s Past Its Prime

Traditional entrecĂ´te (rib-eye steak)
Here’s another guest post from our favorite Chefbear.  He shot me an email the other day with this information and I thought it was relevant because once the SHTF we’re not going to want to waste food.  Well, I’ve come across steaks in the ‘fridge like he describes here and threw them out, when in fact if I’d had this info I could have cooked them and enjoyed them like he did here.
Once again, thanks for the tips Chefbear!
-Jarhead Survivor
Hello again folks in SHTF Blog land! I have new a cooking topic for you guys today… What’s new right?! Well this particular article came to me while I was cleaning out the refrigerator this morning; I came across a VERY nice, VERY expensive cut of Dry Aged USDA Prime Organic Rib eye. I had purchased this wonderful, delicious, 1.5” thick cut, 24oz, $22/lb steak to cook for my girl and myself… well 2 weeks went by and she kept having to work mandatory overtime at, so the worst part is I didn’t get to spend time with her, but almost as tragig… this BEAUTIFUL hunk ‘o’ steer just sat in the fridge and was almost forgotten. Luckily the over-packed refrigerator had finally got on my nerves to the point where I felt it HAD to be cleaned! The reason for this spontaneous cleaning adventure was a full pickle jar falling on the top of my foot! Needless to say, I was cleaning out of sheer anger. But when I came across the formerly “breathtaking” steak, I almost shed a tear! The surface had started to turn grey (weird for dry aged beef) and it was starting to develop a funky smell, but hope was not lost yet! I knew I had to act fast, so I fired up my sautoir (large, straight sided, deep sautĂ© pan) with a little bacon grease and got to work. First, after preheating the pan, I inspected the steak more closely, everything seemed OK, just lacking it’s former glory. I then gently rinsed off the surface with warm (~130F water) to try and improve the chances of removing any uninvited guests (pathogens… i.e. bacteria), gave it the smell check again, and everything seemed kosher (pardon the pun). Then I commenced to seasoning the steak, fresh cracked black peppercorns, flaked kosher salt, little touch of garlic powder and into the pan it went. Cooked it for 4 minutes on both sides (and edges because of the thickness) over high heat to form a nice “crust”, deglazed the pan with cognac and beef stock, let that reduce a bit, added sliced shallots and a little fresh sliced garlic with about 2 cups of Merlot, and threw it into the oven for about 35 minutes @425F. IT WAS AMAZING!
That might have been a lengthy explanation for the idea which came to me at the thought of having to throw out that wonderful cut of meat, because I forgot about it… Sorry, here is the point. We often think that just because meat is a little “past its prime” it’s no longer OK to eat. This is not always the case, yes if the meat smells like 3 month old DEATH, it’s probably not wise to eat. However our digestive systems are tougher than we give them credit for! There are actually recipes from other countries which were developed to save valuable food resources by making use of meat that is “on the edge”, like Sauerbraten from Germany (or Eastern Europe). Knowing how to spot meat that is still OK to eat is a great skill for extending your food options Post SHTF. Cooking these less than prime cuts is another important skill to learn.
When you are evaluating a questionable piece of meat there are a few things to look for… #1 Ground meat usually goes bad faster than “whole muscle” meat like steak, when it does use it for bait or give it to mans best friend! #2 Oxidation is normal, a slight grey color is ok, when the meat starts turning green and getting a rotten smell, then it’s time to REALLY question it #3 If the cut of meat is big enough, you might be able to trim some of the “off color” parts and retain some good meat from underneath #4 If the meat is discolored and has a SLIGHT foul smell, try rinsing the meat with warm water and then dry it with paper towel/kitchen towel, smell it again, if the smell is gone or greatly reduced it should be ok #5 If you know where the meat has been (i.e. your fridge) then you can be relatively sure it has been kept at an appropriate temperature, and the bacteria growth which causes it to spoil should be reduced compared to meat from an unknown source (i.e. a deer carcass found in the woods). Another important thing to remember, because “whole muscle” cuts, like steak and roasts, are cut from a solid muscle the bacteria that causes it to spoil is usually limited to the surface of the meat or just below the surface.
Whenever you are cooking meat that could possibly have an excess of bacteria present in it, it’s a REALLY GOOD IDEA to cook the hell out of it! I know, you are probably saying “But Chefbear if I cook the hell out of the meat it will be all tough and dry, then I won’t want to eat it and I will just have to go hungry”… NOT SO! When you apply the proper cooking technique you can be sure you have obliterated the majority of the bacteria present (it is not possible to kill it all, those bastards are tough for such little guys!) and have a juicy, tender delicious resulting product. The method I usually employ is called “braising”, it consists of searing the meat on all sides to obtain a golden-dark brown color (not burnt), then deglazing the pan with a flavoring liquid, vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery/celery root, potatoes, turnips… almost any vegetable can be added, and then the entire pan is placed into an oven at about 325F for several hours, adding liquid if needed. This can also be done right on the cook-top, or even better in a Dutch oven, ALSO tougher cuts of meat tend to work better because they have more connective tissue (connective tissue= gelatin, gelatin mimics the texture/flavor of fat and helps retain the juicy texture). This cooking technique can also be applied to parts of the animal often overlooked by other people, like the neck, shanks, breast (like veal breast, looks similar to raw veal bacon), ribs and even tougher bits of meat trimmed from larger cuts while butchering.
Another great thing about braised dishes, is that with a little “finesse” you can turn the left over to make stew, with VERY little extra effort. Both of the resulting dishes (braised meat/stew) go great with some home-made bread, and if you are resorting to less than desirable meat you might not have a whole lot on your shelves, so check out this article I wrote a few weeks ago for ideas on bread to go with your meat/stew http://www.shtfblog.com/making-bread-after-teotwawki/
Thanks again guys, I hope I have helped to expand your food/cooking options just a little bit more!
Have you ever tried to “salvage” some meat that is “past its prime”? How did it turn out? What cooking method did you use? Do you foresee braising in your future? As usual, any questions, comments, concerns you may have just let me know and I will address them to the best of my abilities!
One last note from the Jarhead…
Don’t forget to tell your Sweetie that you love them today!
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Pickeled Japalenos

Spring is a month away! Can you smell it in the air?

Here where I'm at, it's been in the low 50's as daytime highs for the past month but in the 20's at night...I'm waiting for warmer night time weather before I plant.
I usually plant some seeds in small biodegradable pots a week before spring. I place them in a sunny spot in my house and wait. After about two weeks I plant them outside. I usually start out with beans, bell peppers, peas, and jalapenos.

I am sharing my canned pickle jalapenos recipe with you guys:

Using fresh jalapeno peppers, blanch peppers for 3 minutes in boiling water. To prevent collapsing, puncture each pepper 3-4 times with a toothpick. Add the following ingredients to a pint jar packed with the blanched peppers before cooling occurs.

1/4 medium-sized garlic clove, diced
1/4 teaspoon of onion flakes
1 small or medium bay leaf
1/6 teaspoon of ground oregano
1/6 teaspoon of thyme leaf (not seed)
1/8 teaspoon of marjoram
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (olive, sesame, and corn oil will work)

The boiling brine solution is prepared as follows:

Mix together:

3 tablespoons sugar
9 tablespoons salt
2 pints water
2 pints vinegar (5 percent)

Close the containers and process 10 minutes in boiling water, then cool.

Note: Jalapenos must be hot when brine solution is added. The addition of carrot slices adds color to the product.