Monday, July 20, 2009

why food storage, and what does it look like?

I'm a food storage person, and always have been. There is a bit of a preparedness and survivalist streak in my family and I've embraced this. I also look to the bible and think that there are a lot of stories to prepare your family for hard times. Think of Joseph, he was told that hard times were coming and by being prepared saved a whole people plus his family!

I've said before I do believe hard times are come for our nation, probably our world. Economics are cyclical and we are overdue for a very big crash. My husband has a very secure job, so we are blessed. However even with a secure job things can happen that would cause you to need to eat from your own food stores. Perhaps there is a flood in the wheat belt, and bread prices skyrocket, there is a severe oil shortage and trucks aren't able to move, there is freak storms in the northwest and the apple crops are lost, inflation or deflation are so bad our money isn't worth anything anymore. In these situations we will be grateful for our stored foods!

Many of us depend on the grocery store a couple of times a week for all of our food needs. Most homes don't have gardens anymore, most people don't store more than about two days worth of food. But is that the wisest way to live? In the part of the country I live in we get massive tornadoes and ice storms every year. Both of those could knock out power for several weeks. Do you have the ability to feed your family if the grocery store is closed for a week, and your power is completely out?

Another great reason to store food though is to save money. My family spends about 190 dollars a month at the grocery store, and that includes all our toiletries. This is because we buy on sale, stock up, and make almost all of our food from scratch. Sure I have some packaged foods, but not a lot. When I make a loaf of bread it costs about 68 cents a loaf. For a loaf of 100% whole wheat, with no additives or anything. I can make the same amount of oatmeal that comes in an "instant" package for about 8 cents, while the packets cost about 30 cents a packet.

I seldom run out of anything when I'm cooking. I almost never have those moments when I'm in the middle of cooking something that I realize that I don't have enough of something and have to make a quick trip to the supermarket.

Have I convinced you yet?

How about this? Imagine a truck with dangerous caustic chemicals spills near your house and you have to evacuate, now. It happened in my hometown when I was about four years old, it happens all over the country all the time. Do you have what you need to leave now? Do you have snacks and diapers and a change of clothes for your kids? What if the police say you have ten minutes to get out of your house. What then? Do you just hope that there will be restaurants open and that old navy will have the clothes you need? Will there be clean water?

This is where to start, it is called a 72 hour kit or a bug out bag. This is the first step in being prepared. I'll post instructions for a 72 hour kit soon!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


My kids eat a lot of ketchup. I think most kids do, so nothing super weird there, but commercial ketchup contains high fructose corn syrup which is something we try to avoid. So I make my own. Not to mention that I think it tastes better in most applications. It is different, far different, than the stuff you get in the squeeze bottle, but it is healthier and yummier.

I will probably put up 14 pints of ketchup this year. To do that I need 48 lbs of tomatoes, some sort of paste tomato. A paste tomato is something that has a lower water ratio than a slicing tomato. Rome tomatoes are the most common, but cherry and grape tomatoes also work. I personally use an heirloom variety called "Amish Paste" They are perfect and have a fantastic tomato flavor that really shines through in all my tomato stuff. I also have a yellow pear tomato plant in my backyard which is producing TONS of tomatoes, far more than we can eat, so I threw some of those in my ketchup also. The yellow tomatoes have a very intense sweet tomato flavor, and I think they actually added a nice flavor to my ketchup. If I continue to get this huge crop I might make a special yellow batch of ketchup to see how that turns out.


For many tomato applications you need to first peel the tomatoes. Tomatoes are very easy to peel. Drop them in boiling water for a minute, then straight ice water. The peels slip right off. However for sauce and ketchup you don't need to do that. Both of those applications go through a food mill, so you can just chop them in quarters and cook them until soft. While you are cooking the tomatoes you also need to add some onions. If you have 24 lbs of tomatoes you need to add three large or four medium onions and about ten cloves of garlic (I love garlicky ketchup) Combine the quartered tomatoes and onions and garlic and cook until soft.


While this is cooking (over the lowest heat possible) take 3 cups of apple cider vinegar and put it in a stainless steel pan. Make a spice bag with 3 tablespoons of celery seed, 2 cinnamon sticks broken up, 2 teaspoons whole allspice, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, and one teaspoon dried red pepper. Bring the vinegar and spice mixture to a boil and as soon as it hits a boil, turn off heat and let stand for one hour.

*a note about vinegar. Use organic or raw vinegar when cooking. Other vinegars can be full of weird stuff like formaldehyde.

Combine the vinegar and tomatoes and let stand for 3 hours at room temperature. Add three to four tablespoons of canning salt at this point (kosher salt works also, but table salt does not due to the iodine in it) This slightly pickles the tomatoes and makes the flavor deeper. At this point you need to run your mixture through a food mill. I think that some of the best 50 dollars you can spend is on a good food mill and my favorite for large batch cooking is this food mill


At this point I put the ketchup mixture in my crock pot and put it on low overnight. This helps to keep the ketchup from burning, which is possible on the stove top. I don't use my lid, but rather cover the opening with cheese cloth to allow the moisture to escape. When I wake up in the morning the kitchen smells amazing, and I have perfectly thick ketchup.

I pack mine in pint size jars, with clean sterilized lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First tomatoes

I planted forty amish paste tomato plants and they are producing a ton of tomatoes and they are coming ripe quickly!

Today I put up my first batch of tomato sauce. I don't have a recipe as I just use what I have around and tastes and smells good. I always includes tons of onions and garlic, basil, oregano, carrots, and olive oil. Other ingredients vary from red wine to herbes de provence.

But my house smells wonderful this evening and I've got a row of tomato sauce ready for winter when I don't have fresh tomatoes anymore.

So far this season I've put up apx 65 jars of peaches, 30 jars of blackberry jam, 10 jars of fig jam, twelve jars of tomato sauce, 4 jars of ketchup, and 6 jars of green beans. I'm looking to start on some corn and more green beans this week and might put up some vegetable soup for those cold winter days where I just don't feel like cooking!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

All my pumpkins died :(

I'm very sad about it. I had vine borers that ate the insides out of all my pumpkins and summer squash. My butternut squash is still thriving, as are all my melons. But I'm honestly upset about the pumpkins, I was so looking forward to roasting them and having fresh pumpkin pies and pancakes and breads and adding pumpkin to my green smoothies with some honey and spices. Now I'll have to settle for store bought ones, or hopefully find a local farmer who has sugar pumpkins!

I'm not a giant zucchini fan, so it isn't a huge loss aside from the fact that I've never heard of a person who can't grow summer squash.

The rest of the garden is amazing. My tomatoes are freakish, over six feet tall now.

Giveaway results!

Sorry for the delay on this, but blogger has been weird and I haven't been able to log on!

We have 2 winners! I'm excited to share this book with these folks. The bee drew two names out of a hat and the winners are......

Deena and family of three! email me at erin underscore d underscore a at yahoo dot com with your address and I'll send the book right out!