For the last couple of months I’ve been doing a lot of home pressure canning and I’m starting to get a feel for what works. There’s the technical aspects of preserving things like beef, chicken, and pork in a safe and sanitary fashion. And then there’s the question of how to prepare the preserved food in a way that’s tasty and appealing.
There’s simply no way to pressure can something like a ribeye steak without changing the texture in an unacceptable way. It’s no longer a steak after seventy five minutes at two hundred forty degrees under ten pounds of pressure. Ribeye is far too expensive to turn to mush. That sort of thing is best left in the freezer. But less expensive cuts that are naturally tougher are made very tender by the canning process. So I’ve been experimenting with dishes that call for soft shredded meat. Tacos, burritos, barbecued pulled pork…
Pressure canned chicken works really well for chicken salad. I pan toasted some walnuts from the freezer, mixed in raisins from the pantry, stirred in a little mayo, and placed the mixture on a bed of salad greens with some cucumber. I didn’t grow these particular veggies, but that’s the direction I’m heading in. Plain canned meat is versatile and can be turned in to many different meals in a matter of minutes. I’m also starting to get a feel for how many people I can feed with a pint of canned meat. That’s about a pound. If I were feeding a big guy who had done heavy labor all day I’d say that’s a single serving size. Under normal lunch conditions I could stretch that much meat to feed four or six people sandwiches or tacos. But on average one pint jar is enough for two people for a standard weekday dinner.
My All American canner holds nineteen pint jars or fourteen quart jars at a time. That lends itself to big batches of soup. Vegetarian lentil, split pea with ham, white bean with bacon and sausage… These are all foods I enjoy eating and I love having them on hand for quick meals and portable “fast food.” I’ve already put up enough food for two people to enjoy two meals a day for five consecutive months. I’ll probably slow down soon and then ramp production back up in summer and fall when fruit comes in from the garden and farmers market.
My friends Erik and Kelly at Root Simple tipped me off to the German made Mockmill which I love. Flour has a relatively short shelf life. After a few months it starts to get funky. But wheat – if stored in a sealed container and kept in a cool, dry, dark place – will last for decades without degrading. That’s why grain emerged as the primary staple of civilization. A home grain mill permits a generous supply of freshly ground flour on demand. I already have a hand cranked grain mill which works really well, but the Mockmill is so much more convenient so long as the power is still on.
The combination of home canned meats, soups, and stews along with fresh baked goods comes pretty close to a complete food Plan B in case of unemployment, supply chain disruptions, or natural disaster. And if nothing ever goes wrong we’re still eating well on a modest budget.
Let me direct you to where I started in my earthquake supply system a decade ago. I thought this was what I needed in an emergency. I still have it. It’s still good. But I’m going to have to be really desperate before I break in to these buckets of compressed rations. It’s far more likely that I’ll be handing them out to folks who show up at my door in a crisis looking for sustenance. I’ll be eating beef stew.