Lazaretto Dining

56 thoughts on “Lazaretto Dining”

  1. I’m happy to see your applesauce project. Every year, as the season winds to a close, I get half-bushel baskets of “cooking apples” from the farm market at half the price of apples I could select and bag. They’re bruised or cut or rotting on one side, but they make great applesauce. My home-made applesauce (made from nothing but apples, and a little water for steam) has a flavor that’s so much better than commercial applesauce that it makes me wonder what corners the commercial processors are cutting make such an insipid product.
    Even if you’re not going to “can” a dozen pints of it, everyone should try making enough applesauce for a meal. It’s easy. And then you’ll want to make a lot more.
    (By the way, applesauce is sufficiently acidic that a hot-water bath canning process is safe. Pressure is needed for beans, meats, and potatoes, but tomatoes, peaches, and apples can be processed in boiling water… see The Ball Book, of course.)

    Potatoes can be preserved indefinitely with dehydration, as can sliced apples. There’ll be no mistaking them for the fresh version, but they’re good in soup.

    1. Applesauce can easily be frozen, as my grandmothers, mother, and wife all did/do. My wife simmers it in a crock pot and transfers it to plastic quart containers. I don’t remember any of them ever canning applesauce (covers the 1960s onward).

  2. How cool that you can make apple cider vinegar out of apple waste – I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know that. This year I babied my apple trees, netting them to keep the Japanese beetles away and watering through a very dry July and then a 90 mph wind came through on Monday and blew most of the apples off before they were ripe – wasn’t sure what to do with them except compost and now I know. I appreciate the tip and blog, thanks.

  3. Johnny, any chance my email can be removed from public view? I’m not sure how I messed up my username vs. email there… Sorry.

  4. I am embarrassed to say “lazaretto dining” sounded very European, upscale and tasty, with a really good rose, handmade chocolate truffles, and someone playing the mandolin.

    Then I looked up the meaning of lazaretto.

    1. I like to think of it as rebranding. Those old stone quarantine facilities in the Mediterranean from centuries ago are rather charming. Kind of like Alcatraz or Robben Island minus the prison guards.

  5. “irrigation tubes and drip emitters I like”

    Hand watering has become nearly impossible for me as health issues proliferate, and I think its time to automate. Could you share a link to your favorite DIY drip system?

    Re canning jar prices, my wife only likes the wide-mouth quarts these days, so I was about to put some of our non-widemouth quarts on OfferUp. I wonder what price I should ask?

    1. I only use wide mouth jars myself. The current Covid inflated price of new mason jars is about $3 per pint and $6 per quart. (This is double or triple the pre Covid price.) What are used jars worth? I’ll leave that up to you. Personally I don’t like buying second hand glass canning jars unless I know and trust the person who used them. If the jars were used for non canning – like everyday drinking glasses or if they were put in the microwave a lot – they tend to crack in the pressure canner.

    2. Irrigation systems can be overly complex and difficult to install. I experimented with many Rube Goldberg hacks and different brands. I’ll blog about the details at some point. What I now recommend is to go to a local shop that specializes in drip irrigation and have them walk you through your options. In San Francisco the best people are the Urban Farmer Store.

    3. I’ve been working with (out of OR) for a few years. I really like these guys! Lots of useful info on their site, and the customer service is amazing –which says a lot in this day and age.

  6. Re water, I have a wall of water cubes in my garage for emergencies. At the end of the summer, I just use them on the veggie garden and fill them up again. I also have emergency water filters, xeriscaping, low water appliances, etc.

    It’s a weak system, but I’m hesitant to get a water tank. Reason being, after some research, I discovered the SFPUC has been very agressive about seismic upgrades, local groundwater well construction, etc. The possibility of Hetch Hetchy system failing is by no means zero. It’s just that there’s a lot of things to spend money on and I have to make choices.

    And honestly, if the water situation was truly chronic like Venezuela (, wouldn’t you just leave if you could? I would. I can’t imagine just sitting pretty with my water tank while my neighbors suffered. In other words, what’s the line between preparedness as a rational crisis buffer and an unrealistic fantasy that you can be an autonomous island of self sufficiency when SHTF?

    1. We humans have two modes: complacency and panic. When we think of disasters we tend to assume 1) nothing will ever happen or 2) total Mad Max. In each extreme there isn’t much you can do, so why bother… The most likely scenarios are almost always in the middle. For example, we might have a small earthquake a hundred miles from the city that breaks a critical element in the water supply system. The authorities will patch it, but there will be limited water for a few weeks. It’s the kind of crisis that will be fixed soon enough that you don’t need to abandon your home, but long enough that you really want some water in reserves.

      I don’t want to be the only person with food, fuel, and water during a crisis which is why I’m evangelical about helping everyone around me having more supplies too.

      1. Because otherwise they all end up at your door! LoL! Thankfully, you’re a very helpful person, Johnny. That’s a good thing.

      2. I’m not saying do nothing or Mad Max. But does your friend have 72 hours of bottled water? Fire extinguishers? An emergency fund? A water tank is, for most folks, advanced level prepping and relatively expensive compared to monthly essentials.

        Not anti-water tank. I love me some water preps. But I have to ask… what’s the point of diminishing returns? If any civilization, past or present, cannot deliver basics like food distribution, water and public safety – for an entire month! – isn’t that by definition a failed state? Furthemore, it seems that economic/social collapse (depression, war, revolution) long precedes disruption to the basics of life and oftentimes, the basics continue to function, despite the misery, until a fatal breaking point:

        Given all this, it seems rational to invoke St. Nassim Taleb and pursue a barbell strategy. First, a groundwork of basic preparedness. That’s for predictable & annual things like localized natural disasters, job loss, pandemics, etc. Greatest Generation common sense stuff.

        After that, focus on esoteric things like politics, global finance & dual citizenship. Why? You have to know if you’re willing to die for your ideals, immigrate or accept servitude and a subsistence existence. Those are the choices when shtf. Timing is important.

        In other words, at what point did the peasant Sicilian diaspora decide, f-this, we’re surrounded on all sides, even by our own kinfolk! We’re moving to America! Others decided to “tough it out” and the immigration window closed. And life still sucks in Sicily, more than a 100 years later. Many generations sacrificed for their foolish pride. This pattern has played out in many nations. There’s a time to hold ’em and a time to fold ’em.

        In summary, no man is an island. The “homestead” is the ultimate fantasy island. It’s a dead end and dangerous philosophy.

          1. Italy via Jure Sanguinis. It’s a long process! Likely won’t be in hand until 2022 due to consulate backlog. Chile sounds awesome but I have a family so an EU passport made sense. BTW, I’m well aware that the EU, and Italy in particular, is dysfunctional to the core. It’s about options. An intriguing left field option is Malaysia’s MM2H program:

            I don’t want or plan to leave permanently. But the way I see it, in the best case I have an adventurous retirement. In the worst case, I have an escape hatch. And my kids will have those options too. They may live to see the 22nd century.

            1. I’m too many generations out for the Sicilians to take me in. At 52 with a flunky English degree so I’m too old for most of the programs that welcome young educated people around the world. I have friends who left Malaysia because the ethnic Chinese minority is the go-to scapegoat for everything bad that ever happens there and his family got tired of the repeated pogroms. Plus I’m gay and that doesn’t work in Malaysia. I could buy a passport in a place like the Cayman Islands or Portugal via investment, which is my best option, but I’d only want to do that with other people I already know. I’ve had these talks for years and it’s like herding cats.

              1. Yeah, it’s not easy, even from an emotional standpoint, to invest the time and money required for a second passport. FYI, re Italian citizenship by descent, it isn’t about how many generations back per se. The key provisions are that the ancestor you’re claiming must have:

                1. Born after 1861, when Italy became a nation
                2. Never naturalized and/or wasn’t naturalized at the time of the birth of your next in line ancestor.

                In my case, my great grandfather was born in 1869 in Lercara Friddi, Sicily. He immigrated to Buffalo, NY in 1906. My grandfather was born there in 1910. On the 1910 census, my great grandfather was listed as “Alien” and therefore, I’m in. Crazy right? This wasn’t uncommon btw, for immigrants of that era to never naturalize.

                Of course, there’s documentation involved. If you’re dealing with NY state, there are lawyers involved. The consulate appointments are backed up for over a year and, as soon as slots appear, they’re taken by all these citizenship agencies. Seeing what I was up against, I caved and hired an agency myself.

          2. Rural northern MI for me, especially a Great Lake adjacent community. I grew up in that region and could revert/return easily. But my current NE OH could be a good alt too.

            My german and polish ancestors came to the US in the last 19th and early 20th cents. because they kept getting pushed out/around in east Germany/west Poland/Prussia.

            My polish side targeted urban worker lives in Buffalo, NY and my german side joined extended family as farmers in northeastern lower MI/southern Saskatchewan, CAN.

            Maybe NZ would let my family and I in? 😉

            1. NZ, like all Commonwealth countries (including now, the UK itself), has a points-based system that favors young and highly skilled immigrants. Out of all them, it seemed to be the easiest based on my research. Poland does have a citizenship by descent, if you’re interested.

              1. That’s interesting about Poland, Brian…but since they are currently running head long into anti-refugee/isolationism, I don’t think I want to move there.

                My maternal grandfather was born and raised in Saskatchewan, CAN, but immigrated to the US (Detroit) in the 1920s and naturalized in 1933 just before marrying my maternal grandmother (who incidentally immigrated from Germany with her family at age 5 to MI in 1914, but didn’t naturalize until 1933 with my my GF).

                My wife and I both looked into Canadian or German citizenship, just in case, but I’m too far removed.

                Regardless, the US is very large and northern lower MI is still quite sparsely populated.

          3. I’m torn between adaptability and actively pursuing a 3rd country. I’m in China since January this year. Still here due to a combination of covid, US/China politics, and outrageously expensive airfare. Wife is Chinese so this country is a potential option.

            I’m 33 and a recently licensed Professional Engineer. I qualify for many or most countries points based immigration systems. I find 30k USD can pay for a year of living for my family of 4 almost anywhere, even expensive places like Singapore or France. So the possible plan is wait until after shit really goes bad, then look out at the global landscape for who’s still hospitable to Americans and other foreigners. Go there. Stay there. Use that year of living expenses to shuffle the immigration paperwork and find an income.

            If I pursue another country now, then it will be Canada. I like the rural northern Midwest of MI, MN, & WI, but if the US decides to harass Chinese living in America, or arrest, like Japanese of WW2, then no level of ruralness can save us. The only choice would be to cross a land border. I prefer the northern border.

            I lean towards adaptability. It’s what I’m doing now. Currently earning money illegally as a cash only private tutor.

            1. My father-in-law spent the war years in Manzanar (an internment camp in the desert in the Owens Valley.) And they were second generation native born Americans. I grew up surrounded by old Jews and many had escaped Europe “just in time.” Some took circuitous routes to the US by way of Shanghai and Peru. I have ethnic Chinese friends who were born and raised in Malaysia who migrated out because they were the easy scapegoats whenever anything went wrong. Keep on your toes.

        1. Just to be clear, this guy just spent $1.2M on this house. The water tank I’m recommending costs $400. After we all pay for the granite countertops and such we cry poverty about emergency supplies. This isn’t about money. It’s about priorities.

          1. As one who grew up near SF, with water ever and always on-tap, I can understand your neighbor’s reluctance to put up the emergency water as you suggest. However, as one who has lived in Mexico City for over three decades I now have a perspective more in line with yours. I wouldn’t dream of living in a house without a very large cistern– or, if I were in a place where I couldn’t put in a cistern, the equivalent in stackable water jugs.

            Of course earthquakes are also a risk in Mexico City. The more pressing water problem — as in many other cities, indeed, many other parts of the world– is that the municipal water supply isn’t always 24/7. Yes, there’s a scarcity of water, but the larger problem is maintaining the water delivery infrastructure. Every single year, for over thirty years, I’ve had the city cut the water to my block or even the whole neighborhood with little or no notice for an hour, an afternoon, a day, and on a few occasions for as long as a couple of weeks. Other neighborhoods have it worse.

            To point out the obvious, having the cistern means that, no matter what, I can still take a shower, wash clothes, do dishes, and so on. This isn’t about being water-greedy. It’s a question of ensuring basic hygiene. And, as you point out, having the emergency supply enables me to be generous with others who might need help.

            A reliable 24/7 city water supply takes tax revenue and, with the covid tax base destruction, the outlook for municipal finances isn’t rosy. So if I had a house there in SF I’d invest in a large cistern (if possible, buried under the garden). I’d install a pump to keep it automatically topped up. Add an ultraviolet light to keep it clean. And I’d put up some stackable water jugs in the garage as well.

            When the time comes that this strikes many people as the obvious thing to do, the cisterns and pumps might well be out of stock.

        2. I hope it doesn’t trigger spam headaches for Johnny to comment on an old post, but I wanted to remark on the dual citizenship question. My husband is an exec in an international consulting firm and until covid worked extensively overseas. His company’s office in Melbourne offered to sponsor him, me, and our children for dual citizenship if we would move there and he would work to develop their A/Pac offerings. We strongly considered it, but ultimately decided it’s too far away and too traumatic for our children at this time. It was very tempting, however, as Melbourne is a lovely city and we have our doubts as to the long term stability of our own country, and we thought that an escape hatch was a good idea.

          And thank the good Lord above that we didn’t, as less than a year later, the entire state of Victoria is under a bewildering and terrifying martial law situation that is a completely out of proportion response to covid. I can’t imagine how regretful we would be had we freshly moved to a place where a pregnant women was arrested in front of her children for ‘incitement’ for posting about a lockdown protest on Facebook, or drones with facial recognition technology are searching for maskless people to deliver debt-prison level fines to. Unreal.

          All goes to show that life is one bumpy ride and you never know what is around each corner.

      3. “I don’t want to be the only person with food, fuel, and water during a crisis which is why I’m evangelical about helping everyone around me having more supplies too.”

        This. This is the most important thing if you plan on living within 3 days’ walk of other human beings. If you’re the only one -preparing- to be -resilient-, you’d better have enough for the whole class. The only way this is really really going to work beyond inconvenient hiccups, is if its practiced at a community scale.

        Share knowledge, you won’t run out.

      4. Also curious why you do not recommend more portable camp filtration systems as a first stage backup prior to water tanks. They are less expensive and portable in case an evacuation is necessary.

        1. I have a Big Berkey water filter as well as several Life Straws that might come in handy in a crisis. The problem with filters in my particular case is you need water to exist in order to filter it. If you live in a rainy place with creeks, ponds, and lakes you can manage. In California fresh surface water is hard to come by and it only rains for a few months in the winter. So a filter is great in Michigan or Florida, but mostly useless (without water storage) in Phoenix or San Francisco.

          1. What’s your water storage solution at the apartment/condo in San Francisco? I’m in an apartment about 5/8ths the size of yours in Southern California.

            I found you through Kristen Dirksen’s videos; looks like I’m in the same situation with respect to finding a good place to live in the USA and you’re giving me other things to think about at night.

  7. Love the mechanical apple peeler. The applesauce looked great. One project on my list is once we get the heap of junk rugs and wood out of our basement to turn the corner they were taking up into an emergency food supply storage area as you’ve showcased in your previous posts.

  8. Thanks, Johnny, this is especially an inspiring post.

    I’m one of those people who wish they’d bought the canning equipment back when it was on my “to do” list.

    But I did get a whale of a freezer a few years ago and, to my surprise, I’m finding it ever more supremely useful. Meats, veg, fruit, cheese, butter, leftovers, it all goes in there.

    I notice that you carefully label your bags. I have found that the key to making good use of a large freezer (or, for that matter, a small freezer) is to ***LABEL THE BAGS***. Mystery bags might as well be garbage; they just sit there getting every more frostily mysterious.

    1. Hmm. I guess potatoes and yams/sweet potatoes must be the most calorie-dense garden vegetables? (Aside from tree fruit such as apples and peaches, and maybe also cantaloupe and grapes.) They don’t keep long and don’t freeze, though, so I think the only preservation alternative is canning?

      My personal criticism of big gardens (from personal experience) is generally that they are a lot of work and time for only a few calories, when I can get the veggies in the store or vitamins and minerals in cheap tablets (if I can’t get the veggies in the store).

      I guess I just can’t wrap my head around scenarios that result in total destruction of the supply chain. I don’t live in a place that’s susceptible to wildfire, earthquake, or hurricane (widespread mass disaster), just tornadoes (more likely to total my house than the food supply chain).

      1. A logistical system doesn’t have to be totally destroyed for you to have trouble getting what you want. Delays, shortages and recalls can all put crimps in one’s plans. Here in Australia, we had a brief egg shortage due to disease, then a toilet paper shortage due to COVID panic buying. I only noticed the egg shortage afterwards, since I have my own hens. Having the supplies physically on site is reassuring in a way that trusting the supply chain is not.

      2. Who said _total_ collapse? There are lots of ways our food system can get disrupted enough to cause real problems, but not enough to collapse. In recent years, flooding has damaged crop yields in the Midwest (heat waves or late frosts could do the same for some crops); storms have damaged the Gulf refineries that provide fuel for our trucks; honeybee colony collapse disorder has been keeping a lot of people up at night; etc.

        Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns just published a piece on this very subject:

      3. Chris B, we grow a significant proportion of our own food and yes, strictly on finances it is not worth it. It is SO MUCH WORK. But other circumstances have combined to make it the right (only plausible?) choice for us. We try to treat the work as part of our lifestyle and find joy in it, and make it all beautiful to experience. And what we produce is better than what we could afford to buy. And we are growing our personal skill sets. Besides establishing a productive garden takes time. Like Johnny mentioned elsewhere, you have to prepare ‘before’ things get bad. Especially if you are of meager resources and have to act countercyclically anyway. So for example we have immunocompromised people in our household, but we’ve now been able to largely limit our grocery trips. We walk outside and harvest directly to the kitchen or table, and put by whatever we can’t eat fresh. What’s the financial value of not getting COVID at a grocery store?

        I’m not saying this would or should work for everyone. I’m not saying we’ll have to or choose to live like this forever, but.. there are knock-on benefits to arranging your life with this in mind, in addition to the opportunity costs. That’s always the point of resiliency, you sacrifice efficiency in good times to not be wiped out in bad.

      4. Gardens are often ill-suited for providing bulk calories, but they can provide extremely fresh, delicious produce, some of which can be frozen, dried, canned, or pickled for later consumption. They also provide enjoyment, beauty, and a great way to introduce kids to good food (one of my kids wouldn’t eat kale until we planted it – and then would eat it raw from the garden).

        For calories, grains and beans keep well and can be bought and stored in bulk. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are supposed to keep well in a simple root cellar setup. I admit I haven’t built one myself yet.

        1. I know all these things. I was raised in a gardening family, hand dug my parents’ root cellar, rototilled loads of organic matter into the garden. The “joy” of cultivating, watering, weeding, and of picking green beans in hot, humid, buggy weather left me long ago. Yes, fresh garden produce tastes better, but not enough to be worth it.

          A pantry of commercial canned goods, a freezer of meat and soups and stews, and stores of rice, beans, and pasta is the limit for me. No, I am not ready for a major disruption, but I have mitigated that risk somewhat by living in a place with abundant rainfall (droughts more than a decade apart), nearby farms, no significant earthquake threat, and no hurricane threat. It would take a real shtf event, in which case we’re all screwed anyway. Shrug.

          1. Ah, ok. Everybody has their own situation and preferences and that is totally fine. We have a 1/16th acre hobby garden; I spend a few hours a year planting and weeding, and get salad greens, fruit, and the like for much of spring and summer, with minimal time for harvesting required. Growing enough to preserve, and taking the time to preserve it, would be a different proposition.

            1. Agreed, Isaac. The time and seasonal commitments for major gardening (enough to preserve) are really more than I’m interested in. You can’t really take a spring, summer, or early fall vacation of more than a few days or something gets away from you. For dedicated gardeners, especially those with Depression roots like my parents, good produce going to waste is a cardinal sin.

              For perspective, my folks’ garden, including fruit trees, grapevines, strawberry patch, asparagus bed, raspberry canes, and vegetables (in its prime) was about 4,000-4,500 square feet. Mom had another 1,000 square feet of perennials in front of it. They finally downsized the last couple of years. (They are in their mid-80s.) Outsmarting pests, birds, foxes, groundhogs, rabbits, and deer were all part of the fun.

              Note that this is the size of a city lot in most places, and nowadays vacant city lots that size are typically “community gardens” shared by 5 or 10 people using small raised beds.

  9. Back in January, I decided this was going to be my biggest garden yet… it’s not huge, only 16×16 in raised beds, but it’s perfect for the family. Ordered tons of varieties of seeds in the late fall/early winter and grew everything from seed. Just canned my 10th batch of tomatoes yesterday and put away – bought a pressure canned last year but never used it, making this year my first time ever canning. My biggest issue right now is that I don’t have a basement, so food storage options have to be creative… and where the 2 year old won’t pull mason jars down on herself. I attribute a lot of this to following your blog. Thanks for the tips and insight! Know that it is being used!

    1. Congratulations on the tomatoes! I’ve gotten my first harvest of them this year, learning the ropes and making mistakes along the way – which is another reason why preparation before the event is important.

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