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Prudent Food Storage FAQ

Prudent Food Storage FAQ

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Published by: Shooter Orion on Jun 29, 2012
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Part I -- Shelf Lives: Time, Temperature, Moistureand Light
Since the entire idea of a food storage program isthat it should be available for you and yours in times ofneed, it is desirable to gain an understanding of thoseconditions that can affect the edibles stored in yourpantry.Your storage program is only as good as the originalquality of the food that goes into it. It cannot get anybetter than what originally goes in, but it can certainlyget worse. In the fullness of time, all stored foods willdegrade in nutrient content and palatability until theyreach the inevitable end where even the dog won’t eatthem. It’s because of this eventuality that every article,book, and teacher concerned with putting food by givesthe same advice: date all food containers and rotate,Rotate, ROTATE.It is important to remember when discussing theusefulness of various foodstuffs that there are really
*two* shelf lives to be considered. The rst shelf life is
the nutrient content of the food. This actually beginsto degrade from the moment the food is harvested.Three factors dictate nutritional shelf life: the food’sinitial nutritional content; the processing steps thefood underwent before it was placed into storage,and its storage conditions. Eventually the nutrition willdwindle away to nothing. At some point it will have to bedecided the remaining nutrition is not worth the spacethe food is taking up and it should be rotated out ofstorage.The second shelf life to consider is a food’s usefullife or the point at which it undergoes undesireablechanges to taste, texture, color and cooking qualities.This is the reason for the “use by” dates on many foodsand for shelve lives in general and will almost alwaysbe in excess of good nutritive life. We’ve all heard ofpeople eating many year old preserved foods such as jellies, MRE’s and the like. If you don’t have anything toreplace it with, it’s not necessary to throw food out justbecause it’s reached the end of its nutritive shelf life.Do, however, keep in mind that increasing age will onlyfurther decrease the useful nutrition and increase thelikelihood that something may cause the food to spoil.
Within reason, the key to prolonging the storagelife of your edibles lies in lowering the temperature ofthe area in which they are stored. The storage lives ofmost foods are cut in half by every increase of 18 F (10degrees Celsius). For example, if you’ve stored yourfood in a garage that has a temperature of 90 F then youshould expect a shelf life less than half of what couldbe obtained at room temperature (70 F) which in turn isless than half the storage life that you could get if youkept them in your refrigerator at 40 F. Your storage areashould be located where the temperature can be keptabove freezing (32 F) and, if possible, below 72 F.
Ideally, your storage location should have a humiditylevel of 15% or less, but unless you live in the desertit’s not terribly likely you’ll be able to achieve this soyou’ll have to do the best that you can. Regardless,moisture is not good for your stored edibles so you wantto minimize it as much as possible. This can be done
by several methods. The rst is to keep your storage
location air-conditioned during the warm and humidtimes of the year. The second is to package the goodsin storage containers impervious to moisture and then todeal with the moisture trapped inside. If you can, there’sno reason not to use both. All storage containers should
be kept off the oor and out of direct contact from
exterior walls to reduce the chances of condensation.
Once you’ve gotten temperature and humidity undercontrol, it’s necessary to look at light. Light is a form ofenergy and when it shines on your stored foods longenough it transfers some of that energy to the food.That energy has the effect of degrading its nutritionalcontent and appearance. Fat soluble vitamins, such as A,D and E are particularly sensitive to light degradation.It’s a pretty sight to look at rows and rows of jars fullof delicious food, particularly if you were the one thatput the food in those jars. However, if you want to keep
PRUDENT FOOD STORAGE: Questions and Answers
 From the House at Cat’s Green
 Alan T. Hagan
This work is a compilation of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) concerning long term food storage. Itspurpose is to promote an understanding of the concepts, methods and techniques of long term food storage.
them at their best, you’ll admire them only when youturn the light on in the pantry to retrieve a jar. If youdon’t have a room that can be dedicated to this purposethen store the jars in the cardboard box they came in.This will protect them not only from light, but help tocushion them from shocks which might break a jar orcause it to lose its seal. For those of you in earthquakecountry, it’s a particularly good idea. When “terra” is no
longer “rma” your jars just might dance right off ontothe oor.Assuming that it was properly processed in the rst
place, canned, dried and frozen (never thawed) foodsdo not become unsafe when stored longer than therecommended time, but their nutrient quality fades and
their avor goes downhill. Think of rotating your food
storage as paying your food insurance premiums --slacking off on rotation cuts back on your coverage. Isyour food insurance up to date?
Part II -- The Techniques of Food Storage A. Grains and Legumes
One of the most important decisions in planningyour long term food storage are the kinds of grains youare going to store. Too many people do not give thisadequate thought, and just buy however much wheatthey think is necessary to meet their needs and leaveit at that. Others rely upon pre-packaged plans madefor them by the storage food retailer who put togetherthe food package they’ve purchased. For many, eitherdecision could be a major mistake.There are any number of food storage plans to befound by those who take the time to look. Many of themare based on the so-called “Mormon Four” of wheat,milk, honey and salt, with as many additional foods as
the planner nds to be desirable. Back in the thirties,when I believe this plan rst got its start, this may have
been OK, but we’ve learned a great deal since then. An unfortunate number of people in our society havedeveloped allergies to one kind of food or another. Oneof the more common food allergens is wheat. Even moreunfortunate is the fact that of those with an allergy tothis most common of grains, many of them are not evenaware of it. They won’t become aware of it until they tryto live with wheat as a large part of their diet. This is thereason you should store what you eat and eat what youstore: So that ugly surprises such as this don’t come upwhen it’s too late to easily avoid them.A second reason to think about providing a varietyof grains in your food storage is appetite fatigue. Thereare many people who think providing variety in thediet is relatively unimportant and that if and when thetime comes they’ll eat what they’ve got and that will bethat. For healthy, well-adjusted adults under ordinarycircumstances this might be possible without too much
difculty. However, the entire reason for having a long
term food storage program is for when circumstancesaren’t ordinary. Times of crisis produce stress -- possiblyphysical, but always mental. If you are suddenly forcedto eat a diet that is both alien and monotonous, it isgoing to add just that much more stress on top of whatyou are already dealing with. If your planning includesthe elderly, young children and infants they might just
quit eating or refuse to eat sufcient amounts and
become unable to survive. This is not a trivial problemand should be given serious consideration. Consider thepositive aspects of adding some “comfort foods”.
In his book, Making the Best of Basics, James
Stevens mentions a post WWII study by Dr. Norman
Wright, of the British Food Ministry, which found that
people in England and Europe were more likely to rejectunfamiliar or distasteful foods during times of stressthan under normal conditions. When it’s wheat, dayin and day out, then wheat’s going to start becomingdistasteful pretty fast. Far better to have a varietyof foods on hand to forestall appetite fatigue and,more importantly, to use those storable foods in youreveryday diet so that you’ll be accustomed to them.
[If anyone knows where I may nd an actual copy of
the study by Dr. Wright, I’d appreciate it if you’d pointme to it. Thanks-ed.]
Below is a list of some common and uncommongrains presently available in the marketplace. Because
wheat is by far the most common directly consumedgrain in the United States I’ve put it at the head of thelist.
Wheat comes in a number of different varieties. Eachvariety is more or less suitable for a given purposebased on its characteristics. The most common
classications for wheat varieties are spring or winter,
hard or soft, red or white.The hard wheats have kernels that tend to be small,very hard and have a high gluten content. Gluten is theprotein in grains that enables the dough made fromthem to trap the gasses produced by yeast fermentationand raise the bread. Low gluten wheat does not produceas good a loaf as high gluten wheat, though they canstill be used for yeast breads if necessary. As a generalrule, hard varieties have more protein than soft varieties.
The soft varieties have kernels tending to be larger,plumper and softer in texture than hard wheats. Theirgluten content is less and these are used in pastries,quick breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals.Winter wheats are planted in the fall, over winter in
the eld and are harvested the next summer. Spring
wheats are planted in the early spring and are harvestedin the fall. Red wheats comprise most of the hardvarieties while white wheats comprise most of the soft.Recently, hard white wheats have been developed thatare suitable for raised bread making. Some feel the hardwhite varieties make a better tasting whole wheat breadthan the hard red.The most commonly stored are the hard red varieties,either spring or winter, because of their high protein.They should have a protein content of no less than 12%,with higher the better. The hard white spring wheatsare still relatively new and are not yet widespread. Theyhave the same excellent storage characteristics as thehard red wheats.
Amaranth is not a true cereal grain at all, but is a
relative of the pigweeds and the ornamental owers
we know as cockscomb. It’s grown not only for itsseeds, but for its leaves that can be cooked and eatenas greens. The grain is high in protein, particularly theamino acid lysine which is limited in the true cerealgrains. The grains can be milled as-is, or the seeds can
be toasted to provide more avor. The our lacks gluten,
so it’s not suited for raised breads, but can be made
into any of a number of at breads. Some varieties can
be popped much like popcorn, or can be boiled andeaten as a cereal, used in soups, granolas, and the like.Toasted or untoasted, it blends well with other grain
Barley is thought by some to be the rst grain ever
grown by man. It has short, stubby kernels with a hull
that is difcult to remove. Excluding barley intended for
malting or animal feed, most of this grain is consumedby humans in two forms. The most common is thewhite, highly processed “pearl” barley that has hadmost of its bran and germ milled off along with its hull.It is the least nutritious form of barley. The second formit’s found in is called “pot” or “hulled” barley and it hasbeen subjected to the same milling process as pearled,
but with fewer trips through the polisher. Because of
this, it retains more of the nutritious germ and bran.Unless you are prepared to try to get the hulls off I don’t
recommend buying barley still in the hull. Barley canbe milled into our, but its low gluten content will not
make a good loaf of raised bread. It can be combined
with other ours that have sufcient gluten to makegood raised bread or used in at breads. Barley ourand akes have a light nutty avor that is enhanced
by toasting. Whole barley is commonly used to addthickness to soups and stews.Recently, a hull-less form of barley has becomeavailable on the market through a few suppliers. This iswhole grain barley with all of its bran and germ intactand should have the most nutrients of any form of thisgrain available. I have not been able to discover yet howsuitable it is for long term storage.
Buckwheat is another of those seeds commonly
considered to be a grain, but which is not a true cereal.It is a close relative to the docks and sorrels. The grainitself is a dark, three cornered seed resembling a tiny
beechnut. It has a hard, brous hull that requires a
special buckwheat huller to remove it. Here in the U.S.,
it is most often used in pancakes, biscuits and mufns.
In eastern Europe and Russia it is known in its toastedform as kasha. In the Far East, it’s often made intosoba or noodles. It’s also a good bee plant, producing
a dark, strongly avored honey. The our is light or dark
depending on how much of the hull has been removed
before grinding. Dark our is far superior nutritionally
as you might expect, but it also much more strongly
avored. Buckwheat is one of those foods with no
middle ground in peoples opinions -- they either loveit or they hate it. Like amaranth, it’s high in lysine, anamino acid commonly lacking in the true cereal grains.
Corn is the most common grain crop in the U.S.,but it is mostly consumed indirectly as animal feed oreven industrial feedstock rather than directly as food.Nevertheless, it comes in an amazing variety of formsand, like wheat, some of them are better suited for aparticular purpose than others. The varieties intendedto be eaten as fresh, green corn are very high in sugarcontent and do not dry or store well. The other varieties
are the int, dent, and popcorns. All of them keep well
when they have been properly dried. To a certain extent,they’re all interchangeable for purposes of grinding into
meal (sometimes known as polenta meal) or our (verynely ground corn, not cornstarch), but some makebetter meal than our and vice versa. As a general ruleof thumb, the int varieties make better meal as they

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