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Skills as Barter

I often think skills are overlooked as a prepping tool. By this, I don’t just mean hunting, shooting and fishing. There are a vast number of skills that are woefully underestimated. If there ever is a brave new world, those people who can prove their value stand a much better chance of survival and although a lot of people may know how to perform a task from reading a book. How many can actually do it?

An example: I have always been interested in food preservation and I’ve made Jam and Chutney by the bucket load for years and thanks to knowledgeable parents I know how to and have built a clamp to store winter veg. A few years ago I decided it was time to enlarge my repertoire. The reality of putting that knowledge into practice wasn’t easy. Had I been doing it in a real survival situation, I probably would have starved. Reading the books makes Bottling (Canning) and dehydrating sound easy. Well it’s not, until you know what you’re doing. My first attempt at dehydrating was a disaster. Some of the stuff was dried to an unidentifiable crisp while others fooled me into thinking it was dry when in fact the centre still held moisture. Between those two problems alone, I lost a lot of food to mould and inability to rehydrate. I could still have attempted to eat it, but I could have either broken a tooth or given myself some sort of poisoning. I first used the oven on my cooker to dehydrate as some of the books I had read suggested this and it didn’t need any special equipment. Although it worked, the cost was prohibitive and the results weren’t spectacular, the food lost it’s colour and didn’t rehydrate very well. I came to realise the temperature was too high. Next I tried dehydrating in the airing cupboard. Again, although it worked there was a problem with things discolouring and losing flavour because of the length of time required to dry.

In the end I decided to buy an electric dehydrator and once I got used to its peculiarities I have had excellent results. To prevent the problems I had with over and under drying I have to rotate the trays of this make of dehydrator, it is after all a basic no frills model that cost £35. I couldn’t justify spending £200 or more on one that had more features. There are many designs for non electric dehydrators using the power of the sun.

Canning fared somewhat better, but again there were failures. In my first foray, I used the boiling water Bath method, where you place your filled jars in a deep saucepan and cover with water. You then bring it to a gentle boil and process for a set time. After the jars a processed a vacuum is formed in the jar and the food is preserved in an oxygen free, high acid environment. Using this method, I had a 50% failure rate, where the jars did not seal. I then used a pressure cooker to process the jars and have continued to do so. Now I have the skill and know-how to prevent these issues and I rarely have failures. I am now confident enough to can meat and vegetables. A pressure canner is must for this though, because of the duration of the processing times and temperature required to preserve the food safely.

Other methods of preservation are pickling either in vinegar or alcohol, salting, fermentation, smoking and curing. The most simple of these is Fermentation.

For those of us who intend a ‘Lone Wolf’ lifestyle it is important to know how to save your harvest. If you are one who intends to join a group, get your skill set now. Teach yourself to preserve food in as many ways as possible. There are a myriad of cooking and preservation techniques that could put you in an indispensable position. If you for some reason or another cannot add a fighting presence, you can still be a valuable member of the group.

6 comments to Skills as Barter

  • Bug out Bag

    Hi TOF!
    I am currently looking at food dehydrators and plan to get going with this method as one way of storing my garden excess this summer. Are there any particular features that I should be looking out for? I know they can be terrifically expensive! I am keen to broaden my knowledge in food preservation on a wider scale, are there any good ‘How To’ books that you can recommend please?

    Thanks 🙂

    • TOF

      There are several brands of dehydrator out there, the best is the Excaliber. Stokli comes in pretty good too. From personal experience I would get one with a thermostat. If you have the time and don’t mind giving your dehydrator constant attention then a basic model such as mine is as good as any. Mine is a laser 2000 sold by Westfalia.
      The three books I use a great deal are Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook. This has instructions for dehydrating and also recipes for using dehydrated food.
      Also Putting Food By author Janet Green. This is a book on various preservation methods and has a section on dehydrating.
      The Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables By The Ministry Of Agriculture Food and Fisheries(ah those were the days)I’m not sure whether this is still in print but you can get a copy from a well known online bookstore! All are excellent books and well worth having.

  • TOF

    This site has some. Don’t get the Le’quip though it hasn’t had very good reviews.

    http://www.juiceland.co.uk/cat–Food-Dehydrators–Dehydrators.html

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_4?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=dehydrator&sprefix=dehy%2Caps%2C239

    As is usual, the best models are American. If I knew one would handle the current change with a step up voltage converter, I’d get one.

  • Bug out Bag

    Thanks TOF, I’ll look out for those titles and a dehydrator with a thermostat! 🙂

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