When your bring food home from the store, chances are, you either throw it into the fridge, or freezer. What would you do if that was not an option? Years ago, before fridges, people knew how to preserve food using many different techniques. Today, we are going to talk about drying food in order to preserve it.
Preserving Food – Drying
If food is scarce, or limited by season, you must ensure that you store it properly, otherwise you risk it going off. There are a number of ways to preserve food, here we will talk about drying, or dehydrating.
Do not store food in direct sunlight, near excessive warmth or moisture, nor where scavengers may get to it. Store in air tight containers, and check on it occasionally.
How to Dry Food
It is possible to dry food using the wind and sunlight, but there is an easier way to do it, over a fire. Dried foods are less likely to get mouldy, or infested with maggots. When drying meat, meats with a high level of fat are harder to dry properly, so cut off any excess fat, and use it as soon as possible, then rub salt into the flesh of what you are left with, and hang the meat in a cool airy place.
Smoking meat dehydrates it and coats the meat with a protective coating. Smoking can be carried out a number of ways, but for the sake of this article, we will cover smoking meat over a fire.
Build a smoke tepee like the image above shows by driving 3 sticks into the ground. (Use you knife to point the ends of the sticks to make it easier to push into the ground). Next, build a platform or grill between the sticks, and set a fire below it. You want to smoke your meat at a temperature below 100 degrees so you do not cook it.
Once you have your fire going, get a pile of green leaves, and place them on the embers. Avoid holly as it is toxic, and conifers as they may burst into flames. Do not use grass either! Once there are no flames left on the fire, place your green material on, and this should create lots of smoke.
Cut the meat into fat free strips, 2.5cm by 6mm thickness. For fish, gut and fillet. Next, insert the meat onto your rack, and cover the teepee with a cloth to keep the smoke in.
Leave the meat to smoke for the next 18 hours, and ensure little to no smoke escapes.
Cut strips of meat, as you would do for smoking, and hang them in the sun, out of reach of any animals and allow to dry. It can take up to two weeks to dry meat using the method. You may need to turn the strips from time to time, and check flies are not laying eggs on the meat.
To dry fish using this approach, gut the fish, and cut off the head and tail. You can then either smoke the fish, or hang dry it.
This is food made from biltong and animal fat. To make this, shred and pound meat into small pieces, then melt animal fat over the shredded meat and mix together. Once the mixture has cooled, place it in a waterproof bag. This mix will keep for a long time, specially in a cold environment.
Nuts and Cereals
Place nuts and cereals on hot rocks from the fire, turning frequently until fully dried. Store in an air tight container. You can check the dryness by weight, or by splitting open and inspecting the inside of the nut.
Fruit, Fungi and Lichens
Fruit and berries can be dried whole, or split into slices and dried out using the sun, fire or smoke. Fungi also dry out very easily. Fruit can be eaten dry, and fungi can be added to soups, or allowed to soak in water to regain their texture.
To store lichen, soak overnight in water, then boil well and allow them to fully dry out. Then grind to a powder, and boil again to form a syrup like substance. This can be used to add body to other foods.
Hopefully this article gave you some insight on how to preserve food for survival, and how you can prevent living hand to mouth when in a SHTF situation.