Rational Preparedness

What I Learned From My SHTF Potluck

There was a currency collapse and for 30 days there has been little or no food in the grocery stores.  On top of that, power has been unreliable.  It went down for a week, taking out all frozen and refrigerated food for miles around.  Power is back on now but it cannot be counted on.  People, family and friends, have gathered for a meal.  So goes the scenario for my dinner, last night.  Yesterday, I held a SHTF Potluck in my home and I think it was a success.  It was also a good time.

The menu included: a white chicken chili, made with my parents home grown peppers from 2015.  It included a chocolate cake, made from scratch, tuna and ramen, and pan fried potatoes in home rendered tallow.  It was a good meal.  Everything was delicious and that was the point.

When people prepare for SHTF events, a lot of times, people just buy ready to heat foods and don’t give it much thought.  Have you ever had a can of prefabricated beef stew?  I tried it one time and I know that’s not what I want to live on.  The other thing is these kits of pre-planned meals.  While convenient, any time you buy something like this, there is going to be a heavy grain component because that’s the cheapest ingredient.  I’d rather control the ratio of grain to vegetables and meats in my diet, than overpay for something that uses the cheapest of ingredients.  When you buy a can of beef, for example, it’s beef and salt.  Those are the only two ingredients.  When you buy a can of beef stew, it’s potatoes and corn starch–mostly.  You can make a much better stew by buying the ingredients separately.  

I have these events in my home, to spur creativity, to practice it, and to learn from it.  When you put these limitations on what you can make, when you take refrigeration out of the equation, it really makes you think.  We all have foods in our pantries but usually we accent them with foods from the fridge or freezer.  What do we do when those are gone?  We create.

The Chili was the main course and it was what I used to try and get people interested in coming.  I’ll provide a recipe, to the best of my memory below.  I say to the best of my memory because, I didn’t have a recipe to follow.  This is what happens, when you cook nearly every day, for nearly 20 years.  You no longer need recipes, nor measurements, to cook.  We’ve all seen the old man or woman, busy in the kitchen throwing this or that, together in a pot, without measuring anything.  That person is me, though I’m not that old, yet.  Before going shopping and following this recipe, read what I learned from making it, below.

White Chicken Chili

2 pounds dried great northern beansimg_3053
One 50 oz. can of boned chicken
1 Cup dehydrated multi-color bell peppers  (Amazon)*
Minced dehydrated onions to taste
Garlic to taste
Chili powder to taste
Red pepper to taste
Black pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Hot soak the beans:  You have to soak dry beans to re-hydrate them before cooking.  My preferred method of soaking beans is the hot soak.  The first step is to sort the beans.  Put them in a sheet pan, one layer thick, and stare at them, looking for rocks and other debris.  Remove any you find and put the beans in your pot.  Fill your pot, no more than half way with dried beans.  The beans will swell in size.

Fill the pot with water, give the beans a stir and dump them into a colander to rinse them.  Dump them back in the pot, and fill with water.  Do not add salt at this time.  Salt can inhibit the beans ability to soak up water, so add it during the cooking steps.

Place the pan of beans on a hot burner, boil the beans for 2-3 minutes, and shut off.  Let them sit, in the hot water, for an hour.  You must drain these beans because the skin of most beans leaves the soak water slightly toxic.

Cooking the beans: I pressure cooked the beans.  I prefer to pressure-cook all dried beans.  They cook faster and turn out more tender than just boiling them.  The directions for boiling the beans should be on the bag of beans and the directions for pressure-cooking them should be in the booklet that came with your pressure-cooker.  My bag says to start with cold water and simmer for 35-45 minutes.

Every pressure-cooker is going to have a different cook time for the beans.  Part of this depends on the size of the cooker.  The larger the cooker, the longer it takes to come up to pressure, so the shorter the at pressure cook time.  I pressure cooked the beans for 30 minutes, per the instructions that came with my smaller cooker. My pressure canner does it in 2-5 minutes because it’s huge and it takes quite a while for it to reach pressure.  If you are thinking of buying a pressure cooker, they can be quite safe but make sure you read the book that comes with it.

img_3052Soak the peppers: Put the peppers in a small sauce pan and add a cup or two of water.  Heat to a boil and turn off.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes.  Remember to never add salt when re-hydrating anything.

Combine all ingredients: For this stage, I had to switch to a larger pot.  It turned out that 2 pounds of beans was the max for my 5 quart pressure cooker and the rest of the ingredients wouldn’t’ fit.  I used an 8 quart stock pot.  …Or is that a sauce pot?  Eight courts is on the borderline between the two, I think.  Dump all the ingredients in the pot and simmer, including the soak water from the peppers.  The longer the ingredients are in the pot, simmering, the tastier they will be but the meal will be ready to eat, as soon as everything is hot.  Simmering too long can turn the beans to mush too.  I simmered for about 10 or so minutes.  As an alternative, you could add the salt, spices, and peppers during the pressure cook stage but not the chicken.

Enjoy.  It’s delicious

 

What I Learned From Making White Chicken Chili

 

The first thing that became apparent to me in making this recipe was to never buy a 3 pound 2 oz can of chicken for making prepper chili, unless you plan to hunker down with at least 10 people.  I had six people around my table and we ate half of the chicken chili.  Granted, we also had a greater variety of foods than you might have if it were a real SHTF event but 6 people could not have eaten that much chili in one sitting.  If you are preparing for a power down scenario, how are you going to store leftovers?  It’s best to reduce them.

img_3063Sams Club and Costco both sell 6 packs of canned chicken from 12-13oz per can.  I have a the ones from Sam’s Club.  I recommend you get chicken this way.  If you don’t want a membership at one of these warehouse clubs, I did an Amazon Search and found the Costco (Kirkland Signature) brand there, along with several others.  You can also get canned chicken from whatever grocery store you shop at.  I got the big can at the grocery store.  It may be cheaper to buy it in the big can.

There is at least one solution to keeping leftovers and that is to buy vacuum bottles and vacuum food Jars.  Then keep them hot for one a one time use later that day.  These jars and bottles can keep your food hot anywhere from 10-28+ hours, without you adding heat and spending energy.  Here is an amazon link to ones made specifically for food but you can also use ones made for img_3066beverages.  Just make sure to get a bottle brush capable of cleaning your beverage bottle and avoid pouring food through the cap.

To the left is a picture of my vacuum container collection.  Each one has a different purpose.I have two of the jars from the Amazon search results above.    One is the Stanley 24 oz food jar (front and center, in the photo).  The other is the Stanley 3 qt vacuum Crock, Left.  They are both capable of keeping food hot till your next meal but not much beyond that, due to larger lids than drink bottles.   The lids don’t have the vacuum insulation.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have the 1.4qt Stanley Classic Vaccuum Bottle, right.  I use it for tea and I don’t know if I want to put food in it.  It has a narrow mouth for beverages and a lid I would not want food in but it can keep food hot longer than a food jar.  I may get a different kind of bottle for that size.  The water bottle has a larger opening. There are so many of these vacuum bottles and containers, one could almost make a website dedicated to them.  There is also a tea brewing bottle shown and a beer cup.

*What if You Don’t Have Garden Peppers, You Dried?

 

img_3058In writing this, it occurred to me that you might not have garden peppers that you dehydrated but you may want to be able to make this recipe.  That’s why I put an Amazon link next to the peppers in the ingredients list.  That link takes you to an amazon search page, where all kinds of brands and sizes of dried bell peppers are sold.  There was one that really caught my eye though–the Augasan Farms peppers in the number 10 can.

There are two things I liked about Augasan Farms.  One is the number 10 can.  I’ve bought dehydrated foods before and repackaged them for longer term storage.  These number 10 cans are the best packaging, I’m aware of.  They beat Mylar and are going to be more reliable than a canning jar.  It says they will last up to 25 years.  The other thing I noticed about the Augasan farms peppers is that their cost per once is much cheaper than some of the others.

Because of these two things that caught my eye about Augasan farms, and because they got a good rating, though with only 12 reviews, I clicked on the link to their brand.  They have a lot of products to pick from.  I’m going to buy some and see how they are. I will stay away from the “30 day emergency Food Storage Supply Pail,” though.  As I said above, that’s just not my thing.  I prefer individual ingredients–separating grain purchases from meats and veggies.  I’m happy to see so many number 10 cans of foods to pick from, for good prices.

The Side Dishesimg_3055

 

As mentioned at the top, we had some other dishes at this event.  One was pan fried potatoes.  My parents showed up to the potluck toting a container of Harmony house Dehydrated Sliced Potatoes and a zip-lock bag of home-made beef tallow.  Preparing them was quite simple.  My dad soaked them in the frying pan, in some water.  Again, the water was not salted.  Once they were re-hydrated, he turned up the heat and fried them in the tallow.  The goal was to brown the potatoes like hash brown color.  If you have ever had powdered mash potatoes, these are much butter.  They were quite tasty.  Tallow was chosen for cooking them in because historically, that’s what potatoes have been cooked in and it’s probably the best thing.  There are lots of articles on making it, so I won’t go too deep into it, other than to say that oven tallow, does not require water to make and is therefore more shelf stable than crock-pot or stockpot tallow.

img_3054

Next up was the tuna and ramen.  My Friend Bruce showed up with Tuna.  It was a kind of premium Tuna and quite good.  It wasn’t shredded.  Instead, the tuna was one chunk in the can.  The type of tuna was Skipjack.  Bruce said it found it at Whole Foods.  This was a day about combining ingredients into something better than the sum of their parts.  I decided to cook up a packet of chicken ramen noodles and add the tuna to it, when it was done.

I cooked, then drained the noodles.  Then I added the tuna.  It turned out to be quite tasty.  One thing to appreciate about this dish was the uber simplicity of it.  It’s nice to be able to prepare something nice, like the chili above but that takes a bit of effort and meals will have to be made many times, through a SHTF event.  Being able to do something super fast and easy is important.  At the same time, it’s also important to be able to enjoy something more than just eating tuna out of a can.  Still, by having separate fish and noodles, I’m able to control the results better than if I bought something ready to heat.

Dessert

 

My Sister-in-law showed up with a chocolate cake, made from only items in her pantry.  (Featured Image)  It also had chocolate icing.  I don’t have the recipe for it.  Possibly, I could get it and make a future post.  What I really want to say about the cake though, is this.  It’s nice to know that such a delicious product could be made, from scratch, using ingredients in the pantry.  If the power was down, such a cake could be made in a dutch oven, by the way.  Imagine a grid down scenario, where the food has bee out of the stores for a month.  Those are going to be dark times and having a tasty home-made Chocolate cake, is going to really boost how you feel, for a time.  This certainly is something to think about.

Final Thoughts

 

The SHTF Potluck is a great experience we can all benefit from.  Sure it’s great and its important to practice our preps, on our own, but bringing people together accomplishes more.  When other people bring foods, you will find they have much different ideas than you do and that is a learning experience.  I never would have thought about bringing cake to an event like this but my Sister-In-Law did.  Another thing it accomplishes is it gets the people, close to you, thinking about prepping.  These are probably going to be the people you hunker down with when SHTF.  The more prepared they are, the better off you will be. Finally a SHTF potluck is great fun.  It spurs creativity and that makes it fun.  We get together for meals, all the time.  This is a little bit of an adventure.  I wish I had taken a picture of us around the table.

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