“There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.
“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”
So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…”
This weekend, I had the opportunity to learn and share ideas with people that are interested in sharing their corn. If you were to drive down my street on Saturday, you would wonder who was having a wedding! My entire road was filled with cars from sun up until well after sundown…and all the people were at my house!
I hosted an emergency preparedness meeting for about 65 people and it was an amazing day. We started at 8 am sharp and the last people finished cleaning up and headed out at11:30 pm. We talked about everything from seed saving to making a quarantine room, handcarts to medical kits.
Practice Makes More Perfect
I need a couple of days to process all I learned and then we are going to start practicing some of the skills. That is the key to all of this. We put up our canvas tent over Fall Break and the rainstorm hit. I thought it was a rain tight tent, but boy was I wrong! The seams were leaking like crazy. So I researched and bought seam sealer to use to seal them up. I wouldn’t have known to do that if we hadn’t practiced. Pick something small that you want to learn, then practice it.
I taught two classes at the meeting this weekend- Food Preservation without Electricity and Cooking without Electricity. These are things I’ve been practicing all summer! I always love talking about this, and learn more every time I teach. So, I’m going to share some of my seed corn with you today! The rest of this post is info about Cooking without Electricity, and I’ll share the info about Food Preservation next week. If you would like my full handouts now, email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Even if you don’t need this information now, print it off and stash it somewhere in case you do someday.)
Dr. Michelle Jorgensen
Cooking Without Electricity
For economic reasons, emergency food supplies are often built around large quantities of low-cost grain products that can tolerate long-term storage. These are items such as beans, oatmeal, pasta, lentils, split peas, wheat, and rice–all of which must be cooked. If you are in a long term emergency, your only two sources of heat for cooking will be a wood fire and the sun.
- Dutch Oven cooking with wood
- Requires a lot of wood as there will need to be a sufficient amount of coals to fuel the entire cooking process.
- The best type of woods for cooking are hardwoods such as hickory, oak, mesquite and hard maple, pecan, walnut. Soft woods such as pine, poplar, and cottonwood don’t make good coals for Dutch oven cooking because they burn hot for a short period of time, and then burn out quickly.
- Start the hardwood fire at least 45 minutes before you need to start cooking. Only coals will adequately provide enough heat for the cooking process. If there are still unburned portions of wood, there won’t be enough heat.
- You will need enough coals to cover the top of the oven as well as the bottom. Put about twice as many coals on the lid of the Dutch oven as you put on the bottom of the oven. It is best to arrange them in a ring around the outside edges of the pot. Then cover the top with a layer of dirt. This is a trick to help the coals last longer and to retain heat
- Check your pot about every fifteen minutes to determine the doneness of the food. After checking the food, move the lid a quarter turn one direction and the pot a quarter turn in the opposite direction to avoid hot spots.
- Wood coals do not burn as long as charcoal briquettes so they must be replenished often.
- When your food is done, you’ll have to remove the dirt and coals while keeping the lid on. You don’t want a dirty meal.
- Solar Cooking
- Most solar cookers work on basic principles: sunlight is converted to heat energy that is retained for cooking.
- Dark surfaces get very hot in sunlight, whereas light surfaces don’t. Food cooks best in dark, shallow, thin metal pots with dark, tight-fitting lids to hold in heat and moisture.
- A transparent heat trap around the dark pot lets in sunlight, but keeps in the heat. This is a clear, heat-resistant plastic bag or large inverted glass bowl (in panel cookers) or an insulated box with a glass or plastic window (in box cookers).
- One or more shiny surfaces reflect extra sunlight onto the pot, increasing its heat potential.
- Wonder Oven Insulation Cooker
- A hay box, straw box, fireless cooker, insulation cooker, wonder oven or retained-heat cooker is a cooker that utilizes the heat of the food being cooked to complete the cooking process. Needs to stay at 160 degrees.
- Can make your own Wonder Oven or make an improvised one with a cooler. Place a blanket in the bottom of an insulated cooler, food on top, then a pillow over it all. Close the lid and don’t peek!
- Food items to be cooked are heated to boiling point, and then insulated. Over a period of time, the food items cook by the heat captured in the insulated container. Generally, it takes three times the normal cooking time to cook food in a hay box.
- Heat is retained best using thin-metaled pots. Also, along with the pot, you need a tight fitting lid. Most recipes call for somewhere in the range of 10 minutes of cooking time before it’s put into the Wonder Oven . Always remember, during this time, to heat the lid along with the pot.
- Use the closest sized pot for the amount of food being cooked, aiming to keep the amount of empty air space inside the pot to a minimum. Empty air space within a cooking pot kills temperature.
- Can be used to cook food, keep food warm, keep food cold or even keep food frozen.
- When cooking anything like a roast or a whole chicken, make sure that there is liquid covering the meat and everything is brought to a boil. Both the liquid and the meat should reach the same temperature. Meat must be covered with liquid
Retained Heat Cooking Times – Approximate Food Simmering Time Wonder Box Time White Rice 5 Minutes 1-2 Hours Brown rice 10-15 Minutes 2 Hours Potatoes 5-10 Minutes 1-2 Hours Beans, Soaked 10-15 Minutes 3-4 Hours Meat Roast 20-30 Minutes 3-5 Hours Steamed Bread 10 min 2 hours Whole Chicken 20 min 5-6 hours Oatmeal 10 min 1 hour/overnight
- Outdoor fire cooking
- You don’t want to cook over an open flame. The heat is not consistent and there’s a higher chance of burning the outside of your food before the inside is cooked thoroughly. The goal then is to get the firewood to burn down into white hot coals. The coals provide a heat as hot as or even hotter than the fire, but one that is much more even and consistent.
- To isolate the coals, move the larger pieces of wood aside and use a long handled spoon or shovel to rake the coals where you want them. Create the fire on one side and leave room for the coals on the other. The reason for this is that it’s nice to have a dedicated area just for cooking, and the other side is for creating hot coals and provides warmth.
- You can cook directly on the coals or use a campfire grill. Directly on the coals is best for vegetables, particularly root vegetables, or when using a Dutch oven, or for foil dinner packet.
- An important step is to turn your food every 15-20 minutes so it cooks evenly.
- Wood Stove
- Cooking with a wood stove requires some forethought. You don’t just turn on a burner. The fire needs to be started ahead of time, allowing the stove to heat up.
- For frying, boiling, or canning foods, you will need a hotter stove. For simmering soup or chili, reheating leftovers, or slow cooking foods, the fire will should burn at a low, steady, heat for a long period of time.
- Wood needs to be added and you have to pay attention to keep proper heat levels and make sure your food doesn’t burn. The hottest place on the stove is in the middle next to the stove pipe. Close the damper to slow the burn of the fire and lower the temperature of the stove.
- You can cook in the firebox if you have a roaring fire. Only use covered cast iron in the firebox.
- Earth Oven
- The earth oven cooking technique involves little more than the slow, even release of heat from fire-scorched rocks, or coals within a sealed (underground) enclosure to cook food.
- Food prepared by this method are cooked slowly and evenly, and — as a result — the food’s natural juices and flavors are sealed in rather than driven out. And there is no danger of the food burning.
Constructing an earth oven:
- Select an area free of dry brush and other fire hazards, and dig a hole measuring 2 feet wide by 3 feet long by 1 foot deep. It should be 3 times the size of the food you want to prepare. Try to keep the pit’s walls fairly vertical, and pile the excavated dirt as near the hole as possible without allowing it to fall back in. (You’ll need the dirt later.)
- Next, line both the pit’s bottom and sides with fairly flat rocks… (Round stones can be used if necessary . . . the only problem is that they take up more room in the pit than flat ones do.) Whatever you do, don’t use stones from a stream bed. The moisture inside causes them to explode when heated.
- After you’ve completely covered the floor and walls of your pit, build a small fire to heat the rocks. Cover the entire length and width of the pit, and keep the flames relatively small. Use hardwood twigs and branches if at all possible. They’ll produce the best bed of coals and will burn the hottest and longest.
- Have the fire burn about 45 minutes before allowing it to die down.
- Move the coals to one side or scoop out.
- If you are cooking in a cast iron pot, you can place that right on the stones. If not, line the floor with something insulating – grass, large edible leaves, etc. Make a thick layer.
- Place food on top and cover with another layer of insulator.
- Sprinkle 1 C water over everything. Cover with a layer of bark or plywood or cowhide. Put 4 inches of dirt over everything and leave for 3 hours
- Remove the covering and you’re ready to eat!
- Cob Oven
- A Cob Oven is an oven which cooks from retained heat (fueled by small kindling) and is made from a mixture of local mud, and straw. The foundation is composed of local, recycled, & salvaged materials. It is heated by lighting a fire inside, the fire warms up a thick clay oven wall, and the clay wall remains warm for hours after the fire is pulled out.
- Cooks with all 3 heating methods: convection, conduction, and radiant heat, thus, cooking your food quicker and more thoroughly.
- Light a small fire in the opening of the oven. Once lit, the fire should be stoked and fed, and little by little pushed to the back of the oven.
- The fire must be going for at least 1 hr. to get the oven up to proper cooking temperature
- The fire can remain burning in the back while pizzas are cooked directly on the brick hearth.
Constructing a cob oven:
- Construct a solid, fire-proof foundation or platform at a height that will be comfortable to work at.
- Cover it with a thin layer of mason’s sand. Stack high-density firebricks tightly over the sand to cover the entire floor of the oven.
- Cover the brick with several layers of old newspaper to provide an even surface to build the oven form. Pile damp sand over the newspaper and sculpt to the desired shape of the oven’s interior. Plan for the opening of the oven to be about 60% of the interior height. Pack the sand tightly and cover the finished form with a few layers of damp newspaper.
- Cover with the first layer of a sand and clay mixture. Combine two parts sand to one part clay with just enough water to form a thick paste consistency. Begin covering the newspaper and sand form with this mixture until a depth of 3 to 5 inches has been achieved. Make sure to leave an opening for the door.
- Without waiting for the first layer to dry, mix up a batch of cob using the same ratio of sand, clay, and water but add as much chopped straw as possible while keeping the mixture pliable. Once the cob is thoroughly mixed, add a second coat to the oven until you’ve achieved a second layer the same depth as the first. Allow the oven to dry out completely before adding the final coat.
- Make the final coat with very fine clay and sand, and wet fresh cow manure as a binder.
- Rocket Stove
- A can-type stove with a combustion chamber (where your fuel is burned) which allows for maximum temperature to be sent up through a vertical insulated chimney. It burns very little fuel, wastes very little heat and gives off very few emissions.
Constructing a simple Rocket Stove: (from prepared-housewives.com)
- SUPPLIES: #10 CAN W/ LID , 2 LARGE 28oz CANS, EXTRA CAN , INSULATION, TIN SNIPs, HEAVY-DUTY GLOVES, MARKER, WIRE HANGER , HIGH HEAT SPRAY PAINT
- Trace a circle the size of the 28 oz can on the side of the #10 can. Cut it out with tin snips. Make sure the can fits through.
- Set the second 28 oz can inside the #10 can and trace and cut a circle that lines up with the circle cut in the #10 can.
- Cut the bottom off the first 28 oz can and cut down 1 1.2 inches to make tabs along the top edge. Insert through both cans and fold the tabs over to lock the can in place.
- Cut a circle the size of the 28 oz can in the center of the lid for the #10 can.
- Cut tabs in the top of the #10 can – 12 tabs. 8 smaller and 4 larger spaced evenly. Fill the space between the large and small inner can with an insulating material. Fold down 4 small tabs.
- Place the cut lid with a hole in the center over folded tabs, then fold down four more small tabs to hold it in place.
- Will now have four larger tabs standing up from rim.
- Cut a t shaped piece from the last small can. Cut a 1 inch slit in the horizontal small can opening on either side. Flatten the t shaped piece out and slide it into the slits in the can to form a shelf for the wood to sit on.
- Attach the hanger as a handle with two holes through two of the large tabs at the top. Spray with paint if desired.
Cooking with the rocket stove:
- Feed small pieces of wood into the feeder spot in the front of the stove. Make sure you allow air below the wood. Light through the top opening.
- Continue feeding the wood in through the feeder channel as needed to cook.
- Place the cooking pot on top of the stove.
This information is not meant as medical advice. It is provided solely for education. Our practice would be pleased to discuss your unique circumstances and needs as they relate to these topics.