There will always be times during a year when food is in abundance. But, the most important thing, as preppers, is to know how to preserve that food for survival when times are hard.
Learning the basic survival skill of preserving food goes back to our ancestors - in fact we would probably not even be here now if it wasnt for the techniques they had to learn for their own long term survival.
Preserving food, in order that you can eat it later with no ill effects, is definitely a survival skill that all preppers should know.
Most, if not all, foods can be preserved in some way or another - at this very moment you are preserving your food at home by putting it in the fridge, for short term, and in the freezer for a much longer term.
But in a survival situation you probably won't have the luxury of either.
General Preserving methods.
- Bottling - fruits & vegetables
- Dehydrating & Vacuum Sealing - fruits & vegetables
- Drying (meat) and in hot/humid countries, vegetables too.
In a survival situation where you would have none of the normal luxuries that are found in the kitchen, both bottling and dehydrating become a difficult procedure - they can be done, but not easily.
So I will be concentrating on preserving meat for survival as this is a basic survival skill we should all have.
Firstly a word of advice:
Meat and fish require special care - although not difficult - you must be very aware of the possible dangers that lurk in animals and fish.
Both carry large amounts of micro-organisms, parasites and viruses that just hang around in their guts.
This is ok when alive, but as soon as the blood stops flowing, the immune and natural protection system of the animal also stops working and everything will start to decay quite quickly.
In order to 'save' the meat it is important to remove the guts as soon as you can - in fact, immediately, straight after it has been killed is ideal.
In the world of hunting this is know as 'field dressing' and is an essential survival skill of all hunters and fishermen who intend to eat their catch.
Dried Meat is also more commonly known throughout the world as Jerky, although it is not a hugely popular food in the UK or widely available here in the UK, but it is still quite well known and available if you know where to look.
Dried meat for personal use was the forerunner of the more commercially produced Smoked Meat, and not so long ago it was a common sight to see a smoke house in many towns.
Dried Meat is probably the most used method of preserving meat in the wild, and, as in all survival situations, we find we can absolutely ignore what is currently the biggest pain in our lives here in the UK - the Health & Safety nutters who have become the biggest kill joys known to man - that being the case dried meat in a survival situation goes against most of the H&S, Food Handling and Safety regulations we are normally shackled to..... and about bloody time, that's my personal opinion on that.!
Our forefathers dried and smoked all the meat they caught from their hunting and trapping in order to survive and you need to know this survival skill as well.
Procedure for preserving meat using the Drying Method - known as Jerky Meat.
- Preparation - Both meat and fish will make jerky, however, red meat is the ideal choice - but food is food and any mammal or fish will do, along with birds, reptiles or domesticated animals (cats or dogs)
- To add some flavour to your jerky some spices are nice. eg: sugar, salt, spice. But not absolutely necessary and especially in survival.
- You should start by cutting the meat into strips about 5mm thick (1/4") - cut off any visible fat tissue - When you cut the meat, be sure to go against the grain. The grain, in meat, is made up up strands of muscle that will run along the meat, all in the same direction. Cut at 90deg to these strands. Generally, meat cut along the strands turns out quite a lot tougher than meat cut across it.
- Now is the time to add any flavours to the meat - if you have any salt or pepper or even some spices, you can rub them into the meat - salt is the number one ingredient to add if you can, as salt has preservative properties of its own and will help reduce bacteria considerably. You can produce your own salt quite easily straight from sea water, although it is quite a slow process.
- The most essential part to a really tasty jerky is the flavouring and marinate that the meat is coated in during the drying process - we may not have the luxury of spices and flavouring in a survival situation - so make your jerky from this perspective and then try to improve on it - remember this is preserving food for survival, not a restaurant taste test.....
- Next is the drying process - the key word here is 'drying'... make sure it is in a dry enough area to prevent any moisture from making the meat become damp.
- Heat is not required to dehydrate the meat, it is humidity that dries the meat out. Sunlight will help dry the meat but, don't leave it out in the open if the air is moist or raining, especially at night, as the temperature will drop and the morning dew will coat the meat with moisture - exactly what you are trying to get rid of.
- The drying (dehydration) process reduces the water content of the meat and thus preserves the meat as bacteria need water (moisture) to survive.
- Drying can present its own problems as you have 'raw' meat just hanging around which will attract animals into your camp - be aware of this and ensure its in a safe animal proof area away from the your main camp. Once an animal knows theres a food source they will come back again and again to check things out and you definitely do not want them just wondering in uninvited.!
- To dry the meat requires a drying rack of some sorts - this can be as simple as an improvised rack made from a few sticks, to a series of racks within an enclosed water proof shelter, but the meat must be left to dry naturally - sometimes this will take a day, quite often it will be several days, during which time you should turn it over a few times - but the whole idea is to dry the meat out until it becomes slightly brittle and it will turn a brown and purple colour (like a bruise)
- Different meats dry different colours - a white meat animal will dry to more of a pinkish, greyish colour.
- Take some jerky from your drying rack and test it by bending it - if the meat strip of jerky bends easily or feels juicy - then it is not ready for eating and needs more drying time. It is only when the fibres begin to tear and stretch apart that he meat is nearly dried out and ready to eat.
- One of the key elements to drying the meat properly is air flow - do not use a sealed box - airflow, warmth and humidity will dry the meat at a constant rate - do not overheat - if the warmth is coming from an open fire be very careful not to start cooking the meat.
- Keep an eye on your jerky - if there is insufficient air flow, it is very possible you will see some mould growing - this is the bacteria on the surface and should be just wiped off - you may even see a few worms, again dispose of these.
- The meat will be ready to eat after a few days if prepared as above - and will last for, at least, a few weeks in normal conditions and can last months in very hot conditions.
- Keep the meat in the same stored conditions and only remove when ready for eating.
- What you have now is, in fact, dehydrated meat that becomes tasty and regains its natural form once your start to chew and it and it gets moisture from your mouth.
- Cooking the Jerky - some people will eat the jerky straight from the dryer.. I personally don't do this - instead I like to simply toast the jerky over the fire - it will regain its flavours and taste and makes a delicious snack as well.
- You can also use it to make soups by grinding up into small pieces and adding to water and boiling.
This method of preserving food for survival has been in use from early man and is an age old survival skill that, as preppers, is well worth learning and practicing - it really doesn't take much effort too.
Why not try it at home with a few strips of meat and see what you can produce - one thing I can assure you, it will taste good and fresh and far better than shop bought.
Making Meat Jerky at home:
It will certainly help give you the basics of producing your own from scratch. The good part is, everything is controllable, so any changes you make to your 'special' recipe are easily monitored.
Having the basic skills to produce consistent meat jerky at home will definitely help when it comes to doing the same in the wild.
I find that I can practice with different marinades - going from a very plain jerky, with next to no ingredients right up to my 'secret' recipes which involve leaving the meat to soak in a plastic bag over night.
These jerky dryers work very well and produce excellent quality food that will stay edible for several week and more.
The dryer shown here is Bella Casa Jerky Dehydrator / Dryer and costs around the £45 mark all in.