All across the country this spring, there have been storms taking out power (and, of course far worse). My cousin in Alabama was affected earlier this year. Thankfully she is ok, and was able to drive to Nashville to stay with family for a few days until the power came back on. This makes me think a lot about disaster preparedness, and I know I’m not the only one. Sharon Astyk and Greenpa both commented on the CDC’s article about the impending zombie apocalypse last week. Northwest Edible Life asked about balancing energy consumption and preparedness (which gave rise to this post for me).
We aren’t really in a great place yet as far as being prepared for a natural disaster. We’re pretty good about preserving food in the summer, enough to get us through the winter, but really nothing long term. While we’ve been living without a fridge now for the last four weeks, I know we couldn’t hack it without our freezer. The ice to keep everything from spoiling is pretty crucial. We keep the majority of our preserved food in there as well. Without power, we’d be coming up short pretty quickly, especially in the summer time with regards to our meat.
Happily, here in Colorado, the most likely time for a prolonged power outage would be the winter, and that in it of itself mitigates some of the potential damage to the freezer-stored food. In the case of a power outage that was not during the cold or not soon to be resolved, I really think this is a place where community can help. Our neighbor, for example, has a couple of generators. But he is a bachelor and has no food stock piled what-so-ever (I’m pretty sure he buys food everyday for each meal). So we could really come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, wherein, his generators help keep our food from spoiling, and we feed him. Of course, generators are only temporary as well, and in the event of something extending past that, we’re pretty much screwed.
We could definitely dehydrate, but only if we do it ahead of time, as both our food dehydrator and oven are electric and power company dependent. While we could prepare a lot of herbs and some veggies this way ahead of time, I’m not a huge fan of jerky. So that still leaves most of our meat vulnerable. We don’t have a pressure-canner either, and a boiling water bath is not enough to safely preserve meats.
One meat preservation option we’ve considered is the possibility of smoking meats. We’ve been on the hunt for an oak barrel that we can use to make a smoker in our yard, as I saw done at the local living history museum last summer. We watched them smoke two chickens in a barrel over bricks dug in the ground. It was super cool and we’ve been wanting to do it ever since. This could even be done in the winter, in an emergent situation, provided you already had the hole for the bricks dug.
This reminds me a lot of Little House in the Big Woods. I love how detailed the descriptions Laura gives for how the Ingalls family preserves meats for the winter. Smoking venison and hams, freezing sausages, and putting up salted pork in the attic. This always makes me wonder what exactly salted pork is and how it tastes, and what the process is.
So I’d like to know what systems others have in place? Are you prepared for a disaster, whether a short term one, like a weather related power outage, or a long term one, like peak oil or zombie apocalypse? How are you preserving meat for long term storage? Are you building community food systems, so that in the event of a disaster you have resources other than your own to draw from? Is it practical to store meat in the summer time? (The Ingalls family did not, all their meat storage was just for the winter.) How else, besides freezing, are you storing food – canning, root cellars, dehydrating, salting, smoking???? Do you have recipes to share?