My original plan was to sail down the west coast of the United States from Washington to Guatemala, take some Spanish lessons, then continue on to South America. I had a boat and captain lined up for the journey but the plan fell through. I had already started setting aside provisions to feed a crew of four people for over a month. I decided on a few nutrient dense foods that were available to me. I needed sustenance that would travel well and that I would enjoy (or at least eat). These foods in addition to what each other crew member brought and what we could find along the way was intended to keep us fed. I harvested and prepared all of the following except the salt.
THE HIERARCHY OF FOOD PRESERVATION
CHOOSING THE METHOD
1) Eating food fresh, harvesting it as you need it or fermenting food is optimal for health. The process of fermentation actually increases the nutritional value and bio-availability.
2) Second to this option is dehydrating foods. This is an excellent choice for travel as long as you drink plenty of water. Dehydrated foods are light weight and pack well. Dehydrating using low temperatures will retain most of the nutrition.
3) I won’t be using much refrigeration or freezing on the trip, both of which deplete food enzymes and vitality. Freezers/refrigerators emit strong electromagnetic fields, especially when the compressor comes on. Freezers/refrigerators are not very portable and are very energy intensive. There are various forms of traditional food storage that offer options for keeping food preserved. There are also strategies like having your meat stored on the hoof (meaning the animal stays alive until you are ready to eat it). This allows you to eat fresh meat without needing to store it in a freezer. Certain crops can be left in the ground or buried in mulch (insulated) until ready. From a nutritional perspective some traditional food storage methods might rank alongside dehydration, after fermentation. Most of these techniques are better for stationary living and are less useful for traveling.
4) Salting (meat) can be used, but not in excess.
5) Smoking meat can be a good option when drying is difficult due to the climate (salmon in the Pacific Northwest). Care should be taken to avoid carcinogenic methods of smoking. If smoking is used to preserve food, cold smoking is the preferred method because it retains the nutritional value well.
6) I stopped canning food because the process of canning results in significant nutrient loss, is energy intensive, and there is also the rare case of botulism. Plus, the jars are heavy and can get expensive in quantity.
7) It is prudent to relearn traditional food preservation now, so we are not unprepared when the lights go out. Chelsea Green carries my favorite book on the topic: Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivant.
If I was only going to take one food item into the wilderness it would be fat. This food offers the most value by weight. Loaded with fat soluble nutrients and by far the best source of energy for the body, fat deserves the central place in any food provisioning.
I prepared two types of fat: ghee and tallow.
The fat was heated on a low temperature with regular checking to make sure that the fat was not sticking to the pot and burning. The fat will mostly liquefy except for part of the membrane which will shrivel up and can be separated. I used a stainless steel strainer with a milk filter to filter out the particles as I poured the liquid fat into jars. You could also use fabric to filter or just the stainless strainer. Be sure to let the oil cool a little before pouring the hot liquid into jars. You don’t want to have the glass break from excess heat.
I placed milk from my dairy cows in this glass container in the refrigerator. The cream would rise to the top after a day. I would then drain off the skim milk (below the cream line) with the spout and add fresh milk each morning. I would continue this process for many days until the 2.5 gallon container was mostly cream. Yum!
I had read online that you can use a blender to turn cream into butter. It did not work for me. My problem was that the blender was heating up the cream too much and the fat was not separating. So I had to use a combination of blending, re-refrigerating and then shaking the cream in a jar to get the butter. I wish I had a real butter churn. After this I followed an online recipe for making ghee.
Making ghee and butter took a lot of work and yielded little. I do not think it is worth the trouble. I would prefer to make tallow for a cooking oil (instead of using butter/ghee) and I would rather make cheese (instead of butter/ghee) as a way to preserve milk. I get higher yields with cheese for less time and energy spent. Both ghee and hard cheeses have a long shelf life. Raw cheese retains the nutritional value but ghee is cooked, which reduces nutritional value.
I harvested fresh nettles.
Then I used a solar dehydrator to dry the nettles.
Dried nettles were placed into a blender and powdered. Powdered nettles can be mixed into meals, added to cheese, etc. They are high in minerals and other nutrients.
My bull Hank
Hank was put in the solar dehydrator too.
The butcher had a machine that would cut the beef into strips for making jerky. I just sprinkled on some salt. At the bottom of the pile in the photo is ground beef pressed into a sheet with salt, powdered nettles, powdered blood, and dehydrated cheese chunks. My ‘beef roll-up’ ration.
The blood carries nutrients throughout the body. The Massai in Africa live off of blood-milk. This stuff is nutrient dense!
Over six gallons of blood was collected from Hank during slaughter.
The blood coagulated during the slaughter in buckets. It was later jarred up and frozen until I had a stretch of sunny weather to solar dehydrate the blood.
I took the thawed (previously frozen) blood and strained it through the stainless dehydrating screens (from the solar dehydrator) over a large bowl. The coagulated blood (about half) was left on the screen. I spread it out on the screen and put it in the dehydrator to dry. The remaining liquid in the bowl was refrozen, to be made into blood-milk later.
Dried blood on screen.
Blood crumbles were placed into a blender to be powdered.
Now, get down with your inner vampire… dried blood easily mixes into meals and drinks.
Unfortunately I’ve had some inflammation lately. Apparently excess iron can lead to inflammation. Males are more prone to iron toxicity because females have higher iron needs. So I passed on my powdered blood to a friend who understands the value of such foods.
I had also planned on making several gallons of sauerkraut. But it is heavy to carry. So without the boat, I will go without the kraut.
These are cheese balls with powdered nettles that are supposed to stay preserved in olive oil up to 8 months. Despite following the recipe, the cheese was too moist and fermented in the jars. The ambient temperatures of the spring/summer were too high to prevent fermentation. So I strained the oil from the 36 quarts that I had accumulated and dehydrated the cheese instead. I used the recipe in the book The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher. Perhaps a different kind of milk or a different time of year would have resulted in success. I needed a recipe that would keep as I sailed through the tropics. I did not have the equipment or time to make hard cheese before the trip.
Whey has been used as a fermentation starter to preserve foods. I thought that I would try to make pickled eggs using whey instead of vinegar. It did not taste good, it’s better to stick with vinegar.
FINAL PROVISION HAUL
In the end I did not travel by boat and ended up taking the bus. For the first month or so I traveled with a duffel bag containing a few jars of fat and about 40#’s of jerky. Some people might just choose to buy food in the store or at restaurants. Not me. I’ll haul my provisions around. You can’t trust food in the store these days, even if labeled “organic.” Mama always taught me to avoid eating things from strangers. Here’s a motto to live by: If you don’t know where it was grown, don’t stick it in your mouth.