Friday Food Storage Quickie

Sharon September 19th, 2008

Ok, last week concentrated on two common starches – pasta and popcorn.  This week, we’re going to try and diversify your holdings a little bit by adding some orange vegetables and dried fruit.

Why these two?  Well they are important for a couple of reasons.  Vitamins A and C tend to be deficient in most food storage diets.  Both most orange veggies and dried fruit are sweet, and many lend themselves to lots of familiar recipes.  Also, if you have to transition rapidly to a diet primarily of grains and beans, you may find that this leads to tummy trouble – a little dried fruit to keep things moving along is not a bad idea.

 What kind of orange vegetables?  What kind of fruit?  Well, it depends on you and your family – on what you like to eat, and on what you have the ability to store.  If you live in a place where your home is routinely in the 50s or low 60s during the winter – or if you can shut off a room and keep it quite cool, you have the optimal conditions for storing winter squash, pumpkins or sweet potatoes in their natural state.  Now these take up a considerable bit of space, so storing large quantities of these can be difficult – but if you can allot the space, the tastiest, freshest and most nutritious option would be to have grown or if it is too late for that, to buy in bulk from a farmer large quantities of sweet potatoes, squash or cooking pumpkins (jack o lantern pumpkins make good animal feed, but not good pies particularly).  Many small pie pumpkins may be available at a minimal price the day or two after Halloween, if you talk to local pumpkin dealers. 

If you don’t have moderate temperature storage, but do have a root cellar or cold storage space, another option would be to buy carrots in bulk and store them in the basement (or other suitable place) in buckets of damp playground sand.  Carrots have the advantage of being delicious raw, either straight or grated into salads.  Carrots are generally quite inexpensive as well.

But what if you live in an apartment and can’t store large quantities of orange vegetables.  Well, you can either purchase or can yourself canned pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes – these are especially cheap around Halloween and Thanksgiving in most localities, and it isn’t a bad time to buy a large quantity.  These vegetables can be served more or less as is, baked or pureed with cinnamon, they can be added to biscuits and breads, make a delicious soup (I particularly like pumpkin-tomato) are good mixed into bean purees like hummus, used to flavor rice pilafs, and of course, pies.  A small amount of orange vegetable will ensure that you and your family have adequate natural sources of vitamin A.

What about the dried fruit?  Well, what kind of dried fruit does your family like?  Raisins?  Dried Cranberries?  Dried apple schnitzen?  Prunes?  And perhaps more importantly, since dried fruit isn’t cheap, is there any fruit you have abundantly that could be dried?  Right now, in my area, apples are abundant and often sold inexpensively by the bushel – and most northeastern households can dry them simply by peeling and coring and cutting the apples into rings, which are hung up and dried on strings in the house. 

Buying dried fruit in bulk is definitely cheaper than buying it in most packaged bags – and Sams Club type places sometimes have good deals.  If you can’t afford to buy local, or can’t find a local source, remember, you don’t need as much dried fruit as you do, say, dried beans – even a little helps flavor your oatmeal, provides a tasty, calorie dense snack for a child and helps with that little internal issue. 

There is one kind of fruit that I think is well worth making some effort to stock up on – dried elderberries. In some regions of the country, wild or cultivated elderberries are still on the plant and can be harvested for free.  In other places, these will have to be ordered.  But it is truly worth having some, so that you can make vitamin C rich elderberry sauces, syrups or other supplements.  As mentioned above, Vitamin C is the other nutrient that food storage is often short of.  Even dried, elderberries are incredibly dense in vitamin C.  Homemade elderberry syrup is not difficult to make (boil dried berries with a sweetener and a bit of water) and is a good treatment for various winter illnesses – but even more important, elderberries are a good regular source of C.  If not elderberries, dried rose hips are also excellent for this purpose.

Dried fruits make great pies (elderberries too!), great pancake sauces, good additions to rice pudding, oatmeal and other porridges, flavorings for cake and breads, and terrific snacks by themselves.  They open up wide the range of foods available to you if you have to rely primarily on your storage.  If you have kids, or adults with kid-like tastes for the sweet, dried fruits can be helpful in getting people adapted to their new diet.

Ok, what about non-food items?  This week, let’s check out our flashlight situation.  If you are like a lot of people, they live in a kitchen drawer with a lot of other junk in it.  Can you find them in the dark?  Do you have a flashlight at your bed?  Do the kids or other household residents have a light that can prevent an accident and make them feel secure?   

What’s the battery situation, for flashlights without cranks?  Do you have rechargeable batteries and a solar/crank battery charger?  When was the last time you checked the batteries on your flashlight?

Now is the time to go over your flashlight situation.  Generally speaking, I think most households need a few of these – a big one with a big light for dealing with a crisis in pitch dark – you don’t want to manage a broken bone or help a lamb birth, try and fix the water pump or check for a burglar with a teeny little light.  Plus, as one of my other readers pointed out, big maglight flashlights make excellent blunt objects just in case.

Then there are smaller LED flashlights that last a long time – try and have at least one headlamp, if you can – having your hands free to do other things makes a huge difference if you  have to do chores in the dark.

I also like the hand crank flashlights, especially for children.  They have the advantage of working even if you do let the batteries lapse.  Even though they aren’t environmentally sound, for the youngest kids, who may be scared of the dark, I find lightsticks to be a good alternative, and store a few.  That way toddlers and preschoolers, or children without the ability to manage a flashlight without breaking it can still have a sense of power and security and some light.  They don’t last all that long, and are a disposable item, so this isn’t a long term solution, but it does offer a short term way of handling a crisis.  Battery powered LED nightlights aren’t a terrible idea either.

Whatever you choose, have the lights, have the batteries and a way to replace/recharge them (honestly, recharge makes so much more sense that I can’t understand why anyone would choose the other alternative), and make sure you can find them easily and in the dark.  Because when you need them, you really need them.  Inexpensive flashlights are often available at Sams Club type warehouse stores and oddlots stores, and a quick trip through ebay suggests lots are available there.

If you’ve got the lights and batteries and things, now is a good time to make sure they are charged up, that everything is clean (ie, removing rust, etc…) and that things are accessible and that everyone in the household who might need to know can find them if they need to.

 Sharon

36 Responses to “Friday Food Storage Quickie”

  1. Have you got any suggestions on how to prepare dried sugar pumpkin? I grew them for the first time this year. They produced well and early, and from what I read they don’t store as well as most winter squashes. In fact, what I’ve heard is 2-3 months. Since mine ripened early during the warm weather, I assume I’m on the low side of that storage window. So we ate some and I dried some, but I’ve still got too many left to deal with. I’m thinking about making ravioli filling to freeze and use later. But I really have no idea how to make the dried pumpkin I’ve already got tasty when it’s time to eat it. Suggestions? They’d be most welcome!

    Thanks,

    Kate

  2. Karin says:

    I made pickled carrots this year. WE just opened the first jar the other day. Yummy. WE like carrot sticks at lunch so these made a nice substitute.

    We got our first frost last night so I have been scurrying to get things covered and harvested. I feel so wealthy!. I grew one whole garden plot of assorted winter squash and I have quite a haul. We don’t have a root cellar but my bathroom is on the north side of the house so makes a very root loo! My hope was to have enough squash to share with some friends that have to pay for oil heat this winter and who don’t have alot of space for a big garden.

    Thankyou for these food storage quickie. I’ve been so busy with canning that it is nice to have my attention drawn to those other aspects of the IdC challenge that have fallen by the wayside during this busy time of year.

  3. Karin says:

    P.S. An old timer told me about a wild cranberry bog nearby…craisins are in my future!

  4. Tara says:

    Craisins are my favorite! I already store a ton of those. Need to work on amassing some others, though. Hubby is flashlight-obsessed, so we’re covered on that. I adore sweet potatoes and winter squashes, but have never found a suitably cool place to keep them long term. Nights are cool here, but even in winter the days routinely get into the 60′s and even 70′s, so I’m wondering if that’s still cool enough to get by or not.

  5. Chile says:

    We grew winter squash but the variety turned out to be susceptible to squash vine borers getting in the squash itself rather than the vine. Just cooked up 5 of these puppies and have turned orange with all the squash consumption. I’d freeze it but I still have some pumpkin in there from last fall! (Got a couple recipes for winter squash on the blog, too.) The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a really tasty pumpkin leather recipe for dehydrating.

    If I can create a cold room, what is the best way to store sweet potatoes? Do they need to each have air circulation, like the pumpkins? Open on a shelf? In a paper bag? Help!

    Flashlights – check on all recommendations. With a dog that likes to pee at 3:30 am, there is always a charged flashlight in the exact same location so sleepyheads can stumble and find it.

  6. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Friday Food Storage Quickie Ok, last week concentrated on two common starches – pasta and popcorn. This week, we’re going to try and diversify your holdings a little bit by adding some orange vegetables and dried fruit. [...]

  7. I agree – do not overlook natural sources – they are free, often of better quality than store bought especially in the realm of pesticides etc), and may be available post shtf.

  8. Sarah says:

    I’m going out this weekend to pick apples and peaches that someone in town doesn’t want. I figure they may be a bit buggy and substandard, but they’ll be delicious dipped in ginger and lemon juice and dried.

    We still have a butternut squash on the bookshelf from last December. At this point, it’s slowly drying out and I’m just kind of curious to see what happens to it. I think it will become our food storage mascot :-)

  9. Cathy says:

    The price of carrots and beets – as well as dropped apples – is falling quickly in Michigan, The State DNR has prohibited any form of deer-baiting or feeding this year due to “chronic-wasting disease”.

  10. grace says:

    sarah…dipped in ginger and lemon juice and dried???? …details, please! thanks

  11. Sharon says:

    Chile, since our house is a cold room ;-) , we store our squash either loose under the bed or in boxes for the smaller ones, but with air circulation. If you do the box thing, check them regularly because one rotten one will contaminate the others. Low to mid-60s should be fine for most squash, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.

    Dried squash and pumpkin are good straight, but can be rehydrated and added to soups, stews or made into pies.

    Sharon

  12. Fern says:

    I’ve started volunteering at a local food coop – it’s on the college campus where my son is at school. One day a week I join his carpool in and back. I get ‘food credit’ for volunteering, so after I stock up on red lentils and quinoa I’m thinking of getting a full big box of dried fruit. I’d love the dried mangos, but will probably get something more affordable as well as the craisons! Next week I’ll be working on drying apples here at the house, the peaches I dried this summer are amazing chopped and added to oatmeal.

    Twice this week I checked the grape vines that contributed to my canned grape leaf supply, looking for wild grapes. Can’t find ANY this year. I wasn’t sure how to dry them, anyway, given the huge seed-to-fruit ratio they have, but I was going to give it a shot.

    Fern

  13. villabolo says:

    Concerning flashlights Maglight makes these small flashlights that are almost as powerful as the large ones with a much better quality bluish type light. They are labeled as 3 watt led and accept 2 or 3 AA batteries that can last a few nights. Don’t mistake them for feeble led flashlights! Also, they can have their heads unscrewed without affecting the light and used as a candlelight stand for the flashlight brightly illuminating a room. They go for $22 to $27 at Home Depot.

  14. Rosa says:

    If your pumpkin is dried in thin enough strips that it won’t kill your blender, it makes a great stew base – blend the pumpkin as close to powder as you can, take a jar of tomato sauce (or a pot of water and a glop of tomato paste), heat it, add pumpkin until thick, then add whatever (I like white beans, sage, onions, and rosemary) and cook until done. It makes decent pasta sauce that way, too – either sage or cinnamon flavorings.

    I should ask for another handcranked light for Christmas. We also have a hand-crank radio with the dongles to charge our cell phones – cell phones make an OK nondirected light for things like unlocking a door or finding a dropped clothespin if you’re out hanging laundry in the dark.

  15. Kati says:

    None of our squash or pumpkin (or melon) grew this summer. I’m also kinda wondering at the possibility of buying one or two from the grocery and dehydrating them. Wondering how effective this would be with yams, as well, as the cans are awfully big and bulky. WILL start with some carrots, though. But first I’ve got a bumper-crop of turnips that need to be sliced and dehydrated.

    As for dried fruit, that’s not something that grows around here. Last year, a couple of adventurous souls managed some crab-apples (REAL size, not thumb-sized) up in the hills, but I didn’t hear how the crop did this year. Guessing it was poor right on along with most other folks crops of most other crops, this year. (Cabbage did well, turnips did well, cucumbers did reasonably well, and we even got a LOT of tomatoes, even if most of them haven’t ripened. Snow is due within a week.) The kiddo and I really enjoy a piece of dehydrated pineapple or papaya now and again, so I think I’ll go ahead and buy some of this, today. Cherries and blueberries are too expensive to buy except when they go on sale. I’ve TRIED dehydrating my own cranberries, but they wound up completely drying up to nothing. (Hollow little shells of papery-thin skin with NOTHING inside.) So, maybe I’ll buy some dried cranberries as well. (Those also sell in bulk. Oh, as do apricots!) But yeah, won’t be able to preserve any fruit from locally grown stock.

    Flashlights: I’ve been thinking about ours for a while now. It seems that it’s as often an issue of them needing new lightbulbs, as it is them needing new batteries, around our place. When we’re out shopping this weekend, I’m going to look into a solar recharger. We’ve got a small stock of rechargable batteries around our house, but they’re such a nuisance to recharge, that my hubby never bothers and just replaces them with regular batteries. Would be something to look at today, though….. A small supply of lightbulbs for the maglights, at least.

  16. Tara says:

    Rosa, I’m glad you said that – I use my cell phone as a flashlight ALL the time (for minor needs only, of course). It’s not much light, but it’s enough to get you across the room in the dark.

  17. MEA says:

    I went to Wal-Mart at lunch time, trying to get a prescription for my dd filled — I’ve noticded for a while that it’s harder and harder to get Rx for unusal drugs filled — usually a day or two wait while they have it delivered.

    Anyway, I found tinned corn cheap, so brought some and while waiting to paid, the system went down, and I got a nice look at what other people were buying. Among all the junk food — and honestly most of it was people stocking up on Pringles at a dollar a can etc., there was a woman buying two large bags of poporn (2Lbs each), a large jug of veg. oil, and a box of raisins. I wondered if she’d been reading this blog.

  18. Recipe for dried fruit pie, please? Just a sketch would do… One of my kids hates raisins or anything resembling raisins, although he will eat dried apricots. Argh. He won’t even eat them plumped up and cooked in a pudding.

  19. lajanessa says:

    when thinking about natural vitamin c don’t forget the sumac berry…very easy to dry, makes a nice tea, wonderful elixir when boiled with sugar and can be added whole or powdered to baked goods…old native american recipes abound on the net…and basically free for the pickin along northern roadways and abandoned fields

  20. sgl says:

    re: flashlights
    i got about 10 simple LED flashlights for about $2.50 each, and keep them scattered around the house — nightstand, office drawer, pantry shelf, car glovebox, trunk, bug-out-bag, etc. i purchased from goldengadgets.com, which I found to have good prices, reasonable shipping charges, and good quality. I also got some headlamps from them.
    –sgl

  21. Ani says:

    Re: flashlights. I use solar flashlights- the small solar panel is built into the flashlight- I just keep them stashed on a south facing windowsill and they are good to go whenever I need them. they were pretty cheap- under $10 each.

    I do have an LED headlamp- would like to get a solar-rechargable one but they are pricey.

    RE: dried orange edibles. I like to sun-dry my tomatoes, especially the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes(little orange ones)- I slice them in half when they are ripe- and place them on cookie sheets with the skin side down.I put them in my car to dry- usually on the back window ledge but also on the back seat. They dry wonderfully- you can also do this with Principe Borghese- the real Italian sun dry tomato variety- or cut up paste types, etc- I store them in canning jars on the shelf when they are dry- are a yummy snack- and also great rehydrated. I’ve got a whole bunch of friends doing this out here now- and their friends and so on- we’re all using our cars as solar dryers!

  22. Sarah says:

    Grace — it’s about what it sounds. Just mix some lemon juice and dried or crushed fresh ginger, with some honey if you want extra sweet, and dip apple or peach rings in it before putting them in the dryer. The lemon juice helps keep them from going all brown, and the ginger adds a nice kick. :-)

  23. grace says:

    sarah…thank you. Brought home a bucket of
    apples today. Perfect.
    again, thanks,
    grace, New Mexico

  24. Chile says:

    Thanks, Sharon. I’ve had a lot of trouble with storage through the summer here but winter should be easier. I don’t think anywhere in the house is under 78 degrees in the hot months. I think I’ll try drying at least one of the last two squash picked off the vine yesterday, although I need to dry pomegranate seeds first.

    Speaking of ginger, an Asian grocery store near me sells its aging produce really cheap. I lucked out and got a couple of cups of little ginger “orphans” for 99 cents last week. They freeze very well so I wrapped each one up to freeze it. If I find a deal like that again, I’ll try dehydrating some, too.

  25. We have wild roses around here – lots and lots of them! My son has gone berry gathering for me and brought back at least 2 lbs of rose hips. I pick the ends off then boil them in a bit of water, mash them with a potato masher, and drain them through my juice strainer (from Lee Valley … wonderful gadget!). I take the juice and reheat it with some sugar, pour into a clean hot wine bottle and cork it and put it in the fridge. The syrup makes a nice flavour for water (and has loads of Vitamin C, I hear), and I figure a splash added to baking would also give flavour and add nutrition.

    And, they are free!

    I hadn’t thought of using it for tea … I could probably just heat up the juice or add it to my clover tea (we have lots of that, too) for a change of taste. I’ll have to try that. :)

  26. t says:

    goji berries are really great for you

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfberry

    http://www.bulkfoods.com/dried_fruits.asp

    they have lots of stuff there, they used to ship for free if you ordered more than 75 or 100$ not sure if they do it anymore.

    t

  27. Andrew-L says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Great post! Just wanting to check – do you mean that winter squash, pumpkins & sweet potatoes need to be stored somewhere warmer than a root store / cold room?

    Thanks!

  28. squrrl says:

    Well, it must be a power-trip to think of all the Sharon-zombies marching out to stores and fields on your advice! Hehehe. This weekend Jacob and I stocked up on more pasta and popcorn, matches, dried elderberries, and another flashlight, an LED headlamp, and more batteries. We also got several different types of winter squash to try at the farmer’s market, though we didn’t “stock up” since it’s just the beginning of the season and we’ll have plenty more opportunities when it’s cooler. I tried growing them, but it was a tragic flop. Already have a fair supply of dried fruit, and more tomatoes are in the dehydrator (plums on the counter waiting to be split) as I speak. The neighbor and I have grand plans underway for huge amounts of pumpkin leather for her farmer’s market stand, storage, and Christmas baskets–the recipe above sounds to die for.

    I’m really hoping to avoid having February see me crawl back to the grocery store for abominable vegetables from Chile this year.

    So, obviously, I LOVE the new feature.

  29. Chelee says:

    Sharon, do you or your readers have a great place to buy some of the things you mention. Solar battery chargers and solar lanterns in particular. I checked the vendor on the side bar and he doesn’t have them.

  30. We get our solar chargers & flashlights at the local hardware store – here it is Canadian Tire (so much more than tires!).

    Camping supply places often have them too, hereabouts.

    Maybe you could check some of those kinds of spots in your area? Canadian Tire has online shopping, but I don’t know if they ship across the border.

  31. Sharon says:

    Leila, I’d just soak the fruit and then add as much to your pie as you think is appropriate. You won’t need as much (or any) thickener. Does that make sense, or are you looking for a recipe for a non-rehydrated pie?

    Andrew, sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkins like warmer temperatures than root cellars – they are subject to cold injury. A cool human house temps – 55-60ish stores them very, very well.

    Chelee, I don’t have time to do a lot of price research, which is very laborious on a slow internet connection – so I don’t have a favorite source for things. Anyone else?

    Sharon

  32. Fern says:

    Andrew-L – it’s more that the squashes and sweet potatoes need it drier than a root cellar – root cellars are high humidity.

    Fern

  33. Cindy says:

    I just finished reading your book – how timely it is! Now I find your blog and will enjoy reading more of your thoughts and practical tips. I appreciate your emphasis on doing everything we can with what we have rather than focusing on buying into new technology. With that said, I did manage to purchase a solar oven this week…I just couldn’t get my homemade ones to get hot enough, consistently enough.

    Living in SW Florida means no leaving food in the ground or root cellar for me. It does mean we can grow things almost year round, though. I have done a bit of container gardening, and we’re getting ready to start seedlings and put seeds directly in our first raised bed this week. I’m new to all of this and have always had a black thumb. However, sites like this and others, along with the books I keep adding to my Self-Sufficiency bookshelf are a big help, and I have hope that my our family can make it work.

  34. Rebecca says:

    I heard that the #10 cans of dried blackberries at http://www.shelfreliance are FANTASTIC. I even found a coupon code to help us all out also–Save15. Thanks for all the great info! This blog is fantastic.

  35. clew says:

    An unexpected drawback of no car — no car food-drying!

    How much do I need to worry about pests after the squashes? I have some Blue Hubbard in the basement/garage now, but I know the neighborhood has rats.

    I love ‘root loo’.

  36. Sarah says:

    How convenient — you post about orange veggies the week our CSA gives us The Tastiest Squash in the World! :-) Seriously, I could have served these for dessert with just a little cinnamon or something on them — no sugar necessary. I will be stocking up on lots and lots of delicata squash now in addition to the carnivals and sweet dumplings. All these varieties are also useful for small households, since one of them splits neatly into two meal-sized portions if stuffed, and there isn’t a lot of waste if you don’t notice and one of them goes unsalvageable.

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