Putting Food By

Survival skills can range from the dramatic to the mundane. The range of scenarios they are applied in either tend to be innocuous or truly disastrous. It would behoove all of us to learn applicable survival skills and practice them regularly.



Home canning is a food storage method that does not rely on electricity, per se. Once you’ve followed proper procedure (as well as whatever particular recipe you are preparing) then you’ll have fruits, vegetables, seafood, and even meats that can be stored in your pantry. Of course, if you’ve botched up any step in the process, then you’ll probably suffer from your mistake, at least that is what the authors would have you believe. Then again, even John Hoffman wouldn’t eat from a can that had a broken seal (although, come to think of it, he was referring to cans he had dumpster dived for; that is, cans that had come from a grocery store and thus were factory sealed, instead of being home sealed).

Different food storage techniques other than canning include freezing, salting, smoking, and root-cellaring. Freezing fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meats is great if you have a large enough freezer, or perhaps one that is separate from your refrigerator (provided you have sufficient liquid capital to pay the increased electric bill). Otherwise, it might be best to just dehydrate whatever you want to put into storage.

Greene, Hertzberg, and Vaughan’s book reads more like a cookbook filled with recipes instead of just an instructional manual on how to store foods at home. It comes across like a small encyclopedia, which makes it great as a reference, but absolutely terrible if you want to read it from cover to cover (like I did). Given the lack of illustrations and pictures, the lackluster text is dryer than British humour.

The authors presuppose you already know how to procure the different foods they detail how to prepare for storage. Unfortunately, considering monetary factors relative to the value of the edible goods in question, it does beg the question as to whether canning or freezing at home is cost effective, or even possible in some types of living situations. If you are an amateur hunter or fisherman, then freezing (or maybe even canning) becomes a realistic option for you, considering the typically higher prices at the supermarket for animal flesh (particularly if you live in a subdivision, or even an apartment).

If you want to can fruits and vegetables, the only cost effective way of doing that is to either know somebody locally who is willing to sell them to you by the bushel (which is the wholesale price, as opposed to the normally higher supermarket price), or to grow them yourself. An additional problem crops up here too (pun intended), in that in the former case it would require that you are able to get a better price at a local farmer’s market (which is not possible, at least from my experience) and in the latter you would need enough land to actually grow the food itself. Provided these assumptions are true, then canning and freezing your own fruits and veggies is really only pragmatic if you live out in the country (or maybe in a subdivision if you have at least a quarter acre and are really creative on how to utilize the back yard), but if you live in an apartment, then you’re just shit out of lack at that point.

Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan’s Putting Food By is a decent reference work on various home food storage methods, but unless you live out in the country, most of this book’s contents will not help you, quite frankly. The main issue fundamentally comes down to how you will procure the food in the first place, as well as needing to invest in all the equipment you will need to acquire that are unique to canning, freezing, and all the other methods that the women go into detail about. Considering the urbanization of America, currently at 82% of the total ~ 315,000,000 people (with an annual rate of change at 1.2%), the utility of this book helping out most political dissidents is pretty marginal. Unless you are moving out into the countryside soon, this book is just a paperweight, for the most part.

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