Friday, April 6, 2018

Fresh, Frozen or 'Frigerated?

When the apocalypse hits, and the power goes out, it won't just be lights you'll be missing: it'll be ice cream too. 

The brutal truth is that our modern world relies almost entirely on the miracle of refrigeration for our food storage. Dairy products, meats, fruits, vegetables and even some grains are stored frozen or just refrigerated in many a modern household. So what happens when the power goes out. 

For many folks, a power outage means a panicked trip to the local Home Depot in search of a generator. For others, they already have one. But what will you do when the power fails?

A good disaster shelter should be stocked with plenty of canned foods and maybe some often-rotate powdered ones as well. But what about a freezer?

You could stock your freezer with plenty of stuff that could last days without power. For one, modern freezers often act like coolers, keeping out heat while protecting their contents. Loaves of bread, meats, and cheeses could be stored in a freezer, stretching their lifespan out several days in emergencies. But can you really eat that much chilled chow?

Refrigerators are in every home, and most are at least partially filled when owned by families. Even if you do consume all your milk and dairy before it goes bad, don't forget that the refrigerator is, even without power, a giant breadbox. You can get several more days out of your loaves just by keeping them in these air-tight containers. 

The food product though that is going to go bad the fastest is also the one you should worry the least about: fresh food. Fresh food probably wasn't stored anywhere that required power before disaster struck. It was going to go bad regardless of any armageddon. You were going to eat it within the next few days. So why change that? 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Eggs of the Apocalypse

Eggs are a food many of us take for granted and which many of us don't know a whole lot about.

The most commonly consumed egg in America is from the chicken. Did you know that you don't need roosters to get your hens to lay eggs? That's fairly handy. 

Even handier is the fact that eggs don't need to be refrigerated. Unless you obsessively clean them, stripping away the eggs natural ability to remain salmonella-free. This is particularly handy now as it was during pioneer times, if you happen to be in an area that doesn't have electricity or refrigerators. But what do you do when disaster strikes and the power is going to be out for days or weeks?

Eggs are an excellent source of protein. While you could scramble up all the eggs you've got on day 1 of the apocalypse, a better course of action might be to ration your meager supply for a few days, eating them as needed. 

Of course, eating scrambled eggs every day, every meal (before they go bad) might not be appealing to some, no matter how much canned bacon or bacon spam you have on hand to accompany this breakfasty treat. 

Assuming you're not a fan of scrambled eggs, just how many ways are there to consume these precious spheroids of protein in the apocalypse?

1. Omelettes
Combining eggs and cheese (probably individual packets of velveeta which don't need refrigeration until opened) is an excellent treat to arm your hard-sheltered heart. Add in some meat or vegetables if you want. 

2. Scrambled Omelette
If you aren't capable of making a decent omelette, just mix up all your ingredients into what is basically scrambled eggs--but with extra bits. 

3. Overeasy, Sunnyside Up
Not my thing, but millions of people can't be too wrong. These alternatives to scrambled are enjoyed with toast--which you had better eat up quick in those first few days, before your bread all goes bad. 

4. Boiled
The least sensible way of cooking an egg in the apocalypse, boiling an egg will waste a significant amount of your potable water. But who doesn't like a boiled egg?

5. Deviled eggs
Maybe it was springtime when the apocalypse hit and now you're spending Eater below ground. To liven things up, boil your eggs, then cut them in half, Scoop out the yokes, grind them up and add mustard and Miracle Whip and a fair amount of Tobasco sauce to mix up a creamy deviled egg filling. Garnish with some paprika and you've just added a little zing to the Zombiegeddon. 

Finally, if you just can't face the idea of an apocalypse without eggs, and are worried you'll be out when you flee into the shelter, there are always powdered eggs. Significantly more expensive than regular eggs, powdered eggs keep a lot longer and can be used to make scrambled eggs, omelettes or even in recipes. While not a supermarket staple, they can be ordered online

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Just Desserts

When it comes to preparing for the apocalypse, you can't fill your shelter with just desserts. However, when times re tough, you're hunkering down while disaster whirls around outside, some dessert might just be what the doctor ordered.

What desserts can you stock for the apocalypse though? Ice cream is out--no power means no freezer. Cakes and pies are also eliminated, as even if yo're using butane or alcohol stoves to cook. baking is going to be problematic, at best.

One of the simplest treats you can enjoy during disaster is also a favorite that many folks rarely have: s'mores.

No, you can't light up a campfire in your bunker (the carbon monoxide will kill you in enclosed spaces). But you can still cook a marshmallow--you just need the right tool, or rather, torch, for the job.

Using clean-burning butane, a creme brulee torch is perfect for roasting a marshmallow--preferably on speared with a metal fork so you don't ignite anything. 

Torch S'mores

Gram Crackers
Chocolate bar


Break off a small portion of chocolate bar and place it on a graham cracker. Have a second graham cracker piece ready. 

Spear your marshmallow with a metal fork and hold it over a porcelain or metal plate, away from anything flammable. Ignite the torch, keeping the flame aimed away from you. The hottest point of the flame is at the tip--pass this slowly back and forth over the marshmallow's surface, rotating it slowly. 

When your marshmallow is cooked to your preferred level, push it down on the chocolate and use the other graham cracker to hold it in place. Slide the fork free and enjoy. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Canned for the Apocalypse

The best thing about sheltering in place during any apocaplyptic event or large-scale disaster is that you don't have to lug around a bunch of gear. Being in one place means you get to have access to ample storage space. If you've prepared adequately ahead of time, that means you should have plenty to eat. 

When choosing what foods to stock for a shelter-in-place scenario, there should only be one real consideration: what's the shelf life?

When it comes to shelf life, the absolute reigning challenge is canned food. The reason is simple--cans are not gas permeable, meaning oxygen can't get in. Canned foods can easily last 25 or more years, assuming they're stored in a cool, dry place. Moisture is a can's only real enemy, as most cans will rust. The food inside a can can survive for a very long time, provided the can isn't heated. 

When picking can foods for your shelter, you should consider several things:

1. Is the food a whole meal or a component? (soup vs vegetables)
2. Does the food in the can require cooking? (soup vs fruit)
3. Will you eat the food?
4. Does the canned food also require water to prepare? (Condensed soup)

For obvious reasons, many manufacturers produce meals-in-can; Raviolis, Chili, and Stews, to name a few. Most of these could probably be eaten at room temperature and keep you alive, but who wants to be miserable in the apocalypse? Food is, after all, one of the comforts we can provide ourselves for emergencies. 

Canned fruits, which don't require cooking, might be one of the best things to stock in addition to your heartier choices like stews or chilis. Sweet and often in a sticky juice within the can, they could prove a tasty way to start another day below ground. 

The best thing about canned foods though, other than their long shelf life, is their price. A can of chili--which could be stretched to provide a meal for two people--often costs less than $2 a can. Throw in a sleeve of crackers and maybe some parmesan cheese, and you've got a meal that costs considerably less than any MRE or freeze dried product on the market. And, unlike MREs or freeze dried goods, canned foods are only a short drive away, lining the shelves of your local grocer. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Butane Cook Stove v Alcohol

When the power's out, you're stuck inside (sheltering-in-place), and you want a warm meal, there are only a few ways to get one.

You could opt for an expensive MRE, which uses water and a heating element to cook pre-packaged meals. Or, you could opt for a Baro Cooker, which uses the same technology to cook flamelessly.

Propane and Charcoal are out, of course, due to the carbon monoxide fumes both put off--don't use these indoors.

That leaves just to real choices for Apocalyptic cooking: Butane and Alcohol stoves.

Butane Cookers are used throughout Asia in many households. They utilize cans of pressurized Butane to produce extremely low amounts of carbon monoxide in the cooking process. They are however limited to how long they can be used at a time, and how big a cooking pot or pan can be put on them--heat radiated off the bottom of over-sized cookware can overheat the butane fuel canisters stored within the stoves, possibly leading to explosions.

Otherwise, these are fantastic for indoors use, provided you have a large area with some kind of ventilation--you wouldn't want to use one in a small area, enclosed area.

Butane stoves can be found in most stores with camping supplies, along with the cans of butane. They have variable flame adjustment, suitable for boiling water, or bringing something to a low simmer. Butane stoves like the one pictured below can typically be found for under $30.00

Alcohol cook stoves are considerably more compact than their Butane counterparts and burn even cleaner--depending on the fuel you choose. While not capable of outputting the heat of a Butane stove, and not having a way to adjust the flame, they take up far less space and are cheap enough to be purchased in sets of 2 or 3 for cooking multiple dishes at once. Alcohol stoves like the one below run between $9 and $20 each.

The greatest advantage the alcohol stove has though is its variable fuel sources. It can run on wood grain alcohol, denatured alcohol, rubbing alcohol, HEET fuel additive or just about any flammable liquid (note: not all fuels are suitable for indoor use). Using wood grain alcohol is considerably more expensive than rubbing alcohol, but produces a clean-burning flame. Denatured alcohol is the most cost-effective fuel, and can be easily obtained from your local hardware or home improvement store.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The A to Zs of Apocalyptic Cooking

When disaster strikes--be it severe weather or the apocalypse--one things remains certain: you've got to eat. Chowmageddon is all about eating during disaster, not foraging for scraps or digging up buried food to rebuild with in a post-apocalyptic scenario. 

Forget those expensive MREs and freeze-dried foods, Chowmageddon is about cooking with the same foods you already have in your house, and stocking up on long-lasting supplies you can get from your local grocer. 

Check back daily for letter-themed tips as we dine in canned comfort during any disaster.

TIP #1, Apocalyptic Cooking Doesn't have to be expensive

Whether it's a horde of brain-munching zombies outside your door, radioactive dust blowing around your windows, or just an electric grid that's failed during the coldest winter, you can enjoy the same kinds of meals you had before disaster struck--assuming you weren't always eating from the drive through. 

The first thing to remember when you're stuck sheltering in place is that you already have food in your home, and it will probably have to be cooked or consumed quickly before some of it goes bad. Without power, refrigerators and freezers become really heavy coolers and depending on how well-stocked they are, may contain a bunch of stuff you're already used to eating. 

Remember that sheltering-in-place may mean staying inside for several days or even weeks, without assistance from the outside world. Keeping your house stocked doesn't have to break the bank though. And you can avoid spoilage by picking foods that can alternatively be cooked without electricity, and which may not require refrigeration. 

Chief among these foods are canned goods. Canned foods are simply the longest-lasting foods you can buy, and they won't cost you an arm and a leg or require ordering online. Your local grocer has soups, pastas, meats, fruits and vegetables aplenty, often for less than their fresh counterparts. Yes, the taste might not be the same, but even canned meat is better than no meat. 

If you regularly grocery shop, consider stocking up a few extras each trip and storing them somewhere in the house--like a basement, if you have one. 

And the best thing about canned foods is that many don't require cooking--like fruits. But if a warm meal is what you're after, don't worry. There are some really simple, inexpensive systems you can get at your local store to safely heat up a meal without going outside...

Next on Chowmageddon: Butane or Alcohol--which to cook with inside?