This week’s installment of Pantry Principles is going to focus on one of my favorite resources for food staples specifically packaged for the long haul – www.EmergencyEssentials.com*. Why do I recommend Emergency Essentials over other online/real life purveyors? Without spurning any other vendor, I’ve been shopping with EE for a decade. I trust them; when I have questions I can use their site for help in the middle of the night, or call them during the day. I’ve always been taken care of by knowledgeable staff. Decent customer service is hard to find nowadays, and these guys have it down.
There are a lot of good reasons to maintain emergency-situation-oriented food supplies in your pantry. Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we can all agree that unexpected, prolonged unemployment is a possibility for anyone in today's economy. During or after natural disasters, utilities (and even trucking) may be interrupted, and Y2K showed that sometimes panic can empty grocery store shelves with no warning. If that's not enough to compel you, remember that we are merely a few gene-splices away from a zombie apocalypse.
The vast majority of my pantry consists of items I use all the time – stuffing, stock, etc. I restock as it goes on sale at the local mega-mart; not only is it in user-friendly portions, it’s way cheaper to use manufacturer-coupon/store-sale power-combos to stock up than it is to pay a premium for large quantities that are specially packaged maintain their nutrients and edibility after 25 years on your pantry shelf.
Now, perhaps you’re asking yourself why only a small portion of my pantry contains the long-lived staples I mention below if I find them so gosh-darn tasty and useful. There are two very simple explanations. Firstly, fresh food is always going to taste better, especially if it’s in season and local. But secondly (and most compellingly) is that this stuff is expensive. In an emergency situation, I not only will be thankful for the variety and nutrition offered by these cans of dehydrated/freeze-dried foods, I don’t have to care about the fact that I paid ~$16/lb 3 years ago for those sausage crumbles (since money-as-we-know-it will probably fail to resonnate with our zombie overlords). Until then, as long as I am able to get fresh bulk sausage for $2.50/lb, using up my emergency rations just seems like a waste.
With all that being said, there are some things that I just couldn’t live without in my pantry, and Emergency Essentials is my favorite place to go for most of it (Costco comes into play in a few areas, but I’ll get to that).
*One of these days I’ll get around to posting a Disclosures Statement, but until then just know that unless I specifically state that I got paid a butt-load of $$$ to back something, whatever it is that I’m fawning over is truly adored by me. And I’ll usually mention how I came to find out about it, any which way, so there’s that. I googled into Emergency Essentials years ago when I first started building my home pantry way back when, and this is a totally unsolicited plug.
UBER MOST IMPORTANT PANTRY STAPLE
Creamy Soup Base
If they ever stopped making this, and I never figured out how to make my own, I would cry for days. via Emergency Essentials
For those who have my cookbook already, Fat Girl Food, you know how much I love this stuff. It is so easy – simply throw in ¼ cup of this powder per 1 cup of liquid that you want to tighten, simmer for 12 minutes, and BAM! Insta-sauce. I use it in so many things that I’m not going to bother listing them – suffice it to say that you should shell out the $16 and get yourself a can. If you use it as often as I do (doubtful), it’ll last you 3 months, easy.
IMPORTANT PANTRY STAPLES
Sure, sure, tuna is grand, but how much of the stuff can you eat before you turn into a cat? Exactly. Emergency Essentials has a whole line of freeze-dried meats and every one I’ve tried is really good (which is amazing for soak-and-eat food in general, and especially so of meats, which can get a limp/paste-y texture thing going ::shudders::). My favorite is their Sausage Crumbles.
Notice that this is ACTUAL meat, not Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP is evil-vegetarian* code for ‘dehydrated tofu’. Yeah, I’m on to your sneaky ways…) via Emergency Essentials
Fat Girl note – use as little hot water as possible to rehydrate the meat and be sure to add the soaking water into whatever you’re cooking if at all possible; doing so really punches up the sausage-y flavor. Alternately, sprinkle a handful of these crumbles onto your salad straight out of the can – no soaking necessary. They add a meaty-couton-iness that gives pretty much any salad a leg up.
*as opposed to awesome-vegetarians, to whom they bear no relation.
Shelf-Stable Dairy Products
I know, you’re probably thinking powdered milk (and you should), but there’s so much more available out there. Any of you who know me, either in real life or via my blog/cookbook, know that butter and I share a special bond. Is it any wonder that my pantry houses a reasonable supply of Butter Powder?
To be totally honest, I haven’t cracked my can of this. Mostly due to lack of time, but a fair chunk of me fears the results…you know what, no. I can’t post this as a staple without having tried it, I just can’t ::heads to kitchen:: via Emergency Essentials
Just whipped up a batch of butter powder and spread it on a cracker to taste-test (all the breads in the house are flavorful, and we wanted to really be able to taste it). Does it taste like butter? Surprisingly, yes, yes it does. The texture is slightly off, more like a very soft, buttery jelly (?) or a roux made with some finely milled, completely flavorless flour. But both Fat Hubby and I agreed that, if we had to choose between no butter and butter powder, we would definitely go with butter powder. Aside from the texture, I think it tastes more buttery than butter, which is totally a good thing. I also think it would taste really, REALLY good in baked goods, but I’m sure that’s an adventure for another post.
I love one thing almost as much as butter – cheese. EE’s got me covered here, too, with their line of freeze dried shredded cheeses.
I like the sharp cheddar, because its intense flavor makes a little go a long way. via Emergency Essentials
And the best part? After rehydrating and shaking off any excess water (I use my salad spinner), it really melts!!! ::boggles::
I get my wheat in 45lb pails from Costco because they run a little cheaper than EE and I don’t have to pay to have them shipped. I also get my whole powdered eggs from Costco for the same reason.
I buy whole wheat berries (because they store the best over decades) and have a hand-cranked grain mill for flour making as needed. Milling flour breaks the tough shell and exposes the tender squishy inside bits of the wheat berry to the elements, which is why flour only keeps for about a year under the best of conditions.
I’ve gone to church functions and opened/milled/eaten 30-year-old wheat – there is literally no flavor difference; even people in lab coats say that 99%* of the nutrients are still there, too. Powdered whole eggs have a recommended shelf life of 3-5 years (so, long-but-not-as-long-as-wheat-berries), but I’ve used 12-year-old egg powder with no noticeable differences (though I have no idea what nutritionists have to say about it).
*totally made up number because I didn’t feel like researching it. If you feel the urge to google it though, feel free to comment and add the link.
For those who minutely analyzed my big pantry shelving breakdown from last week, you may have noticed that I have hermetically-sealed garden seeds stored. I also have some veggie-based essentials stored to tide me over (in an emergency situation) until I can start harvesting my first crops. Admittedly, if that first post-apocalyptic harvest goes poorly, I’m pretty screwed. I should probably fix that. Hrm. ::mental note - convince/wheedle Fat Hubby to let me order more cans::
Behold, a dehydrated version of the beloved mirepoix. via Emergency Essentials
Originally a French term that has been totally subsumed by its standardized culinary meaning, a mirepoix is 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot to 1 part celery. It’s used in everything from soups & sauces to braises & stews.
If you cook at all and are planning to build any kind of emergency food storage, I’d make stocking water, wheat, eggs, these 3 veggies, salt, oil, and honey my first objectives, since on their own they will sustain life. I'd add Creamy Soup Base, Sausage Crumbles, Butter Powder, and Cheese to your emergency supplies as quickly as possible, since they will make life yummier and help sustain your sanity.
Next week, I'm going to be addressing how to cook this stuff with no working utilities - for those of you who are now suddenly, akwardly aware of how screwed you'd be if there was no water, gas, or electricity.