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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Adding the "Comfort" To Comfort Foods

A good deal of emergency prep foods leave a lot to be desired. While they meet their goal of providing for our basic nutritional needs in a disaster, they can sometimes be a bit difficult to enjoy.

This is most easily remedied by ensuring an adequate amount of spices and dried herbs are also stored. The obvious salt, pepper and sugar should be augmented with things like oregano, chile powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, dried mustard, dehydrated onions and garlic (both chopped and powder forms), thyme, fennel seed and sage. All of these can be purchased very affordably from the bulk foods section of most grocery stores and either vacuum sealed or placed in food grade containers.

For short-term emergencies, these will be adequate. But, if a disaster situation persists, being able to prepare meals with a bit more "comfort" will go a long way in helping your and your family.

Sauces and gravies to the rescue!

For some reason, sauces and gravies have an aura of mystery to them. We've become so conditioned to buying our sauces in a jar that the skill of making them has all but disappeared. The one exception to this rule seems to be tomato sauce. It seems that everyone has a recipe for that!

But you can only take so much food smothered in tomatoes before you start getting the itch for something different. Here are two very basic recipes that can be tweeked dozens of way to keep a bit of variety in your life.

Basic Gravy

2 Tablespoons fat or oil
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup liquid
1 teaspoon bullion

Makes one cup of gravy

In a sauce pan, heat the oil, adding the flour slowly while stirring. You want to cook the flour enough to lose the "raw flour" taste. You are making what is called a roux ("rooo"). This is what ultimately gives the gravy its thickness.

The longer you cook the roux, the more flavorful will be the gravy. If you're making gravy for beef or pork, this is a good thing. It might not be appropriate for a light gravy meant to be used with chicken or fish.

Once you have the roux ready, add the liquid fairly rapidly while stirring. It may clump a bit while you're adding the liquid - don't worry. Keep adding the liquid and keep stirring. Add the bullion if the liquid you added has no distinct flavor or salt - like water or milk.

You want to bring the mix to a boil. You'll notice that it is now nice and thick. If you want it thicker, cook a little longer. Add more liquid for a thinner gravy. Also, as the gravy cools, it will also thicken a bit, so your final product should be a bit thinner than you want the final product to be.

That's it! Use milk for a cream gravy. Add cooked sausage for sausage gravy. Add the drippings from your roasted pork, chicken, beef or turkey. Separate the fat from the liquid and use both of them in your gravy. Add whatever spices you have to match the meal. Use fish stock for a sauce for baked fish.  Sauteed mushrooms. Chopped onions or garlic.  Add some grated cheese for a cheese sauce.  Use what you've got.

If you double or triple the liquid but use the same amount of fat and flour, you can make your sauce into a creamed soup!  It allows you to stretch your fresh veggies and meat while still giving everyone enough to eat.


Mayo? Are you nuts?! That's only available in nice little blue and white jars!

You can very easily make the BEST mayo you've ever eaten.

I find that when I home-can meat, regardless of the technique I use (hot or cold pack), the resulting meat is very dry. Even though it's sitting in its own juices, the fats and moisture have been cooked out of the meat itself, resulting in a dry, canned tuna-like texture.

If the flaked meat is added to stews, barley or rice dishes, it can be quite good. Or you can smother it in gravy.  But in almost any other form, it is just too dry to enjoy. Ya gotta have mayo!

1 whole egg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt (add more to taste if necessary)

Makes one cup

Get out the blender you use to make your Margaritas. Put in all of the ingredients except for the oil. Turn the blender on medium-low. Slowly drizzle the oil into the blender. After a very short while, the mix will start to come together (emulsify). I find that after adding about 3/4 of the oil, the mayo becomes too thick to continue sucking down the oil. Turn off the blender, stir everything up with a spoon, turn the blender back on and add a bit more oil. Repeat as necessary.

You can make this without the blender, but it's much more difficult.  You will need a whisk and most likely, another person.  You have to continually whip the mixture.  The "burn" in your arms will hit very soon, so you want to have one person drizzle the oil, and one to whip.  Swap jobs when needed.

Oh, and I've made this with freeze-dried eggs.  If someone has issues with eating raw eggs, this might be the way they want to go.

I like this best with a very light vegetable oil, but you can use olive oil (the BEST long-term storage option for your preps) or any other type. Just understand that those oils will impart their own flavors, so you won't end up with your standard, generic mayo.

Mayo goes in EVERYTHING. When you're finished, you can add a shot or two of ketchup, a pinch of sugar and a teaspoon of relish, and you have Thousand Island salad dressing.

Add some fresh herbs and you have a smooth herb sauce to use on fresh or steamed vegetables.

Accept The Challenge

Practice making gravy and mayo NOW.  You don't want to be in the middle of a long-term emergency while developing the skills to make them.  Practice while you have the opportunity to make mistakes and find out which of your creations your family likes the best.  In addition to being much less expensive than store-bought foods, your family will appreciate the flavors and freshness that comes with cooking from scratch.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Excellent advice! While I've never made mayo, I'm fairly accomplished at most other sauces and 'dippy' as my children refer to it. I've been concentrating on the comfort aspect of our food stores lately, trying to stock up on those daily feel-good foods; chocolate milk mix/cocoa, dried fruits, butter, sweets for baking holiday goodies.