My Blog List

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of Pork and Partially Hydrogenated Oil

I recently made a purchase of a couple of long-term food items, and decided to share my experience with both.  Both items were purchased from

The first was freeze dried pork chops.  It seems they got hold of some chops that had been originally made for some "higher ups" in our government.  This isn't the stuff given to the soldiers in the field, which kind of pissed me off the more I thought about it.

Anyway, the chops come in No. 10 cans with a content weight of 23 ounces.

 Their website says each can comes with between 15 and 20 chops, depending on size.  The can I opened (I bought a 6-can case) contained 20 chops.

The instructions tell you to soak the chops in warm, salted water for 20-30 minutes (or if possible, overnight to "equilibrate" the moisture), then cook and eat (BTW, the chops are raw and MUST be cooked).  For my test, I took 8 chops, put them in a bowl of salted water, and the chops floated.  I placed a plate on top to keep them all submerged.

Instead of waiting the recommended 20-30 mins, I let mine soak for a full 60 minutes.  I took them out, patted them dry of surface water, and let them sit covered for another 60 minutes.

I dredged two of the chops in flour and panned fried them up.  The results were iffy at best.

The 60 minute soak and 60 minute rest were not enough to fully rehydrate the chops.  They were edible, but just barely -

The meat was tough to cut (NO, I didn't over cook them), and was very stringy.  Flavor, though, was OK.

The next day, I took two more of the chops which had been in a ziplock bag in the fridge.  I did the same flour dredge and pan fry.  Quite a difference!

These chops, you'll notice, have none of the stringiness.  I cut the chop with and against the grain.  Seriously, very little difference (if any) from a fresh chop.  Flavor, texture and mouth-feel were awesome.

Now, let's talk value.  The 8 original chops weighed 9.2 ounces straight out of the can.  After rehydration, they weighed 19.7 ounces.  Doing a little math, that means that the whole can of freeze dried shops - which started at 23 ounces - will produce right around 49 ounces, or 3 pounds of rehydrated chops.

They are currently sold for around $48 per can, or $16 per pound when rehydrated.  Pricey, for sure, but for my money, it's a hell of a deal if you're in a SHTF scenario where you've been eating little more than rice, beans and jerky.  The mental uplift of eating a real chop would be huge.  The stuff lasts for 25 years, so it's one of those things, which for all practical purposes, will never need to be rotated.

I could see these being used while backpacking as well.  After setting up your base camp, throw some chops in water, let them sit a day, and have an awesome meal to look forward to.

The second item I purchased was powdered shortening.  I had VERY high hopes for this stuff.  Their website noted that the powder could be sprinkled in a pan - which would cause it to melt - and you could fry up your food.

 Here's a screen clip with the "how to" for the powder (click to enlarge) -

I'm thinking, "Finally, a light-weight, portable fat that can be used for frying!  No more lugging lard or bottles of heavy oil!"

Absolute.  Total.  Failure.

I sprinkled some of the powder in a cold pan, turned the heat on medium, and waited for the powder to melt.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, the powder started to brown (WTF?).  No melting at all.

I wiped out the pan, sprinkled in some more powder, and put the heat on low.  Same thing.  More browning, no melting.

I followed their instructions to make up some of the shortening.  One-third cup of water and one-half cup of the powder.  Mix well.  I ended up with this -

 Kind of a very thin slurry, not a solid shortening.

I put some of the slurry into a pan, thinking maybe their "sprinkle" instruction meant it had to be done with the wet stuff.

Not so much.  Just some bubbling, then - you guessed it - browning.  It never melted into an oil with which I could pan fry.

Very, very disappointed.

I wish MRE Depot would just be straight about both of these products.  For the chops, stress that they MUST be soaked overnight for them to act like real chops.  Sure, you can eat them after 20 minutes, but I can also say I can eat a bag of dried beans like popcorn if I wanted.

This is a great product, and I will likely buy more because of the high quality.  There is no need to try and make this stuff something it's not:  an instant chop.  Like the aforementioned dry beans, for them to have their expected texture and flavor, they've got to be soaked for HOURS.  It is what it is.

With regards to the shortening, IMO, it failed miserably.  I was relying on their statement that it would liquefy when sprinkled in a pan.  Not even close!  It may work wonderfully in baked goods, but those won't be high on my hit parade during a SHTF situation.  Having a light-weight cooking "oil" that I could have in my stores (and perhaps in a BOB) was what I was looking for, and which I was promised.

Like the chops, MREDepot appears to be trying to be all things to all people.  This stuff simply does not melt in a low, medium or high heat pan.  Don't tell me it will!

Copyright 2013 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bullets And Butter

 Well, mostly butter.

I'm planning on making a dent in the California wild pig population in a couple of months.  I've got a buddy that reloads his ammo.  He got tired of hearing me bitch and moan about how I was having a difficult time securing enough .308 for one of my rifles, and offered to teach me how to make my own.  After a bit of haggling, we cut a deal.

I was over in his garage building cartridges, and he decided to use his time more efficiently than watching me while I worked one of the machines.  He went inside, grabbed a one quart mason jar, filled it a bit over half way with heavy cream, and proceeded to make butter.

I'll be damned if he didn't have a glob-o-butter in about a half hour!

So, today, I bought a couple quarts of heavy cream to attempt to repeat his act.  Success!  It's crazy-easy, and I swear, it tastes WAY better than the store-bought stuff.

I followed his lead, and filled a quart mason jar about half full - a bit less than he had done.  And then I started shaking.

And shaking.

And shaking.

The cream goes through a couple of stages on its way to becoming butter.  You first get a weak whipped cream.  Then a stiff cream.  At this point, you don't hear or feel a lot of stuff sloshing around in the jar.  After 20 minutes or so, the cream "breaks" into butter and skim milk.

You then pour off the skim milk, and shake some more.  Repeat as necessary.  Here's the view from the top -

You take the blob of butter and put it into a bowl.  There's still milk in the butter, and if you leave it there, it will make the butter go bad more quickly.

Add cold water to the bowl of butter, and start mashing the blob with your hands.  The water will go cloudy.  Pour that out, and repeat until the water stays clear.  You'll then end up here -

I then took a wooden spoon and mooshed everything around some more.  The butter will "leak" more water and milk.  I just used a paper towel to sop it up.  When done, I ended up with just under a pint of skim milk, and 13.7 ounces of butter!

I returned the butter to the stainless bowl, added 1/2 tsp of salt and mooshed it around some more.

Holy crap, what awesome stuff!

Still, I'm not sure it was worth the effort (other than knowing I can now turn cream into butter - not a bad skill to have).  Forty-five minutes, all in.  So, I went to the Internet and found a couple of sites on making homemade butter (Seriously, there were 240 MILLION entries on Google.  Am I the last person in American to make his own butter?)

One that caught my eye used a KitchenAid mixer - my second favorite appliance (right after my sausage stuffer).

I poured the cream into the bowl, attached the balloon whisk, and turned it on.  Medium speed to start - until the cream frothed up a bit - then I cranked it.  After about two minutes, I turned it off to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Two minutes later, I did the same again.

After about 7 minutes, I had this -

If you look closely (click it to enlarge), you can see the separated skim milk at the bottom.

Boo-yah, baby!  Butter in 7 minutes!  I just followed the same steps as with the post-jar manual process (cold water, etc.), and ended up with exactly the same amount of butter....

Which posed a bit of a problem.  I now had over a pound and a half of butter.  In a household that eats about a quarter pound every two weeks (hey, I'm an olive oil kinda guy), that's a lot of butter!

So, I decided to make some of it into a compound butter.  These are just butters that have other herbs and flavors added.  I was going to make a seafood butter with some dill weed I had picked up for an upcoming pickled bean project, but decided to go more generic.  I decided to just make a parsley and garlic butter.

I took 4 cloves of garlic and smooshed them into a paste.  I added that to a half pound of the salted butter, and about half teaspoon of dry parsley.

I laid out a sheet of plastic wrap and plopped down the butter mix -

I rolled up the butter into a tube about the height of a silver dollar -

That was then wrapped up in aluminum foil, and wound up pretty tight so I'll be able to slice off nice medallions of butter.

I figure the garlic butter will work with fish, chicken, beef and pork.

Speaking of pork, here's a little bullet porn that will be used to acquire those chops-on-the-hoof - 


Mrs. Chief Instructor just got home and went nuts over the butter.  Two thumbs up!

And yes, I AM the last person in America to make his own butter.  My wife proceeded to tell me that her 5th grade students make butter in baby food jars every year.

At least I'm ahead of most of the 4th graders...

Copyright 2013 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Benefits Of Following The Rules

Many years ago, a buddy of mine sent me this photo -

Any guess what that might be?

It's a hole in the ceiling in his finished garage.  Put there by a 12 gauge shotgun blast.

In my NRA FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation class, we focus on 3 primary gun safety rules:
  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot
  3. Always keep the gun unloaded until you're ready to shoot
I stress, ad nauseum, that the one rule that can NEVER be broken is rule Number One.  You can inadvertently hit your trigger, you may not have verified for yourself that the gun is unloaded, your gun can have a mechanical problem - a million things can happen to cause the gun to fire - but if that muzzle is always pointed away from people or animals, the worst outcome will be a repair bill.

I recently attended a hunter safety class, and one of the instructors told a similar story.

A friend of his was teaching his grandson how to smoothly "sweep" his pump shotgun when hunting birds.  Apparently, there is some size and model of flashlight that will fit into the barrel of a shotgun.  The friend and his grandson were in a bedroom with the lights off.  The flashlight was turned on, and they were sweeping the barrel along the joint where the ceiling meets the wall.

They had verified that the gun was empty and had been doing the drill for a while.  The grandson handed the shotgun to grandpa, who noticed a piece of broken rubber band in the receiver.  He removed the rubber band, and they resumed their practice.

As the grandson ended his sweep, he pulled the trigger and BOOM! the shotgun fired. 

It seems that the grandfather had lent the gun to a friend a few years earlier.  What they believe happened was that near the end of the day, the borrower had reached into his pocket, grabbed a shell - and an unintended rubber band - and loaded the shell into the tube magazine.  The rubber band held the shell in the front of the magazine.  A visual inspection would indicate the gun was empty.

When the grandson was doing his dry-fire drills, the now years-old rubber band loosened, and the shell got chambered.

Grandpa has to buy a new flat-screen TV to replace the one mounted on his wall, as well as having to fix up some wall board.

But his grandson doesn't have to live with the nightmare of having shot his grandfather (or vice versa).

My buddy called the police so they didn't respond to a "shots fired" call in his residential neighborhood.  The officer gave him a good dose of guilt trip, but didn't cite him or confiscate his gun (shocking, considering this all happened in the SF Bay Area of California).

Sometimes it takes a near-miss to focus our attention - as it did for my buddy.  Sometimes it's worse.  In my classes, I use many examples of people being killed or maimed because The Rules weren't followed.

Use these stories to remind yourself to follow The Rules each and every time you are near a gun.  They are simple, but they are life savers.

Copyright 2013 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.