Many people are surprised to find out that “superfoods” suitable for managing both small and large scale crisis situations are inexpensive and easy to make.
In fact, the recipes for some of these superfoods were developed decades to hundreds of years ago. You can learn to make all of them, and adapt the recipes to your survival garden in order to create a winning combination that will work better than MREs and other costly pre-packaged foods. No matter whether you are interested in having nutritious food on-hand for a hurricane, or you are concerned about the increased probability of a major crop failure in the near future, these are recipes that will help you get through and remain as healthy as possible.
Historically speaking, yogurt is one of the oldest and healthiest fermented foods created by humans. The first yogurts were made in Mesopotamia, and then spread to India, Greece, Russia, Asia and Europe. It is often mixed with honey, fruits, and other flavorings for added benefit. In order to make yogurt, you will need two essential ingredients: some kind of milk and a suitable culture. You can purchase ready to use cultures and learn how to keep them going for future batches of yogurt, or you can try purchasing pre-made yogurt with certified live cultures and see if it will work. Here are some other variations that may help in a time of need:
- Even though most people are familiar with yogurt made from cow’s milk, it can also be made from just about any other milk you can think of. This includes milk from goats, sheep, water buffalo, and even horses. In fact, mare’s milk has a higher sugar content, which makes it better for producing fermentable, albeit slightly alcoholic foods.
- Many plants, including nuts and beans lend themselves well to both fermentation and producing “milk”. From soybeans and rice to almonds and cashews, there are many vegan cheese recipes available, including ones for yogurt and kefir.
Just be sure that you choose bacterial culture strains that are safe for your mouth and stomach. It is also very important to consider any health conditions you may have and whether or not it is safe for you to use these supplements. Personally, I don’t trust “live cultures” and prefer to cook everything before consuming unless it is a fermented alcohol that has no surviving bacteria in it.
- Thinned out yogurt or kefir is also made using similar recipes, ingredients, and methods.
When most people hear about Chia seeds, they think of the ceramic pets that are coated with seeds that germinate to create a novel looking knick knack. On the other hand, people in Central and South America have cultivated this member of the mint family for decades. It is known as a versatile, nutrient rich food that can consumed raw or cooked. Here are just a few ways you can use Chia Seeds:
- As nutrient dense toppings for cereal and yogurt. Chia is rich in B vitamins as well as many essential minerals.
- When soaked, the gel made from Chia seeds can be used as a partial replacement for wheat and rye in bread recipes. Even though Chia seeds are gluten free, they provide a good texture and work well in both low carb and nutrient dense recipes.
- Even if you do not soak Chia seeds to produce a gel, you can still grind them up to use in crackers and other non-perishable edibles. When mixed with fruits, herbs, nuts, and other grains, they easily surpass MREs and other pre-manufactured energy dense concoctions.
For example, something as simple as mixing Chia Seeds and Quinoa will give you an easy to store biscuit, cookie, or cracker that provides all the protein you need plus many other essential nutrients.
As an added bonus, when you make your own energy bars and edibles, you will be able to select the ingredients more carefully and avoid pesticides, GMOs and other additives that might make it harder to survive and thrive in dangerous situations.
If you are looking for a way to store meat for longer periods of time, variations of this recipe may be of interest to you. Pemmican has its origin with one or more of the First Nations in North America. It is basically a mix of meat and animal fat that can also be mixed with fruit and berries.
There are many different recipes for Pemmican depending on the type of meat available. Here are the basic steps for making it:
- Start off by taking a lean cut of meat and slicing it into thin strips. Even though most recipes focus on beef, venison, elk, and buffalo, you can also use chicken, other forms of poultry, and fish. Regardless of the meat source, the strips must be dried until they are brittle and easy to crumble into a powder. If you do not have a dehydrator, placing the strips in the sun should do the job.
- Dry berries and herbs that you are planning to mix in with the pemmican. These must also be easy to grind into a powder.
- Take some fat and render it (heat it until it turns to liquid). Be sure to strain out any chunks that do not melt, or are not fat.
- Now that you have all the ingredients prepared, simply mix them together and form them into a ball. You will know you have the right balance between the oil and other ingredients when the ball holds its shape easily.
- Even though pemmican can be stored for months to years without refrigeration, it can still go rancid. This can easily be detected from the way it smells.
Molasses Oatmeal Cookies
If there is one category of survival foods that tends to get my attention, any kind of cookie, cake, or bread is at the top of the list. Perhaps that is why Molasses Oatmeal Cookies have always been a personal favorite. This nutrient dense, tasty recipe was developed during WWII. The molasses is intended as a substitute for brown sugar, which was hard to get during those times. Even though molasses has less carbohydrate than brown sugar, this is still an energy dense food that will keep you feeling strong and fit. It is also easy to adapt to meet a range of ingredients. Here is the basic recipe with some notes on how I have adapted to use less wheat based flour:
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 tbsp molasses
- 2 cups of flour (you can substitute at least one cup of wheat flour with almond flour, or anything else that you have in powdered form. Other ground grains or nuts will work well and be compatible in taste. If you are comfortable with grinding up insects for consumption, grasshoppers and ants will provide a compatible taste.
- 2 cups of oats
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder (used as a leavening agent. If you do not have baking powder, you can use one egg. Yeast will not work as a suitable leavening agent in this recipe).
- 1 tsp baking soda (also used as a leavening agent, and also to make the cookies softer. Use shorter cooking time or warm the cookies up if they are too hard after they cool. They also go well dipped in coffee or milk.)
- 2 tbsp apple sauce (optional. Use with baking powder to act as a binder if you do not have an egg).
- 2 tsp vanilla
- ½ – 1 tsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp cinnamon (optional).
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ cup of shortening (you can also use tallow or animal fat.)
Dried Fruits and Vegetables
These are some of the easiest foods to obtain, prepare and store for long term use. Depending on how you combine them, you can make everything from nutrient dense vegetable and fruit smoothies to soups and gravies to spread on meat and breads. The key to dried fruits and vegetables is a good quality dehydrator and some ideas about how you want to use each item.
Remember, there are many ways to make a solar dehydrator. This includes using the dashboard of your vehicle, and any other place where you can concentrate heat and keep it at a steady temperature. While electric dehydrators are useful and convenient, it is also very important to know how to make one from scrap materials as well as natural ones.
There are many different things you can do with dehydrated fruits and vegetables. Here are just a few that will last for a fairly long period of time:
- Dry them out to the point where they will crumble, much like the meat and berries for pemmican. Once the fruits and vegetables are in powder form, you can store them away in packets for rehydration later on. While some people mix powders together for pre-mixed soups and smoothies, I prefer to keep each food type in its own packet. This way, if there is a problem with one item going bad, I don’t lose all of the other foods.
When you are ready to rehydrate the powders, it is always easy enough to mix them together at that time. If you are storing away potato powder, do not forget it can also be used as a partial substitute for wheat in many recipes.
- Fruits lend themselves well to being candied. During the drying process, simply coat the fruit with sugar in order to increase the shelf life of the fruit.
- Both fruits and vegetables can also be made into flat sheets that are rolled up.
As with yogurt, there are variations of hardtack that go way back in history. In this case, the earliest recorded use of flour formed into a dry cracker was in Egypt. Dhourra cake was carried by sailors and was made mostly of millet and water. Later on, European sailors would create the simple recipe we are accustomed to today. There are also several other versions using different grains from around the world.
Regardless of the grain used, they all share the common factor of being in the driest possible form. In addition, most, if not all must be sopped in coffee, water, or some other liquid for about 15 minutes in order to make them soft enough to consume. Once the biscuit is softened, you can also fry it and mix it with herbs and spices for flavoring and increased nutrient density. Even though hardtack will provide essential calories, it is still mostly carbohydrate and starch. You still need proteins, fat, and fiber to make a reasonable diet.
In order to make hard tack, you only need to mix together some flour, water, and salt. The ratio of flour to water is usually 4, 5, or 6 to 1 depending on the grain type. For example, if you are using wheat flour, you would use 5 cups of flour to 1 cup of water. If you using rye flour, just 4 cups of rye might be enough to make a solid dough in combination with one cup of water. You must also use at least ½ tablespoon of salt for every cup of water in the mixture.
Next, roll out the dough and cut it into squares. Pierce each square with a fork to help it cook evenly. Bake until slightly brown, and store in an airtight container once it cools. As long as dampness does not get into the hardtack, it can last for several years.
Even though this is a newer recipe than many others in this article, it is one of the most important because of the number of variations available and its adaptability. Basically, you will be using cauliflower to take the place of at least 50% of the wheat flour you would normally use. Since just about every ingredient in this recipe can be changed out for something else, it is possible to make this bread from items that you grow in your garden or find in nature. For example, if you aren’t interested in making a bread that raises well, you can use little or no wheat flour at all. Here is the basic recipe that I have worked out and options noted:
- 1 cup cauliflower – must be cooked until soft, and then chopped to a “rice” consistency. You can use the stems as well as the white part of the floret. If you don’t mind a green color, broccoli will also work. Squash and pumpkin can also be used as a swap for the cauliflower.
- 1 cup wheat flour – if you are interested in making a yeast bread that raises well, wheat flour will be your best option. You can also use rye, sorghum, or quinoa flour. Sorghum and quinoa do not have gluten, so the bread will not hold together as well. For non-yeast doughs, you can go ahead and use just about anything that will form a flour like consistency. This includes almond and other nut flours.
- 1 tsp yeast – optional. Use only with wheat flour.
- 2 tsp sugar – required for yeast doughs, but can also be added to non-yeast doughs, especially if you are looking for more of a cake flavor vs a more robust bread.
- 1/3 to 1 tbsp baking powder – use just 1/3 tbsp along with yeast for the purpose of leavening. Only use up to 1 tbsp if you are not making a yeast dough and want something that will raise. Baking powder will give the bread a very bitter taste, so you are best off to start with smaller amounts to see how much you can tolerate.
- 1 to 2 eggs – most recipes for cauliflower bread actually use eggs as the binder and the leavening agent. Personally, I don’t like them in this type of bread regardless of the variant. That being said, you can substitute 1 egg for each tablespoon of baking powder, or use a combination of egg and baking powder. It all depends on your sense of taste and what you want the finished bread to taste like.
- 1 tbsp Olive or Vegetable Oil – required for yeast doughs. You can also substitute with sunflower or vegetable oil.
- 1 – 3 tbsp apple sauce – optional. Use this as a binder if you are relying on baking powder as the leavening agent. You can also use it in yeast doughs for the sake of flavoring, especially if you are making a muffin recipe or something else that would be better off with a sweet flavor.
- ½ tsp baking soda – use to make the bread softer and easier to work with. It will also leaven the bread to some extent.
- Garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and salt to taste. If you are making a dinner bread or something that will go with tomatoes (always goes good with tomato!!) or meat, then add garlic and onion powder. Use far less of these or none at all for sweeter flavored breads, muffins, and rolls.
This nutrient dense, tasty food has its origin among the Palestinian and Syrian people. Although it is often use as a dip, it can also be consumed as is.
The basic recipe for hummus calls for ground sesame seeds (tahini), cooked and mashed beans, olive oil, and garlic, salt, and lemon juice. There are also many spices you can add. The most popular ones are parsley, paprika, and garlic. It can be consumed warm or cold. You can also roll out the hummus and let it dry overnight.
Medicinal Wines and Vinegar
In the United States, many people think of wine as a recreational drug, while others look at vinegar as a food ingredient and a house cleaning agent. Both fermented products are extremely important and should be a part of every survival recipe box. Medicinal wines are not just relegated to elderberry, dandelion, and other wines based in medicinal herbs that you may want to store for longer periods of time. Wines are also very important for water purification when nothing else is available. In fact, in some parts of Europe, wine still plays this vital role. Just be sure to never try making wine from wood or woody type pulp as it will produce a poisonous form of alcohol instead of an edible one.
Vinegar is also very important as a medicinal agent. In particular, apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, as do the red and white vinegars. Since white vinegar can also be used in the laundry and for other cleaning purposes, it is important to know how to make it for non-food related purposes as well.
There are many different recipes available for making medicinal wines. You do not need a lot of complicated equipment, however you do need some clean bottles and the means to boil the mash and break it down to a point where it will ferment well. If you are going to make medicinal wines and vinegars, you must be patient with the process. It can take several weeks just for the mash to ferment enough to put into bottles, and then several months before the wine or vinegar finally form to the maximum extent.
Even though most modern bread and wine makers overlook wild yeast, it is very important to know how to cultivate and maintain them. You can get started with pre-made cultures and keep them going, or you can make them on your own from scratch. To achieve the latter, you only need a bag of wheat flour, some water, and time. Since wheat flour always has a small amount of wild yeast already in it, you can cultivate it much as you would a sourdough starter. In fact, the process of keeping yeast from one baking session to another over time is very similar to how you manage a sourdough starter.
Sadly, many people today are squeamish about keeping wild yeast cultures onhand. Unfortunately, without them, you will find it difficult, if not impossible to make some of the most important nutrient dense survival foods. Taking the time now to learn how to cultivate and maintain wild yeasts is also a good introduction to using and preserving other cultures that will be used for making cheese and other fermented products. Never forget that clean working conditions and sterilization methods are essential for safe work with food based bacterial cultures. This includes the methods you will use while traveling where space and materials may be limited.
More than a few people looking for superfoods that can be used in a crisis tend to focus on proteins and Vitamin C. These are only two parts of a much larger nutritional base required for good health and well being. As you consider some of the foods in this article from around the world, bear in mind many have stood the test of time. While there are some that you can adapt to pack in a wider range of nutrients, others may be suited for a more narrow focus. Regardless of the recipes you choose to find and practice, never forget that food preparation is a skill that also requires excellent hygiene and surface area management.
Never start any cooking or food preparation project until you are certain that you know how to keep your hands, tools, work surfaces, and storage containers clean and suitable for the items being stored. Nutrition isn’t just about the ingredients and what they provide, it is also about the safety of the finished product for the purpose of consumption.