Working on a basic three-month “stash” of food, water, and alternative cooking and heating sources is just common sense homemaking. My grandparents survived the Great Depression through basic country living, and I want to be able to do the same, should the need arise.
I read about some things to keep in mind in order to store dry goods such as flour, cornmeal, beans and rice for the long-term. All natural meals have some larvae or minor infestation. It is frustrating to open that bag of flour to find it is filled with newly hatched worms or bugs. Clean glass containers, canning jars, or even sturdy liter soda bottles or PETE bottles can be used to store your flour or meal. Just fill and add either a dessicant package [absorbent pack] or a bay leaf. Keeping flour dry will prevent bugs from hatching and bay leaf kills them as well.
Today I’m storing corn meal. I clean my recycled canning jars and lids for dry storage and also save and use spaghetti sauce jars, fruit jars, etc. If canning lids are rusted, use a new ring and lid.
Top off the jar with a bay leaf or dessicant package. I am blessed to have a 15-year-old bay tree which provides all the bay leaves I ever need, plus enough to share with friends. Dry the leaves before adding to the jars. I also made my own absorbent packages from a gallon of silica gel formerly used for crafting. It is the same absorbent material for drying flowers. Because I had it in storage, I re-activated the silica by placing it in a pan in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour; this removes all moisture. Make packets by spooning about 2 tablespoons into a small cone-shaped coffee filter. Turn the top edges in on either side, fold over the center twice, and staple in place. Make sure there is no leakage. Silica gel is not harmful if eaten but it is a mineral that is a major component of SAND, so it would not be pleasant as a gritty addition to your cornbread. [Silica Gel packets or Dessicant packets can be purchased on-line. Also, save them when they come in medicine bottles, shoe boxes, etc.]
After bottling all the corn meal, I cut the recipes for cornmeal mush and golden cornbread from the back of the bag and taped them to two jars. If I am cooking under stressful conditions, having the recipe handy will be helpful. Always date your stored foods and label the contents. Even though I know what it is, it may be someone else like my children who will be using them; and they need to be certain of what the bottles contain.
In order to be a good custodian of my stash, I am also re-organizing my shelves in order to use older goods first. It is the classic inventory system of FIRST IN–FIRST OUT. Try to put newer foods in the back and keep moving storage to the front. After a few months, buy new and EAT YOUR STASH.
COOKING CORNMEAL IN A CAST-IRON SKILLET: Our daughter put a cast-iron skillet on her wedding registry. I think I raised her right! Cast iron just cooks certain things better, such as southern fried chicken and fresh fish. It is also ideal for baking cornbread.
If you purchase cast iron, it may include instructions for SEASONING. This does not mean shaking salt and pepper on it before using. Cast iron must be treated before use in order to prevent it from rusting and to help foods from sticking. 1. Rub a thin layer of Crisco or other shortening or lard all over the skillet. 2. Place the skillet in a 250 degree oven and bake it for an hour or so. 3. Remove the skillet and wipe with a paper towel to remove any oil residue. Cool the skillet and store in a dry place. 4. After every use, clean skillet with soap and water but do not scrub hard as this will remove the seasoning layer. After hand-drying the skillet, put it back in a warm oven until completely dry. If worn spots appear, rub with Crisco. If rust appears, scrub off rust, re-season, and dry completely after every use.
Cast-iron is versatile and perfect for campfire cooking. A good Dutch Oven and skillet can cook or bake just about anything over an open fire.
WORLD’S BEST MOIST AND SLIGHTLY SWEET CORNBREAD–Sweet Corncake
*Courtesy of Cheri & Bill Campbell of Bishop Hill Colony Bakery http://www.bishophillcolonybakery.com
First published in COUNTRY SAMPLER MAGAZINE, September 2010 http://www.countrysamplermagazine.com
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 Tbls. baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix together oil, beaten eggs and milk.
- Gently mix dry and wet ingredients together just until moistened.
- Pour batter into a 13″x9″ greased pan. [You may use a greased large cast iron skillet.]
- Bake 30 minutes. The bread is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Serve with butter, honey butter, or maple syrup. Great with soup, stew, or alone!
We are having Sweet Corncake with ham and beans next weekend for Sunday dinner.