Archive for the ‘Preserving and storing food’ Category

This is an article written by a prepper friend who is a medical doctor in North Carolina. It is a good solution to the problem of storing bulk food in such large quantities that it is impractical to open them for daily use.

We found that when we first stored food in the large buckets about 35 years ago, that we never opened them for the reasons my friend describes. Now we make it a point to use our stored, bulk food to rotate it, it is cheaper, it is healthier than more processed food, and we like it. What we found works well for us is to pack most of it in smaller Mylar bags that hold 8 to 10 lbs of grain, rice, and beans. This is a good size for us to get through in a reasonable amount of time. Some things like lentils, I put in bags I cut in half. I have a Mylar sealer that makes it pretty easy. Here is a link to a post I did with pictures.

Novel use for nylon hose

photo 3I hate the fact that when I open a food bucket Mylar bag I am kind of stuck with an open container of 40 pounds of rice then I have to open another bucket with 30 pounds of beans. That represents a lot of food to open at once. Also if I was bugging out I might be able to grab a bucket but would be forced to grab either the bucket of rice or the beans. It has been hard for me to easily make a mixed bucket until I came up with this idea. I have used a nylon hose to hold my beans which I twist tie shut, place in mylar bag, then pour rice around the sack of beans and then throw in the oxygen absorbers and seal. The pore size of the stretched nylon should easily allow the oxygen to be removed with the absorber yet keep the rice and beans separate. Thus a mixed bucket is easily made. If most of my buckets are mixed then as I use them I may be able to get by with only one open bucket at a time thus reducing the risk of spoilage. I mark the outside of the bucket with the number of pounds of beans and how many pounds of rice. I have attached pictures where I made a crude cardboard tube over which I stretched hose ( a large wrapping paper tube works best for this). I then poured the beans into the tube and pushed the beans down into the hose which I then twist tied. I dropped my nylon filled bean bag into the Mylar bag and finished filling the Mylar bag with rice then added oxygen absorber then sealed. You can easily see the beans through the nylon hose so oxygen removal should be easy. I hope this may be a helpful idea.

photo 1photo 2



Update: Last summer we raised 7 Red Ranger (meat) roosters from one day old chicks until they were 12 weeks old, then butchered and processed them in one morning using the technique and checklist below. It worked well. One change we made was to fasten the cone to the frame of our firewood storage stack so it doesn’t move while in use.

We have killed only two chickens, but I am willing to share what we learned.  If you are sensitive to this type of information, please stop reading.

We killed a hen using the technique of a pole on her neck then yanking up on her feet to separate the spinal column. It worked fast and is the best way to kill rabbits. But you still have to cut the chicken’s neck to bleed it out, and she flopped around after she was dead.

Chicken Killing Cone

Chicken Killing Cone

We used the cone method for a one year old rooster, and it worked very well.  We bought a traffic cone and cut a few inches off the tip so the rooster’s head and neck would fit through. He was very sedate and didn’t struggle at all. Make sure you have a VERY sharp knife.

We hung the cone by a chain from my clothesline pole and put a bucket under him to catch the blood. Once his neck was cut, we let him hang for about 15 minutes to drain. There was no flopping around. Before we use it again, we will fix the cone to something more stable using some boards.

We had a large pot of hot water heating on our outdoor gas burner (camping stove).  It was about 145 degrees. We dunked him for 30 seconds until his feathers came out easily.  We added a small amount of dish detergent to allow the water to soak through the surface tension of the feathers. I was surprised how easy he was to pluck.

The rooster was a year old.  It was difficult to cut through some of his bones, particularly the back bone to remove the internal organs. It was very much harder than cutting up a broiler or store-bought chicken.  His thighs and legs were very large and the meat very dark.  Even though I don’t typically like dark meat, his meat was very good.

I have included a list we prepared for ourselves to use whenever we butcher a chicken. We read a lot of confusing information so got things organized to suit us. We used two books as references: Raising Chickens for Dummies and Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.

Here are some videos that demonstrate the harvesting and cleaning of chickens.

Respectful Chicken Harvest Part 1

Respectful Chicken Harvest Part 2

Poultry Processsing

Checklist for Butchering Chickens

Don’t feed chicken for at least 12 hours prior to killing.

  • Table
  • Cone
  • Very sharp, large knife
  • Heavy scissors/poultry shears/pruning shears
  • Big pot of hot water (140°-150°)
  • Water thermometer
  • Rubber gloves
  • Soap and water
  • Bleach
  • Rags
  • Paper towels
  • Large stainless steel bowl
  • Garbage bag and trash can
  • Needle nose pliers (to remove pin feathers)
  • Dull bladed knife (to remove pin feathers)
  • Garden hose
  • 2 pair exam gloves
  • Long handled tongs
Killing and Bleeding
  • Place chicken head down in cone
  • Stretch neck out
  • 2” cut just behind jaw from front to back
  • Let bleed for 15 minutes
  • 145° water with Dawn dish soap
  • Immerse bird for 30 seconds
  • Lay bird on table
  • Remove feathers
  • Use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to remove pin feathers
  • Rinse with clean water
  • Cut head off
    • Use poultry kitchen shears
    • Close to body
  • Cut off feet
  • Remove oil gland and tail (Storey P. 396)
    • 1” above glands nipple, deep enough to reach tail bone
  • Cut Back Open
    • Start at rear
    • With poultry shears, shallowly cut backbone from back to front
    • Be careful not to rupture the intestine
    • Remove entrails
    • Carefully remove the liver without bursting the attached gallbladder which will cause the meat to taste bitter.
    • Rinse with clean water

I own three grain mills and have been grinding grain for about four years. I often get asked about what is “the best” grain mill.  There are questions every family must answer for themselves to determine the best grain mill.

  • Do you want an electric, manual, or convertible mill? Will you be using it regularly now or putting it away to use only in an emergency?
  • Do you need to grind a high volume of  flour regularly for a big family or just enough for one or two loaves of bread?
  • Do you want to be able to grind hard foods such as popcorn or oily seeds such as flax?
  • How much money do you want to spend?

All of these grain mills have variable settings for course to fine flour. You should always check your grain for any small stones which will ruin any of these mills and negate the warranty.

Here are my observations of two electric mills, the Wondermill, and Nutrimill; and a convertible, the Family Grain Mill (FGM).  I will also provide you with information about a good manual, the Wondermill, Jr. Deluxe. I have given you price estimates as of March 2013.  Occasionally manufacturers will put their machines on sale, so it is worthwhile to keep a check on prices.  Many suppliers will ship at no additional charge, so make sure you take that into account when comparing prices.

Here is a link to a comparison chart from Millers Grain House of these grain mills and some other mills.  The chart can be printed and enlarged on the screen for easier viewing.  Millers Grain House also sells these mills.

We ran a home test to time how quickly the mills ground 2 cups of hard white wheat mixed with mixed grains that I use for bread. All the mills were set to their finest settings.  I did not include the Wonder Junior Deluxe since I do not have access to one.

Family Grain Mill–Manual                         10:04

Family Grain Mill–Electric                           4:42

Nutrimill–Electric                                       1:10

Wondermill–Electric                                    :35

Family Grain Mill (Convertable–electric and manual)
FGM electric and manual bases

FGM electric and manual bases

Family Grain Mill

Family Grain Mill

Our first mill was the Family Grain Mill (FGM). We had many of the same questions and requirements as many of you.  The primary reason we selected the FGM was because it was a convertible mill–an electric mill with an attachment to make it a manual mill. We wanted a mill to use now to grind wheat to make all of our own bread.  Being practical, I knew that an electric mill would more likely get regular use.  But being a prepper, I also wanted to have a manual mill in the event we have no electricity. It was about the same price for both electric and manual as other single purpose mills.

FGM taken apart

FGM taken apart

The FGM is easy to use, put together, take apart, and clean. This mill can be dismantled to remove and clean the bur which I do occasionally.  The Nutrimill and Wondermill are sealed and should never be taken apart.

FGM grinding flour

FGM grinding flour

The grain hopper holds 5 cups, but you can add more as it grinds. My blue mixing bowl will hold about 5 cups of ground grain.  I use this bowl because the large handle/spout catches some stray flour that falls close to the base.

FGM slicer/grater

FGM slicer/grater

FGM Flaker (rolls oats)

FGM Flaker (rolls oats)

FGM Meat Grinder

FGM Meat Grinder

We also liked the optional attachments including one to roll oats, a meat grinder, and a vegetable slicer/grater.  Since we store whole oats, the flaker (oat roller) gets used frequently.

This mill was my primary grain mill for a long time. One reason is because, unlike the other electric mills, I can use this one to grind flax seeds if they are added to my wheat before grinding for making bread. It is a smaller mill, but holds enough grain at one time to bake two loaves of bread. Unlike the other electric mills, the FGM doesn’t have a container built in to catch the flour.  I use a large mixing bowl.  That is no issue for me and makes it easier to clean.

All the mills have a control to set how fine or course the flour will be.  The FGM doesn’t grind flour quite as fine as the other electrics. I cannot tell the difference once the bread is baked. However, this might be a problem for people who bake a lot of pastries. I have read posts by people who run the flour through the mill for a second milling resulting in finer flour.

The FGM electric doesn’t grind flour as fast as the electric Wondermill and Nutrimill.  My routine is to grind enough Prairie Gold hard white wheat, mixed grains, and flax seeds to bake two loaves of bread at a time.  While the grain is grinding, I can use the time to get everything else ready, measured, and put away.

The FGM can be used to grind dry beans and dent corn for cornmeal to make cornbread or hush puppies.  Beans and corn are hard and will wear down the stainless steel burr resulting in the mill not grinding your wheat and other grains as finely.  We bought a second burr that we use only for beans and corn.   The FGM cannot grind popcorn for making cornmeal because the popcorn is harder and will ruin the burr.

FGM Manual Set Up

FGM Manual Set Up

FGM Manual Base

FGM Manual Base

The manual attachment is easy to use and attaches to a counter or table top with an included clamp.  It grinds fairly easily, although it is much slower than using the electric motor.  It turns without a lot of force.  All of the optional attachments can be used with the manual hand crank. I am happy to have the hand crank available if I lose power, but find having the electric motor a valuable option.

Adapters are available that will allow the FGM and its attachments to be run on mixers such as Kitchenaid and Bosch.

Family Grain Mill Company Website and  Information

Common price for electric base, manual base, and grain mill attachment is about $280. There are many purchasing options including just the manual base and grain mill for a little less than $150.

Wondermill Grain Mill (Electric)
Electric Wondermill

Electric Wondermill

The Wondermill is a very fast, easy to use grain mill.  It has two basic parts–the base and an attached flour canister that can be used for storage with the snap on lid that is included. I use the Wondermill as my primary grain mill.

Wondermill with wheat

Wondermill with wheat

Wondermill grain hopper

Wondermill grain hopper

It will not grind oily seeds, but the Wondermill has handled the grain, dent corn, and popcorn I have put through it. The grain feeds easily.  The larger dent corn and garbanzo beans fit through the feed slot without getting stuck as it did in the Nutrimill.

It is noisier than the FGM, but grinds grain so quickly that it is turned on for a much shorter time. Having a flour canister requires a little more clean-up of the canister and tube.  I brush it out after each use.  The lid on the canister must be firmly snapped into place, or the flour blows out of the canister making a mess. Yes, I learned this from experience. One unique requirement about the Wondermill is that you MUST start the machine BEFORE adding any grain.  Not doing so will damage the machine.

The canister holds about 12 cups of flour.

Wondermill Company Website and Information

Common price for the Wondermill electric mill is about $260.

Nutrimill Grain Mill (Electric)


Nutrimill flour canister

Nutrimill flour canister

Nutrimill flour canister lid

Nutrimill flour canister lid

The Nutrimill is a fast, high volume grain mill.  The flour canister will hold 20 cups of flour versus 12 cups for the Wondermill.  For people with large families, this is a good choice.

The flour canister fits into the bottom of the machine and must be pushed in all the way or flour will blow into the room.

We bought it for a couple of reasons.  We do not have a large family, but we thought it may be useful if the day comes when we may want to bake many loaves of bread or other grain products for barter, neighbors, etc. We also wanted a mill that will grind popcorn which we store. Another advantage to this mill is that it grinds fine flour. My unscientific comparison is that it is the finest flour of the three mills.

Nutrimill with grain feeding into machine

Nutrimill with grain feeding into machine

Nutrimill grain hopper

Nutrimill grain hopper

It is a large machine and loud.  I dislike that larger-sized items such as dent corn and garbanzo beans don’t feed into the grinder well and block the feeder tube going into the machine from the hopper.

Like the Wondermill, it cannot be used to mill oily seeds such as flax.

Nutrimill Company Website and Information

Common price for the Nutrimill right now is $260.

Wonder Junior Deluxe (manual)
Wonder Junior Deluxe

Wonder Junior Deluxe

The Wonder Junior Deluxe is a well-made, versatile manual grain mill.  It comes with both a stone bur for grinding grain as well as a steel bur for grinding oily seeds. It can crack grains or produce pastry fine flour with one pass. It can grind spices, herbs, oily grains (like flax or coffee), and makes nut butters.

I don’t own one of these, but I have seen one demonstrated and operated it.  It takes some effort to turn the handle to grind grain using the stone burs, but works well. It is more difficult to turn than the manual FGM.  An optional pulley attachment allows it to be powered by a bicycle.  There is also a drill bit attachment that works with a drill to power the mill.

There are cheaper manual mills most of which are not well reviewed and cannot perform close to what the Wonder Junior can do.  You could pay double for a manual grain mill that won’t perform any better than this one.

I would prefer to have an electric grain mill for my current day to day grinding needs, but this would be a valuable addition for anyone storing a lot of grains for use when electric power may not be available.

Wonder Junior Deluxe Company Website and Information

The price range for the Wonder Junior Deluxe is $203 to $220

Many new preppers become overwhelmed.  They read about many different prepping topics and recommendations for all the stuff they should buy and skills they need to learn. Then they join a meet-up group that includes experienced preppers and sit with their mouths open as others talk about their chickens, goats, and living off-grid.  The new folks may not have enough food for three days at home, and may fear that they might as well give up.  Shoot, their HOA won’t even let them have a garden or chickens!

Recently, I met several folks who are  new to prepping as well as at varying stages along the prepping path.  For them I have created the following table categorizing the various stages or tiers of prepping.  The lines between categories are flexible.  The information in the table is meant to be examples only and not all inclusive.  I have also included some basic resources and links that may be useful for people prepping at the various tiers.  I have many other lists and links listed in this blog from the pull-down menus.

This is just to help you set priorities and keep your goals realistic as you move forward.  Remember, at one time we all started at Tier 1.

Four Levels of Prepping

Tier 1:  2 weeks
Tier 2:  6 months
Tier 3:  1 to 2 yrs
Tier 4:  Sustainable

Store-bought non-perishables: peanut butter, soup, granola bars, tuna, Hormel entrees, dried fruit, MREs (limited need for cooking/ water), manual can opener

Rice, beans, pasta, cans or jars of sauces, mixes (taco, gravy, dry soup), freeze-dried and dehydrated food (entrees, potatoes, fruit, meat, milk, eggs), cooking oil, oatmeal, flour

Wheat, variety of grains, white rice, popcorn, sugar, salt, seeds for sprouts, gardening, canning, dehydrating

Heirloom seeds, winter garden, permaculture, chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits for meat, goats for milk and meat, pigs, trapping, fishing, gathering, bartering, beekeeping


Bottled water, 2 liter pop bottles you fill, food grade plastic barrels, bleach or water purification tabs,  NO plastic milk bottles, 1 gal per person per day min

Spring, creek or pond water, rain barrels, water filter


Well water (manual or solar powered pump)


Variety of batteries, LED lanterns/flashlights, candles, oil lamps, generator, infrared propane heater, gas turn-off wrench

Large propane tank, propane generator, portable solar panels to charge batteries


Solar, windmill, hydro-power, wood stove for heat/cooking


Grill, camping stove, fireplace

Solar oven, larger propane stove, cast iron cookware for cooking with coals or fire

Pressure canner, dehydrator, grain mill

Wood cook stove



Tent, large roll of heavy plastic for repairs, tarps, Gorilla tape, plywood, nails

Bug-out—Camping trailer

Bug –in—perimeter security, alarms, dogs, water source

Bug-out—cabin, bunker

Bug-in—good soil, defendable, water


Defendable property, away from cities, good soil, wood supply, wildlife, dependable water source, good neighbors


First aid kit, first aid training, extra medications, filter masks

Add more medical supplies including antiseptics, splints, antibiotics, butterfly and large bandages, dental kit

Add suture kit or staples, scalpels, burn sheet, Wilderness Medicine

Herbs, midwifery, Where There Is No Doctor, Where There is No Dentist


Towelettes, sanitizer, gray water to flush toilet, 5 gal bucket with liners for toilet, shovel, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes

Out house or septic system

Composting toilet or septic system,

Soap-making, cloth replaces disposable paper products


Corded home phone, cell phone, battery-powered radio, CB radio, All Alert Weather Radio


Ham Radio



Keep your gas tank at least half full

Bicycle, wheel barrow, folding shopping cart, wagon

Diesel, 4wd, EMP proof

Horses, oxen


FEMA (, CERT, Red Cross, Weather Spotter training, It’s A Disaster

Dave Ramsey on finances,  Survival Mom, American Preppers Network

Chef Brad, Mix-a-Meal, LDS Preparedness Manual, Southern Readiness Conference, Project Appleseed

Organic Growers School (Asheville),  Firefly Gathering, Master Gardner, Wilderness or Emergency Medical classes, classes/books on carpentry, blacksmithing, beekeeping, farm animals, Foxfire series


Fuel, propane tanks, emergency contact list, important documents, cash, matches/lighters

Clothesline and clothes pins, large rubber tubs for washing clothes

Clothesline poles, hand tools,  building supplies, fire-starter (magnesium bars, steel match)

Treadle sewing machine, hand wringer washing tubs, firewood source


Tier 1:  2 weeks

It’s A Disaster…and what are YOU gonna do about it? by Bill and Janet Liebsch


Build the Perfect BUG OUT BAG  by Creek Stewart

Tier 2:  6 months

Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford

Survival Blog—James Wesley Rawles

American Preppers Network

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Tier 3:  1-2 years

Mix-A-Meal Cookbook by Deanna Bean and Lorna Shute

The Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

LDS Preparedness Manual

How to dehydrate food videos

Bulk grains, grain mills, solar oven, and instructions/recipes

Tier 4:  Sustainable

Back to Basics (1981) by editors of Readers Digest

Foxfire series

Backwoods Home Magazine

Back Yard Chickens forum

Winter gardening:

Additional Prepping Subjects for Research and Action

Bug Out Bags (BOB)

Bug Out Location (BOL)/Shelter

Bug Out Vehicles (BOV)

Self Protection/Security

Bartering Items

Prepping for Children

Wilderness Survival

Written by Vina8 February 8, 2013

Fresh eggs in the skillet frying

Fresh eggs in the skillet frying

Many people ask me questions about raising chickens and fresh eggs.  There are many people starting to consider raising backyard chickens or are curious about how nature works.  Unlike our grandparents, or even our parents, we were not raised around chickens and don’t know some of the basic biology of egg production and storage.  Here are a few things I have learned.

This post is primarily for folks who have little or no experience with chickens.  I am by no means a chicken expert, but will share a few things I have learned in the past year.  Those of you who raise chickens probably have your own list of frequently asked questions.  I encourage you to post them in the “comments” section with your advice/knowledge. Anyone who has questions not answered here, please post them.  If I don’t know the answer, I’m sure someone will. Another good free source for information about anything you want to know about raising chickens can be found at the Backyard Chickens forum.

1.  Do you have to have a rooster to get eggs from the hens?

No.  In fact, the eggs sold commercially are produced without roosters.  With or without roosters, the eggs taste the same.

My Buff Orpington Rooster

My Buff Orpington Rooster

2.  Then why have a rooster?

Some communities that allow backyard hens prohibit roosters because of the noise they make.  I live in the country and keep a rooster so that I can breed more chickens if I need to.  I am a prepper, after all.  Roosters are also good at protecting the hens from predators and keeping peace among the flock.

3.  Do fertilized eggs have to be eaten immediately (because of a developing embryo)?

No.  Refrigerating unwashed, freshly laid eggs, whether or not they are fertilized, will keep for weeks and even months.  Fertilized cells will only grow if the egg is kept at about 100 °.  The only indication of a fertilized egg is a very small, almost invisible, white spot on the yolk.

4.  What are those occasional little specs of blood on the yolk or the whitish stringy stuff attached to the yolk?

The yolk and white of the egg develop inside the chicken without the shell.  The shell forms around the yolk and white at the end of the egg-forming “tube.”  Sometimes this results in small spots in the egg.  The egg is still edible.  If there is a large spot or something I can’t easily remove, I scramble the egg and give it to the chickens. The white stringy stuff is nothing to worry about and disappears when the egg is cooked.  None of these things have anything to do with the egg being fertilized.

Unwashed eggs gathered this morning

Unwashed eggs gathered this morning

5.  Should I wash the eggs?  What about the “brown stuff” on them?

I typically do not wash the eggs.  The reason is that as the chicken lays the egg, she deposits a thin film of “bloom” on the egg.  If you can get an egg as it comes from the chicken, it will feel wet.  It dries within a few seconds.  That is the bloom.  It seals the porous egg shell keeping the egg fresh for much longer.  If the egg has any foreign matter on it (chicken poop), try brushing it off or wiping the egg clean.  If it is necessary to wash the egg, I just make sure we eat it relatively soon.

6. What is the best way to store eggs?

The best article I have found is on Mother Earth News website, “How To Store Fresh Eggs.”  It describes in detail experiments they conducted on all the ways to store fresh eggs. They concluded that unwashed, fresh eggs lasted longer than washed commercial eggs and,

The very best way we’ve found to stash eggs away for long-term storage is in a sealed container at a temperature of 35° to 40°F. Their whites may become somewhat runny looking over a period of time, but even after seven months—the cackleberries stored in this manner smell good, taste good, have a good texture, and—in short—seem “almost fresh”.

7.  Can eggs be frozen?

Yes.  I posted an article on this blog earlier about freezing eggs, “Freezing Eggs at Home.”   Don’t try to freeze them in the shell.  Break the eggs and scramble them.  The yolk needs to be broken for freezing.  I have made scrambled eggs from my frozen ones and used them to bake with without being able to tell that they are not fresh.

8.  Can eggs be dehydrated?

I have seen this question debated and advocates on both sides are very vocal on the subject.  Officially, it is not recommended.  I tried drying some scrambled eggs. They were terrible. Dehydrating raw eggs just doesn’t seem like a wise thing to do, so I haven’t.  My husband has found a way to pasteurize eggs without cooking them, so I may try to dehydrate those.  If I do, I will post an article about it.  If you don’t have egg-laying machines like I have, I recommend you buy commercially dried eggs for long-term storage.


Spelt packed in Vittle Vault

Spelt packed in Vittle Vault

I get many questions from new preppers about the best way to store grain for long term storage.  I have posted similar information before, but since I packed about 50 lbs of spelt yesterday, I decided to post some pictures of my system.

I typically use 1.5 gallon size Mylar bags, 12″ x 18″, 5 mm.  and 500 cc oxygen absorbers.  They hold 8 to 10 lbs of grain or beans. We buy them in bulk from USA Emergency Supply. They are available from many different sources.  One word of caution is to avoid bags that are 3 mm.  I recommend 5 or 7 mm.  I buy 250 bags at a time for $.49 per bag. These bags hold the perfect amount for our daily use.  I can open a bag to rotate our  supplies and use it in a reasonable amount of time.

Making smaller bags

Making smaller bags

The spelt is about twice the cost of wheat, and I don’t use or store as much of it, but like to have it available.  I use it as one of the several grains I mix together to add as 1/3 of the grain in the bread I make along with Prairie Gold Hard White Wheat. The other grains I add to the mix is kamut, groats, rye, buckwheat, amaranth, millet, triticale, and barley.

Since I don’t use as much spelt, I packed it in smaller bags I made from the 12′ x 18″ bags by cutting them in half and sealing the cut edges making an opening along one of the shorter edges which makes filling and sealing the bags easier. These half size bags hold a little less than 4 lbs.

New bag of 500 cc oxygen absorbers

New bag of 500 cc oxygen absorbers

O2 in Mylar bag and in pint jar

O2 in Mylar bag and in pint jar

Once I open a new bag of oxygen absorbers, I immediately put them into two pint canning jars to store them.  The lids will “pop” indicating the O2 has removed the oxygen from the jar sealing the jar from outside air. I use them from the jars while packing Mylar bags quickly replacing the lid after one is removed.  O2 packets need some humidity to work.  Therefore, they are not particularly helpful with storing dehydrated food with a desiccant packet.  I use my vacuum sealer to seal my dehydrated food in canning jars with desiccant.

Spelt in tub

Spelt in tub

I place  the bags of grain or beans I am packing in a large plastic tub sitting on top of a small folding table in my kitchen.  This makes the bag at the right height for me to work with, and the tub holds the bag upright and catches any spilled grain.  The spelt only comes in 25 lb bags, but I usually deal with 50 lb bags of grain.

Mylar Sealer

Mylar Sealer

I use a measuring cup to fill the Mylar bags with grain, weigh them, add an oxygen absorber, then seal using my Mylar bag sealer. I set the sealer on the #5 setting and hold it closed for about a count of ten.  That allows the heated strip to cool a bit and seal tight.  I usually double seal the bags. Mylar sealers can be bought in different lengths depending on the size bags you usually use.  You can also seal Mylar bags using a dowel or strip of wood under the bag using an iron.

Closed Vittle Vault

Closed Vittle Vault

Once I label the bags with the name of the item, date, and approximate weight, I store them in Vittle Vaults which will hold 60 to 80 lbs of grains, beans, rice, etc.  The containers have an airtight, waterproof lid and keeps bugs and rodents out.  Rats and even mice can chew through an unprotected Mylar bag. Mylar bags are also easily damaged and punctured, particularly when the product inside has any points such as penne pasta.

We store the Vittle Vaults in the basement where they can be stacked 2 or 3 high.  Each has a label with a list of what is stored in each.  We also have a sheet with a diagram of the stack of containers and the stored items in each.

Crock and wood press

Sauerkraut is a low calorie (42 calories per cup), nutritious way to preserve cabbage with 30 mg of Vitamin C per cup. Having a source of Vitamin C during winter months and the early spring was important to our forefathers when fresh greens and fruit was unavailable.  As preppers and self-sufficient homesteaders, we should consider sauerkraut as a way to preserve food for the winter.

Sauerkraut has a large amount of sodium, 1500 g. per cup, which should be considered for those with sodium restrictions.  Sodium can be reduced by rinsing the kraut before eating. My stepfather, who is a second generation German, only eats sauerkraut that has been rinsed well and sugar added. We like our kraut full strength and sour.

Cabbage, especially for making sauerkraut, is best picked in the fall and very fresh.  Also, large heads are milder.  It takes approximately 25 lbs of cabbage to make a 5 gallon crock of sauerkraut.  This week my husband tracked down a farm in the mountains that grows the cabbage and sells to the public.  It cost $10 for a bag that weighs approximately 50 lbs.

Johnson Small Fruit

984 Buck Mtn Rd., Elk Park, NC.

Hours: 9-5, Mon-Sat.      Phone:  828 – 733-4766.

We bought three 50 lb bags, one for some friends and two for us.  We made sauerkraut with one of the bags of cabbage.  We are going to experiment storing cabbage with other bag.  I will post about that later.

Cleaning and Rough Cut

The two of us worked about an hour and a half to clean, cut, and shred the cabbage and prepare it for kraut.  We were both surprised how quickly we got it done.  I cut off all the dirty, tough, outer leaves which will go into the compost.  I removed the core and cut the heads into large chunks.

Shredding cabbage with Family Grain Mill

My husband used the slicer attachment to our Family Grain Mill to shred the cabbage.  He shredded about 5 lbs at a time, salted it, and moved it to another large container to rest for 10 minutes.  He  moved the 5 lbs of cabbage to the 5 gallon crock and pressed the cabbage using a potato masher.  The goal is to get some of the water to separate from the cabbage and cover the top of the cabbage in the crock.

Weighted Cabbage

Using fresh cabbage that had been picked the day before makes a big difference in the amount of water that the salt can draw from the cabbage.  The water collected very quickly and covered the cabbage completely.  In prior years when we used older cabbage, we had to add brine to cover the cabbage.

There is a lot of information available to make sauerkraut, much of it not particularly helpful.  The best resource we have found is from the University of Wisconsin Extension which is practical and supports what we have learned from experience.  The PDF even includes some good sauerkraut recipes for Wisconsin Bratwurst Casserole and Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake.  Yes, Sauerkraut Cake.  I have eaten it since I grew up in a community with a lot of Germans.  It is actually good!