So we have talked about grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and proteins. Now lets move on to the foods you need to make those basics palatable. When was the last time you cleaned out you baking cabinet? Wait a minute. Do you have a cabinet dedicated to herbs, spices, sweeteners like molasses and honey and leaveners such as baking powder and baking soda? Is it located away from you stove where heat and humidity can rob the contents of flavor and storage life? I hope so. A well stocked larder should include the properly packaged extras that make baking possible and cooking fun.
Before you begin to organize this cabinet, think about the herbs and spice you use most. As you go through your space purge the 6-year-old jar of curry powder and that odd jar of cinnamon that you got lost and is now a solid lump. I would toss anything much over a year old. When replacing spices I have found that bulk purchased herbs and spices are often a lot cheaper, especially if I go to a small health food store. The only exceptions are a few things I use a lot of. Cinnamon for instance, is cheaper at BJ’s or Costco. The same for peppercorns and whole cloves. If I buy a large plastic container I keep the spice in that. If I buy a small bag I transfer to a brown glass jar. I found these by the case at a hardware store that carried a lot of food preservation supplies. I label and date the jar. Bruce is suppose to be building me a spice rack that will hold these jars on their sides to save space. I can’t rush him as he is still working on the ventilation system for the cold cellar and cleaning up the garden. I must say that I use 10 percent of my spices 90 percent of the time. Those are the ones I worry about stocking. I can live without tarragon but I need cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder and sage.
I bought baking soda in a twelve pound bag. Baking soda and vinegar are two things you just can’t have too much of. Baking powder is not supposed to hold up as well but I have never had any fail and I have kept it a long while. Just be sure to open only one can at a time and keep it cool and dry.
I use a lot of honey, molasses and very little corn syrup. They may crystallize but they don’t spoil so buy plenty. I have some black strap molasses but I don’t use it much. It stains dreadfully and has a strong flavor. Of course it is more nutritious.
I keep gelitan and Jell-o on hand. Jell-O is another non-food but if you have a bout of tummy problems you will be glad to have it. I make the Jell-O and add a cup of plain yogurt to it before it sets but after it cools. Whip it up and your kids will likely eat it, getting the benefits if the active cultures as well as some fluid and calories. You can also add cottage cheese and fruit. I know I can make it from gelatin and fruit juice but I want something my kids can manage without supervision and something I know they will eat. sometimes you pick your poison.
I store #10 cans of powdered eggs, shortening, butter, cheddar cheese and milk. These are things I can not buy locally. I order them from Emergency Essentials. The shelf life is 30 years and with those basics I can bake everything I might want. I got a nifty little book called Mix-A-Meal Cookbook from Emergency Essentials this week. It has mix recipes for everything. I made up some this weekend and vacuum sealed them. As you know, I love mixes and this book has many I had never thought of. The benefit is that with just add water mixes, my husband or children could whip up breads, cakes, muffins and cookies in minutes if I was out of commission. I am thinking of flu season here. I taped a label to the front of the jar with the recipes. Honestly, my 6-year-old could make muffins with one of these mixes.
I have to talk about chocolate. I store about ten pounds of baking chocolate and 20 pounds of chocolate chips. If the chips get warm, they may develope a blush. It won’t hurt them or you. The problem I have is keeping some hidden well away as my kids tend to snack on them.
I keep only one small canister of iodized salt in the cabinet but I store dozens. They are cheap, store forever and are such a staple that I want extras for charity and barter. I buy kosher salt in 80 pound sacks and repack in 6 gallon buckets. Let me add that 80 pounds of salt weighs more than eight pounds of almost anything else. I tried to get it in the house alone but had to call for help. In the future I would stick to replenishing with 5 pound boxes. I only keep so much because I would use it to salt down meat if the power was out for any length of time.
I just took a quick look in my cabinet to see if I missed anything. Cornstarch, cream of tartar and yeast screamed out, “Remember me!” I buy yeast in 1 pound bricks. I have four in the freezer, one in the cabinet and one in use that I keep in the refrigerator. The bricks have a long shelf life and cost far less than those little packets. You need cornstarch for thickening sauces and gravys and for soothing rashes and chafes. Cream of tartar is expensive in those tiny containers. Look for anyplace that sells bulk spices. I also noticed that I have bulk purchased pickling spices and some fun things like birthday candles and cookie and cake decorations as well as many boxes of pectin for jelly making. I have shortening but try not to use it. It is another non-food and terrible for you. The powdered shortening is no better. I store gallon jugs of oils but they get rancid and must be rotated so don’t buy more than you will use in a year. Olive oil won’t last that long so refrigerate it. I by mine in large cans. I might add that to the list of things I will keep in my cooler with ice that I change out every day. It takes up too much room otherwise.
If you would like to look over a blog that puts our economic woes in perspective, check out Mike Folkerth at the King Of Simple. He has one of the few sites that makes economics accessible for the mathematically challenged. I got his book, The Biggest Lie Ever Believed a year or so ago and insisted my kids all read it.
One last note. I had a wonderful weekend. Seven women attended my food preservation workshop and we had a blast. They were all beginners and could not believe how much food we preserved in one day. We did 4 quarts of stew beef, 6 quarts of mixed stew vegetables, a quart of dehydrated kale, 5 pints of strawberry jam and 5 pints of pickled red cabbage. We had a fabulous pot luck lunch and are planning to get together to do a bread baking and pasta making class during the winter. They would also like to learn cheese making but they have to look elsewhere for a teacher. I am still a novice at best.