My grandfather Willie was a practical man. A retired coal miner who...
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Almost all of us have a favorite soup recipe, either one that has been passed down for generations or just something we saw on a cooking show. Soups have been a staple for human consumption for about as long as we’ve known how to boil water, and they continue to provide us with nourishment. Here we examine ways soups are an optimal part of our preparations and how to make them more shelf-stable and bug-out friendly.
Soups can make an excellent survival food because of their ability to make ingredients stretch to feed more people. Soup variety is only limited to available resources and the cook’s imagination, making it excellent for personal touches and adaptability. Because of the variability of ingredients, some recipes can be extremely nutritious and hearty, even if all you have is an assortment of scraps that would be inadequate for a solid meal. This has made soup a popular choice during times of scarcity, such as the Great Depression.
The importance of balanced foods during emergencies or survival situations is vital. When our bodies are stressed both physically and mentally, we need to replenish nutrients, proteins, and carbohydrates to continue operating at peak levels. As prepared individuals, we know that hunger can control emotions, activities, and ultimately decision-making abilities for the worse or better. You can only subsist on granola bars and beef jerky for so long before it catches up with your digestive system, so it’s wise to have more nutritious and natural options ready.
Lastly, soups can provide much-needed morale boosts when times are tough. Just like when we got sick as kids and mom gave us chicken noodle soup to make us feel better, having your own soup base on hand can be mission essential.
Dehydration is usually a survivalist’s mortal enemy but, in this case, we can use it to extend the life of fresh vegetables and create soup bases. The process of dehydration uses heated air flow to remove moisture and preserve foods. By removing moisture, the food is more resistant to the growth of bacteria which would usually cause spoilage.
The easiest way to perform this task is to purchase a dedicated dehydrator. These can be had for less than $50 and can provide you with food for years to come. Many models can be expanded for more drying space, can utilize built in timers, and can even fulfill a commercial-grade volume if your preps take you in that direction. In our opinion, they are a worthy preparedness investment.
If a dedicated machine is not available, it is possible to use your oven for dehydration as well. Simply set your oven to the lowest setting, cut your vegetables into less than 1/4-inch thick pieces, and lay them on a lined cooking sheet. Leave them in the oven for 6 to 10 hours, checking them periodically for dryness. To perform the dryness test on both oven- or machine-dehydrated goods, pull a piece and attempt to break it. If it bends or does not snap, moisture is still present and more drying is necessary. We are focusing on vegetables here, but dehydrators are also useful for meats, fish, herbs, and fruits.
Making your own soup bases is a relatively simple task. As with all food preparedness, it is important to select foods you and your family enjoy and eat regularly. Growing your own vegetables is an economical and easy way to stock up on nutritious soup ingredients. Purchasing locally grown vegetables from farmers markets or grocery stores is also a great option for preparing your own bases. Dehydrating your vegetables is simple but lengthy task:
Most vegetables follow the above instructions; however, some need one more preparatory step: blanching. Blanching is a process of boiling the food for a very short amount of time then removing and rapidly cooling it in an ice bath. For dehydration, this process is used to preserve taste and color of the vegetable. Blanching is generally necessary for:
Soup bases are made up of available ingredients without using a set recipe. This example will comprise of kale, white onion, green and yellow bell peppers, swiss chard, carrots and tomato powder (refer to our previous DIY article to learn how to make this versatile ingredient). Combining these ingredients, we accomplish a flavorful and nutritious soup base that can be amended depending on available additives such as game meat, fresh vegetables or other long-term food storage items. Your chosen ingredient ratio depends on your preferred tastes. According to our preferences, this soup was light on tomato but heavy on onions.
Ideal storage for your ingredients is air-tight containers, out of direct light, and at 68°-72°F. Storing ingredients separately isn’t necessary, but doing so allows you to use ingredients for different recipes. Our preferred method is to store each ingredient in a glass jar, vacuum-sealed with reusable canning lids. These are stored in a pantry with ideal temperature conditions. For camping and bug-out purposes, ready-made packets are stored in small resealable bags.
Reconstituting is the process of bringing your vegetables back to, or close to, their original form. This is accomplished by adding the greens to water and bringing them to a boil for about 10 minutes. Hard measurements aren’t entirely necessary however, adding about 1.5 cups of water to about ¾-1 cup soup mix should achieve the right consistency. Once the vegetables have reconstituted they can be used for a variety of meals. Here are a few examples:
Basic Vegetable Soup (1 Serving)
Begin to heat water and add bouillon. As water heats, add soup mix and garlic powder. Boil for 10 minutes covered, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let steep for another 5to 10 minutes. Stir and add pepper (and/or other spices) to taste and enjoy. This recipe can be prepared beforehand by adding all ingredients to a plastic bag for easy transport — just add water.
Survival Breakfast Hash (4 Servings)
Reconstitute cheese and soup mix. Whisk together (or blend) eggs, cheese, and soup mix. If using meat, cook the meat first then add to the egg/cheese/soup mixture. Potatoes can be boiled first to soften or chopped and lightly fried then added. Pour into greased pan and cook until done.
Rehydrate the onions and carrots, add to pot with water, and begin to boil. Add tomato powder. Add beans to boiling water and let simmer for about 20 minutes. If meat is available it should be cooked first then added to the chili. Add dry ingredients and stir, let simmer for additional 5 minutes.
Preserving food is a precious skill set that should not be over looked. Even if you are unable to grow your own food, buying in bulk and learning to preserve can be an excellent way of saving money and keeping a well-stocked pantry. Dehydrating, canning, and pickling are only a few ways to keep you (and your family) full and healthy during tough times. Using your knowledge, experience, and ingenuity will help ensure your successful survival. Learning these methods now when you can afford to screw up is a better choice than learning them when spoiled fruits and vegetables will mean malnutrition and hunger.
Alexander Crown served as an Infantryman with the Scout/Sniper Platoon of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Ft. Richardson, Alaska, where he specialized in radio communications and reconnaissance. Since separating, Alexander spends his time as an avid outdoorsman and hunter with an appreciation for self-sufficiency in the form of gardening. He also enjoys woodworking, firearms, and reloading. You can follow him on Instagram @acrown509.