Thursday, February 16, 2012

Steamed brown bread, a recipe for your survival kitchen

Are you prepared as you can be for a calamity? Natural and man-made disasters often take us by surprise. So, it's a good idea to think about disaster survival preparation long before there are signs of major problems. Here are things that you’ll need for your survival kitchen along with recommendations for some simple foods that will keep your family full and healthy.

Power supply
Usually in emergency situations, the lights go out and your refrigerator, freezer, and electric oven become useless. Now, some of you have a gas oven, and that’s good because you’ll still be able to cook. Just be sure to have some matches in a waterproof container. And, if you have some fuel, an outdoor grill also can help you out – to be used outside the house, of course.

If there is no food left in the supermarkets or the conditions in the street are so bad that no one in the right mind would make a grocery run, then you’ll need to have a well stocked emergency pantry. Most vegetables, fruits and eggs are edible for a week or so when stored in a cool and dark place. Salt, spices, soda, baking powder, and dried egg substitutes will add a lot of other choices to your rather limited food selection.

Canned and dried foods are lifesavers in these situations. You’ll want to have cans of veggies, soups, canned or dried milk, stews, juices, dried fruits, cooking oil, Parmesan cheese, and a variety of crackers. Your pantry should have at least a 2-week supply of food items that can be stored without refrigeration. Purchase  foods for your survival pantry in multiples whenever you see them on sale, and store them in a cool, dry place.  Be sure to write down the dates that you bought the cans and boxes and rotate the older foods to the front so that can be used along with items in your regular grocery list.

Water is necessary, not only for drinking but also for cooking and cleanup. So you’ll need a good supply of safe bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth. That means you’ll need a gallon of water per day per person in your household. A large garbage can of water or two can be kept in a bathroom for pets and hand and body cleanup. Surprisingly enough, you can wash your entire body and rinse with just a gallon of water, bar soap, and a washcloth. Not so much fun as showering but workable when it’s necessary.

Other items
Besides food and water, your emergency pantry should include hand soap, dish washing liquid, batteries, a radio, pet food, flashlights, candles, matches, and extras for prescription medicines. It’s also good to have a first aid kit and extra clothes and blankets in waterproof bags. You’ll want to have tanks of propane gas, a wood supply or carbon bricks for cooking although you do better to store these items outside the house or in the garage. Start charging your cell phone completely every day, and that way you’ll be sure to have well charged batteries in the event of an emergency. It’s also useful to fill up your car’s gas tank whenever it gets to half full rather than when it’s running on empty.

Recipes for the survival kitchen
For your emergency kitchen, you’ll need recipes based on foods that you have stored on your shelves. Since the power may be out and non-electric fuel will have to be conserved, you’ll want to make meals as quickly as possible. Oven-baked recipes take too long on a barbecue grill, unless you have a surplus of fuel and a tight-fitting cover on your grill. You should choose quick cooking/fuel saving recipes. Look for easy recipes that can be adapted for use with whatever canned or dried foods you have in your emergency pantry.

Now, with that rather extended introduction, we come to today’s topic: foods for the survival kitchen. Three foods, eaten together as a meal, will keep you healthy and full. All three or their ingredients can be part of your survival kitchen pantry, and I recommend them because they provide a good amount of calories, proteins and vitamins. They are:

Bread can be steam cooked in coffee cans
Boston brown bread, also known as steamed brown bread
Canned coleslaw
Baked beans (with or without meat).

I'm writing about the steamed bread today and saving the canned coleslaw for another post. The third recipe I wrote about some months ago but didn't comment on it possibly being a canned item. I’ll tell you how to do that at a later date.

Yes, (some) brown bread comes in a can
Boston-brown bread is a type of dark, somewhat sweet bread that was (and, in some areas, still is) popular in New England and other parts of the East. Traditionally, it is cooked by steam in a can - or any cylindrical pan - and contains a mixture of flours: cornmeal, whole wheat, and rye, and molasses or maple syrup. Most often it’s a quick bread leavened with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Raisins or other dried fruits may be added. The resulting bread is slightly moist like muffins or banana bread. It’s also known as 'hobo bread”, since it can be baked in a coffee can in a few hours over the coals of a fire.

While some people may be turned off by this rather usual looking and cake-like bread, my childhood memories elevate it to the status of comfort food. My Mom, rest her soul, lived through the Great Depression and WW II when fresh bread supplies and fuel often were hard to find. Given that shortages were common, many people kept a few cans of brown bread on the shelf. It was a commercial product that was found at almost any of the larger grocery stores.

Growing up in the late forties and early fifties, I remember that Mom would occasionally buy the canned brown bread and put it in our pantry. At that time, we didn’t have a car, and the nearest grocery store was some five blocks away. While Dad worked, Mom walked with my sister and me the five blocks and pulled a little red wagon to carry the food back home. Sometimes, my sister towed the wagon for a bit, but in general, it was Mom who had to keep the two of us in line while she piloted the red wagon back home with one or two bags of groceries. Needless to say, Mom couldn’t venture a trip to the store when it was raining hard or snowing. Thus, she knew to keep a certain amount of canned foods on hand. Those foods included, among many other things, Boston brown bread.

Now, as I remember, when we ate the canned bread with a meal, it accompanied a plate of corn beef hash or spam and a bowl of soup beans or baked beans. But, sometimes we just opened the can for a snack and ate it with cream cheese or jelly. My sister and I were delighted by the novelty of eating little round pieces of bread. It was usually eaten straight from the can but also could be pan warmed or toasted.

While, today, eating bread from a can may not be so common, the product itself (B&M canned bread) still can be found or ordered on line. It’s a product made up of only natural ingredients, and it’s certainly more wholesome than regular store-bought bread that contains several different chemicals additives. On the other hand, given its sweetness, you probably won’t want to use this kind of bread for sandwiches.

So, now you know that you can buy canned bread as a commercial product with just a little searching. But, maybe, you would like to make it yourself as I learned to do. It’s a fun and easy recipe to make, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. It can even be home-canned and stored for up to a year on your shelves as one of your survival kitchen staples.

Recipe for steamed brown bread
2 cups buttermilk or sour milk
3/4 cup molasses or corn syrup - None of the high-fructose stuff, please.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat or rye flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of butter or shortening - Not hydrogenated, please.
Raisins, other dried fruit or nuts (optional)

Take out 3 or 4 clean, empty cans. The cans can be coffee tins or large veggie or juice cans. Grease the cans heavily, so the baked bread will slide out.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the milk and molasses. Stir in the flours, cornmeal, baking soda and salt. Mix it well by hand for about a minute. Stir in the dried fruit and nuts, if desired. Pour the dough into the cans, leaving space at the top - the dough rises considerably.

Place the filled cans on a rack in a large canning pot, filled with boiling water up to the rack. Cover the pot with a lid and keep the water boiling. Add water as necessary and steam the bread for 2 to 3 hours. It’s done when a knife stuck deep into the bread comes out clean.

When the bread is done, lift the cans out of the pot and let the bread cool. Then invert the cans and strike the bottom sharply with your hand. The loaves should fall out easily. Slice and serve the bread warm with butter or cream cheese. The fresh bread should be eaten the same day or the day after. It can also be kept for up to 10 days in the refrigerator. It makes a great gift for family and friends. Just tell them to keep it refrigerated and to eat it right away.

Freshly prepared, this kind of bread can safely be sealed in sterilized pint-sized jars and stored in a cool, dry place in the same way as other home canned foods. All home canned goods stored on pantry shelves should be checked every month or so to make sure the jar seals are unbroken. If you worry about the safety of your canned bread, the jars can be stored in the freezer.

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1 comment:

MJWC said...

"The funny thing about your subject is that I went to Krogers the other day and actually looked for brown bread. If they have it, I couldn't find it. That was a good treat before bed for the kids and I used it for after school snacks, too. I get hungry for it myself. I bought cream cheese but no bread. Then you came up with this!
Maybe we still are connected, as our kids say, with woo woo stuff. Many times you come up with things that I have been thinking about for days.
If I can't find it... now I can make it."