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Sunday, July 11, 2021

Preparing for Cooking in An Emergency

 Cooking in an Emergency

Do you have stored food? That’s step one. The next step is knowing what to do with it! 

When preparing for an emergency, one of the first things you need to do is determine how you’re going to cook and prepare food. Nearly all stoves are electric, so if the power goes out, you’re forced to find alter- native cooking methods

Some things to consider:

What foods to use first:

During the first week of an emergency, you should eat out of your refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator will keep things cool for 2 – 3 days. The freezer will become your fridge in 3 – 4 days as things thaw out but stay cool. Try to conserve canned or dried goods for later.

Some simple meals you can make without cooking:

An emergency is not the time to make three course, multiple ingredient meals. Make one-pot meals and use the fresh foods you have in the fridge to stay nourished and use your time for other priorities.

How to quickly preserve your frozen foods:

If you have a freezer full of food and the electricity is out, if it’s in the winter, move the freezer outside and use mother nature to help. If not, you will need to preserve the food as quickly as possible. Some fast methods of food preservation – drying in the sun for fruits and vegetables, salting and curing for meats. Make sure to store plenty of salt for cooking and for preservation.

What to do before the emergency:

  • Store foods that are easy to heat and eat, along with foods that take time and know-how to prepare. Example - canned beans and dried beans.

  • Have people powered tools instead of electric tools for cooking. Electric can openers do not work when the power is out.

  • Have pots and utensils that can be used with your cooking option of choice. Fires and grills are very hot and you will need long handled utensils (found for next to nothing at thrift stores) and hot pads or over-gloves.

  • Practice with your cooking option of choice.

  • Practice cooking with minimal equipment.

  • Choose methods that conserve fuel

  • Plan to be able to cook indoors and out, in the home or evacuated, in cold and hot weather

  • Remember, any flame can produce carbon monoxide — the cooking area must be well ventilated

  1. Options for cooking indoors without electricity

    Even if it’s warm outside, it’s still more convenient to cook inside than out, and if it’s cool, it may be nice to have the added warmth. Here are a few ways that you can cook your food inside:

    • Wood-burning stove: This is the type of stove that you use to keep warm. The tops of these get plenty hot enough to heat a skillet or a pot of water; you can most certainly cook anything that you’d like on them. All you need is wood or coal.

    • Fireplace: Use it like a campfire. Use grates to place your skillet on. You can also wrap some foods, such as potatoes or veggie packs, in aluminum foil and put it straight into the fire. Make sure to maintain the fireplace properly.

    • Sterno stoves: Sterno stoves are small warming stoves that run off of jars of a gel called Sterno. Sterno stoves can be used indoors or out and get hot enough to heat water or cook something small like a can of soup.

    • Kerosene heaters: The tops of these heaters get hot enough that you can heat soups, canned vegetables and water.

    • Butane stoves: These are compact stoves that run off of small canisters of butane. They are portable and can cook most things. However, they must have a supply of the butane canisters to run.


Options for Cooking outdoors Without Electricity

Cooking outdoors gives you several more options than cooking indoors. You don’t have to worry about smoke, deadly carbon monoxide or burning your house down. There are many ways to cook outdoors as long as the weather is good.

  1. Gas or charcoal grill: You can use the gas until it’s gone then continue to use the grill burning wood inside. A grill traps heat inside of it so your food will cook faster and more evenly.

  2. Camp stove: These are handy for short term use. The disadvantage is that they require gas to run. DO NOT use them inside!

  3. Open fire: Build a good cooking pit by stacking blocks or stone stacked a couple of feet high around the rim and digging a pit at least a foot deep in the center. Set a grate over the top. This allows room for your wood below the cooking area. Iron skillets and dutch ovens are great for cooking over a fire.

  4. Solar ovens: Solar ovens work well when it’s warm and clear out. They cook using only the power of the sun.

  1. Rocket stoves: Rocket stoves are compact, efficient stoves that use small pieces of wood in a combustion chamber. You put the small pieces of wood in, light it, then the heat travels up a chamber and out the top. Since they use small pieces of wood extremely efficiently, they’ll save your wood supply while quickly cooking your food.

  2. Volcano stove: A volcano stove is a collapsible stove that can use wood, charcoal or propane as the heat source. You can heat relatively large amounts of food with it. It folds right into itself and is fairly lightweight.

  3.  Wonder Oven/Hay Box/Insulated Cooker: To use this cooker, you bring food up to temperature, put it in an insulated cooker, and it continues to cook without any fuel. You still have to have a way to bring food up to temp before putting it in, but these are easy to make at home. It is like an electricity-free slow cooker.

  4. Cube Stove, Stove in a Can: These are small, lightweight, single use options for heating food.  They cannot be used inside and will only last as long as your stove in a can stores last.

  5. Earth or Cob Oven: This is a clay oven that is made out of earth and straw and sand. After curing, it is heated with wood and can cook everything from bread to grains to full meals. Must have this made before your emergency! 

How to get the most nutrition out of your stored foods

Most of our long term stored foods is grains and beans and other seeds, along with things to make those grains and beans taste good. These are great storage foods because they won’t sprout because of a coating on the outside that keeps them from sprouting. I am grateful that they don’t sprout in my storage, but this same coating can also cause these foods to be less nutritious than they should be if you don’t handle them correctly before cooking.

This sprouting inhibitor is called phytic acid. This phytic acid holds tightly to the phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc in these foods. As long as the phytic acid is still coating the grain, the nutrients in the grain are not available for you.

Why is it so important to remove/reduce phytic acid (phytates)?

Phytic acid not only grabs on to, or chelates, important minerals, it also also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food. These include pepsin needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, amylase needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar, and trypsin needed for protein digestion in the small intestine.

The presence of phytic acid in so many of the foods we are told are “healthy” for us–seeds, nuts and whole grain–makes it crucial that we know how to prepare these foods. The phytic acid needs to be neutralized as much as possible, and these foods should be eaten in a complete diet that helps to counteract the effects of phytic acid.

Consumption of high levels of phytic acid leads to:

  1. Mineral deficiencies, leading to poor bone health and tooth decay

  2. Blocked absorption of zinc, iron, phosphorous and magnesium

  3. Leeching of calcium from the body

  4. Lowered metabolism

  5. Anemia

Make the nutrients in grains available for your body

People living in traditional cultures throughout the world had lives filled with time-consuming daily activities. Yet they soaked, fermented, and ground their grains before using them. They often removed the hull of the grain before use as well. Why did they take the time? Because they knew it was the only way to get all the nutrients out of the grain.

What are these traditional ways of handling grains and legumes?

You must pre-treat the grains, seeds and nuts in one of two ways:

Soaking grains/flour in an acid medium at a warm temperature–helps to reduce, or even eliminate phytic acid.

Souring—think sourdough bread with natural yeast. This is the preferred method for reducing phytic acid in breads and bread-products.

In general, the best means of significantly reducing phytic acid in grains and legumes is a combination of acidic soaking for a long time, followed by cooking.

One important thing to note is that not all grains contain enough phytase to eliminate the phytic acid, even when they are soaked. Oats and corn are two of these. So when soaking, if you add a small amount of a high phytase flour (rye, wheat, spelt and kamut) to the soaking water for corn and oats, it will help reduce the high phytase in these two grains

Bottom line...If you want to eat grains and/or legumes, you must soak or ferment them before eating!

How to Soak

Soaking isn’t hard, in fact, it’s really easy. The hard part is that you have to plan ahead, which is difficult in today’s fast paced world.

Here is what you need to soak grains, seeds, nuts, flour & legumes:

  • Filtered water ~ warm water is necessary to properly break down the phytic acid and other minerals.

  • Some kind of acid – yogurt*, buttermilk*, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, whey, milk kefir* and coconut kefir. *If using dairy it needs to be cultured.

  • Baking soda for legumes

  • Time

Put grain into a glass bowl and cover completely with filtered water. For every 1 cup of liquid you will need 1 tbsp of acid. (Most grains: soak for 12-24 hours. Buckwheat, brown rice and millet: soak for 7 hours).

  1. Cover bowl

  2. Rinse in a colander after soaking.

  3. Use in the recipe (may take less time to cook after they are soaked)

  4. You can grind these grains wet in a Food Processor

Soaking flours

If soaking flour, you start making the recipe the night before, adding the flours and the water, oil and sweetener. Mix in a glass bowl and cover overnight.

Add the other ingredients in the morning and continue making the recipe (eggs, milk, etc). Remember this includes nut flours, like almond flour, that are high in phytic acid as well.

Soaking Beans

  1. For kidney shaped beans, add enough water to cover the beans and a pinch of baking soda. Cover and allow to sit in a warm kitchen for 12-24 hours, changing the water and baking soda once or twice.

  2. For non-kidney-shaped beans such as northern beans or black beans, place beans into pot and add enough “hot to the touch”water to cover the beans.For every one cup of beans you can add 1 tbsp of acid like vinegar or lemon juice, however it does slightly change the flavor and texture of the cooked bean. Soak for 12-24 hours and change the soaking water at least once.

  3. After soaking is done, rinse the beans, replace the water and cook for 4-8 hours on low heat or for 6-8 hour on high in the crockpot until beans are tender.

Rice—Use partially milled white rice or brown rice that has been soaked overnight and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse rice, then cook as normal.

Corn—Maize, or corn, has been a staple food in central America for thou- sands of years, with indigenous peoples soaking the dried corn kernels in alkaline lye or quicklime before cooking. This is called “nixtamalization,” and it increases the bioavailability of bound niacin (Vitamin B3) in the corn by converting it into a water-soluble free compound, allowing it to be absorbed by the gut.

Making Lime water

Pickling Lime or Cal Mexicana (calcium hydroxide) (Can be found in the canning section of a store, in a Hispanic Market, or online.)

Place about a 1/2 cup of the pickling lime into a 1 quart Mason jar. Fill the jar with water, screw on the lid and shake. Let the jar stand on the counter for a few hours until the lime settles, leaving you with a mildly cloudy liquid.

Use the cloudy liquid at the top as your lime water. Save the rest for use later – it does not go bad when stored at room temperature.

  • 2 C dried corn

  • 1T pickling lime

  • 8 C water

Rinse the corn, then add to a non-reactive pan. Cover with the water and add the lime. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 30 min. Remove from the heat and allow to sit overnight. After soaking, rinse in water with a strainer and rub the kernels between your fingers to remove some of the skins.

If using cornmeal

If soaking cornmeal, use 1 cup of the lime water for every 2 cups of cornmeal. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature for 12 hours then proceed as needed for your desired recipe.


  • 1 cup oat groats or flakes

  • Warm filtered water to cover the oats 1 T apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

  • 1 T spelt or wheat flour, rye flour or rolled rye flakes -or- ground buck- wheat groats for a gluten-free version

    Soak for a full 24 hours, drain and rinse in a fine mesh strainer and cook as usual. 

These are all things that can and SHOULD be practiced before an emergency happens!  Practice, and you will be prepared!

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