Society has come a really long way when it comes to survival food. We live in a time where we can eat beef stroganoff straight from the pouch by simply adding hot water to it. If any of our forebears knew of the powdered eggs some of us keep in our pantries, they'd probably flip their lids.
See, our great-great grandparents weren't so lucky back in their day. When the going got tough--- and boy did it get tough--- they had to resort to whatever food they had on hand. Still, they managed to come up with packable, shelf-stable and high-calorie food that could see them through natural disasters, famine and even wars.
Let's take a look at the four awesome survival foods they used to stock up back in the day and see if you can replicate these foods for your own survival pantry.
The Native American survival food pemmican has transcended centuries and is still considered one of the most popular traditional survival food to this day. Made from a mixture of dried meat, animal fat and dried berries, pemmican was first used by native Americans as a high-energy food source back in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Metis people would dry game meat like bison, elk or deer and grind it until it reached a powder-like texture, and then add melted fat and some dried berries to the mix. They would then pack it into little squares or cakes and store them in rawhide for future use. Soon, the natives began trading pemmican to European settlers, who packed it for their long expeditions and fur trade journeys.
The dried meat is a good source of protein, while the fat and berries provide enough calories to keep a person's energy up even after rigorous activities. And since the meat has little to no moisture, it has really low chances of spoilage, making the pemmican a very shelf-stable food source indeed.
These days you don’t have to hunt down deer or elk to make your own pemmican. You can easily make a batch with any dried red meat (usually beef), some lard or tallow, dried berries and a trusty old food processor, just like the video above. Think of them as your very own DIY nutrition bars. They’re cheap, very easy to make and when stored properly, can last for years in your survival pantry.
Dried and Cured Meat
Survival foods still aren't exactly known for being tasty, but dried and cured meat could be the exception to this rule.
Before refrigeration came into the scene, people used to rely on methods like drying and curing to preserve game meat like deer, elk or bison. Jerky is one of the best known survival foods made from these methods and is still quite popular today.
You can make jerky from just about any type of meat, but the most popular variety is the beef jerky. You can find this tasty snack in virtually any grocery or convenience store. It’s high in protein and since it’s been dried to leathery perfection, has little chances for spoilage when stored the right way.
Jerky can be a bit price so if you’re keen on getting a stash for your pantry without breaking the bank, you can definitely make your own using an oven or dehydrator.
Biltong, a South African variation of cured meat, is also a favorite among prepping circles. It’s a bit similar to jerky but is prepared differently. Biltong uses thicker strips of meat--- traditionally beef, venison or even ostrich--- and specifically uses vinegar and coriander seeds as part of the curing process.
If cured meats are a tasty survival food treat, then hardtack belongs to the other end of the spectrum. You can say that these biscuits are the original MREs: they could literally last for decades, they sometimes need hot water to be edible and they taste like cardboard. However, you can’t discount the fact that when in a survival situation, you’d much rather have a pouch or two of hardtack than die of hunger.
Hardtack is made from flour, salt and water. Really, that’s all there is to it. The ingredients are mixed in together to make a stiff dough. The dough is then formed into biscuits and baked for a couple of hours. The result is a biscuit so stiff and dry, people have to grind it or dip it in coffee or tea just to make it edible.
Then again, hardtack was made for survival, not enjoyment. Unlike fresh bread or flour, hardtack is very shelf stable. This quality made it a very important food source during many sea voyages of the 18th century and well through the American Civil War. They're definitely not the most appetizing survival food out there, but they will keep you alive when SHTF.
When they first settled in the New World, many Western explorers found themselves starving while on the trail. Their lifesaver? The humble corn. Corn is considered a great survival food since it can be cooked and used in many different ways. One Native American favorite is parched corn.
Parched corn is basically made from corn kernels that have been dried and then toasted to perfection. As with other shelf stable foods, parched corn keeps well because it’s essentially stripped of moisture. It’s an excellent and flavorful source of carbs, especially when out on the trail. Make a batch and take some with you on your next hiking trip and see how you like it.
When ground into fine powder, parched corn becomes rockahominy or pinole which can be prepared as a hot beverage or as a thickener for soups.
Survival food didn’t always come in sealed Mylar bags or were stored with gamma lids. Back in the day, they were often made of whatever people had in handy. These foods helped our forebears survive some really tough situations and perhaps even paved the way for modern survival food as we know it.
These traditional survival foods are relatively cheap and easy to make. Give them a shot and see if they’ve got a spot in your survival pantry.
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