Laurie’s (free range) Spices

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This week I had an “ah-ha” moment.  I was at a store, and the owner, Peter, was talking about selling more foods by local artisanal producers.  Obviously not stuff he already carried, but jams or sauces, or…. spice mixtures without corn or MSG.

*light-bulb goes on.*

I have been making my own spices for years to avoid MSG and salt.  I make eight mixes now, like yellow curry and garam masala, african and moraccan stew spices…. I could make more if I knew what he wanted.  Now I know, because he jumped on the idea with both feet!

I have one week to bring him the first of the spices.  I’m thinking yellow curry, italian seasoning, taco seasoning, and chili powder.  If they sell well, we will expand to my garam masala, and moraccan spices, maybe a hot curry….  I need to design labels and find a way to stick them to little bags.  I need to design a poster listing all the things my spices don’t have.

My introductory packets of spice will be about 1 meal’s worth.  2 Tbs of curry powder, 3 Tbs of taco seasoning…  All are hand made, and contain NO corn, wheat or other fillers, preservatives, MSG, GMO, silica or other anti-caking agents, salt, artificial colour or flavour…

And I am now posting recipes here.  Because it occurs to me that the ability to grow and mix your own spices is a survival skill.  You can grow and store as much food as you want.  But how dull would it be without herbs and spices?

And you need to know how to cook from your storage.  I suppose future posts should have instructions for cooking dry beans, lentils, rice, etc.

So, my first shared recipe is a simple chicken curry, using my hand made curry powder, and stuff from our food storage.  Remember, you need to use what you store (and store what you use) or it all goes off and wastes money.

Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons Ghee, recipe follows (from storage)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (or 1/4 cup dried from storage, rehydrated)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Curry Powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cans unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups chicken stock (home canned or from storage)
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or a 250ml jar of home canned)
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
  • Mint leaves, for garnish

GHEE:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter

Put the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt the butter slowly and make sure it does not sizzle or brown. Increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is covered with foam, stir gently and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Gently simmer, uncovered, and undisturbed for 45 minutes, until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter on top is transparent. Strain the ghee through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. The ghee should be perfectly clear and smell nutty; pour into a glass jar and seal tightly.

Directions

Heat the ghee in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic and cook slowly until the onions are very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste, curry powder, and  give it a good stir; season with salt and pepper. Pour in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring it back to a simmer; cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, chicken, and half the lemon juice; continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Garnish with mint leaves.

Blog #2: Where?

Where?

Where is an interesting question.  You need to store food where you can get to it, but not trip over it all the time.  And it needs to not be accessible to cats, dogs, mice, and assorted bug-type pests.

It’s important to rotate through your storage; grain, nut, and rice based things go rancid from their oils.  Other things start tasting “tired” after a year or so, and home made jams and jellies lose their gel.  The fact that store bought ones last forever worries me…. Just saying.

And while almond milk can last up to 6 months unrefrigerated, the cow’s milk that does that just scares me.

But back to ‘where’.

I’m lucky to live in a large century old farmhouse, so I have room in the kitchen for a pantry, and a couple of nice wire shelves to store dry goods in glass jars.  I also have a garage with a workshop, which is covered in shelves.  :D

But I can hear you squeal, “I live in a two bedroom rowhouse!”  Or “I live in an apartment!”

Easy, gentle friends, I can help with that too.  I didn’t always live here.  And my father was military, so I grew up in Army barracks.  Of course, now….. like those military barracks, landlords have the right to inspect your unit for “hoarding behaviour”, which is illegal in some cities.

This is where it gets fun and creative!

When we were kids, my mom had a couple of big round cardboard barrels for moving china. They were maybe two feet across and three high.  She stuffed them with our off season clothes, table linens, whatever.  Then covered it with a pretty round cloth and a lamp, and no-one was ever the wiser.

If you could find something similar, you could fill it with bags of dried beans, lentils or brown rice.  You wouldn’t be able to move it when full, but add the tablecloth and a vase of flowers and it’s still easy to access.

How far off the floor is the bottom of your bed?  Can you fit flats of canned tomatoes, or boxes of jars full of stuff?

Do your clothes come all the way to your closet floor, or is there room for a few boxes?

Does your apartment building have lockers or storage areas for the tenants, slide a few bookcases in there!

Useless cupboards over the fridge or the microwave? Space between your desk and the wall, under your couch? Top of the closet?

Bear in mind that mice love food storage, so everything in cans or jars.  I’ll address that more in “How?”

Probably next week, busy day tomorrow making paneer and editing.

An Intro to Food Storage

I’ll bet your first question is “why”?  Why should I have more than this week’s groceries in the house, when there’s a grocery store on every street corner?  This is the 21st century, not the 18th, why should I learn to can and dry food, and hoard it away?

That question would be followed closely by “where”?  “I live in an apartment, why should I use my limited space for food storage?”  Why should I risk being put on Hoarders TV show?

Another question is “how?”  How can I afford it?  How do I start? How do I use it?  How do I keep my friends/ family from thinking I’m batshit crazy?

I’ll tackle “why” first.

Because the 1998 ice storm left half of Ontario and Quebec without power for days.  In some rural areas, they were without power for SIX WEEKS!

Because the 2001 trucker’s strike left grocery store shelves empty in THREE DAYS!

Because studies show that the majority of Canadians are only one or two paycheques from disaster.  What if you are injured or laid off?  EI and most employer plans take six to eight weeks to kick in.  ODSP can take up to EIGHT MONTHS. And in the meantime, welfare pays $550 a month.

With three days of groceries in your fridge, plus some basic baking supplies…. What will you do?  I know what we did when my hubby was out of work for nine months a few years ago.  We lived off savings and my food storage.   We didn’t have to start using the credit cards until the last two months, and that was mostly for stuff you can’t store: fresh milk, mortgage payments…

Also. With the power out, you can’t buy food.  Everybody uses electric cash registers now.  Credit and debit cards need a working electronic reader.  Even if you have cash on you, you’re screwed.  I have a story to illustrate.

A few years ago, the small town I live near lost its power grid.  No store had power.  We stopped in at Timmies for a coffee while we waited to see if the power would come back on, or if we were headed back home.

The drive-through was shut (no power for the mic and speakers) so I went in.  Hubby stayed in the car.

I ordered two extra-large double double.  Same order as always.  Since the power had failed less than five minutes before, the coffee was still hot.  The problem was a cashier who had never bothered to learn anything because the electronic cash register did the thinking for her.

Two double doubles comes to $3.59.  She refused to take the money.  She couldn’t ring it in, so I was expected to stand there until the power came back.  Did I mention the SIX WEEK blackout in ’98?

But I know how much it costs, I get this every day!  Didn’t matter, she couldn’t ring it in, so she had no proof of how much it cost.  I don’t even work there and I have half their menu memorized.

After arguing for a few minutes, I hate being called a liar, especially over something so minor as the cost of my coffee, I dug through my purse and came up with exact change.

She called the manager when I tried to pay her.  Seriously.

Did I mention that there was a crowd of sheeple standing around, drinking their coffee, waiting for the power to come back?

The manager said that I had to wait, she wouldn’t  know what they sold if we all left, so she couldn’t ring it in when the power comes back.  Easy!  Put aside a matching cup for every one you sell.  Or better yet, write it down.

Nope, she didn’t know the prices either.  Are you kidding me?!  I could work there for two hours and have all the prices and combinations memorized!  And I certainly know the price of my order: $3.59.

Well, she had no way of proving that.

That was it.  I slammed the exact change down on the counter and grabbed my coffees.  The manager threatened to call the cops if I left.

CALL THE COPS?!  What are you going to tell them? Some woman who eats here all the time ordered two coffees, gave me exact change and left?!  OMG!!!!!!

By this time I was yelling and waving my arms in the air. I stomped out to utter silence.  And a very puzzled hubby who saw the whole thing, but didn’t hear any of it.

Behind me, the sheeple started checking their pockets for exact change.

My point is, you should be prepared for stupidity along with panic and shortages if the power goes out.  Plus there’s unemployment, blizzards (we once passed a snowplow in the ditch on the 417, God’s way of saying “stay home, you idiot, it’s a blizzard!”) trucker strikes, etc.

And really, it’s neither hard nor complicated.  It’s not even expensive if you do it right.

And you can be prepared for everything but a zombie apocalypse.  And maybe even that.

Next blog, I’ll tackle the where and what.  But first I need to figure out how to upload excel and stuff to WordPress.