Storing Cheese Without Refrigeration

cheeseA couple of days ago I wrote an article How do you take care of your food when the grid goes down?.  This article discussed preserving food after the grid goes down.  In a reply to this article Hangtown Frank mentioned that he is storing shrink wrapped cheddar and jack cheeses in a cool area for up to thirteen months.

Because he has been a good source of information in the past I asked him to provide additional information on how he is doing it. The following is the reply I received from him.

The cheeses I’m storing

I get my cheese at Raley’s in Placerville in their cheese section. Generally what I get is their store-brand plastic shrink-wrapped 2 pound blocks of mild cheddar or Monterey Jack. I simply set these on the painted metal shelves of office storage supply cabinets that are located in my “whine” cellar*. The cabinets have doors that close but they aren’t really needed if your storage area is rodent proof (mine is).

When purchased, the mild cheeses are the least expensive because they have had very little aging. They continue to age while being stored and become sharper – that’s what I like – sharp cheese. I am now eating a block of cheese that has aged for 13 months in my whine cellar.

Minimal aging and, perhaps, minimal pressing before being formed into blocks results in cheese that sometimes off-gasses and/or bleeds-out some whey-like liquid. The gas is odorless and is not flammable. The off gassing pressurizes the wrap so that it “balloons-out”. The liquid has no significant odor and a pleasant slightly cheesy flavor.

When I open an aged package with liquid in it, I generally drain the liquid into the kitchen sink. I have saved it and used it in pancake batter. If it has liquid, the block of cheese will be slippery. I wipe it dry with a paper towel. That takes care of the slipperiness. I then put it into a plastic bag or a covered bowl for room temperature storage and cut or grate-off cheese as I need it. A two pound block lasts me about 2 weeks.

On rare occasion the shrink-wrap will leak a bit onto the shelf in the storage cabinet. Aside from being slightly messy this doesn’t seem to be a problem for me.

If the blocks are stacked more than 2 deep on the shelf they sometimes deform (flatten) over time. So far this hasn’t been a problem for me.

I’ve never had any mold form in the packages while they were in storage.

I had a potential concern about the possibility of botulism. I did an extensive web search on this topic and found only one case of possible botulism in cheese. That was more than 50 years ago and it was in a cheese sauce stored in an open container on a restaurant salad bar. The sauce contained many things aside from cheese. These changed the natural acidity and moisture balance of the cheese. Further, for hundreds of years, cheese has been preserved for long periods of time without refrigeration simply by wrapping it in was coated cheese cloth. So, I no longer worry about this topic. As best I can tell, the primary purpose for refrigerating is to slow its natural aging process.

* My “whine cellar” – why whine and not wine? Because I whine a lot about it not being big enough and had I planned it as a cool storage room I’d have designed it differently.

As it is now, it is simply a former bedroom with one window. The room is on the lower floor of the house and is always shaded from the sun. To keep it cool on hot days, I open the window at night and let the breeze blow in. I close it when I arise in the morning. The room is well enough insulated and local night time summer temperatures are low enough that this procedure maintains the room at temperature that never exceeds 70F on the hottest of summer days.

This room naturally has a low humidity. It would not function well as a “root cellar” for unprocessed foods that require a humid environment.

If I were designing it now as a storage room I’d have either (a) installed a temperature controlled exhaust fan to ventilate the room at night without my having to remember to open and close the window or, (b) built it with a 19th century thermal chimney into the room that automatically cools the room at night. I’d have also designed it with built in storage containers and shelves and more insulation in all the walls (not just the exterior walls) and ceiling.

Hangtown Frank

I spent part of the morning doing a bit of research on this subject and found that the harder the cheese the better they store without refrigeration.  This is why Parmesan cheese stores well.

Fromager Dan Utano says “Aged Gouda is a great example of a perfect traveling cheese. It’s hard so it doesn’t melt, it’s aged so it can last through the travel and the flavor is so rich you can just eat a little at a time and it will last you.”

There is a Raley’s near me, so I will go shopping and get some cheddar cheese and put in a controlled temperature storage  and see what happens.  If you choose to do this, it is at your own risk.  Another solution to storing cheese is to find a source of commercially waxed cheeses that are designed for long term storage.  These are available o the internet.


Well Buckets for When the Power Fails

This was posted about three years ago, but I feel the subject is important enough to re-post for the benefit of our newer readers..  When the grid fails many of us will have trouble getting water from our wells.  Here is a simple method of making a well bucket for getting water out of a deep well without electricity.  It is one that almost anyone can build, is inexpensive and parts are easy to get.

The parts list required to make a well bucket

      • One 18 to 24 inch section of two inch PVC
      • One 2 inch to 11/4 reducer
      • One cut down rubber flapper from toilet tank
      • Six inches of wire or three one-inch screws

Here is a diagram on how to build it.well bucket

As you can see in the diagram, there are two pieces of wire that hold the rubber flapper in place.  At the suggestion of one of our readers, you can substitute three equally placed one-inch screws for the wire.

well bucket

Here you can see the rubber flapper from the bottom


well bucket

well bucket

This picture shows the screws instead of the wires

Once the well bucket is finished, attach a rope to the PVC pipe and lower the bucket down the 4 to 6 inch well shaft, and let it sink into the water.  The rubber flapper will act like a foot valve and rise up against the wires or screws when it hits the water.  This will allow the water to enter the pipe.  When you start to pull it up, the weight of the water will push the rubber flapper down against the reducer and seal the bottom of the bucket.

Depending on the size of your well casing, you may be able to use different size piping.  Just be sure it fits loosely in the shaft.  If you have a deep well, you may want to consider setting up a tripod or winch over the wellhead to make the weight easier to handle.

well bucker

Here is a picture that shows just how simple a winch can be.

I suggest if you have a well or there are wells in your area that you build one of these now while everything is easy to acquire.


How do you take care of your food when the grid goes down?

foodOk, the grid is down and you have turned off the utilities and taken care of your water, what do you do next?  Check on your food situation.  Take a look at the refrigerator and see what needs to be used right away, don’t mess with the freezer yet.  Use up the foods that require refrigeration first.  Many of the foods that we normally refrigerate will keep for several days without refrigeration, such as produce and condiments.

Now the freezer, most freezers depending on the ambient temperature will stay cold for about three days if you leave them alone  and don’t open the door a lot.  If you have a generator and fuel, you can run the freezer for three or four hours a day and buy yourself time to preserve the contents.

So what is your long-term plan for the food in the freezer?  You have basically three ways to preserve it, canning, drying or dehydrating, or salting.  All of these methods take some time and study.  I would recommend that you spend some time learning these skills beforehand.

Here is a short course in dehydrating and salting.  If you don’t already know how to can and have supplies on hand, this method will not work for you.  To dehydrate your food, cut it into thin slices and spread it out in the sun allowing air circulation.  You can improvise racks with window screens.  If you are drying meat, be sure and cut the fat off.  Dry the food until it is completely dry and it should last for a while.

To salt the meat, take food grade containers like five-gallon buckets or large pots and mix up salt brine.  There is enough salt in the mixture when it will float an egg.  Submerge the meat in the mixture and put some weight on top to keep it under the brine.  If you don’t have a tight fitting lid, you may have to add more water occasionally.

Then inventory the other foods that you have on hand.  Determine which foods should be consumed first to minimize waste.  If it appears that you will not be able to replenish your supplies, consider whether or not you need to ration your food.

The best plan is to have a deep larder of long-term storage foods and the knowledge you need to use them and preserve foods.


Your Water has Failed What to Do Next?

purifying waterThe grid has just failed for one of many reasons, running from earthquakes to economic collapse.  You are without power and don’t know when it will come back on, but it appears that it will be at least several days.  So one of the first things you need to think about is protecting and using the water you have on hand.

If you have any warning, fill your bathtub and other containers.  Then shut your water off at the street if you are on a municipal water system.  This will protect the water in your piping and water heater from becoming contaminated from outside sources.  This water can then be collected, by opening your lowest water tap.  This will probably be outside and you can have several gallons of water in your piping.

Extra water can be found in the water heater and in the toilet tank.  The one on the back, I would not recommend the toilet tank water for drinking without treating.  If you have been using one of those blue additives don’t drink it period.

If you are on a well, you should have water in the pressure tank, depending on your system this can be from 30 gallons up to several hundred.  Learn where this tank is located and how to access the water in it.

Next, get an idea of how much water you have on hand and think about rationing it.  If you have access to other water sources that require treatment, hopefully you have a decent water filter like a Big Berkey and know how to use it.  If you do not have a filter you have the option of treating the water by boiling, Sodis or adding chlorine.

Boiling is self-explanatory.  Common household Clorox Ultra, Chlorox, Purex or chlorine bleach may be used to disinfect water in the following amounts.  Four drops per quart gives 10 ppm in clear water.  This amount should be increased to eight drops in turbid (cloudy) water.  Sixteen drops will provide 10 ppm per gallon of clear water.  You should be able to get a slight odor of chlorine after the waters sits for the 15 minutes. If not, add more Clorox.


Sodis in operation, you need good bright sunlight

What most organizations that recommend chlorine don’t tell you is that chlorinated bleach loses it strength with time.  After one year on the shelf, it will have lost 50% of its strength, so double the dose on old chlorine.

Sodis is a method of disinfecting water using only sunlight and using bottles made of PET a type of plastic.  Pet plastic bottles can be identified by the recycling number 1, usually located in a triangle on the bottom.  To use Sodis you fill Pet plastic bottles with contaminated water, and then lay them in the sun.  The best place is a corrugated metal roof.  Be sure to shake your bottles before placing in sun.  The full bottles need to be exposed to sun for at least six hours.  Sometimes this may require that you put them out a second day.

Sodis will not work if the water is overly turbid, you should be able to read a medium print though the full bottle.  All labels must be removed from the bottles and the bottle should be in good shape, not a lot of scratches.

Remember the more you learn beforehand, the better off you will be.


Storing Chocolate and Its Shelve Life.

chocolateYesterday, I received a question about a blog we posted July 12, 2012 on storing chocolate  .  “Any update on vacuum sealing the chocolate?” With the possible shortage of chocolate the news has been talking about and if one person has a question I am sure more do, it is time to do an update.

Several months prior to the July 12, 2012 blog my wife vacuum sealed several jars of chocolate.  About two weeks ago she opened one of the jars to make a big batch of cookies for an activity.  The chocolate tasted and looked normal.  This was unsweetened chocolate chips.  On several prior occasions, she has used some.  The jars were opened and then resealed.  So far all of it has been good.

We still have some more jars and will update this in the future.  The jars were quart jars vacuumed sealed with a FoodSaver.  Here is a link to a demonstration my wife did with one,  See my Wife’s FoodSaver Demo.  

They are easy to use and do a good job of extending the shelf life of many products.

Hope this answers your question.



Dutch Desert Camo Pack

Dutch Desert Camo PackThis Dutch Desert Camo Pack is being sold by my friend Freezedryguy.  Now he is an old Special Forces soldier who spend many years in the military, and knows packs well.  Now I know for a fact that he is currently using one of these packs himself and he only uses the best.  If he says it is a good pack you can bet on it.  You can reach his website by using the links at the bottom of this page or by clicking on his add located on the right hand side of this page. Howard Dutch Desert Camo Pack

Gardening in South Africa When I was a Child

gardeningI have been talking to my father about gardening, when I was a child in South Africa in the 1950’s One thing that most people here would never do is use human manure for fertilizer.  Back then we would take the waste from an out door toilet and dig it directly in the ground to fertilize the garden.  We never put it directly on the plants it was always spread prior to planting.  One thing that I can remember is that we always got a great crop of volunteer tomato plants.

Today I know that most people would never think of using human manure in this manner, however neither one of us could remember anyone getting sick from it.

Another problem that we remembered was that moles were always a big problem, until one of our neighbors told us how to get rid of them.  At that time, my younger brother was still using a baby pot, so as per instructions we would pour the urine in the mole holes.  It worked the moles would move out of the yard.  You might wonder why the human fertilizer didn’t keep them out of the yard, it did at first but the urine smell would go away and the moles would come back.

In recent years, I have poured urine in mole holes in my own yard and the yard is soon mole free.  This really works.

I see many people turn up their nose at the idea of using both of these methods in gardening.  Farmers have used human waste as fertilizer for centuries.  In many countries they still do.  With the knowledge that I have today I would not hesitate to use human manure for gardening, however I would let it compose for a season prior to use.


An 80% solution on time is better than a 100% solution late”

Things New Preppers Need to Know

new preppersFor new preppers the subject often seems to be overwhelming, but in reality it can be broke down in five areas.  These same five subjects work whether your bugging in or bugging out.  To survive you need to be prepared in the following five areas.  These are not listed in the order of importance as this can change depending on where you live, for example in the desert or Alaska.

1, Food – This will include learning about

      • What foods you need to keep healthy
      • How to correctly store your food to keep them at their best.
      • Growing, gathering and hunting both wild and home grown foods
      • Preserving your foods without modern refrigeration
      • How much you need to store, remember that when you are stressed and working hard you will eat more than normal.  Error on the high side.
      • How long are you preparing for?

2, Water – learn the following

      • Where to find water
      • How to store water
      • How to filter or purify water
      • How much water you need to store.  I say as much as you can.

3, Shelter – Work on the following

      • Winter and summer sleeping arrangements
      • Protection from the elements
      • Sources of heat and light
      • How to stay warm, dry and comfortable.
      • Check your clothes and foot gear.

Medical – you need the following

      • A supply of your required prescription medications
      • First aid supplies
      • Nursing supplies
      • Medical books on both modern and herbal remedies
      • Basic medical training

Self defense and security – Know how to protect you and your family

      • Firearms and ammunition – own what you legally can and learn how to use them.
      • Static protection, this includes good locks, doors, alarm systems, what you need to keep burglars or raiders out.
      • Motion detector lights
      • Keeping your mouth shut and not tell others what you are doing.
      • Know the threats you face.

Now all of this applies to new preppers whether you are bugging in or building a pack to bug out. So start by looking at what supplies you already have and see where it fits on the list.  Everybody has something even if it is just your clothes.  Once you see what you already have, determine your priories and start to fill them.  Just take your time learn as you go, but get started.  Many of these subjects are addressed in other posts on this blog, you can find them by using the search function at the top right hand of the page.



Wound Dressing After TEOTWAWKI

wound dressingI see many articles written about treating wound after TEOTWAWKI and most of them are quite good.  But there is one aspect that I rarely see mentioned and that is the type and amount of wound dressings you can go through in a short time.  Most first aid kits carry nowhere near enough dressing to treat a serious wound.

If you have to treat the wound yourself, often the dressings need to be changed daily.  This can require a good backup supply of wound dressing material.  As you know, medical dressings are expensive.  One way you can beat the high cost is to purchase sanitary napkins, see my post, Sanitary Napkins and Their Alternate Uses.   These can make good serviceable dressings.

I would also suggest that you get an early medical manual, World War 2 or before.  Most of them provide much more information techniques for using roller bandages.  Roller bandages often can be purchased inexpensively and can easily be improvised.

The most common manner in which you are likely to have to use a dressing is either wet-to-dry or dry.

Dry wound dressings
Dry dressings are typically some form of gauze pad that is secured to the wound by roller bandages, tape or as a self-adherent bandage with a gauze center like a band-aid.  Dry dressings are simple, inexpensive, and widely available. They generally work well for wounds with small amounts of drainage, but they can stick to the wounds with heavy drainage.  When removing dry dressings that are stuck to the wound, it is helpful to pour some normal saline or warm water over the area to moisten the dressing for easier removal.

Wet-to-dry wound dressings 
By placing a wet (or moist) gauze dressing on your wound and allowing it to dry, wound drainage and dead tissue can be removed when you take off the old dressing.  To create this type of dressing, place a saline-soaked dressing within a wound with drainage. As the dressing dries, it pulls fluids out of the wound.  Wet-to-dry dressings are time-consuming to apply and are generally painful to remove.  Dakin’s solution can be used to wet the dressings.  When removing an old dressing, if it is sticking to your skin, wet it with warm water or saline solution to loosen it.

All of the above is for information only; any wound treatment should be done at the direction of a Doctor.  I am not a Doctor and have not had any special medical training.  Get medical advice.



Dakin’s Solution for the Treatment of Wounds

Dakin’s solution, also called Dakin’s fluid is an antiseptic solution containing sodium hypochlorite and developed to treat infected wounds during the First World War that is still in use.  At that time the stronger germicidal solutions that were available, such as phenol or iodine either damaged living cells or lost their potency in the presence of blood serum.  Dakin’s avoids both problems and its solvent action on dead cells hastens the separation of dead from living tissue.

Dakin’s solution is easy to make and use.

The first thing that you need to understand about Dakin’s solution is that it is unstable and can only be kept for a few days.  The second thing is that it is easy to make from ingredients that every good prepper should have on hand.

Here is a recipe provided by the University of Virginia.

Dakin's solution How to use Dakin’s Solution

Apply Dakin’s Solution onto the injured area by pouring or spraying.  When used on wounds, Dakin’s solution can be poured onto the affected area as an irrigation or cleanser.  It can also be used to wet certain types of wound dressings (e.g., wet to moist dressing).

This solution should only be used once a day for minor wounds and twice a day for heavily draining or contaminated wounds.  Protect the surrounding healthy skin with petroleum jelly to prevent irritation.

Tightly sealed jars of Dakin’s solution may be stored at room temperature up to one month in a dark jar, but once opened; any unused solution should be discarded within 48 hours.

If you are dealing with anything other than a minor injury, all treatments should be done with the advice of trained medical personnel.  I am not a Doctor and have not had any special medical training.  Before using get medical advice.