I started this blog with the intent of offering practical advice about living simply, and I wrote some informative posts: how to make a tortilla, how to eat a live bug , kill a chicken, or drink iguana blood( in coke! Who would have guessed?) ; then I realized they weren’t very practical bits of information for most.
But there is something I’m quite seasoned at that could come in handy for almost anyone, even if only for camping—living without refrigeration. So this is a little post about what to do if you have to live without your refrigerator for a few days, weeks …we’ve been reluctantly “off the grid” for months at a time.
First, place casserole dishes under all of your frozen foods, and transfer perishables (unfrozen meats and dairy) to the freezer. Place a small towel in the bottom shelf to absorb moisture. Depending on how much frozen food you have and how infrequently you open the door, perishables will last for a couple of days.
After it’s certain you won’t have electricity for 48 hours or more prop the doors open. Cook all of the meat well done, ideally in a sauce with a preservative like BBQ, which contains a good amount of vinegar. Eat the well cooked meat within two days.
Meat can also be preserved under fat, like confit or chales, but since most of us don’t have tubs of lard or duck fat lying around it’s not very practical. I maintain cooked chorizo (it’s loaded with vinegar) for up to a week by frying it dry, spreading it on a plate and covering it loosely with a cloth napkin. But, don’t be deceived by processed meats, ham, hot dogs, lunchmeat, though full of preservatives they only keep overnight. I think it’s because they contain a lot of water. Though if you fry ham or bacon, dry, very well done they keep for days.
Don’t use plastic wrap, or keeps food in sealed containers, circulating air keeps food dry and maintains freshness longer.
If you find yourself in a really harry situation, meat can also be ‘dry cured’ by slicing thinly, rubbing liberally with salt and hanging it in the smoke of a consistent fire which you might have if you were also without gas and had to set up a kitchen in your backyard. This is an excellent way to preserve fish and rattlesnake. But hopefully things won’t get that crazy… that you’re eating rattlesnake in your backyard survival camp. Though it does make a fine taco.
Cheese can be kept for many days, on a plate covered with (appropriately) cheese cloth. Turn it daily and transfer to a clean plate. It’s more inclined to dry out than mold, and is still quite edible. If you have a large amount of butter, heat it gently and skim off the milk fat solids that rise to the top. The clarified butter will keep at least two weeks if well cleaned.
Eggs do not require refrigeration. If they’re fertile you’ll get some blood spots if not eaten within a week. It doesn’t hurt you, but the texture is nasty.
Eat vegetables in the order in which they will keep, surprisingly carrots are only good for two days, whereas iceberg lettuce wrapped in a cloth will keep for a week. It’s better to wash vegetables when you’re going to eat them; residual moisture causes more rapid spoilage.
Vegetables that keep well: potatoes, tomatoes, onions, peppers of all ilk, cauliflower, squashes, both summer and winter. Veggies that won’t go the distance: broccoli turns yellow in one day, carrots, celery, leaf lettuces, except chard which keeps for 4 days if the stems are placed in water, whereas kale and mustard greens turn yellow in two days.
A pot of beans can be maintained by boiling every time they’re touched. Be careful to keep the beans fully submerged. Don’t put the lid on until they’re cool, because even a drip of condensation breaking the water’s surface will turn them. Boiled milk will keep for two days with this process as well. Turned milk makes good biscuits and happy pets.
And finally, Bialey’s Irish Cream does not require refrigeration after opening, is excellent in coffee, and is soothing when facing another day without your refrigerator.
Now you’re set for power outages, camping trips and natural disaster!
*This message has not been approved by the FDA.
What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without electricity? Which appliance did you find the most difficult to live without?