Food Preparation & Storage

5 Proven Ways Our Ancestors Preserved Meat Without Refrigerators

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Stockpiling food and other supplies is central to being prepared for an emergency, but there are some foods – such as meat — that are harder to pack for long-term storage than others.

Surviving off grid is something is becoming more of a reality. With the growing threat from North Korea and their ballistic missile tests, going off grid involuntarily could be in the future. There are of course several other things that could take us off grid as well, all that along with voluntarily going off grid to get one more step away from being dependent on the system.

It’s amazing when you start studying our ancestors and seeing how they preserved their food, in particular their meat. In today’s society hearing about someone perceiving meat with something other than a refrigerator or freezer seems bizarre and impossible.

The Key to Preserving Meat – Salt

If there’s any one key ingredient for preserving meat, it’s salt. Salt is one of the few natural preservatives, and it works ideally with meat. Salt draws the moisture out of the cells in the meat in a process known as osmosis. Essentially, osmosis is trying to equalize the salinity on both sides of the cell wall (which is a membrane). So, water leaves the cell and salt enters it. When enough water leaves the cell, the cell dies.

This happens with bacteria, as well. Any bacteria that are on the surface of the meat go through the same osmosis process that the cells of the meat do. This dehydrates the bacteria to the point of death. Unfortunately, the salt won’t travel all the way through the meat quickly, killing off the bacteria, so salt is usually used in conjunction with other means of preserving.

1. Canning

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Probably the least complex form of preserving meat is canning it. Canning preserves any wet food well through a combination of killing off existing bacteria in the food and container, while providing a container that prevents any further bacteria from entering.

Canning uses heat to kill off bacteria. All you have to do is raise the temperature of the bacteria to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, and it dies. This is called “pasteurizing,” so named for Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist who discovered the process in the mid-1800s. To kill viruses, you raise the temperature a bit more, to 174 degrees Fahrenheit.

The only problem with canning meat is that it has to be canned at a higher temperature than fruits and vegetables. This is accomplished by canning it in a pressure canner, essentially a large pressure cooker. The higher atmospheric pressure inside the pressure canner causes the water to boil at a higher temperature, thus cooking the meat.

Meats that are canned tend to be very well-cooked. You have to at least partially cook them before canning, and then the 90 minutes they spend in the canner cooks them further. That makes for very soft meats, but they do lose some of their texture.

2. Dehydrating

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Dehydrating takes over where salt leaves off, removing much more moisture from the meat than just salting it will. However, dehydrating of meats is usually combined with salting the meat with a rub or marinating it with a salty marinade. The salt on the outside of the meat attacks any bacteria that approach the meat once it is dehydrated. Meat that is dehydrated without salt won’t last, as the bacteria can attack it.

The American Indians used dehydrating as a means of preserving meat, making jerky. While a very popular snack food today, jerky is excellent survival food. Not only will it keep without refrigeration, but it can be rehydrated for use in soups and stews. That takes it beyond being a snack and makes it possible to use jerky for part of your meals.

Dehydrating can either be done in the sun, in an electric dehydrator or in a solar dehydrator. The American Indians used the sun, hanging strips of meat on poles. However, there is a risk in dehydrating meat as they did, in that the meat may start to spoil before it dries. All fat should be removed from the meat, as the fat can turn rancid.

3. Salt fish

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Salt fish is another means of dehydrating meat, something like making fish jerky. It has been done for centuries and is still a popular dish in some countries. Salt fish uses the concept that the salt draws the water out of the fish, starting the drying process. This is accomplished by packing the fish fillets in alternating layers of salt and fish. Then, the fish is sun dried to complete the process.

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Source: Off the Grid News


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