Monthly Archives: February 2016

Mountain Man MRE

by Woodsbum

For those of you who read my site regularly, this will come as no surprise. I not only like food, but I love doing research. Today I had someone pass along a post someone did about making their own MRE type meals. They called them Mountain Man MRE. What I like about his approach is the way that he takes the time to explain each step in the process of making a full meal. Truly, this is a great post and even if you don’t like the food he prepared you can made necessary modifications as needed.

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Humans have been preserving their harvest well before modern conveniences like pressure canners and deep freezers were invented. Preserving the harvest was the art of delaying nature’s natural effect on food – spoilage.

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Being resourceful… and just plain hungry, our ancestors figured out ways to make food safe to eat long after living food was dead. Fermenting, smoking, drying, grinding, pounding, salting, and/or curing were preservation methods Native Americans, frontiersmen, long hunters, mountain men, and pioneers used.

None of the above, are you?

Maybe you hike, camp, or hunt. What I’m about to share will even be useful to hungry desk jockeys looking for a  protein-rich, healthy snack you won’t find in the processed-food vending machine at the office.

The vast majority of us are not mountain men/women or Amazon explorers (not the online store). We’re simply on a modern-day journey of self-reliance. You have to eat now and later. Learning to preserve foods with traditional methods is a skill you’ll be glad to own when the power grid fails.

In the meantime, let’s make a Mountain Man MRE (Meals Ready To Eat). The MRE will consist of four items; pemmican, jerky, parched corn, and dried blueberries. Here is another article on our site for pemmican with dried fruit mixed in. Parched corn is being added to the MRE with a brief tutorial. Today’s post will focus on making jerky in traditional fashion – over an open fire.

Modern and old ways will meld together. For instance, I used our electric Excalibur dehydrator for drying corn to parch and made jerky over a fire pit. This is my modern version of traditional trail foods eaten by Native Americans, fur traders, and mountain men.

Our Mountain Man MRE’s need to meet the following criteria:

  • Convenience – similar to pre-packaged, processed fast food – only ours is whole food and healthy
  • Storable – long-lasting without modern refrigeration
  • Transportable – dense, compact, and light-weight (less than 1/2 pound)
  • Tasty – an acquired taste by some but I love this primal stuff

Onto the first item of your MRE…

How to Make Jerky

If this is your first attempt at making jerky, you may want to read how to safely dry meat in my Definitive Guide to Making Jerky.

Being a Mountain Man MRE, this was a fine opportunity to dry meat over an open fire. I’ve cooked many meals over campfires but never made jerky this way.

What new stuff did you do today?

Every new preserving technique we own, no matter how small, is one step closer to food independence.

Step 1

Start a fire with hard wood to create a coal bed. A fire pit is nice if you have one. A charcoal grill may work for you.

Step 2

Design a way to hang the meat. I used poplar and sweet gum saplings lashed to my outdoor kitchen tripod.

How to Make Modern Mountain Man MRE's

Step 3

With a bed of coals underneath the rack, place the meat over the heat. The rack was about two feet over the fire.

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Jerky hanging

Then the rain came down. I improvised and wrapped a tarp around the tripod which did two things; protected the fire, and created a smoke chamber accidentally.

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Smoke house teepee

Step 4

Wait. The meat took about 4 hours to dry on the fire. I keep the coals going from time to time by adding wood at the back of the fire pit. The key here is to keep a constant heat (shoot for 225-250º F) inside the smoke house. Low and slow. You not cooking the meat.

Step 5

Check for doneness. If the jerky strips bends and no fibers are exposed at the bend, it’s not ready to be used for pemmican. You want a very dry meat that can be ground into powder.

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Now you’re ready for the next item on our MRE package…

How to Make Traditional Pemmican

Down and dirty (traditional) pemmican consist of dried meat and rendered fat. I’ve seen a few fat-free pemmican recipes on the internet but that idea is just plain ludicrous and feeds the big fat lie. Stick with healthy, grass-fed fat for a satiating trail food. Ever heard of rabbit starvation? If you hate the thought of eating fat, substitute honey as a binding agent instead of tallow. Peanut butter pemmican is another option.

For today’s recipe, we’re using rendered tallow and jerky made over an open fire – mountain man style!

Disclaimer: This was my first attempt at jerking meat over a fire. Not an easy task in the rain – but doable. After the jerky was ready over the fire pit (approximately 4 hours), for added safety, I tossed it into our Excalibur for an extra hour. Also, modern kitchen appliances were used to grind and prep the jerky. The old school method is to place the dried meat on a stone and pound it to a powder. Gotta gather me some stones next time!

 Step 1

You’ll need equal parts of tallow and ground jerky. Here’s how I render tallow. You may add dried fruit to the mix if you like. I prefer the taste without the fruit.

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Jerky dried over an open fire

For time’s sake, I used our Vitamix blender to turn jerky strips into a fine powder. Dump the powder in a mixing bowl while your tallow is warming on the stove.

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Jerky powder!

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Pre-made tallow melting

When heating the tallow, don’t allow it to get so hot that it smokes/burns. Low to medium heat here.

Step 2

Pour a small amount of tallow into the powdered jerky and stir. Don’t pour all the tallow in at once. It’s easier to add more tallow than to grind more jerky.

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It took two pours of tallow for the correct consistency

Step 3

You’ll know when you’ve got enough tallow mixed in with the jerky when it compresses without crumbling.

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Needs more tallow

Add too much tallow and the pemmican’s jerky flavor will be overwhelmed by tallow. Mix while your tallow is warm to better saturate the meat powder.

Step 4

When the right consistency is achieved, add mixture to a loaf pan. Press it down evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and, with one motion, drop the upside down loaf pan onto the paper. Lift the pan and you should have perfect pemmican. Another option is to form pemmican patties or balls. I’ve thought about sprinkling powered sugar on top and slipping these on the snack table at faculty meetings. 😉 I’ll video the response and get back with you.

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Pemmican loaf!

Wrap the wax paper around the loaf and place it in the refrigerator until the tallow hardens. Slice into individual serving sizes and wrap in wax paper. Place in a container (ziplock bag or paper bag) for your next adventure. Wax paper and ziplock baggies have redundant uses… wax paper = fire starter; ziplock bags = container.

Or – go fur trader style and stash your fresh pemmican in a “parfleche” – an untanned animal skin bag. For further reading on the benefits of this amazing trail food, check out my article on Bread of the Wilderness.

Pemmican may be eaten as stand alone snack/meal or added to beef up wild onion soup for a hot trail meal.

Add the third item to your MRE…

How to Make Parched Corn

Dried corn that has been roasted is called parched corn. Removing/reducing he moisture content makes the corn last a long time. Parched corn is easier on the teeth than plain dried corn. You’ve bitten a popcorn kernel before, right?

Ideally, you’d walk out to your corn crib and grab a few ears. If you’re like me, you may not have access to dried corn on the cob. Dirt Road Girl and I took a road trip looking for dried corn. We stopped at a local organic farm we buy from, but their corn crop was gone and stalks plowed under.

We ended up buying two green ears for this experiment. I shucked them and tossed them into our dehydrator as a test – along with a bag of frozen organic grocery store corn. The bag corn was cut from the cob. Traditionally, you’d want the whole kernel. We adapted and used the cut corn. Dehydrating corn on the cob was a big waste of time.

Step 1

Heat a pan/skillet over medium heat. You can parch corn in a dry pan or with oil added. I tried both and found the dry pan batch tasted the best. You’d think bacon fat would make anything taste better. Not with the corn.

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Parching with bacon grease

Add salt or other spices (optional) to the pan and cover the bottom of the pan with a single layer of dried corn. Shake the pan to keep the corn from scorching. A spatula is also helpful for stirring. Keep the pan and corn moving for a few minutes until it turns golden brown. Dump that batch and add another.

Step 2

Allow it to cool and bag and tag your snack. Pretty simple.

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The completed Modern Mountain Man MRE!

Pictured above is the full-meal deal: Two bars of pemmican, one bag of parched corn, one bag (about 8 pc.) of water buffalo jerky, and a bag of dehydrated blueberries. The entire Mountain Man MRE weighed less than 1/2 pound (0.418 # to be exact).

Where’s the bread? Since I don’t eat bread, I didn’t include traditional hardtack in the MRE. Survival News Online has a great how-to for your reference if you’d like to make your own.

Hopefully, this light-weight, nutrient dense MRE will keep you moving on your next outing. Toss it in your coat pocket or haversack and you’re set for mobile fast food on the trail!

To see how a few of my Prepared Blogger friends preserve foods, check out our “How We Preserve Foods” round robin below with over 20 articles to help you achieve food independence!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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Now I am not sure how many people will actually go out and make these full meals for themselves. To be totally honest, there is little doubt in my mind that I will. There is a huge chance that I will take the time to do the fruits and pemmican to supplement my already massive jerky batches that I do. The parched corn just doesn’t seem like something I would like considering how bad my stomach reacts to greases. If I could find a way to parch it without actually frying it, I might give it a try. That would mean that I was grilling it, however, and the individual kernels will almost definitely fall through the grates during the attempt….

Have fun and stay safe everyone!!!

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Oven Canning

by Woodsbum

My mother actually ran across this great site that covers some information about oven canning food. She knows that I am getting into a lot of these types of things and she thought that I would really like this information. As a matter of fact, I do like the post and thought that I would share.

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I recently was introduced t the idea of Oven Canning by: Deb Shaded Deer Schorzman
Sounded very interesting to me so I proceeded to do a little research via the internet. This was the most informative piece I found. I certainly think this is worth a try. I do agree that I would only use this method for dry goods. I always like when I can find a way to have an item last longer on the shelf and keeps rotation down. Which in the long run keeps food cost down.

Let us know if you have tried this and how it has worked for you.

Enjoy…

I learned from a very dear friend, many years ago. It is called oven canning. She also taught me how to can using a pressure cooker. She was a lot older than I was, and knew so much. I loved canning, but stuck with fruits, jams, jellies and such, as you did not have to use a pressure cooker. I was so scared to use one–I could just picture it blowing up the whole kitchen. She told me, “Kid (she always called me Kid), they are safe to use. You just have to pay attention to what you are doing, and cannot get side tracked while they are on the stove.” So the learning began. And she was right, it was safe, and I have since canned up lots of great veggies.

One day while we were visiting and having coffee at her home, she said, “Well Kid, today I am going to get busy on my oven canning.” I asked, “Oven canning?” thinking she could not really be going to can stuff in the oven. I asked how safe is food canned in the oven? She said it will last for years and years. I thought okay … I will listen to her and let her tell me, but I am sure not going to can any food in the oven.

I told her I had a few hours until the kids got home from school, so if she wanted some help, I would be glad to help her. She started bringing out all the canning jars, and a big cookie sheet. Then she started hauling out cans and cans of stuff. She said she buys things while on sale, and when she gets enough to fill the oven, she cans it.

What she had in the cans surprised me. It was beans, oatmeal, cornmeal, flour, and all kinds of dry items. I know I had a shocked look on my face, as she started laughing and asked, “What did you think I was going to can in the oven?” I told her I had no idea, and was still at a loss as to what she was going to do.

We started filling half gallon, quart and pint jars with different dry foods. When we had the jars filled, she turned on the oven to 200 degrees, and put the cookie sheet in, then put the filled jars on the cookie sheet. She filled it with all it would hold. She said now we can sit and visit for an hour. In an hour she got a damp paper towel and started taking out the jars, one at a time. She would wipe the rim with the wet towel, put the lid on and screw the band down tight. She was working steady and fairly fast. She would get one jar done then put it aside on a towel-covered area, open the oven and get out another jar and do the same thing. She said you have to be real careful and use a heavy cloth or potholder, as the jars are really hot. She used a small kitchen towel, which is what I use all the time now because you get a good grip on the jars, and it protects your hands. She got the jars all out and sealed, and then put in another batch and set the timer for another hour. She said all of her dry foods are now protected from bugs and critters, and will keep for years.

I started oven canning all of our dried foods at that time, and only a few months ago found out how long most of the foods will keep if stored right. Are you ready for this? A lot of them will last 20 to 30 years! I was shocked when I found this out. I know I have used items that have been canned 7 to 10 years or so, and they are great and are fresh tasting, just like when first canned. But 20 to 30 years was a real shock. They are to be stored where it is dry and not over 75 degrees.

I oven can all kinds of dry goods beans, cornmeal, flours, rice, oatmeal, dried onions, dried carrots, dried celery, potato flakes, dried yams and sweet potatoes, cereals, pastas-the list goes on and on. I even oven can our dry boxed cereals, as I was tired of finding bugs in boxes that were unopened but we did not use up in record time. (The bugs were in the foods when packaged, as they were in the sealed bags, but not in the box they were put into.) Most of the cereals are even better once they are oven canned, as they have more crunch to them.

The only thing you can not oven can is dry foods that have oils in them. I oven can almonds, and pecans, but walnuts do not can good at all. They will go bad, but it is due to the amount of oil, so they get tossed in the freezer.

Like my friend of many years ago, I buy dried food when it is on sale, and when I get enough to fill the oven a couple of times, I oven can it. It sure is great having all the dry foods safe and handy to use.

Everyone I tell who has tried oven canning has told me how happy they are to know about it. The best part most of them tell me is not having the freezers filled with all the dry foods, so they now have space for the foods that must be frozen.

You can use most glass jars and their lids, as long as the lids have the rubber gasket inside. Once in a while I will have one or two jars that do not seal; I just put them in the pantry to use, as they are heat treated and in glass, so they are still bug- and critter-free.

Any herbs and veggies that you dry, you can oven can. I dried grated carrots and then oven canned them. I just used some in my homemade soup, and they are fantastic. I hope this is a big help to saving your foods, freezer space and money. It sure helps us each year.

Any questions that I did not cover, please ask via COUNTRYSIDE.COM, and put it under Oven Canning, I will see it and respond. If you leave a phone or email number, I will contact you. I don’t know it all, but what I do know I am more than happy to share.

Using a cookie sheet or large flat container is a darn good idea to set your jars on. When I first started oven canning I knocked over a pint of rice while getting jars out. Needless to say, the clean up took a lot of time and energy.

   Before and After

                        

 Happy oven canning.–Lil Roberts, Manteca, California
posted in COUNTRYSIDE magazine Sept/Oct 2011
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I really am excited about getting some things together to set up some canning sessions. This is one area that I have not been as diligent in preparedness as I should be. It appears that I will need to take a trip over to Bi-Mart and get some canning equipment sooner than later.

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Mosin Nagant Scope Installation

by Woodsbum

A couple of years ago I purchased what I would call a “box of guns.” In that box were 2 Mosin Nagants that were lacking several pieces with the stocks being the main part needed to finish the rifle. Because of the multitude of various rifles and configurations I already I had, I was not too sure how these would fit into my gun library. I have finally decided that I will turn these two into variations of the Scout rifle.

The first thing I will end up having to purchase will be stocks of some sort. Once I get that figured out I will create a post about that as well as the final build. What I wanted to post about today was one of the hardest parts of the upcoming Mosin build: mounting a scope.

Today I some ran into a couple videos about drilling and mounting scopes on the Mosin. The first couple are about the old PU scope. This scope relies upon a side mount system to clear the straight handle on the bolt. This guy does a fairly decent job explaining what he is doing and how he drilled the mounting holes in the hardened steel receiver.


The next video shows the installation of an ATI scope mount kit. It includes the bits, taps, screws and baseplate. He uses hex receiver style Mosins, but you can see how he does the install. I like the idea of having the scope top mounted rather than side mounted.

At this time I am really unsure as to what exactly I will do for a scope mount. Ultimately, I would love to find some sort of scout style setup or engineer my own if I have to. If I could find something that allowed see-thru rings I would be even happier. I am going to have to do some serious searching for what I want, but this at least gives everyone an idea of how easy it really is to drill and tap your Mosin to accept a scope.

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