Whether you're a beginner in the world or prepping or a seasoned pro, I think it's important to share with you the four items that you'll never catch me without when it comes to my independent kitchen. Beginning preppers may be a bit overwhelmed with a lot of items on their lists, but rest assured, these 4 will make an invaluable foundation of independence for you. Certainly there are some things that no tool cabinet should be without, no surgeon should be without and that no wedding planner should be without. I can guarantee you that there are also certain kitchen gadgets that NO self-respecting prepper should be without either. I’m going bare bones here…I’m talking about what you just GOT to have if you’re going to be a self-reliant meal provider in your home.
First is a Pressure Canner. (I prefer the All American Pressure Canner) Go to garage sales, look on E-bay, go to thrift stores—whatever you’ve got to do, but get yourself at least ONE good quality pressure canner. There’s too much money left on the table if you don’t have one of these. And regardless of all of the myth-information, yes, you can use a pressure canner on a flat top stove so long as your flat top stove is from that past 3 decades. With a pressure canner you can take all kinds of stuff for free and cheap, can them and then put them in a cool, dry, dark storage environment and know that you will always have that to help you out and it will be DEE-LUSH-ous! My favorite thing to can is meat…any kind of meat, fish, venison, lamb, turkey—you name it. If it’s a protein, I’m going to can it. I’ve NEVER tasted anything better, more tender and more meat-y tasting that my own canned meat. You know how you have those Texan cowboys always bragging about how long they marinated their brisket? Well, you’ll always have the upper hand in that conversation because they may be all puffy-chested about marinating their meat for a week and you can tell them you marinated your meat for three years!
If I could sprinkle you with fairy dust and convince you of just one thing it would be to NOT be afraid of canning. Technology has come SO far since those horror stories of Great grandma killing Uncle Stan by the exploding pressure canner full of tomatoes. The only sound I love more than the little “plink” of my lids after I’ve canned them is the sound of my slide racking on my Glock. Seriously, canning the life around you is so beautiful to look at, healthy, and cheap. Your investment into a canner is well worth it. And until you can invest, then borrow one from someone until then. It’s a MUST. Canning Granny is a great online resource for canning help and I’ve got LOTS of articles on canning meat, and even bacon on this site. You’ll love the difference!
If you have to have a pressure canner, then yes, that also means you need to invest in the bells and whistles that go with it too. Proper canning tools such as jars, lids, jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, etc. By the way, since your lids can only be used once, I suggest you invest in the Tattler Lids that can be used over and over again for a lifetime. (This holds true for both the lids and the plastic rings that come with them.)
Next, you need a FoodSaver machine that has the air port attachment along with the Mason Jar lid attachments. I use this machine at least once a day and more like a half a dozen times a day. It has a permanent place on my counter. Believe it or not it’s not getting used much for the FoodSaver bags. It’s getting used so much because I store all kinds of dried ingredients in the Mason Jars by using the Mason Jar attachments. The best place I’ve found to get the attachments are online at Amazon.com. However, I’ve also been able to find them at local kitchen stores too. I use the wide mouth attachment the most because I use ½ gallon jars. If you can’t readily find the ½ gallon jar at your local grocery store, try the hardware store. Worst case scenario, have the store order them in for you. They’ll be happy to accommodate you, I’m sure.
I preserve all kinds of dry goods well beyond their traditional shelf-life because of the FoodSaver with the Jar Method. (fancy name, eh? *grin*) Cake mixes, oats, brown rice, nuts, candy bars, granola bars, tapioca, pasta, cereal etc. etc. Anything that is dry and is temperamental when it comes to a long shelf-life gets put into the jar and the FoodSaver cranks away making the items very UNtemperamental, lasting 8 to 10 years. I also use the bags when I put the entire box of Rice-A-Roni and other like items in small boxes in a FoodSaver bag and then I put those sealed bags in my 4 gallon square buckets. This trick also extends the shelf-life much longer than normal.
Whenever I mention FoodSaver canning, inevitably someone will suggest using a technique called "oven canning" however I'm definitely NOT a fan. Heat, light, oxygen, and humidity are enemies of shelf-life, so it seems completely counter-intuitive to me to seal items in a jar using the oven even if it's at such a low temperature. If I'm going to pay the price so that I can preserve my foods at 68 degrees or lower, then I'm sure as heck not going to degrade them that much more by oven canning them.
The great thing about having dry foods preserved with a FoodSaver is that I can use old canning rings/lids so those don’t go to waste, and as long as I open the jar carefully when I want some of the ingredients, then I just take out what I want and then seal it back up again in less than 30 seconds. It’s easy peezy and I can’t imagine my kitchen without it.
Here’s a little tip though. If you’ve got a fine powdered item that would otherwise clog up the tubing, simply put it in a plastic bag, and then put the bag inside the jar and THEN use the FoodSaver. I preserve Panko Bread Crumbs this way and I even go just a little further and pre-measure the bread crumbs in 1 cup increments, put them in a little baggie, put those in the jar, and then use the FoodSaver. I HAVE to have Panko Bread Crumbs for my delicious Lemon Chicken recipe, so I had to figure out a way to preserve them for long times. This was the answer. *Happy Dance*
Again, look on E-bay, Amazon, thrift stores or get a new version at Costco or Sam’s Club. You’ll love it once you incorporate it into your kitchen.
Next “must have” is a pressure cooker—not the same as a canner. I only recommend the BRK or the Kuhn Rikon brand. You’ll want a 5 quart or a 7 quart. I like the bigger ones because I can cook a pot roast and still have plenty of room for potatoes in with all of that yummy gravy it naturally makes. Why is a pressure cooker a MUST HAVE? Because, it will save you significant money on fuel and it cooks so much faster and it will even save you money because you can reconstitute freezer-burned foods. These are not cheap, I know. And if you find one that’s cheap please do NOT get it. I loathe the Presto brand when it comes to pressure cookers. You want something that is made of tough enough and thick enough metal that it’s not going to be compromised after a lot of use. Europe and India know how to make their pressure cookers. They wouldn’t be caught dead without one of them in their kitchen and neither should you. If I had to choose between my pressure cooker and my microwave, it would be the pressure cooker hands down. Don’t waste your money on a rice cooker, a crock pot, a skillet, and a Dutch oven. The pressure cooker can handle all of those responsibilities in a fraction of the time, with better taste, and less fuel.
I also use my pressure cooker pans as my regular cooking pans too because it heats up faster, higher, and more evenly. The same goes for when I need a pan to deep fry something in. A quality pressure cooker will always beat the other ones hands down. Again, don’t be afraid of it. The brands I suggest to you have several safety features on them and they are quiet! You won’t believe how quiet they are. You can cook frozen meats, hard beans without soaking over night, and brown rice without breaking a sweat. Oh yeah, and speaking of breaking a sweat, you won’t have to heat up your whole house at mealtime with the pressure cooker. Sa-weet! I’ve got a couple of YouTube videos on our channel that you can check out. here and here.
That brings me to the next “must have”—a butane cook stove, otherwise known as a Korean cookstove. These are just little single-burner stoves that run on a can of butane. You can cook with butane indoors without worrying about ventilation—unless you’re trying to cook in a 2 foot by 2 foot box. When you combine the power of a pressure cooker with a butane stove, it’s actually fathomable that you could actually store an entire year’s worth of cooking fuel because with a pressure cooker, once you bring it up to full pressure, you can remove it from the heat, wrap it up in a towel, and it will continue cooking for up to an hour. Imagine how much LESS fuel you would need if you cooked this way. You can easily find these at camping supply stores, preparedness oriented stores, and even hardware stores. They shouldn’t run you any more than $20. If they do, don’t buy them there.
Last, but definitely not least is a grain grinder. This is something that you don’t want to skimp on either. It’s a vital piece of equipment and if you choose unwisely, you will end up regretting it if you ever find yourself having to rely on it. You’ll need an electric one for now, and a hand-crank for later. You’ll use this for all kinds of needs, not the least of which is making flour out of grain. I can’t stress to you enough that before you purchase a hand-cranked grain mill that you test it out FIRST or at least make sure it has a good return policy. You want to exert as little physical energy as possible to get one cup of flour. For an electric mill I use my Nutrimill and I love it. For my handcrank mill I have both the Family Grain Mill and the Wondermill Junior Deluxe. You want to be able to adjust the coarseness of your flour and if you can get something that has a flaker feature on it as well, then that would be great because you could then flake your beans into flour and you can also then purchase oat groats which store much longer than regular oats, but require a flaker.
These items will be invaluable to you in providing safe, quality food for your family, stabilize your food budget, and ensure that you can cook them properly regardless of 99% of the curveballs that could be thrown at you. So please make them a priority in your pursuit of a self-reliant lifestyle.
I have a couple of other honorable mentions such as my SoyaJoy Soy Milk Maker which I use to make my almond milk lickety split and of course my Global Sun Oven and my Yogotherm non-electric yogurt maker. But since you can make your own solar oven with a few inexpensive items and not everyone needs to use almond milk and there are plenty of other ways to make yogurt, I’m not going to put them as a “must have.” But in spite of the costs involved, these 4 pieces of equipment I’ve listed are VITAL to you thriving in an independent kitchen even amidst a crisis.
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