Tuesday, October 15, 2013

14 Year Old Beans Taste Test - Cooking for the Apocalypse

Whenever someone gets the urge to prepare for the end of days the first thing they go out and buy are a stockpile of beans and rice... well perhaps after they get a bunch of guns and ammunition.  But after that beans and rice are certainly among the first things to be found in the aspiring preppers stockpile.  There is good reason for this, primarily that they are cheap in bulk.  They also supply a decent amount of carbs and protein and can be quite flavorful if you manage to get a few mice, or a large rat or squirrel to throw in the pot.  So the choice comes down to two weeks of premium mountain house professionally prepared and freeze dried cuisine.  Or a huge heap of rice and beans that will last for a very monotonous and musical year.

One of the problems with this plan is that most places will tell you that rice and beans will only last about 3-5 years even with careful storage whereas freeze-dried meals supposedly last over 30 years.

So in the late 90's, preppers the world over were convinced that the infamous y2k bug was going to bring about the end of life as we know it.  I will admit I was freaking out a little along with the rest of them but I was broke at the time so my preparation consisted of buying a bunch of mouse traps and sharpening a few long sticks as I watched the clock tick down before it would all go dark.  Lucky for us all, nothing really happened.  At the same time a yet-to-be friend of mine with a little more money was busily stashing bags of beans in his parents basement.  

Fast forward to 12 years later.  When the previously mentioned friend comes to my little dome carrying a box of beans that he pulled out of his basement and was going to throw away.  Realizing what an opportunity this was for the advancement of science and all that, I snatched them up and today I have just finished cooking them.

So, I have pinto beans, red beans, and lima beans.  These were stored in a cool basement for 12 years inside an unsealed popcorn tin without oxygen absorbers or mylar bags.  Then they were transferred to my dome for about a year (before I got around to trying this) where they sat in a cardboard box under my sink.  Yesterday I dumped some of each into a soup bowl and let them soak for 24 hours.  Then I cooked them all together in a pressure cooker (10lbs of pressure) without any salt or spices.  I was not expecting this to turn out well.  The results were as follows:

After 30 minutes in the pressure cooker the red beans and pinto beans were not that bad.  They were not as soft as fresh beans and were a little gritty.  Fresh beans should have been mush after 30 minutes and these were not, but the flavor was recognizable if a little bland.  The lima beans were still very gritty and the flavor was not that good... however I am not a fan of fresh lima beans so maybe the flavor was acceptable, the texture was definitely not though. 

I put them back on for another 30 minutes in the pressure cooker.  This time the pinto beans and red beans were just about what you would expect fresh beans to be like.  With the addition of some salt and pepper they were actually quite good.  The lima beans were no longer crunchy, but I was still not a fan of the flavor.

So... it looks like pinto beans and red beans will be going into my stockpile.  I am not sure about the rice... if anyone has some to test please leave your thoughts in the comments.  It is also worth noting that beans are improved greatly by adding salt, so unless you live near the ocean it would probably be a good idea to store some of that as well.  Beans and rice are also much better with some oil and this is probably what is missing when it gets really old.  So adding coconut oil and some pepper would also be a good idea.  And if you don't have one, be sure to invest in a pressure cooker.  Otherwise you will be cooking this stuff for days and your rat will still be really tough.

So you can now be assured, as you watch the world burn around you, you can sit on your porch and watch the lunatics killing each other while you relax on your five gallon bucket eating a hot skillet full of mummified refried beans.  Ah, the good times we have to look forward to.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Giant Earth Bag Hot Tub.

It has been over a year since my last update.  There has been a lot going on but not much worth blogging about until this.  When I first got this land I had planned to build a giant hot-tub.  I outlined the original plan in the post here.  After the dome was basically done, I dug the initial section which was about 10x10x4ft.until I hit bedrock.  I had hoped to go down about 10 feet and make a cistern / geothermal heating / cooling system but it did not look like that was going to happen.  I even bought a small jackhammer to try to get through it but after several hours of getting nowhere I just kind of put it on the back burner hoping for inspiration.

And then a year passed.

A backpacking / world-traveling / friend of mine showed up about that time looking for a place to stay for a few months while on route to the Appalachian Trail and then to bicycle across China (again).  He took a liking to the hot tub plan and started digging for a few weeks.  I spent most of my spare money buying and renovating the trailer you see in the picture for him to live in (guest house).  So at this point I had a big hole with a bunch of earth bags filled.  My friend decided to go hike the AT for the fourth time, but I had a little money saved so I started working on it again.  Basically for the past three weeks for 3-4 hours a day I have been  filling bags and mixing cement to plaster over the bags.

The "hot-tub" is roughly 40ft long 10ft wide and 3-5 feet deep.  The idea is to use the last 8ft or so as the tub and the rest will be filled with gravel, sand, and dirt to make a giant filter on top of which I will plant bamboo and mint (probably).  There is a drain pipe on the floor of the tub which goes to an electric pump at the back. This will pump water continuously from the tub through a perforated pipe running the length of the "filter".  There is a 6 inch pipe at the bottom of the dividing wall through which the water can come back into the tub after having filtered through the sand and gravel.  Essentially I am trying to make an artificial creek so that the tub will be self-cleaning and not require any chemicals.  I may even put some small fish in during the summer. On the right there will be a big wood-burning stove (3ft by 6ft.) made from cement blocks with a metal top.  Hopefully by this winter I will have it so that I can divert water from the filter to the top of the stove where it will be heated and run back into the tub.  I believe I can also use this to make charcoal at the same time.

I had an old bathtub which is the white thing you can see on top of the bags in the picture at the top.  That is going to be part of an outdoor kitchen eventually.  There will be a prep area to the left of the tub and a brick oven (wood burning) across from it.  I also plan to build a screened in area behind the hot-tub so that during the summer I can sleep outside in that without having to worry about the bugs.  The eventual goal is to figure out a way to manage with about $1000 of solar panels.  This will mean limiting electrical use as much as possible and air-conditioning will have to go.

In the end this "hot-tub" will not be that cheap.  I estimate I will spend about $600 on sand, $400 on cement $500 on gravel, and $300 on the various plumbing.  So basically round it up to $2000 or so.  But it should provide a lot of bamboo and will be the starting point for a lot of other projects such as an aquaponic garden, fish farm / cistern, and mushroom growing bunker... more on that if I ever get that far.

If I were doing this again I think I would make it about 1/3 the size.  Especially the filter.  I think I would make it about 10 feet instead of the current 30feet (which is excessive).  That would probably cut the labor and cost in half and accomplish basically the same thing.