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Down Times Part 2: Survival Foods

Down Times Survival Foods

JT Bogden - The region of North America appeared in humanity's landscape during the 15th century and has persisted for over 600 years up to the 21st century. People came here in a struggle for freedom, and they struggled to survive up to the middle of the 20th century.

There was a strong spiritual relationship due to the difficulties relating to survival. People prayed over food as the food was not easily come by, and Thanksgiving was to give thanks to God following the harvest. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Pilgrims were taught by the American Indians how to grow crops. In return for Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims would invite the Indians who brought tobacco and partied for days. People still pray over food despite its abundant availability, mostly out of habit and out of convenience in many cases. For most of America, Thanksgiving is still celebrated but has lost its spiritual aspect.

American ingenuity and creativity led to numerous innovations and inventions. American life transformed during The Age of Luxury Living after World War II. Nearly everyone bought homes on a suburban lot and got cars and personal appliances such as TVs, washing machines, etc. Running water, sewage, air conditioning, and heaters became widespread. The highest standard of living peaked about 1965 when people began owning multiple cars, homes, boats, and other material things. To maintain these things, households transitioned to a two-income earner home by 1975. The Age of Luxury Living ended with vanity and excess.

Today, the economy has excessive cash because the debt was monetized, and there is excess food and abundant work options. Technology meant to connect the world and assist in complex thought has disconnected everyone from reality. Social skills are nearly non-existent, as is the ability to cope. Humanity now manufactures a crisis and makes up benign solutions without a real crisis. Socio-political movements are creating challenges threatening the luxury life of which people are too accustomed. Most Americans know little about the effort necessary to survive. Before World War II, there were numerous tactics and methods in practice that people used to not only get by but survive.

Those practices have become The Lost Ways and were passed down generationally. Fathers taught sons, and mothers taught daughters. Gaining knowledge about The Lost Ways and practical skills necessary to survive, should food, work, and other resources become unavailable for whatever reason. However, today there are technological conveniences that make survival easier and even safer, such as refrigerators, freezers, and dehydrators. The only real problem is that survival foods taste bland and even bad to some people. There are no gourmet survival foods. Survival is stark, distasteful, and burdensome. I present several food options that store long-term, providing the nutrients and calories necessary to keep going.



Pemmican was invented by the North American Plains Indians to survive austere winter months and to use while traveling. It was discovered by American frontiersmen and became a sought-after item for trade. The basic formula is 50% dried meat and 50% rendered fat or grass-fed tallow. Variations exist to make Pemmican more favorable than the bland taste of rendered fat. Such variations include swapping reduced rendered fat with bacon grease. Adding spices or dried berries is another variation. The variations also impact the term of storage, which must be kept in mind.

Pemmican is not raw but prepared by heating the rendered fat above 200 degrees. The meat is dehydrated between 100 and 115 degrees; above 120 degrees will cook it, making it lose its nutritional value. Federal and state laws require dehydrated meats to be above 150 degrees which causes the meat to be well-done and unsuitable for Pemmican. Once mixed, the pemmican should be put into a mold to make a biscuit or bar, then chilled in a refrigerator. The finished pemmican should be put into a sealed vacuum bag, dated, and stored in a freezer for later use.

The nutritional qualities of properly made pemmican are very strong. Studies and experience have shown that properly made pemmican can be consumed with only water for long periods without any nutritional deficiencies. Dried berries are the only acceptable addition if they do not exceed 5% composition of the pemmican.

HardTack Biscuits


HardTacks are a survival food that lasts nearly forever and is a carbohydrate energy source lacking water. They originated from seafarers, and without them, exploration by sea would have been impossible. Hardtacks go by many other names, including sea biscuits, ship's biscuits, pilot bread, and cabin bread. Soldiers also ate hardtack biscuits as rations on the battlefields.

Baking a hardtack is simple. Remember this ratio 3:1. Three cups of flour and one cup of water. Then add two teaspoons of salt. You will need to bake them multiple times to dry out the moisture. The first baking is for 30 minutes, then a 20-minute cooling period. The second baking is for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven but do not remove them. There are other drying combinations, but this one seems to work well.

When you eat them, they can be crushed to make them easier to eat, and mixing the crushed hardtack with water creates a mush that is easier to swallow. Sailors and soldiers used to dip them in coffee and other drinks.


Choos is an Inca method of dehydrating potatoes or any tubers. Chuo means wrinkle. The dehydrated tuber can be kept indefinitely. However, keeping longer than one year for edible purposes is not recommended. The process is simple.

  • Select potatoes that are the same size and weight.

  • Freeze them in the freezer for 24 hours.

  • Remove from the freezer and place in the sun for seven to ten hours.

  • Squeeze the water out of the potatoes, as much as possible.

  • Re-freeze the potatoes for 24 hours.

  • Return the potatoes to the sun for seven to ten hours.

  • Peel the loosened skins off completely.

  • After two cycles the potatoes should be dark, about the same size, and a third of the original size.

Storage must be in a dry place away from humidity. Remember to date them and dispose of them after one year, if they are not consumed. An alternative to disposal is to plant the dehydrated whole potatoes and grow a fresh crop.

Water Preservation

Sawyer Life Straw

The 16th to the 19th century was the Age of the Sail dominated by Europeans and Americans. During this time ships were to sea for long periods and fresh potable water was needed. Often they stored water in wooden casks that often had algae. Mixing 1 pint of rum to one gallon of water is sufficient to make the water potable. However, chlorinating water is the best method of purifying. There are some precautions. Always draw water from moving sources. Use regular bleach only. Do use bleach that is scented, color-safe, for swimming pools, or has cleaning agents. The mix should be no more than 6% bleach per 2 gallons of water. Aqua tablets, chlorine dioxide tablets, and iodine are acceptable alternatives. There are risks to nursing and pregnant women if iodine is used.

Setting up a distilling plant is another means of purifying water but this is time-consuming and can be costly. Sand filtration is slow with high maintenance and dependent on rain. A rain barrel collection system is an option as well. A more modern solution is to purchase and use a reverse osmosis filter such as the Sawyer Life Straw or a Sawyer Water Filtration system. Again always draw from a moving source of water to be safe. Store water in approved containers.

Wrap Up

There are innumerable Lost Ways from the frontier, pioneer, and explorer days. The few discussed here provide food and water preservation basics. The goal in any survival situation is to have the right amount of resources to work with given the crisis situation. Survival is similar to capitalizing a business venture. If you undercapitalize then you may fall short of breaking even and turning a profit. If you overcapitalize then it will be a burden and turning a profit will take longer. Learning from The Lost Ways can be the difference between the downtrodden and recovery. Having a pantry, water stores, and at least a 30-day supply of survival food items like pemmican, hardtacks, and Choos is essential to survival. Placing pemmican and hardtacks in a bug-out bag will get you through relocation if you become an Involuntary Displaced Person.

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