Miscellaneous useful information on emergency foods

Improvised Grain Mill

Dehydrated Hamburger

Sourdough Starter

Tomato Gravy



Building an outdoor bread oven

Wheat Gluten


If things get really bad with Y2K disruptions of the food processing system, it is possible that whole grains will be distributed as emergency foods to urban populations. While whole wheat can be boiled and eaten as a rather chewy cereal, attempting to do this three times a day, seven days a week, would not only cause sore gums, it would contribute to diarrhea. Grinding the wheat into flour makes it more palatable and useful as a food, but not everybody will have access to a grain mill (this is an article churches or community organizations should buy in advance and make available during an emergency). Many farms are equipped with grinders for animal feed that can be set to grind flour; these could be brought into cities and used at the distribution sites.

This improvised grain mill is based on traditional Third World technology.

1. The mill is made from three pieces of pipe, 30 inches long, 3/4 inch diameter, steel pipe. Most house water pipes would be of this type.

2. Cut the ends off, removing all roughness.

3. Wrap each pipe with some duct tape in the middle, and at each end.

4. Bind the three pipes together so their ends are even when resting on a flat surface.

5. Cut the top out of a large can (such as a #10 or a 7 inch high fruit-juice can).

6. Pour grain into the can, one inch deep.

7. Place the can on a hard, smooth, solid surface (e.g. concrete).

8. Sit with the can between your feet, move the pipe bundle up and down about 3 inches, rapidly. It takes about 4 minutes to pound one cup of whole wheat kernels into flour.

9. To separate the flour from the courser cracked wheat, sift through a clean window screen. If you need very fine flour for feeding children or making a rehydrating solution, place some of the ground grain in a piece of fine nylon net, gather the edges together and shake this "bag".


Use extra lean ground beef, and fry it well done. Drain very well on paper towels, pat and blot until no more grease shows up on the towels. Wash it under hot water and fry again. Do this until all the grease is gone. Dry in a dehydrator or on a rack in your oven until thoroughly dry. Pack in small ziplock plastic bags, put in mason jars, store in a dark, cool place. Note: the trick to this is making sure you get rid of all the grease.


There are as many sourdough starter recipes as there are sourdough bakers. Typically, you use equal parts flour and either water, milk, or beer. You can add a couple of tablespoons of flour, and some people "start" the sourdough with bakers yeast.

Easiest sourdough bread: Make bread as usual, add an extra cup of flour (you will have to adjust the amount of liquid and other ingredients accordingly). After the second rising, pinch off about one cup of the dough, and put in a covered non-metal container in a warm place. When you bake the next day, instead of adding yeast, add the dough you saved from yesterday's baking. This will take a little longer to rise, but it works. (Many cookbooks have other sour dough recipes.)


Make a medium white sauce (2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 cup milk), add a small (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce, stir until it thickens, serve over biscuits, rice, potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste, chopped green onions are good, as is crushed red pepper.


Eggs add a lot of value to an emergency diet, they are a familiar comfort food, and are an essential element of many recipes. One possible substitution in baked goods is 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 1/4 cup water (substitutes for one egg).

To store eggs, buy "waterglass", which is sodium silicate, mix with water, put eggs in a stone crock, pour this solution over the eggs, and they keep well for several months. Some older recipe books recommend dipping eggs in melted wax as a method of preservation.

Another solution is dried eggs, get them in as small a container as is practical because they require refrigeration after opening.

Without refrigeration, eggs will eventually spoil. Before this happens, pickle them:

1. Use quart mason jars. Boil the jars for 10 minutes and then keep them covered with hot water until they are used.

2. Hard boil the eggs and peel them. Take the mason jars out of the water and put the boiled/peeled eggs in them. You can add hot peppers and fresh garlic for flavor and color, also carrots, spices, herbs (cumin, dill, oregano, whatever you like). Anything added contributes flavor and is itself pickled.

3. Add 2 cups vinegar. Add water to fill to about ½ inch below the rim. Wipe the rims of the jars and put on a new lid and then screw on the ring finger tight. Note: lids should not be reused, but the rings can be used over and over again.

4. Put water in a deep pot (deep enough so the water comes up to the rims of the jars, look around for a boiling water canner). Place the jars in the pot so they do not touch each other (make sure they are up off the bottom of the kettle, some kettles have racks for this purpose, or you could put a towel in the bottom of the pot. Bring the water to a rapid boil, and keep the water boiling rapidly for 20 minutes. (This is called "processing time" and it starts when the water starts to rapidly boil, NOT when you turn on the heat). Use tongs to put the jars in the water and take them out. If you don't have tongs and can't improvise any, let the water cool naturally. Do not reduce processing time.

5. After the 20 minutes are up, turn off the heat and remove the jars from the water. Place them on a rack and allow them to cool naturally. Don't try to hasten the process by putting them in cold water. As the jars cool, , the center of the lids will depress slightly. This is a sign that a proper seal has been made. If the center of the lids doesn't depress, bring the water back to a boil and process for 20 minutes again. Once the jars are completely cool, store them in a cool dark place. You can remove the rings or leave them on. If you don't need them, might as well leave them on, that way they won't get lost and you'll always know where to find some. Let the jars sit for a couple of weeks before using them. Once opened, use within a few days, or keep refrigerated.


Most of us have only met the soybean indirectly, but many products can be made from this humble bean. If there are emergency distributions of food by the government, chances are a 50 pound sack of soybeans might be tossed on your doorstep. But don't despair, they really are edible by humans.

1. Soybeans must be cooked before eating or grinding for flour. Generally, for making flour or soy grits, roast in a shallow pan in an oven for about 1 hour at 300 degrees, shaking the pan to stir things up every 15 minutes or so. If your regular oven is not usable, use a Dutch oven or camp oven, or other baking technique described in the chapter on food. Soy grits are made like cracked wheat, once through the mill, not flour. Use soy grits as a substitute for hamburger; mix with rice and make casseroles, they can also be made into tasty sausages. Soy flour can be added to baked goods to increase the protein content.

2. Soybeans that you plan on boiling should be soaked for 8 hours (overnight) in lots of water (4 cups water for each 1 cup of soybeans). Pour off that water (if water is scarce, into your grey water bucket for use in flushing toilets), and use fresh water to cook (4 cups water for 1 cup beans). Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that rises to the top, simmer about 3 hours. A quick soak method is to bring the water to a boil for two minutes, turn off, cover and let sit for one hour. Then pour that water off, add fresh water, cook as above. Do not add salt or acidic ingredients/vegetables (like tomatoes) to yellow soybeans until they are cooked. However, if you have black soybeans, these ingredients can be added from the beginning of the cooking process.

3. You can actually make a lot of tasty dishes from soybeans, including soybean milk (which can substitute in most recipes for regular milk, and can be used in baby formula). Generally, you will want to be liberal with your spices, as soybeans by themselves don't have much flavor, but they pack a lot of nutrition. Your library has lots of resources (look for vegetarian cookbooks), or you can contact the Indiana Soybean Board, 5757 W 74th St, Indianapolis, IN 46278-1755. Your state may have its own soybean association, and a third source is your local county extension office. Get this information now, don't wait for later.


Here's a great summer construction project for you. Build an outdoor bread oven. This is a traditional oven found in many cultures world wide that bake wondrous bread (Italy comes immediately to mind). You can find complete plans and instructions in Building a Wood-fired Oven for Bread and Pizza, by Tom Jaine. If you prefer to buy a ready made model, they are available (check at your local supplier of wood stoves and fireplaces). Churches could install such ovens (this could be a project that could include baking breads for communion services, or baking bread regularly and selling it as a fund-raising project).


Gluten can be made from whole wheat kernels.

Despite the name, gluten is a very useful and nutritious food product that you can make without using fancy equipment.. It can be cooked in a variety of ways.

1. Mix six cups flour with water until it is the consistency of bread dough. If you don't have flour, grind whole wheat to make flour. Let this dough sit for 20 minutes.

2. In a sink, basin, or bucket, place a bowl, on top of that put a pie plate, and on top of that put a colander (pasta strainer). The bowl should be larger than the pie plate.

3. Take a handful of the dough, and run or pour cold water over it while you kneading it (if you are pouring water from a pitcher, you'll need an extra set of hands). Keep doing this with handfuls of dough. The water running off will be milky white with starch and have flecks of bran. The bran settles in the pie pan (dry it and save it, it has a lot of uses), and the white water in the bowl should be saved and used to thicken sauces, gravies, or soups. Keep kneading and rinsing until the water runs clear. What's left after the water rinsing is wheat gluten.

4. You now have several tasty possibilities.

(1) marinate for 10-12 hours. Use beef or chicken bouillon, add hot peppers, the "Scarborough Faire" spices (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme), soy or teriyaki sauce, hot chili sauce, sesame oil, garlic, whatever you have handy and tastes good and familiar. Then bake it or crumble it and fry in hot oil.

(2) With or without a marinade, bake in a bread pan or cut both ends out of a tin can, grease it, fill it with gluten, and bake at about 300 degrees for 45 minutes. After removing from the oven, slice and add to a stir fry recipe, or put it through a meat grinder or food processor for a hamburger texture. If you don't marinate it before baking, you'll want a good amount of sauce in the recipe. It's taste is very bland, so it needs a liberal spicing, or a flavorful sauce or gravy. Sprinkle the bran on breakfast cereals (including oatmeal and creme of wheat), and add it to baked products or casseroles.

(3) Be creative with your seasonings. The recipes below have some ideas..

Gluten Recipes

Chickless Caciatory: Add poultry seasonings, powdered chicken bouillon, cumin, thyme, rosemary, garlic, savory and salt to the freshly made gluten and bake in a loaf pan at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. In a fry pan, saute onions, bell peppers and mushrooms, celery (whatever you have, if you are using dehydrated, re-hydrate in hot water before sauteing). Slice the gluten in 2 inch diameter pieces, and put in the pan. Slowly cook on both sides until it cooked all the way through. Cover with spaghetti sauce and let simmer for about 20 min. Serve over pasta or rice.

Vegetable "liver" and onions: After making the gluten, flavor with soy sauce, garlic, onion powder and salt and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.. Put some oil in a pan and saute onions (cut in strips) and mushrooms. Remove the mushrooms and onions, slice the gluten in patties and slowly brown on both sides. Add a mushroom gravy (cornstarch variety is best) and simmer for about 45 minutes or until most of the gravy is absorbed by the gluten, turning often to avoid burning. Serve with the cooked onions and mushrooms.

Scalloped gluten: Season gluten with lemon thyme, pepper, garlic, cumin. Heat a deep fryer (hot enough for french fries). A deep fryer can simply be a heavy pot (such as a pressure cooker or Dutch oven) with oil in it. French fries are a perfect side dish. Form the gluten into balls, and deep fry. Serve with tarter sauce.

Meatless Loaf: Make gluten, mix with chili powder, bouillon, garlic, onion powder, and a handful of oatmeal. Form into a loaf and put in a loaf pan. Cover with tomato sauce. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Chicken Fried Steakless Cutlets: Make a Meatless Loaf, don't cover with tomato sauce before baking. Let cool, slice, dip in milk and seasoned flour (do this 2 or 3 times, add black and/or red pepper and salt to the flour). Put some oil in a skillet. Fry with medium heat until brown on both sides. Make a white cream sauce flavored with some spices or herbs, or a brown gravy, or mushroom gravy, and serve with mashed potatoes.

Textured Vegetable Protein: This food product may be distributed by emergency agencies during prolonged disasters. Saute it in oil and spices for a while and then add water and let sit until it absorbs the water. There are a variety of things you can do with, casseroles, meatless loaves, meatless burgers, etc. TVP may be flavored as beef, chicken, pepperoni, whatever, or it may be unflavored, in which case, use spices and flavorings liberally.

Oral rehydration solution: In the event of severe diarrhea and dysentery, or loss of fluids due to excessive heat, make and administer an oral rehydration solution (common store names for oral rehydration solutions are Gatorade and Pedialyte). Give the dehydrated person sips of this drink every five minutes, until he or she begins to urinate normally. Keep giving the drink often in small sips, even if the person vomits. Not all of the drink will be vomited. Combine ½ tsp salt and 8 heaping tsp (or 2 handfuls) of powdered cereal and dissolve in 1 liter of boiled and cooled water. Powdered rice is best, but corn meal or wheat flour or cooked and mashed potatoes can also be used. Boil this mixture for 5 to 7 minutes to form a watery porridge. Cool quickly and give to the sick person. When using, make it frequently, especially in warm weather. Without refrigeration, it can spoil in a few hours. Another recipe for an oral rehydration drink is: one-half level teaspoon of salt, 8 level teaspoons of sugar, mixed with one liter of water. A half cup of fruit juice should also be added if available.