Book Review: The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives

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If you are interested in pyrotechnics, then The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives is a good starting place. It is an older title but it is still relevant, as are all classics. This book does a great job of explaining the chemistry behind energetic materials. If you have an interest in this area then you need to read his book. It has a really nest section on making fireworks, a large section on black powder, Manufacture of single based propellants, various nitrates and nitric esters, primary explosive compounds, and great history of this field. As I stated earlier, this is an

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Drying Herbs the Easy Way

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My favorite way of drying herbs is to use nylon mesh hampers that have cloth handles. These were designed for college students, and they come in various colors. They are also collapsible for easy storage, so we have several of them and we usually dry four to five different herbs at a time.

We have installed hooks used to hang plants in the ceiling of our carport, and we loop the hamper handles over the hooks. Since we have a lot of wind in our area, looping the handles over a second time secures them from being blown off the hooks, and the herbs can dry in the shade of the carport.

The herbs need to be stirred up occasionally to separate them and make sure they are getting enough air, and it is easy to just hit the bottom of the hamper a couple of times as you go by. Some dry within just a couple of days.

If it is going to rain, it is best to take the hampers down and hang them indoors. Even though they are protected when they’re under the carport, it is still better to put them in a place away from the moisture while they are drying.

Drying Different Herbs

When I am drying herbs on stalks, I cut the whole stalk and put it in the hamper.

When I dry leafy herbs like comfrey, which are more compact, I leave the stems on the leaves and put just a small amount of leaves in each hamper. I stir these more often.

As you put the herbs in the hamper, you will get more of a feel for how many to put in as you see how much they compact. I usually don’t fill the hampers more than one-third full.

Storage Tips

When the herbs are dry, just strip the leaves down off the stalks.

For comfrey or mullein leaves, wear gloves and crumble the leaf off the stems. You can use a coffee grinder if you want to powder some of the dried herbs.

Store the dried herbs in separate bags. When the herbs are in the bags, you can crumble them up some more. I prefer using the gallon-size plastic storage bags, but not the kind with sliders.

You can also store the dried herbs in jars.

Keep the stored herbs out of the light, in a pantry or other cool area.


This article by Sharon Devin was submitted for The Grow Network’s 2015 Writing Contest and was originally published on June 15, 2015. Thank you, Sharon!

 

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Tomatoes: The Overlooked Survival Food

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stock up on tomatoesOn my list of the Top 10 Foods for Stocking Up, I impulsively added tomatoes as #6.  During the past few days I’ve been keeping an eye on the foods we most often eat, and sure enough, tomatoes are a big part of our diet.  Sunday we dined on tacos and tostadas, both topped with salsa.  The next night we gorged on take-out pizza with a delicious tomato sauce flavored with red wine.  Ketchup is the life blood of my kids’ lunches, and some of my favorite soups are tomato based.  It’s no wonder that I stock up on tomatoes and tomato products.

Reasons to stock up on tomatoes

One reason I’m glad to include tomatoes as a major part of my food storage is that they contain healthy doses of Vitamins A and C and are wonderfully low in calories. Tomatoes are a natural diuretic, being 90% water themselves, and can help flush toxins out of your body.  On top of all that, they’ve been found to contain lycopene, an amazing element that combats cancer.

The peak season for growing your own tomatoes is in the glorious, hot days of summer, but they’re available at the market year round.  If you can get your hands on a large number of fresh tomatoes, here are some options for you, other than letting them rot in your vegetable drawer!

Oven Dried Tomatoes

What a delicous way to preserve your tomatoes, and this couldn’t be simpler.  Wash your tomatoes and slice them about 1/2″ thick.  Toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil and place them on a baking rack.  Bake at a very low temperature, 225 degrees, for at least 2-3 hours.  You’ll know they’re done when they feel like soft leather and are chewy.  For long-term storage, you can seal them in either canning jars using a jar sealer attachment and a Food Saver or in Food Saver bags. Since the dried tomatoes will still have a degree of moisture, I don’t recommend storing them for much longer than 3-6 months.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

Again, wash and slice tomatoes, but this time, layer them on dehydrator trays.  If you’re new to food dehydration, read this.  Tomatoes will need a good 6-12 hours of dehydrating time, and when they’re finished, they’ll be crispy. Far more moisture is removed using this method than oven drying, so these crackly tomato slices will have a much longer shelf life. Use the canning jar/jar sealer method with a Food Saver. That is my preferred method for storing dehydrated tomato slices.

Homemade Tomato Powder

The first time I heard of tomato powder, I thought, “Huh?”  It turns out that this is a great ingredient for adding tomato flavor and nutrients to soups, chiles, stews, salad dressings, and more, and it can be quickly rehydrated as tomato sauce. Add more powder for a thicker sauce.

Stored in the fridge, tomato powder will last indefinitely.  To make your own, seed your tomato slices before dehydration or not. I leave the skins on and the seeds in. Place the slices on dehydrator trays, making sure they don’t overlap and dry until very, very crispy. This will take several hours.

Once you have crispy tomato slices, break them into small pieces and turn them into powder using your food processer or blender.  I use my Magic Bullet and get great results.

The Paranoid Dad’s Not-So-Secret Salsa Recipe

We love this fresh flavored salsa.  You can add cilantro, if you like.  I love cilantro, but Parnoid Dad says it tastes like dirt.  Go figure.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine these ingredients until thoroughly heated:

3 T. oil

3 T. vinegar

3 t. salt

3 t. sugar or preferred sweetener, to taste

3 cloves garlic, pressed

Pour warmed liquid into a bowl and add 1 large can tomatoes (chopped or pureed), 1 chopped white onion, and chopped jalapenos to taste.  I also add a handful of chopped cilantro. Add a nice big bag of tortilla chips, and dinner is served!

Make-it-Yourself Ketchup

Yes, you can make delicious, homemade ketchup, seasoned just the way you like it!  I’ve found that some store brands are too sugary, and the sugar free brand is quite pricey. This is the recipe I included in my mini-book, Switch From Store-Bought to Homemade, available as a free download!

Lisa’s Homemade Ketchup

6 oz. tomato paste

1/4 c. honey*, or to taste (I also sometimes use sweeteners when I want to cut down on carbs and calories.)

1/2 c. white vinegar

1/4 c. water

3/4 t. salt

1/4 t. onion powder

1/4 t. garlic powder

Whisk all these ingredients together in a medium size saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 30 minutes and allow to cool before pouring it into a container. We use squeeze bottles but you could also recycle old ketchup bottles for this use.

Home canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to can, even for beginners. Other than learning how to make jelly and jam when I was a kid, canning tomatoes were the first food I ever officially canned. Since you use the simple water-bath method, there’s no need to calculate pressure or timing based on your elevation.

Here are simple instructions for canning your own tomatoes.

With all these options, it’s very, very easy to stock up on tomatoes in your food storage pantry. They’re versatile, delicious, and I’ll bet you and your family can’t go much longer than a week or two without eating something made from tomatoes!

stock up on tomatoes

Are you new to food storage? Check out these tutorials as well as my full-length family survival manual, Survival Mom!

For even more, here’s a page full of more links and videos!

Even more food storage resources!

This article updated on August 2, 2015.

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