I’m not a fan of most television, but there a historical reality series I find myself watching over and over – the BBC “Farm” series. These shows follow along as several experts live and work as if they were in a specific time period. There are 5 shows covering time periods from 1485 – 1950. These productions are not filled with the extreme drama common to most television, but they are entertaining and offer a historical perspective into time periods without modern conveniences and access to the vast array of “stuff” we enjoy today.
All of these shows have something to offer today’s Prepper, but the “War Time Farm” series is perhaps the best for learning to cope with shortages. England was cut off from imports during WWII. Studying this period is invaluable when considering a supply chain interruption now. History, as ever, is the greatest teacher.
One major shortage I would not have considered was fats. Hogs, the primary source of solid fats at the time, were nearly eradicated since they competed directly with people for food. Beef cattle were also culled severely since much grazing land was converted to crop fields. This put a big dent in not only cooking fats, but those used in soap as well.
In the modern day, animal fat has become maligned as the harbinger of clogged arteries and heart attacks. It’s interesting to note that these conditions were not the epidemic they are now in a past where people consumed much more saturated fat. However, my point here is not to debate the good or evils of fat, but to talk about how to keep it around for emergencies.
Pure fat stores quite well if sealed from oxygen and kept in a cool dark place. There are three main types of animal fat that can be stored: The internal fat (suet) from pigs and cattle provide high quality lard and tallow when rendered. Butter can also be rendered to make ghee. Rendering is simply slow cooking at low temperature with a little water until all impurities are separated out. The liquid is then strained and water bath canned. Properly rendered and stored fat will keep for years.
If you don’t wish to render your own fat, you can purchase lard from the store. However, store-bought lard contains hydrogenated ingredients which are less than ideal. Coconut oil is also good for storage, but is quite expensive and not ideal for some recipes due to its aroma. I would not recommend anyone eat margarine or shortening unless it was a starvation situation.
It is possible to raise your own fat if you keep hogs or cattle. Most other homestead animals such as rabbits and goats are very lean and often need fat added during the cooking process. Poultry such as ducks and geese are also a good source of high quality fat. We aren’t at the point where we have livestock yet, but suet can be purchased from any meat processor very economically.
Now you’re ready to make the best pie crust ever!