Good recipes for stored staples may be one of your most useful survival tools.
by Leon Pantenburg
Prepared people know that keeping the family fed during an emergency is a priority. But over the long haul, diet monotony can be a problem. Eating the same food, day after day, may eventually cause the kids or the old folks to quit eating. Without proper nutrition, your family won’t do well.
While it’s a great idea to stock up on staples, you better have some ideas on how to use them!
If biscuits and gravy are a favorite breakfast treat, then nobody has to sell you on the idea of baking biscuits in the morning.
We’re not talking about those that originate in a refrigerated tube, of course, but the real thing, made from scratch. But most people don’t need another time-sucker in their morning routine, nor in the dinner routine, when a quick side dish to go with a stew, chowder or soup is required.
What you do need is a quick, easy way to make biscuits, pancakes, waffles and more. While there are numerous mixes
on the market that store well, they may be little more than flour, salt, baking powder and water. It’s easy, and a lot cheaper, to make your own biscuit and pancake mix out of ingredients you know will provide healthy, solid nutrition.
During my 2,552-mile Mississippi River canoe trip, my standard breakfast was usually as many pancakes as I could eat, drowned in maple syrup and butter. This meal fueled several hours of rowing, and provided the energy to battle bad weather, cold temperatures, wind and contrary river currents!
In the U.S., a biscuit is a small form of bread made with baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent rather than yeast. Biscuits, soda breads and corn bread are sometimes referred to as quick breads to indicate they don’t need time to rise before baking. Sweet variations of the biscuit are sometimes called scones.
Add more liquid and maybe an egg and some oil to a standard biscuit recipe, and it becomes a pancake batter. A little more egg, and you have the makings of a waffle. (A quick note: Learning how to cook over a campfire in a cast iron Dutch oven is an important survival skill! Lodge Dutch Ovens)
Since they’re all quick breads, the main difference between most biscuits, pancakes, waffles and even
dumplings is the amount of liquid added and the method of cooking. A good biscuit mix should be able to accommodate most of these recipes.
For best results, use a double-acting leavening agent in your biscuit mix.
Single-acting baking powders are activated by moisture, so recipes with this product must be baked immediately after mixing. Double-acting powders react in two phases and can stand for a while before baking. With double-acting powder, some gas is released at room temperature when the powder is added to the dough or batter, but the majority of the gas is released after the temperature of the dough increases in the oven or on the griddle.
For biscuits, add just enough water to milk to create a soft dough, knead lightly, roll or pat flat and cut out rounds. If a touch of extra liquid is added, the doughs texture changes to resemble very stiff pancake batter, so that small spoonfuls can be dropped onto the baking sheet to produce drop biscuits, which are more creative in texture and shape.
For pancakes or waffles, mix the wet ingredients first, then add the mix to the liquid and stir briefly. Overmixing will result in tougher cakes, so its OK to leave lumps. Let the batter sit for a few minutes before pouring by 1/4 – to 13-cupfuls onto a hot griddle or waffle iron.
Few items in your baking pantry will be as versatile as a good biscuit mix. Here’s a recipe I’ve been using for a long time, and over the years, the ingredients have been tweaked to make it a healthy food. A batch goes along to elk and deer camp every year and it provides the basis for several side dishes.
Healthy Biscuit Mix
5 lbs All-Purpose flour, minus 4 C
3 C whole wheat flour
1 C flax meal
1 C soy flour
2½ C dry milk
¾ C double-acting baking powder
3 TBS salt
5 TBS wheat germ
½ C unrefined cane sugar
2 TBS cream of tartar
4 C shortening
Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl, and stir well. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
(Backpackers, hunters and outdoors people can also take along a few scoops in a plastic bag. Come mealtime, it can be cooked like a bannock next to a campfire. I don’t really know how how long the completed mix will last, since we go through it pretty quickly. I would imagine the shelf life would be about six months or so.)
1 heaping C Healthy Biscuit mix
About 3 TBS water
Combine mix and enough water to form a soft dough in a mixing bowl. Shape into a ball, knead about 10 times on a lightly floured surface. (Don’t overknead or the biscuits will be tough.) Flatten out and roll or pat to ½-inch thickness. Cut dough into biscuits, put on a greased cookie sheet or in a greased cast iron skillet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until browned. Yields 5 biscuits.
½ C milk
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 C Healthy Biscuit mix
Combine first three ingredients, blend well. Add biscuit mix, stir until smooth. (If thicker batter is desired, add more flour.) Drop batter on lightly greased hot griddle, and cook until pancakes are browned on both sides. Yields about five 4-inch pancakes.
2 C basic biscuit mix
2/3 C milk
Mix together until a soft dough forms, then drop by spoonfuls onto a boiling stew. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and cook another 10 minutes. Makes about 10 dumplings.
Basic Biscuit mix
This recipe is pretty standard throughout the south. It works well if you don’t have a lot of other amendment ingredients available.
10 C All-Purpose flour
1/3 C baking powder
1 TBS salt
2 C shortening
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. With two knives or a pastry blender, add the shortening in spoonfuls and cut it in until the mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal. Keep mix stored in a labeled, tightly closed container. It will keep on the pantry shelf for up to six months in dry weather. In hot or humid weather, it is a good idea to refrigerate the mix.