By Angry Old American – October 1, 2022
Copyright Angry Old American, October 1st, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
We have all been warned by government, energy companies, and mainstream media that there will be severe energy shortages and probable electricity rolling-blackouts from now into the foreseeable future. These energy woes will be exacerbated by financial and supply-chain collapse, worldwide shortages, and an undeclared war. With the destruction of the Russian Nord Stream 1 & 2 Pipelines, the entirety of Europe is scrambling for enough coal and firewood to survive a freezing winter. The United States will face a similar fate in 2023.
This is yet another article in a series dedicated to personal preparation for the inevitable challenges we all will face. I will not fault those who have chosen to tune-out from this series of survival preparation tips. In many respects, the time to prepare has eclipsed with food shortages and subsequent hyperinflation. Ignorance is bliss, and the lemmings will be happiest wallowing in televised propaganda and mindless fluff. When they finally bump into reality, they will do what is natural and follow the other lemmings to empty shelves of toilet paper, riot, loot; or stand in government bread-lines. For those with unswerving faith in the government to care for their needs, my only caution is that bait within a trap is the only free resource in this world.
Not only does NATO face severe energy shortages, but the threat of attacks on our energy grids and communications. The sabotage of Russia’s Nord Stream 1 & 2 Pipelines has escalated NATO’s proxy war with Russia to an undeclared shooting war. Last week Russia mobilized all of its Military Reserve Troops, and is just one step away from general mobilization for all-out war. From the onset of the Ukrainian invasion, Russia has threatened nuclear strikes. The military tactical doctrines of both Russia and China assert that a nuclear war can be won. On October 3rd 2022, Russia is taking delivery of a huge shipment of potassium iodide to avert radiation sickness for its population.
If a nuclear strike against the US Military were to occur, it would be preceded by Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Weapons to take down both our power grids and communications. An EMP first strike would be followed by Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, and then a second EMP to remove any communications not destroyed by the first strike.
Cooking in an energy challenged or grid down environment can be daunting. In previous articles, we reviewed alternative energy sources; in present circumstances most of those will be in short supply also. What then are we to do?
The answer to this energy conundrum is to conserve what scant energy resources that we have at our disposal. Barring an EMP attack, the odds are good that this will be a gradual slide into Hell. Rolling-Blackouts, where one community after another is deprived of electricity, will most likely be first to occur. Indeed, Rolling-Blackouts have occurred in various locations in the United States during heatwaves this last Summer, and most often are unannounced and can be extremely inconvenient.
Exponential costs of energy are being felt in other countries; with costs soaring as high as 17 times over that of last year. In South Africa, and other regions already experiencing extreme electricity shortages, Rolling-Blackouts have evolved into “Load-Shedding.” Communities are informed about the hours that electricity will be available. At present, many South African communities have sixteen hours of blackout, and eight hours of electricity spread out each day in one or two hour increments. Heating, cooling, cooking, laundry and charging of battery driven devices is accomplished during these eight hours of availability. Of course, if the grid should go down entirely, the population may encounter days or weeks of electricity deprivation.
If public water pumped to homes lacks adequate pressure, then those living in higher elevations may face water shortages. Sewage systems will also be challenged. Basic public and emergency services will disappear. Life will grind to a halt as communities go dark.
Cooking will be the least of our troubles as the grid eventually slips into collapse. However, during the interim, the comfort of cooked food will be a luxury that we will pursue. Cooking of questionable food and water will be an absolute necessity to maintain our health when water and sewage are compromised.
We should look to bankrupt Third World Countries for techniques that adapt to what will soon be our “New Normal.” As many Military Veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq will attest, the smell of burned dung is everywhere. Lacking firewood or other combustibles, dried animal dung is collected and burned for heat and cooking. Even dung is in short supply, so they do their cooking during the cool of day. Even in First World Countries, Bakers traditionally rose early in the morning while others slept in order to cook bread consumed during daylight hours.
Cooking once a day makes the most efficient use of resources. This is especially true if cooking with firewood or other combustibles. It takes time for a fire to be built, and to properly heat a fire-pit, fireplace, bar-b-que, or oven enclosure; and to pre-heat kettles, pots and pans. Cooking during short time periods takes skill and careful advanced planning.
So, what are the options for cooking during Rolling Blackouts and Load Shedding situations?
Magnetic Induction Hotplates have gained attention recently among off-grid campers who get their energy from batteries charged by gasoline/propane generators or solar-voltaic panels. However, the actual efficiency savings of these induction cookers is only 5% to 10%. There are two options that stand out in electrical efficiency; Pressure Cookers and Thermal Cookers.
Pressure cookers will conserve 30% to 70% of the energy wasted in conventional ovens. Thermal cookers use up to 80% less electricity than stove-top cooking. Of course, both of these cooking methods can be used with electricity, gas or wood heating options with great effect.
Looking back in history, Cast-iron Dutch Ovens have been used for over a century to incorporate both pressure and thermal cooking. Filled with food, the Dutch Oven was buried in the coals of a fire, and often surrounded by additional rocks. When the coals exhausted their energy, the heavy cast iron and surrounding rocks maintained heat to slow cook.
Electric “Slow Cookers,” or “Crock-Pots,” became popular during the 1970s. Most homes still have these devices, and they present extreme savings over oven cooking. The average Crock-Pot will only use 30% of the electricity consumed by conventional oven or stove-top methods.
Should conventional cooking methods be used, it is important to make full use of energy consumed. There are nesting pots available that consist of a large and tall cauldron, with a strainer above, and then a steamer above covered by a lid. Thus the user can boil pasta or potatoes below, and steam vegetables above, all in one go. Einstein would boil an egg when boiling water for tea or coffee.
Pressure Cookers can be had quite cheaply, and are often available for bargain prices at second-hand stores and garage sales. Larger pressure cookers have the bonus of functioning as pressure canners for food preservation. A pressure cooker uses less energy because its cooking time is only a fraction of conventional methods.
Thermal Cookers have a variety of configurations. Campers have used standard “Thermos,” or vacuum insulated bottles and jars to cook rice, beans, hard-boiled eggs, soups and stews, for decades. They are also handy for cooking dehydrated and freeze dried packaged survival and backpacking foods. When selecting a conventional thermal container for cooking, avoid glass-lined containers and opt instead for stainless-steel linings. Steel is less prone to breakage, easier to clean, and more hygienic.
Thermal vacuum containers should not be heated directly on any stove. The most common heat source for cooking in a conventional thermal container is hot water. It is best to heat the water to extreme scalding rolling boil. Caution should be exercised when using this water as it will produce first and second degree burns; not only from the water but also the steam.
When electricity is available, water can be heated to a boil in stove-top kettles, and then preserved for future use in thermal bottles as large as one gallon in capacity. The water will remain hot for an average of 24 hours in most conditions. There are also highly efficient stand-alone electric kettles that are thermal insulated, and range between 200 watts and 1800 watts. This variable wattage can be critical for those using battery backup systems to avoid triggering their circuit breaker. The higher wattage settings are the most energy efficient. Higher heat settings allow for faster boiling and subsequent use or storage. The use of energy to maintain temperature of water over long periods of time is wasteful.
When cooking in a “Thermos,” the interior should be heated prior to cooking. Simply add boiling water and wait for a time for the liner to warm. After adding the chosen foods and fresh boiling water to the container, close it to maintain heat. If the container is tall, it will be advantageous to lay it down on its side to disperse the solid and hot liquid contents evenly. Shaking the contents occasionally will also help mix the contents for even cooking. Always use caution during all phases of Thermal Cooking to avoid contact with scalding hot water and steam. Treat the contents of a Thermal Cooker as if it were filled with fire.
An actual “Thermal Cooker” consists of one or more covered nested stove-top pots with a stainless steel thermal vacuum jacket. The internal pots are removed, filled with food, and then cooked in a conventional manner on a gas or electric range, or on a wood fire. This Thermal Cooker method has an advantage over Crock-Pots because it allows the contents to be browned or caramelized before slow cooking. Afterward, the pot is placed inside the Thermal Jacket to continue cooking for a prescribed amount of time. Most often, foods are ready to eat in 2 hours, and will continue to cook for 8 hours or more afterward. The thicker the bottom of the pot, the longer the cook time. A solid steel or iron disk can be added to the bottom of the pot in order to increase subsequent cook time. Thermal Cookers work similar to a slow-cooker, but without consuming additional electricity. Like most thermal vacuum containers, contents will remain warm for up to 24 hours.
As mentioned previously; gasoline, propane and wood will be in short supply. For those with backup electric battery and solar generators, electric cooking may be an option. However, heating with electricity can drain most batteries in a flash. Best to use grid electricity for heat when it is available.
Another heat source that is often overlooked is Passive Solar. Passive Solar Water Heaters were one of the first solar energy technologies. Passive Solar Water Heaters are still used in rustic settings by campers and Park campgrounds for showers. Solar Stoves and Kettles have been used to great effect in daylight hours, and in a variety of weather conditions. There need not be full sun to gain thermal advantage from Passive Solar. These cookers have been proven to reach 210 degrees or more in partly cloudy conditions and cold ambient temperatures with snow on the ground. Solar cookers with parabolic reflectors to concentrate the energy can exceed 400 degrees!
Just like Magnetic Induction Stoves that cannot be used with non-magnetic cookware; Solar Stoves cannot be used with cookware with reflective surfaces. Matte Black surfaces that absorb solar radiation are best for Solar Cookers, and dark anodized surfaces or enamelware can also be used. Smoke and soot covered camp-ware can be ideal; but avoid cast-iron because it takes too long to heat. Clear glass cookware has been used successfully for solar cooking, and some commercial Solar Stoves incorporate Fresnel lenses to concentrate solar energy like a magnifying glass.
Solar Stoves and Kettles come in a variety of configurations. Commercially available items are reasonably priced, or you can make your own. A search of the internet will provide you with designs that you can make with items as simple as a reflective automotive windshield shade and a few minutes of time. The most common construction is of Reflective Mylar (used in “Emergency Blankets”), with non-flammable glues and materials to direct and catch sunlight. The only drawback to solar cooking is the need to rotate the direction of the cooker every half hour or so to make best use of the sun.
These Passive Solar Cookers will probably take a majority of the day to achieve the same results that are reached quickly using conventional methods. Quicker results can be attained by Parabolic Solar Cookers which are capable of reaching 400 degrees or more. These can be made by using old satellite dishes faced with reflective Mylar. A black pot is then hung on the receiver post to collect the concentrated solar energy reflected from the base. Again, this method will require constant attention and movement to catch the solar energy; but the cook time will be less.
If you get nothing else from this article, conservation is paramount when resources are scarce and expensive. Stored energy, in all forms, whether in a battery, tank of gas or liquid, or log of wood, should be retained for quick and easy use during emergencies. Use what you have available wisely.
The party is over!