Chefbear is back and this time he’s going to tell us how to store pasta and other carbs for the long term. My wife stored some pasta in the cellar recently in a food grade five gallon bucket and I got to wondering how long it would be good for. So of course I fired up the ol’ laptop and shot a message off to Chefbear to see what he had to say about storing pasta. As usual he came through and added a lot of extra knowledge that I felt compelled to share with my SHTF homies. Thanks again, Chefbear!
Hello again folks, so I was conversing with Jarhead via email and he suggested an article about pasta. I thought about it for a few minutes, and then I get a call from my girlfriend asking me what the shelf life of dried pasta is. When I inquired as to why she wanted to know, she told me she was trying to fix dinner and about the only thing they had in the pantry was a single box of, believe it or not… HBO pasta with “Soprano’s” shapes, she then told me that she had never seen it before, the box was unopened and COVERED with dust, the use by date was 11/04 (if I remember correctly)! Aside from the fact that I realized next time I visit my girl, I am taking her to the grocery store and filling the cabinets/fridge to maximum capacity, I also got to contemplating that *MOST* folks have no concept of what is an OK amount of time to store dried carbohydrates. Thus here we are, and I am going to cover in this article not only how to spot when your dried complex carbohydrates need to be disposed of, but also proper storing of these items and I think I will throw in a simple yet tasty recipe or two for you! I might also work in some other relevant info, so let’s see what we can come up with!
First off let’s discuss storage. Like many of the other storage items we have discussed over the last few months, the IDEAL conditions for rice, pasta, dried potatoes, and even grains/flour are #1 a DRY location with little or no exposure to humidity #2 a dark location, such as in a pantry or cabinet #3 a cool location, room temperature is OK, avoid a pantry that is near your water-heater or indoor A/C unit (air-handler) #4 Keep pests (i.e. insects, rodents, ect.) away from your foodstuffs as much as possible, while it is true you can never be 100% free of pests, unless you want to invest in the equipment and energy needed to maintain a “clean room” environment, chances are that’s not an option for you at least I know it is well beyond my means! Take simple precautions to avoid pests, like not leaving out exposed food sources, inspect for their presence (i.e. scat, damage to containers/walls/doors, trails, ect.), and if you find signs of them use traps before you resort to chemical warfare! Like many dried foodstuffs that are low in protein and fat, the shelf life of pasta and rice increases dramatically when stored properly. While there is usually a “use by” date printed on the package, pasta and rice will keep in ideal conditions almost indefinitely. We are talking the possibility of YEARS beyond what the manufacturer recommends! The big things to look for when you think the items (using rice and pasta as the example) are no longer good to eat are discoloration, unusual texture and an “off” smell. The latter of which is the least likely to occur, because it’s a dry product. The best way to determine if pasta or rice is still good is the color/texture. If the pasta usually has a pale yellow color, but your older stuff has white marks forming on the surface, chances are it’s time to get rid of the stuff you have and replace it. If the pasta usually has a very hard texture and is in tight little strands (spaghetti) that look like sticks, but yours seems to be crumbling at the edges, YEP it’s time to re-supply! Rice is a little trickier to spot, especially brown rice, so we will stick to white rice here. If the white rice has a yellow or dark “hazy” sort of color to it or if it looks “dusty” or “dirty”, then you should probably replace it. However, you could still cook it up and mix it into your dogs food, or use it to bait a trap!
I like to take old rice, especially the “instant”/”minute” stuff to get sluggish, early spring Crappie to start biting like CRAZY! All you need is a paper lunch bag, some twine (I like butchers twine) or heavy fishing line and a stone (roughly 10-16 oz). Place the stone in the bottom of the brown paper bag, put about a cup of the rice into the bag, then just tie off the bottom of the bag with the twine/fishing line. When you find a good spot that might be hiding shoals of Crappie or other pan-fish, like an over-hang or drop-off in a lake/pond/river, or even just a spot where there is a tree or some other structure down in the water; Toss the bag in close enough to the structure so the fish can see what comes out, and as deep as possible (after tying the other end of the line onto your wrist/tackle box/tree branch), let it sit for about 10 minutes so that the paper gets nice and soft, and the bag is sure to be resting on the bottom. When you are ready, just give the line a hard, swift tug. The bag should rip open, then the rice will start to float up from the bottom, the fish see these little white things floating up to the surface and think that an insect nest has burst, to them this means it’s feeding time! Use your favorite pole to toss in a small spoon lure, a small white artificial grub, a hook with a piece of worm/grub/cricket/grasshopper/a shiner (minnow), or even a bare gold/red/silver hook… They will tear up anything that catches their eye, and your chances of catching some dinner GREATLY improve!
OK… enough of one of my favorite outdoor activities (I LOVE FISHIN’!!!!)…. Back on track.
The single best thing you can do to ensure your dried complex carbohydrates are fresh and tasty, is to rotate them periodically. Honestly, this is probably the biggest challenge to me, I always seem to have my ADD kick-in when I am about to write the product/date on my storage chart…………….. Sorry there was something shiny on the other side of the room that caught my attention!
So now that we have covered proper storage, how to visually inspect your stores, and even how to use the stuff you would otherwise toss… let’s talk cooking! However, I am gonna switch-it-up and use one of my favorite dried carbohydrates, I am talking about dried “hash browns”. You can find these in what looks like a giant school milk carton at almost any bulk food store, and they have a great shelf life and taste! I usually buy a carton (~3lbs) for about $4!
You will need:
-2 cups shredded, dried hash browns – ½ cup sliced dried onion/shallot (shallot tastes better)
-3-4 cups boiling water or stock(to rehydrate) – 3-4 oz cream cheese/sour cream (whatever you like)
– 8-10oz shredded cheese (freeze-dried will work, rehydrate by manufacturers directions) -2oz butter
-6-8 strips bacon, cooked, chopped – ~2 tsp poultry seasoning, salt & pepper to taste, non stick spray
Rehydrate the potatoes and onions/shallots with the boiling liquid; add in the butter and seasonings and mix well being careful to maintain the texture of the potatoes; stir in the cream cheese/sour cream; add in ½ of the cheese and bacon; spray the bottom of a casserole dish, or grease your cast iron skillet/Dutch oven; place the mixture into the casserole pan –OR- preheat the cast iron cookware over med-low heat and then add in the mixture; top with the rest of the cheese and bacon pieces; BAKE @ 375F until the center is hot, potatoes are cooked through but not mushy, and the cheese on top is melted and slightly golden brown; If you are using a Dutch oven, cook over hot coals until the same result is achieved, be careful not to burn the edges, you may need to check the edges a few times and remove from the coals for a few minutes, then add it back to the fire if needed
This recipe is called “Hash Brown Casserole”, or in my house everyone calls it “Heart Attack Casserole”. If you don’t have dried hash browns (you should because they are a cheap and long lasting, tasty source of nutrition) you can use fresh potatoes, or even rice. It goes really well with game, beef, pork, chicken, eggs or just about anything else you can think of! The best part is that it’s easy and quick to prepare!
As usual, if you guys have any questions for me (even if it’s about the fishing stuff or my ADD), just ask them in the comments section and I will answer them. Hope you guys like the article, sorry for the “filler”, but there’s just not a whole lot to checking the freshness of dried goods! Thanks Jarhead & Ranger Man!
Chefbear isn’t the only one who can whip up a slammin’ meal. Check out this Youtube video of Clara cooking a Depression meal called, “The Poorman’s Meal.” I’ve made this and it’s delicious. Plus she has some interesting stories about the Depression while she cooks.