Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Aluminum Foil - Survival Cooking Essential
We have to eat. Whether it's a hobo dinner, a reflector oven, or a make-shift griddle - If you have aluminum foil and sufficient heat, you can cook. This is "simple". I buy the large, restaurant supply rolls of aluminum foil at Costco Warehouse. You get a lot more for your money than in the smaller containers, and the heavy-duty foil will hold up much better than some of the very thin kitchen-use foil.
Probably everyone knows what a Hobo Dinner is, but just in case: It's typically meat, onions, other vegetables and seasoning wrapped in foil and placed on a grate over a fire, or in the hot coals. You can really cook a whole lot of things this way - cobbler, cake, camp breads, stews, any vegetables or meats... Rather than completely wrapping the food, you can also form a "pot" shape to set over the heat source.
When cooking in a campfire, it's best to not have the foil right in the middle of the hottest part of the fire and glowing coals, or your food may burn. I learned that the hard way! Pulling some hot coals away into a pile and "burying" your foil dinner in them works great. Or set it on a grate of some kind, just above the heat. I've sat a foil dinner right at the edge of a good, hot fire and just turned it around a few times.
One of my favorite foil desserts is a Banana Boat.
~ Slice a banana from top to bottom on the inside of the curve. Cut clear through the banana without cutting into the peel on the back of the banana. Leave the banana in its peel.
~ Pull the banana open a little along the cut and stuff it with pieces of chocolate and marshmallows.
~ Set the banana on a sheet of foil and wrap it tightly around the banana, twisting and securing the ends.
~ Place it in the coals and let cook for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you have it in.
~Open the foil, grab a spoon and dig in!
Mmmmm! I love those!
There are several ways to make a reflector oven. A Solar Oven is a type of reflector oven made of reflective material that focuses the sun's rays onto the food. Or you can make a reflector to sit next to a fire and reflect its heat onto the food, like the one in the picture on the right.
The reflector oven I've used is a little different. I lined the inside of a box with foil. Then you set it upside down with one end propped up with rocks about an inch. Inside, you have hot briquettes, and 2 or 4 tin cans to set your cooking dish on top of. For now, you will have to get the idea from my not-so-professional sketches below. I have cooked a casserole and baked a cake this way. I've watched others bake bread and cupcakes. They sat a cookie sheet on the tin cans and then put the bread pans on the cookie sheet. You would bake in this reflector oven the very same as you would in a conventional oven. I was really amazed at how simple and efficient it was.
When our weather turns nicer, I will do some reflector oven baking and take some good photos to show you how it works. Not that you need nice weather of course! This would be the perfect way to cook outside on the ground or a patio or apartment deck in the dead of winter. Just make sure your surface is heat safe. I'll also give more info on how many briquettes you need, depending on how hot you want your oven.
Makeshift foil griddle or pan
This is pretty basic. Lay foil flat over a fire grate, on top of a wood stove, or anywhere else that you can get sufficient heat. If you need to, you can shape the foil into a container to heat a small amount of water or soup or something else with liquid.
While we have easy access to the internet, is the time to search for and collect recipes that we like and other information that would be useful.
For many years, I have been leery of cooking with aluminum. The warnings came out long ago to throw out our aluminum cookware and replace them with steel or earthenware. We take in aluminum every day. It occurs naturally in the air, soil and water. It is sometimes used in pain killers and other medications, toothpaste, antiperspirant, baking powder, beer, bleached flour, grated cheese, table salt and a variety of other things. Municipal water can be one of our highest sources of aluminum intake.
I've done some research over the years and continue to find conflicting information. Some say that the minuscule amount of aluminum we would get from cooking is insignificant. But there is plenty of literature to warn of the dangers of Aluminum Toxicity. I continue to be cautious. The last time we made foil dinners (Hobo dinners), we wrapped the meat and vegetables in cabbage leaves and then wrapped that with the foil. The cabbage made the food taste even better but put something between it and the aluminum. We threw the leaves away.
In spite of my concerns, I have plenty of aluminum foil on hand for emergency cooking. It would be better to be able to cook with foil, than not cook at all. Also, you can fold a significant amount of foil into a flat shape that takes very little room for backpacking, or to put in an emergency 72-hour kit.
We would be wise to learn all we can and make educated decisions as we plan to provide for ourselves, families and others. I pray you are all taking steps to store necessities and gain needed skills, because preparedness is peace of mind, not panic.