How to Make Ketchup

There’s no avoiding it: Ketchup is a staple of the American diet.  We drench our fries in it, put it on our burgers, some of us even dress our scrambled eggs in it.  Ketchup gives us a way to add flavor to what might otherwise be considered a bland meal.  Ketchup is a preserved product, meaning it will last longer than the tomatoes it is made from.  Knowing how to make ketchup can be a useful skill when you start to resettle after the Armageddon event.

The original tomato ketchup was a derivitive of a fish sauce discovered in Malaysia during the 18th century.  By the 19th century the tomato version had been created and consisted of tomatoes, salt, mace, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper.  As the recipe evolved, vinegar replaced salt as the preserving agent, making it sweeter.  During World War II, GIs stationed in Southwest Asia saw a shortage of tomatoes and ketchup, so they invented a ketchup based on what they had available: bananas.  Banana ketchup became so wildly popular in the area that it was commercialized and is still sold and used today.  It is essentially the same as tomato ketchup just a bit sweeter.

Ketchup Recipe

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar (3 cups per 100 tomatoes) or Salt (1/2 pound per 100 tomatoes)
  • Spices to taste (typically onion, cayenne pepper, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, celery seed, etc)

The first thing you need to do is remove the skins.  The best way to do this is shock the tomatoes.  Boil them for about a minute and then put them in extremely cold water.  This will cause the skins to seperate from the meat of the tomato and will allow you to remove the skins fairly easily.  After removing the skins, cut the tomatoes open and scoop out the seeds and water jelly.

Simmer the tomatoes until they are mushy enough to be pushed through a sieve (usually about 30 minutes).  Surprise, surprise – the next step is to run your tomatoes through a sieve.  Add your spices to the tomato puree and cook between 200 °F and 325 °F for about 12 hours.

You will end up with about 60 ounces of ketchup for every 100 tomatoes you use.  Remember to store it in sealable containers to prevent contamination and enjoy a little luxury in an otherwise bleak existence.

Further Reading

Spicing Up Your Canned Meals

You’ve survived the initial disaster, scraped by on what bits of food you could find, and you’ve scavenged a healthy inventory of canned goods.  What’s for dinner?  Franks and beans again?  After a while, you’re going to get bored with eating the same stuff day in and day out (a luxurious problem to have in this scenario, but a problem nonetheless).  You can do some things to spice up your meals so they aren’t the same drab thing all the time.

In this day and age you can get nearly anything canned and if its in a store now, it’ll be there after the Apocalypse.  From canned fruits and vegetables, to the more exotic canned meats.  There’s even a company that sells canned bacon (shelf life ten years!).  The point is that you can find all sorts of items in canned form and you can then mix and match these to make a more palatable meal than just eating a hunk of spam until you’re full.

At the very basic level, you can make a proper meal by just pulling out some canned meat and a vegetable for a side.  You can go a little further and mix some things together.  Got a can of stewed tomatoes, corn, black olives, and jalapeno peppers?  Mix them up for some salsa (chips not included).  Want to go all out?  Add some none-canned goods into the mix.  Remember the recipe for Bannock?  Use that dough to make a shell and put a stew inside, cook it and you’ve got yourself a pot pie.

The key is to add a little something to your meal to make it different enough that it’s no longer a bland meal.  Even just adding a shake of some seasoned salt or some other spice to a can of food can make it so much better.  From personal experience, I added a few shakes of generic seasoned salt to a can of corn one time and I’ll never eat corn without it again.  You can find all sorts of canned food recipes on the internet, unfortunately most of them have 15 ingredients, only one or two of which are actual canned food and the rest would be highly difficult to find post-Apocalypse.

How to Brew Beer

Post-apocalyptic life is hard.  Every day that goes by it’ll feel harder.  That’s why it’s imperative that you find a little joy where you can.  One thing you might try is brewing your own beer.  It’s also helpful if society starts getting back on its feet since people will gladly barter for alcohol.

Beer brewing has been around for centuries and hasn’t always been as precise a science as it is today.  The basics of beer brewing are:

  1. Soak malted grain in hot water to release malt sugars.
  2. Boil the malt sugar solution with hops for flavoring.
  3. Cool the solution and add yeast to begin fermentation.
  4. The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol.
  5. After fermentation is complete add sugar and bottle to create carbonation.

Depending on the ingredients you use, these steps can make an infinite number of flavors of beer.  Sadly, some of these ingredients will be hard to come by in the PAW.

Grain

Barley is the type of grain typically used to make beer, but you can pretty much use any type of grain.  You can scavenge grain for all kinds of places.

Hops

Unfortunately, unless you live in Germany, the Northwest US, or the UK, you probably aren’t going to be able to find hops for your brew.  You could always scavenge at a local Co-Op or brewing supply store for hops and yeast, but its not a renewable resource.  This isn’t a show stopper, hops are just for flavoring and aroma so we can actually make beer without them.

Yeast

Yeast in a concentrated form is difficult to come by as well.  But unlike hops, yeast occurs naturally pretty much everywhere in nature, so it’s just a matter of exposing your concoction to the elements for a little while.

Armageddon Brew

  1. First you need to malt your grains (about 5 pounds).  This can be accomplished by toasting them near a fire.
  2. Now you need to boil the malted grains in 5 gallons of water for about an hour.  At this point, if you have them, add about 2 ounces of hops.  At this point, your concoction is called “wort”.
  3. While the wort is chilling it, place it in a field or forest for a few days where it can gather the wild yeast in the air, just make sure to put a screen of some kind over the wort so no leaves or twigs or other contaminants get into it.
  4. Under ideal temperatures (60-70F), the yeast will need roughly 1 month to complete the fermentation process.  Add time for colder temperatures and subtract for warmer temperatures.  If the temperature is too extreme, the yeast will die and the fermentation process will terminate before completion.  You can tell the wort is done fermenting when it stops bubbling.
  5. At this point, add 3/4 of a cup of sugar to the beer, stir it up and bottle it.  Let it sit for about a week and it should be properly carbonated.

So kick back with your tasty beer and forget about life for a while.

How to Bake Bread Over a Fire

So you’ve survived Armageddon.  You’ve gotten away from danger and you’ve eked by scrounging food.  Eventually, the premade and canned food is going to run out and you’ll need to know how to fend for yourself a little bit further.  The first, best thing you can learn to make to sustain yourself is bread.  Bread has been a staple of the human diet since prehistoric times.  It’s also simple, with very few ingredients, and easy to make.

Traditionally, bread is made with flour, water, sugar, and yeast, but it doesn’t necessarily need yeast or sugar.  If you add yeast to the mix, the yeast will convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The alcohol will cook off when the bread is baked adding flavor to the bread.  The carbon dioxide causes the dough to rise, giving your bread a light and fluffy texture.

Mix your ingredients together in a bowl of some kind until mixed all together.  Knead the dough for several minutes.  If you added yeast to your bread, let it rise for at least an hour before baking it.

Ideally, you’ll want an oven to bake in or, at the very least, a dutch oven.  A dutch oven is a pot with a tight-fitting lid and thick walls, which causes a uniform temperature inside the pot.  The main thing you need to worry about when baking bread over an open fire is temperature.  Ovens are designed to cook the contents uniformly, which an open fire won’t do.  It is imperative that when cooking the dough over a fire you make sure that you rotate the bread so that all of it gets baked evenly.

You can cook the dough in nearly any container, from an actual loaf pan to a coffee can.  You can even wrap the dough around a stick and cook it that way!  The point is, as long as you’re diligent, you can make bread to feed yourself in any environment that you can start a fire.

How to Siphon Gasoline

Whether it be for a generator or a vehicle, at some point your quality of life will be greatly improved by having access to gasoline. But where do you get it? There might be some in the underground tanks at a filling station, but this tends to be a bit more difficult to access. There might be some in abandoned vehicles on the side of the road. But how do you get it out of either container? It’s likely that you don’t have an electric pump to extract the fuel and it’s unlikely that the filling station will have power to operate the pumps. Enter the siphon. 

How a Siphon Works

A siphon is a very simple tool used as far back as the ancient Egyptians. The premise is that you use a tube to move liquid from one container to another. The tube you use is placed in a U shape with each end of the tube facing downward into each of the recepticles (the longer end of the tube being placed in the receiving vessel). There should be liquid in the tube at this point and when let free to do what it will, the liquid will begin to flow into your receiving vessel. This is due to our old friend gravity. Look at the tube, the longer leg of the tube has more liquid in it, thus more mass, and therefore gravity exerts a stronger force on it, causing it to fall into your receiving container. Gravity gets this party going, but dynamic fluid pressure is what keeps it going. Dynamic fluid pressure is the pressure exerted by a moving fluid. Since the liquid falling into the receiving container is exerting a higher dynamic pressure (greater gravitational acceleration and eventually greater velocity = greater pressure), it causes the liquid in the other leg to follow it. Now the liquid from the shorter leg is in the longer leg free falling into the receiving container, which in turn cause liquid in the source container to flow into the tube for the same reason. This creates a cycle that will only be broken when the source recepticle is empty or cavitation occurs (this isn’t likely in this scenario so I won’t even explain it). 

How to Siphon Gasoline from a Car

Applying the principles discussed, siphoning gasoline from a vehicle should be no problem. Place on end of your hose into the fuel tank via the refueling hole on the vehicle. Make sure to feed it as far in as possible. Place the receiving container lower than the fuel tank of the vehicle. At this point you have 2 choices on how to prime the siphon. You can either create a vacuum by sucking the first bit of fuel through the hose, or you can fill the hose with water. I highly recommend sucking gasoline from the tank even though you may end up with a mouthful of it (not a pleasant sensation, trust me) because water can ruin the gasoline, causing the fuel to oxidize much faster than normal. Either way, once your priming liquid reaches a point lower than your fuel tank, you should be able to drop it in your container and watch the fuel flow!

Stale Gasoline

Yes, there is such a thing as stale gasoline. But is it that serious of a problem? Yes and No. Gasoline can be considered “stale” very shortly after processing. This is because the more volatile chemicals in gasoline will have evaporated and decomposed. These compounds improve combustion and improve fuel efficiency, so if they aren’t present it’s not the end of the world, it just means your fuel economy is downgraded. That’s the part we don’t really care about, fuel is fuel and whether you lose a few miles per gallon or not is not a concern. 

The big concern is oxidation. If the fuel you collect is oxidized this can cause much bigger problems. You can tell if the gasoline has begun to oxidize because it will have a particularly sour smell and will be a darker color than normal. Once it begins to oxidizes, gasoline will start to have particles of a gummy substance that can cause a build up in your fuel system, which can cause your engine to cease working. You could try to filter these particles out, but its a lot of work for something that only may work. 

You also have to worry about water contamination. Getting water in your fuel can cause a decrease in performance and, at worst, can cause your fuel lines to freeze and potentially burst. There is a simple solution: add isopropyl alcohol to your fuel. Simple rubbing alcohol will bind with water molecules to create a combustible compound which will then burn off in the engine. 

Further Reading