22 May 2022

A Quick Look At Provisions

One of the big decisions faced by any crew planning to make a trip that could last up to a month is, what to do for provisions?

Some boats have giant freezers that take care of this problem with brute force: buy a bunch of steaks, frozen veg, and tater tots, and you are good to go. 

Alas, Petronella doesn't have a freezer and even the fridge isn't so big. Our initial plan was to use each of the 4 shelves in the fridge for a different week: first week on the top shelf, second week on the second shelf, etc. All the meat, veg, condiments, etc., for each week on their own shelf. Good plan, and it probably would have worked, but then we thought about how hard it would be too cook meals from scratch three times a day. There had to be an easier way.

So, the next idea we had was to cook meals in advance, vacuum pack them by meal (2 servings per package), freeze them, and store them in the fridge, this time with the packages on the bottom of the fridge which is the coldest spot. 

Well... I just wasn't sure this would work. Would the packs really last 4 weeks in the fridge? They would all be defrosted by the end of the first week, at the latest. Then they'd become ticking time bombs. And what would happen if, God forbid, the fridge went out? I always try to imagine what would happen if we didn't have electricity. My rule is that we must always be able to carry on even if we've been thrust back to the 19th century.

Then I saw a DrakeParagon YouTube video that solved the problem: pressure canning. In a nutshell, this is a rather old-fashioned way to preserve food in jars. Pretty much anything can be preserved: meat, veg, and even whole cooked meals. You need a pressure canner for this -- a water bath canner that's fine for jelly just doesn't get hot enough to preserve meats and meals. But once you can up a jar of food, it's good for at least a year, and probably more. 

Using this technique, we were able to make our own meals, using quality ingredients, without any of the nasty chemical preservatives you find in tins of chili, for example. 

The fruit of this weekend's labor

In the photo above, there are 12 pint jars of curry, and 11 pints of tomato and ground beef that I canned this weekend in a hotel room, equipped with a 2 burner stove (lots more room than Petronella's galley, to put things in perspective!) This can be used right out of the jar for 2 portions of Spaghetti Bolognese, or turned into chili and beans, or Sloppy Joes, or other variations.

These are the last batches. We already have Guinness Beef Stew, Chicken Cacciatore, two Mediterranean-style bean dishes (vegetarian), as well as just plain canned chicken breast, and ground beef that can be used to make other dishes. 

I haven't actually counted them, but there are over 60 jars, each one with 2 portions of things we actually like to eat, made from real ingredients. 

I won't lie, it's a huge amount of work to cook up 24 portions of curry, and then can them into 12 jars. But provisioning for a long voyage is going to be a lot of work no matter how you slice it. It gives me a warm feeling to know our bilges are stuffed with meals that just need to be heated up, and combined with rice, or noodles, or just bread. 

We launch tomorrow, just a week later than I'd originally planned. Not bad considering all the extra work we had to do because of 2 insurance surveys, but who's complaining? The weather is supposed to turn cool again, so we should be able to knock off the rest of our essential to-do list this week, and be ready for our bon voyage party on the weekend. Then it's just a matter of getting down to the mouth of the Chesapeake and waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. 

It's getting real!

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