Millions of anglers catch fish only to put them straight back again. Isn't it time were discovered the culinary potential of freshwater species?
While Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been raising awareness about sea fishing with his Fish Fight campaign, it seems a good time to cast an eye inland to our native freshwater species: the pike, perch, zander, chub, carp, bream and gudgeon that swim largely uneaten in our lakes and rivers.
Britain has a rich history of consuming freshwater species. In the past those who didn't live near the sea ate whatever they could coax out of inland waterways. Monastic gardens and manor houses almost always had a fish pond or moat where freshwater species were farmed for Friday fish suppers and feasts.
You would struggle to find any of the species above displayed on a fishmonger's slab in the UK these days, but they all make a worthy feast. Some cultures have never forgotten this - the British angling press is frequently peppered with tales of resourceful eastern Europeans taking prize carp, something of a delicacy in their part of the world, home for tea.
With an estimated three million anglers in the UK regularly pulling fish out of the water only to put them straight back, why is it that we don't we eat more of our native freshwater species? One of the main reasons must be that we are a nation of sporting folk; freshwater species are targeted on both quality and quantity criteria.
Specimen hunters invest plenty of time and money in the pursuit of large individuals of species such as pike, carp, barbel and the non-native catfish. The reward is twofold: an epic fight and the possibility of a new personal best or even a record-breaker.
On the other hand, match fishermen go for quantity and any species is welcome regardless of size. All these perfectly edible fish are put into a keep net to be weighed up at the end of the day before being released back into the water.
Many cultures would view this practice as verging on insanity, but it is our quality of life and today's convenience culture that has turned fishing in the UK from a necessity into a mass-participation sport. Only those fishing for trout, sea trout and salmon seem to take something home for the table.
People are also nervous about the legality of fishing. There's no need; in England and Wales as long as you are in possession of a £27 rod licence and have permission from the water's owner, the Environment Agency states that on any given day an angler may remove 15 small (up to 20cm) native species including barbel, chub, common bream, common carp, crucian carp, dace, grayling, perch, pike, roach, rudd, silver bream, smelt, tench and zander (non-native) as well as one pike of up to 65cm and two grayling of 30-38cm.
Another reason this subject is often approached with apprehension is that many people believe freshwater fish will taste muddy. Fish from free-flowing waters don't tend to suffer from this problem, although those from still waters can. As seen in an episode of River Cottage Forever, the only antidote is to cleanse the fish through a de-mudification programme of 3-4 days in a spring-fed tank. I'm afraid the bath tub just won't do.
To ensure these fish find their way into your kitchen, you have to catch them yourself. So what to catch? I've been fishing since childhood and over the years I have eaten my way through a number of freshwater species. My favourite used to be eel, but as the number of young eels returning to European rivers has fallen by 95% it is now illegal to remove any caught by rod and line, but there are plenty of other options.
Perch are a beautiful fish, green scaled with black stripes down their flanks, an impressive spiked dorsal fin and a ferocious pack-hunter mentality. Although nearly wiped out in UK waters in the 1970s and 1980s by a lethal virus, thankfully they have made a remarkable comeback. Perch have firm white flesh similar to bass. To cook, simply de-scale, fillet, toss in seasoned flour and pan fry with lemon juice: a recipe the French refer to as filet de perche.
The chub is deemed to be an inedible fish, Izaak Walton referred to it as being "full of forked bones, the flesh is not firm, but short and tasteless". And I could not agree more.
If any freshwater species is guilty of tasting muddy, then it is the carp. Due to increasing pressure on our saltwater stocks and adoration from Eastern Europeans in the UK, consumption of this fish is beginning to rise for the first since the middle ages. Again, the flesh is firm and meaty and stands up to a variety of different ways of cooking, although baking is the best method.
The sinister pike is another excellent eating fish, I have had a few in restaurants in France Not only are they cannibals, regularly feasting on other pike often more than half their own size. Their mouths contain a series of backward-pointing teeth: once something goes in, it's not coming out. Pike can also grow to alarming size - the British record presently stands at a mighty 46lbs 13oz.
Even dead pike have a secret weapon; once cooked they possess a substantial number of Y-shaped bones along the fillet. Once removed they have a mild taste which is quite pleasant.
As with growing and eating your own vegetables, catching and cooking a fish you have wrestled out of the depths gives a feeling of deep satisfaction. With the pressure on our oceans at an all-time high, perhaps it is time to look at less familiar options. For those who do fish, please consider tasting your catch. And if you don't, consider taking it up: you'll be in a position to get your hands on some of the freshest possible fish.
Many of the fish I've mentioned above have been staple foods in the past, so why are we so put off by them now? If you've tucked into some of our lesser-known freshwater fish you will know what I mean.
Vegetarians and prepping
I was talking to a supplier the other day who asked me how would a vegetarian prep to survive?
You know that is a question that I could not answer straight off as, as a meat eater I have not thought of this question as I am not bothered. Well I was not bothered until he asked that question It then occurred to me that there will be thousands of vegetarian preppers and survivalists out there who need to know what to do just as much as we meat eaters do.
The question I asked myself was can vegetarians get complete nutrition if they never eat meat? Well is seems that they can and all it takes are two simple, timeless ingredients.
Muscles, blood, and bones are built from basic elements found in protein. These elements are called amino acids, and there are 22 of them that the human body needs to keep the factory in business. The body can make many of these building blocks for itself. There are nine essential amino acids, though, that only come from food.
Meat is a complete protein. Like a bookshelf from Ikea, it has all the parts in one neat kit. There is no single non-animal food that packs in all nine essential aminos. Lucky for vegetarians, protein comes from many sources. You don’t need an all-in-one kit to build a bookshelf.
Beans and rice, diet staples since the first folks learned how to farm, each have their own share of amino acids. It’s a mix and match. Eat them together in one meal, and they combine to make complete proteins.
Dozens of types of beans are grown across the globe. Here is a short list of the most common and healthiest:
Lima (butter) beans
Don’t hesitate to stockpile beans. Canned varieties have a shelf life that can stretch as long as five years, under the right conditions. That is, the standard Cool Dry Place. Dry beans can be stored even longer; sealed in an airtight container and kept out of the light, they can survive for an amazing twenty years or more, without losing any of their nutritional benefits.
Canned beans are much quicker to prepare than dry. The downside of precooked beans is a higher level of sodium, added during the canning process. Also, since they are cooked in the can, there is no way for the complex sugars in the beans to escape. Rinse canned beans very well before using them to wash away as much of the residual sodium and sugars as possible.
Plan far ahead to cook dry beans. They need to soak overnight to soften. The soak time can be shortened by briefly boiling the beans first, but there is a risk of food poisoning because they still need to sit for several hours. The elevated temperature is a better environment for bacteria than cool water.
You’ll notice foaminess forming on the top of the water; this is the sugar escaping. Dry beans cause less gas than canned beans. Sugar is water soluble, and the more you rinse away, the less there is to ferment after you eat it.
Instant rice is not a special variety. It’s merely rice that has been precooked, then dehydrated. It’s popular because it is quick and very easy to cook. It’s unpopular because it is bland and chewy.
Cooking conventional rice is not as difficult as it seems; just plan ahead for it. Instant rice is better than none at all, but if you do the easy prep work and cook up some real rice, you’ll see a major improvement in texture and flavour. Nutrition, too. Give it a shot!
There are thousands of varieties of rice. Here are the basics:
Long grain rice cooks up fluffy. After it is cooked, the grains don’t stick together. This type of rice is best for side dishes and stir frys.
Medium grain rice is moist and tender, also good for side dishes, and for soups.
Short grain rice is used to make sushi, rice balls, and risotto. It is very sticky, and has a good strong flavour.
Brown rice and white rice are not separate varieties; they are just milled differently. Whole grain brown rice gets its colour from a layer of vitamin rich bran, which is ground off to produce white rice. While brown has more nutrition and better flavour, it takes longer to cook and must be refrigerated so the oils in the layer of bran don’t get rancid. White has a much longer shelf life - 25 to 30 years, when stored properly. To compensate for the loss of the healthy bran layer during milling, white rice is often fortified.
Some folks say that cooking rice is an art form. These are the folks who don’t like to share the two simple rice cooking secrets. For outstanding results, follow these steps:
Wash away excess starch and any possible residue pesticides. Use a large pot; ideally, you want three times as much water as rice while you’re rinsing it. Get right in there with your hands and really work it. Drain the rinse water, and repeat. If the water is not running clear after the second rinse, go ahead and do it a third time.
Let it sit in fresh water before you cook it up. The grain will relax, and the rice will need less time on the stove. Soaking is the key to cooking rice with the best texture. Thirty minutes is a good start for regular white rice, but it can go as long as 10 hours. (Hint: set it up before you go to work, and it will be ready & waiting for you when you get back home.)
Once the secret prep work is done, cook the rice in a heavy pot. Use a little less water than the standard 2:1 ratio, so it won’t get mushy and soggy. Don’t boil the water before you add the rice, and no peeking - if you lift the lid, the steam will escape before the job is done.
Beans and rice have been fuelling us since the days of the first farmers. Every major culture has a variation of this simple mix of staple ingredients. Whether you are a vegetarian or not, a meal of beans and rice is incredibly healthy.
If you’ve looked at purchasing food storage from any number of companies, you’ve probably encountered TVP. But what is TVP? And do I need any of it in my food storage?
TVP is an acronym for Textured Vegetable Protein. It is also sometimes called Textured Soy Protein (TSP), or soy meat. It is a non-meat product that provides a comparable percentage of protein per serving when reconstituted as meat. It is high in fibre and low in fat.
TVP is made from soy flour after the soy oil has been extracted. The flour is mixed with water, then cooked under pressure and squirted out of a machine to dry. Because of the pressure, the TVP fluffs with air pockets when it comes out of the extruder, giving it a texture and mouth feel, similar to meat. TVP can be dried in various forms like strips, flakes, and crumbles depending on what the final product will be used for.
TVP is also a great protein source for vegetarian’s as it is soy based and has no meat products in it.
In its natural state, TVP is tasteless, so most food storage TVP has flavour added. There is chicken, ham, beef, and bacon flavours of TVP.
Why would you want TVP in your food storage when there are perfectly good freeze dried meats and canned meats available? One good reason is the cost. TVP is quite a bit less expensive per serving than freeze dried or commercially canned meats. Because of the cost savings, TVP is an enticing alternative that can be used alone or as a meat extender to add protein to a variety of meals.
Some people actually prefer TVP to regular meats. I’m not a huge fan of it personally, but it’s not bad as an extender or occasional pie filler.
To rehydrate TVP, either add boiling water to it, or boil it in water until it is reconstituted. Usually it is about 3/4 cup water to 1 cup TVP, but can vary depending on the variety of TVP you’re cooking–check your product label for more specific instructions.
I hope that this has given the vegetarians among us some idea on what to prep, the usual rules on storage still apply and only your lack of imagination will limit your recipe choices.
When the Power Stops
It is a fact that our country is more reliant on electrical power today than at any time in its history. Our way of life – from everyday conveniences and the security of local emergency services to commerce and communications – is contingent upon an always on, always available flow of electricity.
But an aging infrastructure coupled with a rise in natural and man-made disasters threatens our entire modern day digital infrastructure. According to many experts from the private and public sector, we’re just one major catastrophic event away from a complete meltdown of life in the United Kingdom as we know it today.
So, what happens if and when the grid goes down for an extended period of time? Aside from the aggravation of not being able to determine what is happening through traditional media channels, for the Average person, his problems have only just begun.
Our dependency to the power grid doesn’t just stop at the lack of electricity in our homes to power our appliances or an inability to charge our mobile phones; it Is much broader and affects every aspect of our lives.
We are regularly inundated with news reports covering power cuts that last several days or weeks resulting from bad weather or snow storms. During those times, when entire metropolitan areas or regions experience power cuts, we get a glimpse into what a truly widespread emergency might look like.
It is often the case that the first thing residents of affected areas do is rush to the supermarket and DIY stores hoping to acquire critical supplies like food, water, batteries, flashlights and generators.
And while these supplies acquired at the onset of crisis may provide short term sustenance, any long-term power cut situation that lasts for many weeks or months will prove dangerous, and perhaps fatal, to the unprepared.
Consider, for a moment, how drastically your life would change without the continuous flow of energy the grid delivers. While manageable during a short-term disaster, losing access to the following critical elements of our just-in-time society would wreak havoc on the system.
Challenges or shut downs of business commerce
Breakdown of our basic infrastructure: communications, mass transportation, supply chains
Inability to access money via atm machines
Payroll service interruptions
Interruptions in public facilities – schools, workplaces may close, and public gatherings.
Inability to have access to clean drinking water
The last widespread outage in the Northeast with over 80,000 homes without electricity, showed how intimately interconnected and alarmingly fragile our power grid is.
If our society is more reliant on power than at any time in history – without it, we’ve got no commerce, no communications, no clean water – and if power becomes less reliable in the future, the big question is: Will we be able to hack it?
THE TROUBLE with the future of power isn’t that there is one big problem that could knack us. It’s that there are a host of them, any one of which could knack us.
These things that could knack us I would class as Extreme Natural Disasters
This includes earthquakes, hurricanes, snow storms, thunderstorms as well as massive solar storms that have the potential to seriously damage the electrical grid. You don’t think it could happen?
“It took just 90 seconds for a 1989 solar storm to cause the collapse of the Hydro-Quebec power grid, leaving 6 million Canadians without power for up to nine hours.
A 2008 NASA-funded report noted the risk of significant damage to our interconnected grid in light of the forecast for increased solar activity. The 11-year solar cycle is expected to peak in 2013, and just two weeks ago we saw one of the biggest solar-radiation storms in years.
Acts of Terrorism
This category includes, but is not limited to a physical attack on the bulk power system, either at its source of generation or somewhere along its transmission route, cyber attack on the computers controlling our interconnected grid, electro-magnetic pulse, or an EMP, weapon.
Have you read me “effects of EMP” article. EMP’s will create long-lasting damage that would incapacitate electronic systems across the country and forever change our way of life. Cyber-threats are another concern and someone with serious hacking skills could easily take out computers, networks or information stored therein to cause lasting damage to our way of life.
The Ailing Grid
Our ailing power grid is almost as sick as our failing economy. With one malicious event, be it man made or by natural means, it is down. Our power delivery system is as old and stooped as a pensioner. As it is upgraded and its capacity is expanded, our rapacious need for more electrical power races to max it out once again.
A wide-spread emergency, such as a massive power surge, solar flare or a rogue electromagnetic pulse (EMP) detonation have the capacity to render our entire power infrastructure useless. Transformers and other key elements on which the grid depends could be permanently damaged as a result of massive electric surges.
In an event such as this our immediate problem will be finding a way to order, manufacture and take delivery of the components needed to replace the faulty ones.
Most of the parts made for our electrical grid are made in China – and many are decades old. It would take months to get the parts shipped to this country and replaced.
During the power cut, millions would be adversely affected; some even suggesting that within a year 9 out of 10 Britons would be dead from starvation, disease and violence.
Ladies and gentleman, if there’s one thing that can cause the veritable “S” to hit the fan, this is it.
So how do we remedy and/or prepare for a grid down scenario? Think retro – like pioneer retro- and by that we have to go way back to when we were not so dependent on the luxury of on-demand energy in its various forms. When preparing for a grid-down scenario, we must comprise different contingency plans for short-term and longer-term issues.
That being the case, we have to admit to ourselves that it could last longer than we expect and much more than just a minor inconvenience. Therefore, the best way to prepare is to start with your basic needs. That is the need for light, heat, water, and food. Some preparedness items to stock up on are:
Alternative fuel sources such as solar and diesel, wood for burning.
Food preservation supplies – dehydrators, canners, smokers, fermenting/pickling supplies. To learn more, click here.
Bulk food – Canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated or dry goods.
Water filtration supplies, rain harvesting supplies and large quantities of stored water.
Light sources: Lanterns, flashlights, candles and matches and alternative light sources
Batteries and chargers
Emergency stove – solar oven, rocket stove, camping stoves, etc.
Wood burning fire place – Central air heating systems, even if they use natural gas or propane, depend on electricity for the blower that will circulate the heated air. When the grid is down, this system will not work. Having a wood burning fire place is an alternative to central heating systems.
Cash money and/or silver or gold currency
The vulnerability of our grid is nothing new to preppers. Some have seen this problem coming for a long time and changed their entire ways of life by going off-grid. They have found alternative sources such as solar, wind and diesel to power their homes and machinery. A majority of us, who have not gone off-grid, are making a concerted effort to avoid dependence on this ailing infrastructure and preparing for life without it. That being said, all we can do is stay the course, prepare accordingly and continue on.
How to Prep Cost-Effectively
Often individuals watch shows and see others prepping for what is described as doomsday events. Often the individuals that we watch or hear about spend thousands of dollars on prepping supplies. If you are like most individuals and do not have thousands of dollars to spend on prepping supplies, you must find another avenue to acquire your prepping supplies.
Be reassured that there are other means of acquiring a large storehouse of food and supplies for a SHTF event than spending thousands of dollars in obtaining them. One way an individual can acquire a stockpile of food is by purchasing an extra item of the regular types of foods that they normally would use.
When shopping instead of Buying two cans of corn by three. Take one can of the corn and put it in your prepping storeroom. You can then rotate the food as you need the food and replace the extra food while shopping the following week. This is a great way to acquire a very large cachet of food over a period of about six months.
Another way an individual can save money on purchasing prepping items is by visiting your local pound shop. Some may laugh at this idea. Some may think this idea is absurd. The facts of the matter are that your local pound shop often has first aid supplies that are normally very costly at other shops, mine also sells food.
Usually most pound shops offer the supplies for a pound or less. I have personally seen in the past were the same supplies often cost more than £5 apiece. Things like Band-Aids, swab sticks, aspirin, and even vitamins are often offered at your local pound shop. A substantial savings can be amassed by purchasing your items at this type of venue.
Often individuals think that a survival kit must have a beautiful label with a beautiful amount of individually packaged items to be deemed what is called a survival kit. The real fact of the matter is that as long as the survival kit is capable of administering treatment to an individual that has been injured the first aid kit is completely functional.
It doesn't take a pretty package to have the perfect first aid kit. In actuality, these pre-packaged first aid kits often contain items that are inferior in quality compared to the items that you could obtain from a pound shop, in other words you can design your own kit.
Another factor to consider while at the pound shop is buying items such as batteries, flashlights, tools, vitamins, paper products, disinfectants, personal hygienic items; the list goes on and on. An individual can purchase a small duffel bag from your local army surplus store and stockpile these items into it creating one heck of a bug out bag for less than £15.
The same bag with inferior items contained inside may be offered at more than £100 when commercially prepared for the public. I am not against buying these commercially prepared bug out bags or first aid kits.
What I am concerned with is providing the same opportunities to individuals that are on a shoestring budget as compared to those that live a lifestyle where money is abundant. The fact of the matter is that everyone should be entitled to surviving and having prepping supplies readily available.
To buy good but cheap food preps I suggest that you check out http://www.approvedfood.co.uk
Approved Food & Drink is the biggest online seller of clearance food and drink and they deliver to your door across the UK.
I hope this information has provided some food for thought and will help individuals that live on a limited budget.
4 Reasons to Add a Pellet Air Gun to Your Survival Gun Arsenal
You heard me correctly, I said Pellet Gun. Yes, the kind powered by air I have a good quality Pellet Air Gun and it’s not just because I still have it from when I was a kid. I INTENTIONALLY have added this gun to my survival kit for very specific reasons…which I have detailed below. If you’ve never considered a Pellet Gun as a survival rifle option, you might change your mind after reading this post.
As a student and instructor of survival living, I take my gun choices very seriously I recommend a “Break Barrel” rifle as it will never run out of air.
Below are 4 reasons (in no particular order) why a Pellet Gun deserves to be including in your Survival Rifle selection:
A pellet gun is an excellent Small Game Hunter especially .22 calibre, is a great weapon to take down small game. While people have taken larger game such as wild boars with air guns, they are best suited for small game. Hunting small game is perfect for any survivalist. Rabbit, squirrel, dove, quail, duck and the like are excellent food sources and are readily available in most of the country. With practice, hunting small game with a pellet gun is absolutely no problem.
I have taken many small game animals with my .22 cal pellet gun. It requires better stalking skills, but that is a good skill to learn anyway. It requires better shooting skills, but that is also a good skill to hone in on. Hunting with a pellet gun will force you to be a “Better” hunter and it will also put dinner on the table.
Secondly the Pellet Gun’s ammo is one of the more convincing reasons to have one on hand. Pellets, no matter the calibre, are very cheap.
You can buy 100s of pellets for just a few pounds. Spend £30 and you’ve got enough to last a lifetime of small game hunting. If all hell breaks loose, traditional ammunition will become increasingly difficult to get your hands on.
Not to mention that it will be ridiculously expensive. If the world we live in ever gets this way, why waste your traditional ammo on hunting squirrel or other small game? That would be wasteful and careless if there was a smarter way. There is – pellets.
1000’s of Pellets Fit into Small Spaces
Not only are pellets “Dirt Cheap”, they are very small. You can carry 1000s and not even know they are there. You can store 10s of 1000s in just 1 shoe box. To top it off, pellets have a shelf life of pretty much forever! Traditional ammunition can go bad over time. Especially with the talks of giving ammunition an expiration date, stocking a few 1000 pellets isn’t a bad idea.
Thirdly an air weapon is a silent shooter so forget the earplugs. These guns are silent. In many survival scenarios, a silent weapon is a good thing. Not only can you hunt without drawing attention to yourself or your family, but shooting a silent weapon often means you can get off more than 1 shot if there are multiple targets. Both of these are positive. People pay 1000’s of £££’s to make their guns silent. No extra charge for the pellet gun.
Lastly they are powered by air and you don’t have to buy air. And, it’s never going to be out of stock. For this reason, I prefer either a MULTI-PUMP or BREAK-BARREL Pellet Air Gun. I will in future sell my CO2 powered air gun, and buy a break barrel. Needing to refill canisters or tanks doesn’t make any sense in a survival situation. You want to keep it as old fashioned as possible. It’s hand pump all the way for this survivalist.
There are tons of options when it comes to Hand Pump or Break Barrel guns. They both come in .177 and .22 calibres. The fps varies depending on the gun.
So there you have it, 4 solid reasons why you should keep a Pellet Gun in your survival arsenal.
Fire Starting with Cotton Wool and Vaseline
One day you find yourself in a situation when you need to make fire and you need to make it quickly. Perhaps you’ve been caught in an unexpected downpour on an open hillside or you’ve taken a spill in your canoe… You haven’t had the opportunity to collect any natural tinder yet. You’re soaked to the skin, there’s a cool wind blowing and you need to get that fire going before you find yourself in real trouble.
Due to the possibility of the above scenarios and to be honest my pure laziness, I always carry a small zip lock bag full of cotton wool which has been rubbed with a little Vaseline. This makes a perfect fire starter. It will catch extremely easily from a spark and will burn plenty long enough to take hold of matchstick thick kindling which you can then build on.
You don’t need loads of Vaseline. Take a piece of cotton wool about the size of a golf ball. Then simply rub a little Vaseline into it with your fingertips. Make as many of these as you wish to carry and store them in a plastic bag. I use a zip lock bag (the type you can get in any supermarket), they can be resealed easily once you have opened them and taken out what you want.
You don’t need a huge lump of this cotton wool to start a fire as the Vaseline allows it to burn for quite a while, possibly 2 to 3 minutes.
Break off a piece about the size of a large grape and tease the fibres apart. This will spread the cotton wool ball out into quite a large circumference. Then simply strike a spark onto it or light it with a match or lighter, Make sure you’ve got your kindling ready though eh!
Another way to carry your cotton wool and Vaseline mix and keep it totally dry is to buy some plastic drinks straws and fill them with the mix. Firstly by using a multi-tool or a pair of plier’s heat one end with a lighter then crimp the end together forming a water proof seal.
It is really easy to do, I use a chop stick but any thin piece of wood will act as a plunger fill the straw with the mix, once full simply repeat the process of sealing the other end as before.
To start a fire using these filled straws either cut the straw in half and tease out cotton wool from each open half and then ignite.
My tip here is to cut the straw into equal parts, say four parts per straw and seal all ends, this way the straw will last longer and light even more fires.
One other great method of fire lighting in the wilderness that you can plan for is lint tinder.
Take the lint out of your clothes dryer and place it into the 6 compartments of a ½ dozen cardboard egg box and then drip melted candle wax over each compartment individually.
When set all you have to do is break off a compartment to use in starting your fire it should burn for around 4 minutes plus.
By simply closing the lid on the egg box you keep everything dry and also provide more tinder to use in the box lid.
Join Tom Linden for the UK Prepper Show on UK Health Radio every Sunday