Saturday, 31 January 2015

11:09 – Barbara and I just got back from a Sam’s Club run. She did just fine walking the aisles of the warehouse. We got out of there for about $180 even though our cart was heaped precariously. That’s what happens when you don’t buy any meat.

I told Barbara I needed some #10 cans (institutional size) to shoot images for the book. In the past, she’s always put her foot down and forbidden #10 cans. This time, she let me get away with half a dozen #10 cans of peas, corn, Bush’s Best Baked Beans, and so on. I’d have gotten more, but our cart was already starting to bulge. Each time I picked up a different kind of #10 can, she said, “Okay, I’ll eat that.” So I’ll probably pick up more from time to time.

The advantage to #10 cans is that the food is noticeably cheaper per ounce. The drawback, of course, is that when you open a 6- or 7-pound #10 can, you’re opening the equivalent of 6 or 7 regular-size cans. That’s not really a problem, because all of that stuff keeps for months in a sealed container in the refrigerator or for years if frozen.

13:36 – As further evidence of the ridiculousness of best-by dates, I just bought 6 quarts of 91% isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) at Sam’s. I just noticed that they’re stamped best-by 02/17. As stupid as it is, a lot of people–probably the majority of the population–would actually discard this alcohol after February of 2017.

I’d forgotten, but we actually did buy some meat at Sam’s. Two 3-pound tubes of Hillshire Farms sausage. It’s shelf stable, with a best-by date of July 2015. I’m half inclined to vacuum seal one of those tubes in a foil-laminate Mylar bag and stick it on the shelf for several years. I suspect it’d be as good five years from now as it is now. Assuming no damage to the container, a packaged product either contains microorganisms or it doesn’t. If it does, they’ll reproduce so quickly at room temperature that the product will spoil in a day or less. If it contains no microorganisms, there aren’t any to reproduce, so that package will remain free of microorganisms indefinitely.

This is something that seems to escape most people who write about long-term food storage. They claim that canned food “goes bad” after x number of years, which is crap. Apparently, these people still believe in spontaneous generation, which was disproven in the 19th century.

Others claim that canned food loses nutritional value. There’s actually a kernel of truth to that. The carbohydrates, proteins, and fats don’t degrade over time, or at worst only very, very slowly. Some vitamins do very gradually degrade, but this really isn’t important. Even the least stable vitamins are reasonably stable in canned foods. After 10 years, a can of food may lose 10% of its original vitamin content, but typical canned goods and other shelf-stable foods contain such high levels of vitamins that it’s a non-issue.