F.5 VINEGAR: There is vinegar and then there is vinegar and it is not all alike. The active ingredient in all vinegars is acetic acid, but how the sour stuff was made can vary widely. The most common vinegar is white distilled which is actually just diluted distilled acetic acid and not true vinegar at all. It keeps pretty much indefinitely if tightly sealed in a plastic or glass bottle with a plastic cap. The enamel coated metal caps always seem to get eaten by the acid over time. It is usually about 5-6% acetic acid and for pickling it is the type most often called for.
The next most common variety is apple cider vinegar. There are two kinds of this type. A cider flavored distilled acetic acid type and a true cider vinegar fermented from hard cider. Either will store indefinitely at room temperature until a sediment begins to appear on the bottom. Non-distilled vinegar will sometimes develop a cloudy substance. This is called a mother of vinegar and it is harmless. As long as the liquid does not begin to smell foul it can be filtered out through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and rebottled in a clean container. The mother can even be used to make more vinegar. If it begins to smell bad, however, it's gone over and should be tossed out.
The more exotic wine, balsalmic, malt, rice and other vinegars can be stored like cider vinegar. Age and exposure to light and air, however, eventually begin to take their toll on their delicate flavors. Tightly capped in a cool, dark cabinet or refrigerator is best for their storage.
F.6 YEAST: Yeast is just not a product you can stow away and forget about until you need it next year. It is, after all, a living organism and if it's not alive at the time you need it, you won't get any use out of it. This ancient leavening, brewing, fermenting agent is a single celled microscopic fungus. When we incorporate it into our bread dough, beer wort or fruit juice it begins to reproduce madly (we hope) and produce several by-products. If you're baking, the by-product you want is carbon dioxide which is trapped by the dough and subsequently causes it to rise. In brewing or vintning what is wanted is the ethyl alcohol and, if the drink is to be carbonated, the carbon dioxide as well.
Almost all yeasts used for these purposes are in the same genus (Saccharomyces or sugar fungi), but several different species have evolved and some are more suitable for a particular task than others. It's entirely possible to use grocery store bread yeast to brew beer or ferment wine, but the results may leave a great deal to be desired. It's also possible to use yeast from beer brewing to make bread and from what I've read the results were pretty much indistinguishable from bread yeast.
Leaving aside the brewing and vintning yeasts which are really outside the scope of this FAQ I am going to concentrate on bread yeast. It comes in two generally available forms; compressed or fresh and dried, sometimes called granular or instant active dry yeast. They are different genetic strains of the same species, and have different characteristics.
Compressed yeast is only partly dried (about 70% moisture), requires refrigeration and keeps even better in the deep freeze. If kept in an air- and moisture-tight container to prevent it from desiccating this type of yeast will keep for a year in the freezer (0° F or less), but only about two weeks (maybe a bit more) in the refrigerator. Unless your kitchen is rather chilly it will not keep on the shelf. It should not have a mottled color or a sour odor.
Dried yeast has only an 8% moisture content and comes packed in foil envelopes. The smaller single use packets are not generally vacuum packed, but the larger commercial sized "bricks" of about a pound or two each generally are. They can last for months on the shelf, until the expiration date which should be clearly stamped on the package. If packaged in the same manner as recommended for compressed yeast above and kept in the refrigerator or freezer it can last for several years. The larger packs of yeast should be transferred to an air and moisture tight container after opening.
Either type of yeast can be tested for viability by proofing. This is nothing more than mixing a small amount of the yeast with an equal amount of sugar in warm water (105-115° F for dried; 95° F for fresh). Within about five minutes active yeast will become bubbly and begin to expand (at normal room temperature). Yeast which only slowly becomes active can still be used, but you will have to use more. If there is no activity at all, the yeast is dead and should be tossed.
There is another means of providing yeast for baking besides buying from a grocery store and that is by using a sourdough starter. I'm not going to address it here, but I will point out that it has a newsgroup all its own (rec.food.sourdough) and which has several FAQ's devoted to it. You can find addresses for these FAQs in the Resources section. Drop in and read for awhile and you'll learn more than you thought you could ever want to know.
Misc.Survivalism FAQs maintained by Alan T. Hagan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.
Excluding contributions attributed to specific individuals all material in this work is copyrighted to Alan T. Hagan and all rights are reserved. This work may be copied and distributed freely as long as the entire text, my and the contributor's names and this copyright notice remain intact, unless my prior express permission has been obtained. This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain, included in commercial collections or compilations or included as a part of the content of any web site without prior, express permission from the author.