When you are in the grocery store adding canned food to your supplies, you might wonder: Should I stock SPAM?
Okay, you may not wonder that, but if you’re reading this article you must be at least somewhat curious about the idea. Who wouldn’t be? Imagine walking into your food pantry after some catastrophic TEOTWAWKI event and seeing your healthy stock of endless cans of SPAM – mmmmm!
Well, the reality is SPAM is seen more as a joke than an actual survival food. One need only look at a few of the many SPAM memes circling the web to figure that out…
Spam wasn’t always the butt of jokes, however…
Spam’s Interesting History
Spam was first produced by Hormel Foods back in 1937 in a tiny factory in Minnesota. It was “invented” as a way to “peddle the then-unprofitable pork shoulder,” according to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America as reported by Time. “Spam” was born, a name that is short for “spiced ham.” However, the official website implies it’s an acronym for Sizzle Pork And Mmm.
Housewives were suspect of a meat that did not need refrigeration, however. This gave Spam a slow start, but as World War II took hold, the U.S. military quickly took notice. They placed massive orders for Spam and distributed far and wide to soldiers and allies all across Europe, Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. Spam became a legendary name in armies and in mess halls. Margaret Thatcher would go on to refer to it as a “wartime delicacy.”
These pork shoulders are recognized worldwide for their fatness, texture, and ability to withstand wars’ most challenging conditions.
We can begin to see how Spam might appeal to preppers. It’s meat that doesn’t require refrigeration, it comes packaged in small pull-tab cans, and it’s pre-cooked. But one first needs to ask…
Does Spam Taste Good?
I think most people would probably say that while Spam may have been called a “wartime delicacy,” there are much better meats to be had when cooking at home. Spam tastes exactly like what it is – cheap, salty meat. Still, it is a meat beloved by many to this day.
The salt is one of the reasons that Spam has the shelf-life that it does. Salt not only helps preserve food, but in the case of canned food, salting helps inhibit growth of anaerobic organisms and thereby reduce foodborne botulism.
So what goes into this canned mystery meat?
SPAM Ingredients: Pork with Ham, Salt, Water, Modified Potato Starch, Sugar, and Sodium Nitrite.
Healthy? Not exactly.
It’s basically canned fat and salt. One 2oz serving (6 servings are in a typical small can) of Spam will give you 25% of your recommended daily fat allowance and 33% of your sodium. Oof!
What is Spam’s Shelf Life?
Spam contains many preservatives, so people think it has a long shelf life, but will the product last as long as advertised? Exactly how long does Spam last?
Spam has a “best by” date stamped on the bottom of their cans, but the shelf life is considered to be 2-5 years. Spam has many preservatives, however, and the “still edible” shelf is apt to be much longer. Shelf life depends in part on the environment in which it is stored. Once the canned has been opened, however, you will want to eat it within 7-10 days.
This product is safe to use for extended periods of time as long as its lid is still properly sealed. It’s nothing like freeze-dried foods with 30+ year shelf life, but it is typical of most canned goods.
Should Preppers Stock SPAM?
Spam is fully-cooked, ready to eat meat. Cold or hot it doesn’t matter, just peel back the can and scoop a spoonful of Spam into your mouth. Yum…?
Probably not, but from a survival aspect, there is a reason Spam gained a strong reputation during World War II. Still, I would not rate it as one of the best foods for long-term storage. Spam is more in the class of other canned goods in your pantry.
Stock Spam with other canned goods so long as you actually eat it by the “best by” date. That’s not to say it won’t last longer, it certainly will, but I would never recommend stocking foods in your pantry unless they are foods you eat on a regular or semi-regular basis anyway. Stock your pantry with the foods you eat, and enough of those foods so that you can rotate stock without ever having to throw food away because it’s gone bad. At that point you are just wasting your money.
If you are not going to eat Spam under “normal” times, do not bother to stock it for some STHF-type event. There are better, longer shelf-life foods than Spam.
If you are going to eat it, however, you need to know…
Ways to Cook SPAM
As stated, Spam comes pre-cooked, so it doesn’t technically have to be cooked at all. What you are doing is more heating Spam, and the simplest way to do that is to just throw it in your cast-iron survival skillet until golden brown on both sides.
You can also bake it at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. To microwave it, zap slices on high for 1.5-2 minutes or until hot.
Frying Spam slices and adding them to a grilled cheese sandwich is perhaps one of the most popular ways to eat it. Quick and easy!
If you are using Spam on a regular basis because you love it so much, you will probably want a of various dishes that can be made from Spam. The good news it that Spam has a large following of devotees, so there are piles of recipes online. There are many recipes right on the Spam website.
You can be creative with your own use of Spam, however. It’s very easy. Just follow these basic instructions to get started.
Want to eat it with breakfast? You can fry a couple of pieces accompanied by eggs and toast. It’s basically a ham or bacon replacement in this case. If you want something more, chop your Spam up into diced cubes, add a few potato slices, and fry it all in hot oil. Finally, add some chopped onion and pepper. Add this breakfast to your list of easy campfire recipes.
Meat sandwiches are the easiest to make. You can replace beef slices in sandwiches with Spam slices. In addition, you can also use this meat to go with hot dogs instead of traditional bacon.
You can also make yourself a classic Hawaiian version of a burger that also has Spam slices and pineapples in it. Spam is exceptionally popular in Hawaii, lingering over from the WWII days. This Hawaiian burger has a distinctive spicy flavor and is served with some spicy mayonnaise and Swiss cheese.
All dinner dishes with Spam have a pretty classic nature. It can rival the mac & cheese in the position of the most nostalgic dishes.
Also, Spam Wellington is a trendy dish invented in early 1990 when it was the perfect combination of Spam and foie gras pate, mushrooms, pastries, and burnt bordelaise sauce. Although this dish is not too classy and elegant, you may be pleasantly surprised!
Spam, although originating in the U.S., has become famous all over the world and is associated with the culinary history of many countries. Therefore, Spam’s appearance is not uncommon at international parties. So, if you’re an Expat Prepper, you can stock up, too!
You may find a few pieces of Jalapeno Spam fried in hot oil in Southeast Asian countries. Slide them into a couple of hot corn tortillas, sprinkle with onion and cilantro, and you’ll get a treat that is as great as street food.
In the Far East, you can find a lot of Spam-chi Fried Rice dishes. It is a mix of Spam, kimchi, rice, and some spicy Korean chili, added with a little sesame oil and a fried egg.
In the regions of Sichuan, China, they often combine Spam with a variety of fermented chili and grilled peanuts to make an extraordinarily fragrant and nutritious dish.
In short, you can search for the different meals around the world made with Spam, research, and apply them to create your unique portfolio of dishes. Don’t just be a prepper, be a prepper chef with lots of Spam!