Making your own cooking oil is a must for dedicated homesteading families and preppers. While you can use butter made from your dairy cow’s milk to cook and fry many food items, oil will still be a very beneficial item to have in ample supply after the SHTF.
Although there are various types of cooking oils, sunflower oil is perhaps the easiest to grow and harvest in an off grid situation. Plus, sunflower oil boasts a pleasant neutral flavor that does not overpower the food being prepared or the salad that it is poured over. Growing oilseeds and purchasing an oil press will be necessary to garner and stockpile your own cooking oil.
There are three different types of sunflower oil: High Linoleic; Mid-Oleic; High Oleic; and High Stearic/High Oleic. High oleic sunflower oil is known to be very high in oleic or monounsaturated acid. It possessed about an 80 percent oleic acid compound. People who are concerned with trans fat often opt to use this type of sunflower oi. It is commonly used in baking, the processing of dry fruit, in non-dairy creamers, and in in cereals.
Sunflower Oil Health Benefits
Sunflower oil may help boost the immune system and increase overall heart health. It is also a great source of Vitamin E and offers an energy boost. The oil is also believed to help prevent skin cancer, moisturize the skin, prevent asthma attacks, lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Although sunflowers grow in abundance in many rural areas in the United States, the U.S. is not one of the primary producers of the oil. Argentina, Russia, and Ukraine are the top producers of sunflower oil in the world, but American homesteaders and preppers are now more frequently creating the garden space necessary to grow their own cooking oil.
The fatty acids found in sunflower seeds also contain high levels of linoleic acid — an omega-6 fatty acid. Too much of this acid creates “bad cholesterol,” but the same acid is still essential to the body. Because sunflower oil does not contain any saturated fats, it does not cause arteries to clog, making it a far more heart-healthy cooking oil choice. Too much saturated fat can also cause high blood pressure and enhanced chances of having a stroke.
The vitamin E in sunflower seeds works as an antioxidant in the body and may also enhance the functions of the immune system, helping ward off the common cold and the flu. The vitamin E content of sunflower seeds also possesses tocopherols that help reduce and eliminate free radicals that turn healthy cells into cancerous ones.
Sunflower Seed Types
There are currently two types of sunflower seeds on the market. Confectionary seeds are the type we can find at the impulse buy section of the supermarket right next to the cash register. Black oil seeds, the kind from which cooking oil is made, have two times the oil content of confectionary seeds. A 40-pound bag of black oil seeds should easily yield the amount of plants necessary to make enough cooking oil to last at least a year.
Sunflowers seeds can grow virtually anywhere and need very little room or water to thrive. Once the plants have grown tall, their “heads” will be full of seeds and fall over. When this happens, it is time to harvest the seeds and begin making your own cooking oil. Cut off the head of the sunflower plant with a knife and shake the seeds into a bucket. The seeds should fall out quite easily, but check the heads to make sure that you have not missed any seeds.
The seeds need to dry before the oil pressing process can begin. Ideally, the seeds should be spread out onto baking sheets or a sheet of metal or wood and allowed a day in the sun to dry thoroughly. If you are drying the seeds outdoors, make sure to place a screen over the seeds and weigh the screen in place to prevent it from being knocked off in the wind. Birds and other critters will be attracted to the seeds, so do not leave your valuable crop vulnerable or unattended.
Making Sunflower Seed Oil
Once the seeds are dry, it is time to get out the oil press and begin cranking — and cranking and cranking. This is a simple yet labor-intensive project. Getting into better physical shape is all a part of increasing your level of preparedness for when the SHTF. You may need to remind yourself of the value of the exercise you are getting as your arms tire while moving the oil press wheel to generate your oil. Making the oil offers a great opportunity to include the kiddos in the homesteading effort or to challenge your spouse to a wheel-cranking contest. Making manual labor and prepping chores fun always makes the time go by faster!
It will take about 20 minutes of cranking at a relatively quick clip to push about a 2-liter pop bottle full of sunflower seeds through the press. This amount of seeds will provide approximately 12 ounces of cooking oil. While 12 ounces of oil might not sound like a lot, it is truly worth the effort. When frying chicken in my gigantic cast-iron frying pan, I only use about one and a half ounces of oil.
Do not be shocked by the black color of the oil you will see coming out of the press. The oil “settles” in about two weeks, and the color will definitely resemble the shade of cooking oil you see on grocery store shelves. You can attempt to strain any seed remains out of the oil by pouring it through cheesecloth. The oil is not easy to strain, and doing so is really an unnecessary and messy task.
The mound of dark and dried sunflower sludge left in the press is useful too. Just toss it out to your chickens, ducks, or turkeys and they will think they have just received an amazing treat.
Pour the sunflower oil into mason jars and screw the lid on firmly. Store in the cupboard shelf until ready to use. The oil should be viable for at least two years.