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Food Preservation EXPLAINED

Food preservation is a great way to make foods stay fresh or shelf stable enough to store long past their expiration date.

Depending on the method you choose, you can extend the shelf life of your food stores anywhere from a few months to several years.

Skills like food preservation is essential in these times of uncertainty.

This is not a how to guide--I just want to show you how many ways you can preserve your food and the variety of foods that can be preserved.

So if you are looking to get into preserving food, hopefully this list can give you a good jumping-off point. As you research and test, you will hopefully find a method or methods that will work for your time, budget, and needs.

1. Wet Canning (a.k.a. Water Bath Canning)

What Is It?

The process of water bath canning is used for high acid foods.  This process involves submerging jars of prepared goods in a large, deep pot and boiling them depending on the recipe.

The process of pressure canning is similar but is used for low acid foods like meat and vegetables (with the exception of tomatoes). Be careful preparing these goods as the low acid environment is prime for the growth of botulism.

Benefits: Foods preserved this way can can last for years. This process changes the chemistry of the food to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and other microbial nasties.

Cons: Requires some specialized equipment but it is usually easy to find at local big box stores. A very time -consuming process. Improper sealing or processes can result in the loss of food stuffs.

Best for: high acid foods like jams, preserves, jelly, pickled goods, tomatoes, vinegars, salsas, pie fillings


2. Dry Canning (a.k.a. Oven Canning)

What Is It?

Dry goods are packed into Mason jars and placed in a 200°F oven. This causes the rubber seal to melt and adhere to the glass, thereby sealing the jars.

Benefits: Kills bugs and germs in the dry goods. You are able to seal the jars with out the worry of introducing water inside the jar. 

Cons: You are exposing goods to heat for an extended period of time--this can actually reduce shelf life. Here is a good article by Preparedness Pro detailing the downside of dry canning.

Best for: uncooked rice, uncooked noodles, dry beans, dehydrated foods, flour


3. Dehydrating

What Is It?

Removing the moisture from foods using heat or evaporation. Foods can be dried to complete brittleness or retain a bit of moisture resulting in a chewy texture.

Soup ingredients like herbs and vegetables can be dehydrated then layered and sealed in jars for quick one-pot meals--just dump in a pot of water, cook, and serve. Leafy greens like kale or chard can be seasoned, dehydrated, and eaten as a snack.

Benefits: Foods shrink in size and mass by up to 90%, allowing for more to be stored in a container. Foods that are cooked before dehydrating only need to be rehydrated. Nutrients and sugars are more densely concentrated.

Cons: There is a texture and taste change in dehydrated foods. Foods are very hard and need to be rehydrated before consumption. Some foods never fully rehydrate and may remain hard.

Best for: herbs, spices, flowers or leaves for teas or infusions, fruit, vegetables, jerky, snack foods.


4. Freeze Drying

What Is It?

The process of freezing the food item, reducing the pressure, and then removing the ice through sublimation (changing from a solid state to gaseous state without becoming a liquid). The result is a light and crispy food item that weighs next to nothing.

Benefits: Foods are lightweight and can usually be eaten even with rehydration. Preserves the nutrients and has less of an effect on the taste. Freeze dried items can last upwards to 30 years with proper storage.

Cons: The equipment for freeze drying can cost upwards of few thousand dollars which can be a turn-off for some.  For those who choose to make the investment will see that it more than pays for itself.

Best for: sliced fruit (peaches, apples, pears), sliced vegetables (asparagus, green beans), snacks, meat like chicken or beef


5. Pickling

What Is It?

Preserving food using a vinegar or salt brine solution flavored with a variety of herbs and spices.

Benefits: Foods are high in electrolytes due to the high salt content. 

Cons: Most pickled goods are very high in sodium--so consumption must be limited.

Best for: cucumbers, carrots, green beans, plums, cauliflower, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, peppers, eggs (recipes coming), meats


6. Fermenting

What Is It?

A process that feeds good yeast and bacteria as it breaks down the starches and sugars in food and turns them into alcohol and acids. These byproducts are what preserve the food.

Benefits: Full of probiotic bacteria that are beneficial to the gut, digestive system, immune system, and overall health. Gives foods a distinct tartness or bite. Actually makes food more nutritious.

Cons: If not done correctly, you run the risk of dangerous mold and bacteria growth. Limit intake or run the risk of increased gas and bloating.

Best for: cabbage, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, garlic, wine, yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut


7. Vacuum Sealing

What Is It?

The process of using a vacuum to remove air from a bag or jar.

Benefits: Removes the oxygen from containers to reduce the opportunity for mold and bacteria growth. Vacuum sealed bags take up less space for storage. Can be combined with other methods like dehydrating, smoking, or curing. Reduces the risk of freezer burn.

Cons: If not done correctly, the seal can release allowing air and moisture back into the container. Can be costly purchasing vacuum seal quality bags.

Best for: freezing cooked foods, marinating, Mylar bags, glass jars


8. Oxygen Absorbers

What Is It?

Oxygen absorbers are packets that can be added to goods to decrease the amount of oxygen inside the sealed container. Can be used in large containers like 5-gallon food-grade buckets, down to pint Mason jars. They can seal jars without the use of water or heat. Works well with vacuum sealing.

Benefits: Effective at removing the oxygen in an environment. High-oxygen environments promote the growth microbes and insects.

Cons: Not very effective with high-moisture or oily foods. Once the packet is spent it must be thrown away and replaced.

Best for: dry goods, dehydrated foods, dried fruit, jerky


9. Smoking

What Is It?

The process of burning mediums such as wood to cook, flavor, and/or preserve food.

Benefits: Gives foods a rich, smoky flavor.  Changes the appearance of meats and inhibits or kills bacterial or mold growth. 

Cons: Can be a costly method of preserving meat. A delicate process that requires careful attention. Smoking meat may lead to carcinogen contamination.

Best for: meats like beef, poultry, deer, lamb, or fish


10. Curing

What Is It?

The process of drawing out moisture from meat and vegetables using salt, sugar, smoking, drying, or other methods.

Benefits: Allows meat to last without refrigeration and inhibits the growth of bacteria like Botulism and other microbes.

Cons: Nitrates and nitrites used in meat curing have been linked to health problems. Salt-cured meats have a harsh, salty flavor.

Best for: meats, vegetables like potatoes and garlic


Bonus: Top Containers For Food Storage

  1. Mylar bags
  2. HDPE plastic (Recycle #2)
  3. 2- to 5-Gallon buckets
  4. Mason jars
  5. Polypropylene plastic (Recycle #5)

When getting containers make sure they are labeled as "food-grade".

Don't reuse non-food containers, as the chemicals they previously contained most-likely leached into the container's material (yes even glass).

Many companies sell food-grade containers in bulk at reasonable prices. Just be sure to wash and sanitize them appropriately before use.

Did I miss anything? Which technique is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below. If you happen to try or are already a pro at one of these techniques, I'd love to hear about it, too.



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    Rawchaa Garbar

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