No matter what age you are, where you live, or what situation you are in, preserving food is always a good idea. It is an essential element that every household should practice in order to prevent bacteria and other microorganism growth that could spoil your food before you get a chance to consume it. Not to mention, it reduces waste and saves you money in the long run. The importance of food preservation is certainly something everyone should understand, and knowing how to do it correctly is critical. Here are ten of the best ways you can preserve your food long term so you can gain the food security benefits it provides.
1. Drying or Dehydrating
Food drying or dehydrating is a highly used preservation method because it works exceptionally well, especially for fruits and vegetables. The best way to get started with this is by investing in a device such as a solar dehydrator or sun ovens, or you can do it the traditional way and use baking sheets or air drying. It can take some time to get the hang of it, but once you know how to do it, you will be able to have more storage supply options. Once you are done, make sure you store your foods in a cool, dry location and locked inside an airtight container to obtain the most extended shelf life.
Canning is great for preserving processed foods. It is a safe and secure way to store food while taking up little space at the same time. There are a few different canning methods you can try. For example, water bath canning is when you use a large kettle that has a lid. The jar you put your fruits or other highly acidic foods in sits inside the kettle in a couple of inches of water. Another method is steam canning, which uses a particular canner that processes heat using steam. As a rule of thumb, canned goods are usable for up to two years.
Freezing is probably the most widely used preservation method used in society today. It is also the best route to go if you are a beginner. You can freeze just about anything and it requires very little preparation or equipment to do so. For months, you can keep your food fresh, especially if you are using vacuumed sealed bags or a sturdy silicone stretch n fit lid cover to keep the frost out. For the best results, invest in a deep freezer if you do not already have one, as this can make your frozen food last longer than in a transitional refrigerator freezer.
4. Freeze Drying
Freeze drying is a combination of dehydrating and freezing. This allows your food to retain nutritional value better and also keeps the same color and shape before preserving. It is quite easy to do and does not require a special machine; your home freezer or using dry ice works just fine. During the process, the water is removed from your perishable foods (98 percent of it) and is then frozen. Do not be fooled, though. After the process is completed, the food is then stored at room temperature and can last for 5 to 20 years, depending on what you are preserving.
Another great preservation strategy is fermentation. This is when you take a substance and break it down into a simpler form. In preserving, this process changes your low acid foods into high ones, which extends their shelf life. It is highly used for vegetables, and many times it is done through the use of salt or whey. For details on how to ferment vegetables in particular, here is an easy step by step guide to follow. Keep in mind that fermented food typically lasts between a few weeks to a few months.
6. Alcohol Immersion
Alcohol is fantastic at drawing out the water content within foods and preventing any microbe growth. It is ideal for acidic foods like fruit. By submerging small amounts of food in any hard liquor you desire, it will store your food for months. Keep in mind to not preserve too much of your food in not enough alcohol, because doing so might not work out as effectively. For some more insight, the best booze options you can use are cognac, wine, brandy, and vodka. Since this will also affect the taste of your food, if you want your fruit to be less alcoholic flavored, then you may want to stick with vodka.
7. Cold Storage, or “Root Cellar”
Do you have the ability to store root crops such as potatoes, beets, carrots, or cabbage in a cool (32º to 40ºF), damp, and dark location? If so, take advantage of this easy preservation method. Root cellars have been used for centuries in preserving foods for longer durations. It takes little to no effort on your part, and you can preserve these foods for three to six months at a time. It is ideal for saving fresh crops grown in the summer because you can maintain them to last you the entire winter. Just make sure that you isolate each crop because the ethylene gas they project can make other vegetables sprout or rot.
8. Salt Curing
Salt has been used to preserve food, especially meat, since before the invention of the mason jar in the 1800s. Salt is great at drawing out moisture in food, allowing it to stay fresh and last longer. If you are looking to preserve meats, such as pork, fish, and beef, then this is a good solution to try out. The only thing to note here is that even with salt curing, your meat still needs to be kept cool. For guidance on how to do this properly, you can find more information about it here.
Pickling is another food preservation method that may people tend to advocate for. Picking can be done with most foods, like fruits, vegetables, meats, and eggs. This is a process where you soak your food in a salt, acid, or alcohol solution. Doing so extends the shelf life of these foods extensively, but be careful to prepare safely and store in room temperature for the best results.
Smoking meat has been historically used as a way to preserve. The smoking process acts as an acidic agent that coats the surface of the meat, which prevents bacterial growth from forming on it. It is also valuable in dehydrating meats, which is another definite route in preventing microorganisms from fostering. Again, just like the other preservation methods, how you store it afterward can make or break the results. Once you are done smoking your meat, store it properly to avoid contamination. Cured, smoked meat can last up to a year in the right conditions.
The importance of food preservation is a significant one, and doing it correctly can solidify optimal outcomes. It is undoubtedly a food tactic that you will not want to neglect. By partaking in this practice, you are actively giving your food supply extra life to use later on down the road. It is especially handy to do in case of emergencies where you may not be able to leave your home for a while to go shopping. Utilize these best preservation methods mentioned above so you can have peace of mind knowing you always have a hefty food supply that is fresh and available when needed.