You want to preserve food that you’ve grown. Preserving food is important because life is unpredictable, and having delicious food that stays delicious for a long time is important.
There are many reasons why people do it, whether to save money which is important since you end up saying more, or to preserve the harvest from your garden.
You avoid processed and packaged goods which in turn means saving more and spending less. But more importantly, you are able to prepare for emergencies. You gain a level of preparedness, by keeping your food long-lasting.
I talked about being able to preserve food in an Easy Root Cellar 101 – Underground Food Storage. But let’s talk about being able to preserve food without having to go underground.
How Does Freeze-drying Preserve Food
The first method will go over is the freeze-drying method and how it’s used to keep food long-lasting.
Freeze-drying food will remove a lot of the water from the food with a process called vaporization. Vaporization turns most of the water in food, into vapor and allows it to escape from the food.
Water contains a lot of oxygen, therefore removing it, helps slow the process of degradation considerably.
Freeze-drying food will affect the texture and look of food a lot more than other, commercial preservations, such as canning and freezing, but there are many more benefits:
This will affect the weight of food, the freeze-dried food is a lot lower than convention freezing or canning. That will make the transportation of these products a lot easier.
You also have the benefit of storage as canned foods take up quite a lot of room, as they often still require a freezer. However, freeze-dried food doesn’t need either of them, and you can usually store it in a pantry without any issues.
Another great benefit is that you don’t need to unthaw anything or open a can you can freeze-dried food at home with ease. Plus food that is freeze-dried retains its nutrients compared to other long term storage methods.
The shelf life of the freeze-drying method is 25 years! Compared to the other method it has a longer shelf life compared to the other methods.
The Type of Foods You Can Freeze Dry
The best foods that you can preserve are foods with high water content. These types of food are best to preserve food. It’s mainly because they return to a more normal state after being reconstituted.
Here is a list of some of the things that you can freeze-dry without many implications.
Fruits such as apples, bananas, strawberries, pears, and any other fruit or berries can be freeze-dried. Vegetables can also be freeze-dried, most of them can.
The meat will be a little more difficult to freeze dry as you would need to cook it or your meal thoroughly and cool before you freeze-dry it. The same goes for processed meals that you buy they would need to be cooked before going through this technique.
Why Does Salt Preserve Food
Salt has been used as a preservative since ancient times, as was, in fact, so valuable in part due to its preservative powers. It was a hot commodity well sought after, a resource where wars been fought over just to claim it.
The simple reason why salts work to preserve food is that it draws moisture out of the food.
Dry foods are less likely to spoil as moisture is a key requirement for organisms that want to spoil the food. When something like meat is exposed to salt in the right quantity, the salt begins to draw the moisture out of the cells.
It will draw out bacteria present in the food and this makes it last longer because the bacteria will spoil the meat, by salting it will have a hard time surviving in an environment with little to no moisture.
While its pretty self explanatory you are contending with organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, and mold that will grow on the food making it inedible and very unsafe to eat. These undesirable organisms are looking for moisture too feed on the food.
Reducing the moisture content within foods we can inhibit microorganisms from growing and therefore extend the shelf life of the food.
The Dehydrating method works on this same principle which brings me to the next topic.
Dehydrating Food Preservation Method
Other than the Freeze-dried method there’s almost no easier way to preserve food than dehydrating.
The shelf-like of Dehydrated foods can be 4-8 years depending on the temperature and storage method used the same goes for freeze-dried food.
This method is considered the fastest and least expensive way to save your harvest. Just like the freeze-dried method, it can lighten the weight of foods. Why also providing a tasty treat on the go, whether to work, for camping, etc. You save your harvest and your wallet.
Dehydrating your food reduces its moisture content to between 5-20%. Within that range, the bacterium that causes food decay can’t survive. By removing the most from your favorite foods, you of course extending its lifespan.
Types of Dehydrating
There are a few ways to about dehydrating your food, but some methods are more successful compared to others. Thankfully modern technology has provided us the tools to help improve the rate of dehydration. Helping us reduce the chance of our food spoiling.
Below are the common methods used today to dehydrate and preserve food.
This method uses your oven to dry the food. It is pretty convenient. It takes around 5-6 hours, or even more, to dry food properly.
Meats and starchy foods will take longer because of the amount of moisture but it will get it done. With this method of food drying, it requires low heat. The oven temperature should be low, you want to aim for 140 Degrees Fahrenheit.
Any higher than 140 degrees you will be cooking the food rather than drying it out.
You will also need to prop the door open to let the moisture escape, as well as 2-4 inches wide, should be enough for air circulation.
These powerhouses already come equipped with fans and elements to quickly and efficiently dry your food with ease.
Virtually no spoilage and the end result is a tasty treat that can’t be beaten. Most electric dehydrators also come with a temperature gauge and adjustments dial. This helps to speed or slow drying time depending on what you’re processing.
If your food dehydrator does have a fan, consider using it in your garage or another area where noise won’t matter.
If you microwave regularly then you should be happy to know that your microwave can be used to dehydrate. Your microwave has a setting where you can defrost foods, you can do this to dry fruits and herbs. In general, microwaves fruits will take 20-40 minutes to dry fully.
But you want to be able to keep checking on them so you don’t overdo it. Herbs placed in the microwave will take 2-3 minutes anymore you may kill the herbs.
You can dehydrate just about every fruit, every vegetable, every meat you can think of. You can do the same with nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, herbs, crackers bread and granolas.
How Does Fermentation Preserve Food
Another older method to utilize is fermentation. Mostly has seen an upsurge among homesteaders and preppers who take time to learn the man’s oldest methods of preserving food.
Fermentation in food preservation is the conversion of sugars and other carbohydrates into organic acids.
Food fermentation has been said to serve several main purposes.
- Enrichment of the diet through the development of a diversity of flavors, aromas, and textures in food substrates.
- Preservation of substantial amounts of food through lactic acid, alcohol, acetic acid, and alkaline fermentations.
- Biological enrichment of food substrates with protein, essential amino acids, and vitamins and aids in the elimination of antinutrients.
- It’s also helped to decrease cooking time and fuel requirements. The introduction and cultivation of the organic acids are what give fermented food their distinctive bite.
It also has amazing health benefits a big one being is the improvement of digestive health, a boost in your immune system mental health, weight loss, etc.
The cause of this is the probiotics produced during fermentation that can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut and may alleviate some digestive problems.
You want to cap off preserving it in a mason jar of some kind, you can find glass jar made with fermentation in mind, specifically one glass jar with a fermentation weight. Then you would fully submerge it and your all set.
You will also cover your container and also monitor the temperature. For fermentation occur you’ll have to maintain a comfortable temperature of 70-75 degrees.
You aiming to prevent spoilage and making sure the shelf life is fairly long. But once it’s fermented you can store your food.
This method is mostly hands-off, but unlike the others, this method can only be used to preserve food that is a fruit or veggies.
How Does Canning Preserve Food
The last method to preserve food is the canning method. Canning is the process of apply heat to food that’s sealed in a jar in order to destroy and micro-organisms that cause food spoilage. Proper scanning techniques stop this spoilage by heating food in a specific period.
This period of time from the heating process will kill unwanted microbes. During this process, the air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed as the jar cools and seals.
There are two approved canning methods that can be utilized in the United States.
Water bathing canning
This method, sometimes referred to as hot water canning, uses a large kettle of boiling water.
These jars are then submerged in the water and heated to an internal temperature of 212 degrees for a specific period of time.
You will use this method for processing high-acid foods, such as fruit, items made from fruit, pickles, pickled food, and tomatoes.
pressure canning uses a large kettle that produces steam in a locked compartment. The filled jars in the kettle reach an internal temperature of 240 degrees, much hotter than the previously talked about the method.
You would use a pressure canner for processing vegetables and other low-acid foods, such as meat poultry, and fish.
Canned foods also have a shelf life of up to 3 years.
I hope we have given you enough information and ideas on food preservation.
Over the weeks I’ll break down each method separately but I wanted to present an overview and introduction to some very interesting techniques to preserve food, and your resources that you grow in your garden.