Cooks in the kitchen who have an excess of fruits and veggies from a bountiful garden or a large shopping binge at the farmers’ market may be wondering how to extend out their stock. It’s never been a greater time to learn how to preserve food properly at home.
Whether you cultivate your own food or buy in quantity, home food preservation allows you to stock up and also save money.
In addition, it adds diversity to meals, and the flavor of food preserved at home can rival that of most commercially available options. Best of all, you have complete control over what goes into your body.
Ultimately, you can savor the benefits of a surplus crop of fruit or even a big pot of chili when you’re rummaging through your cupboard or freezer for a last-minute supper by learning how to securely preserve goods at home. And here is how you do it!
What is Food Preservation?
Food preservation encompasses a wide range of methods for keeping food from rotting. Food preservation is all about preserving nutritional content, texture, and flavor. Some of the many ways to preserve your food at home include:
- Freeze Drying
With so many options, it is fairly simple and straightforward to get started on preserving your own food at home. Of course, some preservation techniques are best suited for certain foods, but food preservation is a great thing for beginners because they can choose the methods that are easiest or work the best for them.
10 At-Home Food Preservation Techniques
Preservation of your food at home can be a healthy and cost-effective choice if you want to enjoy market products all year. Use our preservation methods to extend the summer abundance into the winter season with berry preserves, pickled peppers, and so much more.
1. Food Drying
Through the reduction of moisture content, drying foods reduces the growth of germs, yeasts, and mold. Sun-drying seeds have been used to dehydrate the food of primitive peoples from ancient times.
Electric food dehydrators, freeze-drying, and ovens are now speeding up what was previously done by the sun and air. Fruits, beans, vegetables, spices, meat, and fish are all good dehydrators.
2. Cold Temperature Storage
Cold food storage is the most basic method of food preservation. Refrigerators, root cellars, cold basements, and pantries are all good places to look for it. Cooling food helps to preserve it by reducing the growth of bacteria that causes it to deteriorate.
Cooling for food storage was widespread in root cellars and iceboxes before the invention of the refrigerator. Potatoes, onions, yams, apples, garlic, beets, turnips, cabbage, and carrots are all good root cellar foods.
Freezing foods preserve fresh flavors, and textures while requiring little specialist equipment. The growth of microbes and enzymes that might ruin food is slowed by freezing. Freeze room-temperature items, remove all air from the freezer bag, and eat within six months of freezing for optimal results.
Vacuum-sealing frozen product prevents the formation of ice crystals and extends the shelf life of the food. Essentially, you can take your fresh foods, freeze them immediately, and enjoy them as if there were just purchased or grown months later.
4. Water Bath Canning
Nicolas Appert, regarded as the “Father of Canning,” created the packing, heating, and sealing procedure for food goods that we still use today in the 1800s. Food is placed in canning jars and heated to a high temperature to kill the germs that cause food to deteriorate.
Air is pushed out of the jar during the heating process, and as the cans chill, a vacuum seal forms.
High-acid foods are best canned in a boiling water bath. These foods include:
- Fruit juice
- Pickled vegetables
- Vinegar, and
Water bath canning necessitates a long boiling time at a low temperature to kill mold, yeast, and enzymes that cause spoiling while also creating a vacuum seal for long-term preservation.
5. Freeze Drying
Freeze-drying is a reduced-temperature dehydration method that involves freezing food and then sublimating—or turning ice into vapor—to remove the ice. This process can be performed in a freezer (which takes several weeks), on dry ice, or with a piece of modern freeze-dryer equipment (which takes less than 24 hours).
6. Using Salt and Sugar to Preserve
Prior to the invention of modern refrigeration, most foods were preserved by using sugar, salt, or a combination of the two. Salt and sugar help preserve meats, fruits, and vegetables by reducing water content and inhibiting microbial development.
Jams and jellies are frequent sugar-preserved meals, while some of the most commonly salt-preserved foods include:
- Salt Cod
- Corned Beef
- Salt Pork
Fermentation is a chemical reaction in which anaerobic conditions are used to convert carbs to alcohol or organic acids by microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast. Some of our favorite sour foods, such as cheeses, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and sourdough bread, are made using this method.
8. Pickling with Vinegar
Vinegar pickling provides an acidic environment that kills germs and changes the flavor and texture of the food. Commonly pickled foods include:
- Green Beans
These foods are pickled with vinegar, salt, and sugar after being heated and applied to fruit or vegetables.
The fruit has been preserved in alcohol for a long time. Fruits, including peaches, cherries, and apricots, were soaked in brandy and given as a dessert after a meal in Europe throughout the eighteenth century.
Alcohol, like salt and sugar, sucks water out of food, preventing microbial development. This process is ideal for extracting and infusing alcohols, such as cordials and rumptopf (a German way of storing summer fruit in alcohol).
10. Preserving with Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is a natural preservative that protects food from spoiling by isolating it from the air and creating a barrier that inhibits oxidation and mold. It’s used to keep fresh herbs, vegetables, and fish fresh for a long time.
When storing low-acid foods like garlic, mushrooms, chili peppers, or herbs in oil, keep food safety in mind—these low-acid items can be a source of bacteria and should be kept in the refrigerator as a precaution.
Which Food Preservation Method is Better?
It all relies on what you’re attempting to store and the conditions under which you’re storing it. Here are a few things you should know….
While certain nutrients are lost during canning, a current study has found that refrigerating fresh fruits and vegetables causes nutrient losses as well, particularly of fragile vitamins like vitamin C. Because plant foods are alive, they continue to utilize nutrients even after they have been stored.
It’s safe to presume that root cellar storage results in nutrient loss of the same, as well. After six months of storage, frozen food loses more nutrients than canned food. Most nutrients are lost when food is dried.
Considering this, canning should be done as soon as possible after harvest, while nutrients are at their height, in order to preserve as many nutrients as possible.
You may make a high-quality product at home by drying meals under mild circumstances. Food drying is the least destructive way of food preservation when compared to canning and freezing, both of which involve harsh temperatures.
According to Sheffield Hallam University research, freeze-drying strawberries resulted in no loss of vitamin C or phenolic content and just an 8% reduction in total antioxidant capacity.
Fresh strawberries, on the other hand, lost 18 percent of their vitamin C, 23 percent of their TAC, and a huge 82 percent of their phenolic content after being cold for the same amount of time. So, freeze-drying is the best method if you want to maintain nutritional integrity.
Final Thoughts on Home Food Preservation
At-home food preservation is an excellent way to make your favorite foods last as long as possible. While some methods require certain skills and equipment, others are fantastic for beginners – it gives them time to try out food preservation without the hefty investment.
Keep in mind that what you plan to preserve, your equipment, and how you plan to preserve your food play a massive role in which techniques will work best for you. For example, fermentation offers nutrition, but it also shortens the shelf life of fermented goods.
Dried goods have a long shelf life and take up relatively little space. Dehydrated foods can be used in soups, stews, and other recipes that benefit from lengthy, slow cooking with plenty of liquid, as well as snacks. It’s best to utilize it within the next two years.
So, as you can see, this is a practice that is going to require a fair amount of research to ensure you are learning the correct way. However, as you learn more, you can preserve almost any food that’s hanging around in your kitchen!