Preserving food is back in popularity due to supply chain shortages. How do we figure out which food preservation method to use for each food? Let’s take a look at some of the popular methods of preservation.
Dehydrating: it is a process of food preservation that removes moisture in produce or meat. It has been done for centuries. Back before electricity, solar air drying was used. In modern times, we can buy a plug-in dehydrator. Most of them are small enough to sit on a countertop. You simply prepare the food, plug it in, select the heat setting, and walk away. Some models will allow you to set a time while the less expensive models may not. You can either store dehydrated foods in vacuum-sealed bags or jars.
Pros: •can purchase a decent dehydrator for less than $100
- easy to build a DIY solar dehydrator
- food shrinks so you can store more in a smaller space
Cons: •can never rehydrate dried foods again and get the same texture and taste as fresh food
- dried fruit can be hard and chewy
- nutritional content changes when dried
- does not last as long as other preservation methods
Freeze Drying: Removes the water from food with extreme freezing cold temperatures. It then reduces pressure to allow the frozen liquid in the food to become a vapor. To rehydrate and use freeze-dried foods, just add back the liquid. Freeze-dried foods can be consumed in their freeze-dried state as well. You can store freeze-dried foods in vacuum sealed bags, jars, and food-grade buckets.
Pros: •shelf life of freeze-dried foods is up to 25 years stored properly
- freeze-dried foods do not lose their nutritional content
- storing is very simple
Cons: •there is only one brand of home freeze driers on the market, and they can be pricey
Water Bath Canning: This may be the easiest and most common way to preserve acidic foods. Water bath canning involves bringing your filled jars inside your water bath canner to a full rolling boil for 10-15 minutes, depending on the food you are preserving.
Pros: •approximately 5 years of shelf life
- equipment is inexpensive
Cons: •requires jars, lids, and jar rings which might be hard to find during a supply shortage
- lots of recipes available
Pressure Canning: The food preservation method used for non-acidic foods such a meat, seafood, soups, sauces, vegetables, beans, and ghee. Pressure canning uses pressurized steam. The steam, once it reaches 240 degrees F or higher will kill the bacteria that is naturally present in low acid foods. The heat will then fully cook the food. When the jars cool, they form a vacuum and seal the jars. The jars should be left undisturbed on the counter for 18-24 hours. It is imperative after 18-24 hours to unscrew the ring and check the seal. If the lid did not seal, the food must be eaten immediately or refrigerated and consumed within a few days.
Pros: •shelf life is approximately 10 years for most foods
- nutritional content stays intact
Cons: •pressure canners can be pricey
- can be intimidating to get started
- jar lids cannot be reused so need to store unused lids
*I recommend owning a paper copy of the manual from the National Center for Home Food Preservation https://nchfp.uga.edu so you know the time necessary, and the pressure needed to preserve the food.
Fermenting: There are many ways to ferment foods. Salt brine, vinegar, and starter culture are the most common vehicles. Fermentation purposely introduces controlled microbial growth. Bacteria break down the sugars in the food and changes them to promote naturally occurring probiotics.
Pros: •beneficial for gut health
- easy preservation method
Cons: •can take weeks or months to complete the whole fermentation process
- strong smell
No matter how you choose to preserve your food, it is important to get started and have at least a month or two of food prepared for your family, including your animals. Weigh the pros and cons of each preservation and decide what type of food preservation method best fits your family’s needs.