As fuel and grocery prices soar, more people are growing their own food and following the top methods of home food preservation to stretch their food dollars. Storing vegetables and fruits properly extends your food supply for several months or longer. If you're a beginner or it's been a long time, organizations such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation offer seasonal tips and practical advice. ..
Canning is one of the top methods of home food preservation. It requires heating food to a specific temperature to kill food-spoiling bacteria. Heat forces air from the canning jar, and as it cools the jar seals. Bacteria can't seep into the jar and food keeps for several years.
The USDA recommends freezing. It's easier than canning, but foods can't be stored for as long. This is because freezing renders bacteria inactive but doesn't kill them. While the food is frozen the bacteria doesn't grow, but when it thaws it becomes active. Frozen foods lose their firmness because ice crystals damage cells. Freezing requires freezer containers or bags manufactured for use in the freezer. One drawback to freezing is that in the event of a power failure, if your freezer stops, and you don't have a backup generator, your food will spoil.
3. Sun Drying
SolarCooking.org recommends this ancient skill to preserve your foods. To sun dry fruit outdoors, breezy days that are hot and dry (around 85 degrees or hotter) are best. It takes several days to dry foods outside. The downside is that weather is unpredictable. Rain can destroy an entire supply of drying raisins. Drying fruits should also be covered or brought in for the night because cooler night air can slow the drying process.
4. Curing and Smoking
This is one of the top methods of home food preservation for meats. The USDA says it can even be done on a covered grill. To use a grill, just place a pan of water under the meat.
Pickling is a traditional food preservation method, originally used in the days before refrigeration. Depending on the size of the product being pickled and its acidity, the procedures and time required to process the food vary. For example, okra is smaller than many pickling cucumbers and the processing time would need to be adjusted accordingly. It's important to follow recipes exactly because pickled foods are subject to spoilage from microorganisms.
Dehydrating removes moisture from food and prevents spoilage. Dehydrated food doesn't lose its nutrients and is easy to store in an airtight container. Using a dehydrator is the easiest method, but it can also be accomplished using a shallow pan in your oven at very low temperatures. The University of Missouri Extension offers practical, comprehensive information regarding dehydration for food preservation.
7. Jams and Jellies
The standard method for making jams and jellies works best when using fruits that are high in pectin. A second method uses commercially-manufactured pectin which comes in liquid or powered form. This speeds up the process. For consistent quality and uniformity in your product it is important to follow instructions for individual commercial pectin products.