Various food preservation methods have been with us since ancient times – and they’ve been perfected over the centuries. They are now a part of the human experience, and many of these methods are still in use at the industrial level to ensure that you have access to the things you like at the supermarket.
Do you like sipping on a strong Kombucha to help your digestive system? Well, that is an example of fermentation. Do you like a few strips of crispy bacon in the morning? That is the curing and smoking food preservation methods combined!
The reality is that these methods are being employed all around you. The big difference is the average person is not taking advantage of these food preservation methods in their own home life. So, what good would it do you to start preserving food in your own home?
Why Learn About Food Preservation Methods
There are reasons outside of food prices and a need to survive the return of a potential depression-like economy. Food preservation methods don’t have to be all about doom and gloom.
A charcuterie board or a cheese plate can cost a diner around $13 -$20+ dollars depending on where you like to eat out. These plates are made up largely of foods that have been preserved in one way or another. They can charge that kind of price because preserved foods are delicious!
These food preservation methods are also long forgotten skills and life seems to get better when you start incorporating more of those forgotten skills. We have largely replaced these skills with a point-and-click online ordering system. Or we simply go out and buy foods that have been preserved by someone else.
For the most part, food preservation methods are easy to learn. They also make you look like a wizard in this modern age.
Whether you utilize the sun and the wind, or a modern dehydrator, drying and dehydrating foods is very easy and very effective. These food preservation methods work off the concept of removing moisture from food in order to extend its shelf life.
Dehydrated fruits are delicious and air-dried meats like country ham and prosciutto are some of the most popular preserved foods on the market today.
A modern electric dehydrator can dehydrate things like apples and strawberries overnight. Sliced thin you can dehydrate all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Store them in Ziploc bags to make a great snack later.
If you are looking for a more OFF GRID approach, then you can build yourself a solar dehydrator. These little systems use the power of the sun to quickly dehydrate food. The sun’s radiant heat is powerful and gets the job done fast.
- String for Hanging Food in the Sun
- Mylar Bags for Storage
Canning is one of the food preservation methods that seems too easy to be effective. When you are water bath canning a jar of salsa and you realize that it will keep for months, if not years, it just doesn’t make sense.
Of course, it works. It has worked for over a hundred years!
Even pressure canning is hard to believe. When you buy a canned good at the supermarket you assume there is some crazy industrial process that makes canning possible but in reality, you can do much the same thing with a pot of boiling water!
Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is the process of canning foods that have a high acidic profile. Jellies, jams, and some tomato-based or vinegar-based sauces. The jars can be covered with water in a large pot and boiled.
Follow the recipes and then let the food cool and it will be canned to prevent food spoilage.
When you can foods that are not acidic, then there is a greater risk of bacterial growth inside the jar. One of the most dangerous bacteria, botulism, can grow in low acidic conditions where there is no oxygen. That is why pressure canning is important for these low-acid foods.
Pressure canning requires a pressure canner and also requires that you follow the canning recipes to a T to be sure you are keeping yourself and your family safe.
- Ball Jars of Various Sizes with Lids
- Pressure Canner
- Large Pot with Lid
- Tongs or Jar Tongs
- Canning Recipe Book
There is no denying that the most popular food preservation method in America is freezing. Of course, it’s mundane because every supermarket and home fridge has a freezer, but we can drastically extend the shelf life of food by using this food preservation method.
Some foods freeze better than others and it’s important to understand that when you are freezing foods to preserve them. You should avoid freezing some fresh vegetables though most fruits freeze well.
With larger freezers, you can store lots of meat and give yourself that kind of insurance and assurance if there is ever an issue with the supermarkets or if you like to buy meats in bulk.
4. Freeze Drying
Freeze drying is the most advanced means of food preservation that exists today. Properly freeze-dried foods that are stored in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers will last 25+ years!
The trouble with freeze drying is that you need a freeze dryer. These things are incredibly expensive right now. I am talking about thousands of dollars.
That said, you can freeze-dry anything! I have seen people freeze dry ice cream sandwiches, eggs, butter, milk, and soup! This is a “space aged” method of food preservation, and the cost of entry is very high.
- Freeze Dryer
- Mylar Bags
- Mason Jars
5. Curing in Salt and Sugar
Curing is one of those ancient food preservation methods. It is designed to draw the moisture out of meats to slow or stop the growth of microorganisms. Curing is very popular, even today.
It is just that this process does not happen in the homes of Americans like it once had. Instead, it happens at the industrial level. Your holiday spiral cut ham that is at the center of the table has been cured and smoked.
I always recommend that people start their curing journey by making some homemade bacon. This is a relatively easy process that does not require a lot of work but in a week’s time, you can cure a pork belly.
It’s hard to find supporting evidence but I bet that smoking is by far one of the oldest methods of food preservation in existence. I believe this because smoke is as old as fire and our use of fire dates WAY back.
Smoking also requires nothing more than wood and the ability to make fire. Of course, some kind of tarp or smokehouse can help with the process. At its core, smoking is simple and requires very little.
The smoke reduces the moisture in the meat and also imparts a great flavor.
The process of fermentation is natural and happens whether humans get involved or not. We have just harnessed this natural process to make things like kimchi, sauerkraut, wine, and beer. It is another one of these ancient food preservation methods.
Fermentation is hard for the average American to wrap their head around because the process requires that food often be salted or macerated and then left out at room temperature for as much as a week or more! This is where the fermentation process happens.
The great thing about fermentation is that once it begins you can get a very long shelf life out of foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.
Most pickling involves some kind of salty and vinegary brine. It’s usually referred to as a pickle. This brine can be poured over vegetables while it is still hot or can be used cold to pickle foods. The pickling process is very effective, and, in some cases, pickles can last months without being canned if you keep them in the refrigerator.
You can combine the pickling process with the canning process to make this one of the best food preservation methods for long-term storage.
One of the best ways to try out pickling is to make simple dill pickles with the pickles from your garden or a local farmers market.
Root Cellar for Food Preservation Methods
Having a root cellar is not a food preservation method on its own but it is a great, off-grid, location to store the foods that you have preserved thus far. A root cellar is going to keep a nice cool temperature all year long. That is why it is a great location for things like cured and dried foods, canned foods, and pickled and fermented foods.
Wrapping Up the 7 Best Food Preservation Methods
There was a time when food preservation methods were something people learned so they could survive. This was not that long ago. In fact, you are probably only a couple of generations away from a person that used food preservations techniques regularly.
I hope that this hiatus from preserving our own food is brief. We should all go back to stretching our dollars as far as they can go. The best part about these food preservation methods is we just need some salt, smoke, vinegar, jars, and Ziploc bags!
While you’re learning about survival food options, take a look at How to Cook Without Electricity: 13 Solutions for Survivalists