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Today’s guest author, Heather from Second Chance Farm, is going to share common ways of preserving food. Enjoy!
You have been busy in your garden this spring and summer. Chances are, you are now in the midst of harvesting and preserving food. This time of year, many of us are figuring out what to do with all of those tomatoes, peppers, okra, and so on.
If you are new to gardening or just learning, you may be just beginning to learn about food preservation. As you will learn, there are many methods for food preservation to help extend your harvest.
As a homesteading family, we like to buy from local farmers and in bulk. This is another opportunity to fill the pantry and food storage reserves.
Food preservation isn’t just about preventing food spoiling and storing food through the winter.. It is also about simple ingredients and nutritious food. When you preserve your own food you are using ingredients that you have chosen.
Below I’ll be sharing tips and information on the most common ways to preserve food.
Traditional Methods for Preserving Food
- Water bath canning
- Pressure canning
- Food dehydrators
- Freeze drying
- Vacuum sealing
Canning food is a one of the more common home food preservation methods.
This effective way of food preserving allows you to save space in your freezer, and avoid food loss through power outages.
When canning, your food supply will be safe for human consumption for up to one year. Additionally, when canning your own foods, you are choosing your own simple ingredients with no preservatives. Home-canned foods have a long shelf life and a ton of health benefits!
Learning to can also provides you with self sufficiency skills that can outlast food shortages that you may see in grocery store. Unfortunately, shortages of fresh produce and store food is not to far off for us.
The mason jars, glass jars, and lid rings can be reused over and over again, making this a sustainable option as well. The canning lids cannot be reused and keeping a good supply of them is recommended.
To get started with home canning, I recommend you watch videos online, read blogs, and carefully read the instructions on your steam canners. Combining knowledge from experts will help you to have a broad understanding, but always follow the directions that come with your canner. The canners will include recipe directions, as well.
Tip: Don’t buy your canning supplies during the garden season when everyone else is! Supply can be low and costs are higher.
There are two different methods for canning; water bath canning and pressure canning.
The water bath canning method is used for high acid foods. It is an affordable way to make jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, apple sauce, tomato sauce and more!
You can look online, or in the directions and recipes that come with your canner, to learn all the different foods you can preserve with a water bath canner.
When using this method, the jar of food is submerged under water completely and the heat of the water essentially seals the jar.
After your jars have fully cooled, you can tell if they have successfully sealed when you cannot push the center bubble of the jar lid down. It should be down on its own with a successful seal.
Tip: Remove lid rings after jars have cooled to ensure that your lids have an actual seal and not a false one. And yes, they can be stored in a cool place with just the sealed lid – without the ring!
For some reason this method of canning is intimidating to many, including myself! Just recently I began pressure canning and it was much easier than I expected. My only regret, not starting years ago!
Pressure canning allows you to can low acid foods and meats, which can be great for building up food reserves and saving room in your freezer.
When food is pressure canned there are a few inches of water in the pressure cooker. The pressure that is built up cooks the food and seals the jars.
Tip: When water bath canning or pressure canning, be sure to sanitize all jars well.
Dehydrating food is one of the oldest methods of removing moisture from food. This allows your food source to be stored without spoiling.
We love to use this method for fruit leathers, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic for garlic powder, onions for onion powder and more!
After foods have been dehydrated they can also be ground up into a powder form for seasoning. Be sure to store your ground herbs in an airtight container.
You can purchase a food dehydrator online and many off grid homesteaders online can show you how to build a solar dehydrator if that’s of interest to you.
Tip: If you are buying a new food dehydrator, get one with trays that are not circular. This allows foods such as fruit leathers to be evenly cut and stored.
We don’t have a freeze dryer, YET! But this is at the top of my list of tools to add to our kitchen.
Freeze drying is the method that will make your food last the longest. Some foods will last up to 25 years!
The process essentially lowers food to below freezing, and removes all moisture and liquid from foods. Those foods can then be easily stored in jars or mylar bags for a very long time. This method of food preservation prevents the loss of nutrients while preserving the shape and color.
Freeze dryers are pricey. Like most equipment, it’s important to do your research, and buy reliable machines from reliable companies. So ask around and read up!
We used this method often for freezing our meats. I was gifted a vacuum sealer and continue to use it when buying meat in bulk. Not only does the meat last longer, but I can separate it into family meal sizes for a single meal.
Vacuum sealing removes the oxygen from the food storage bag which prevents bacteria build up and chemical reactions that cause food to spoil. Vacuum sealing is also a great way to keep you long term food storage items safe from moisture and critters.
We store our long term food storage items in mylar bags that are vacuum sealed. Examples of those food items include beans, rice, flour, oats, wheat berries, etc.
In our long term food storage mylar bags, we add oxygen absorber packets to help with any remaining oxygen we may not have removed.
You can also get vacuum seal attachments that will allow you to remove air from jars. Which can provide you another option for storing your food.
Freezing food can be one of the fastest ways to put up food and keep it for almost a year (most food).
Unfortunately, this can be unreliable if you do not have a back up power source and lose power. We have a back up generator. I highly recommend the investment, because it is an insurance policy for your food – especially meat.
Most vegetables and fresh fruits can be frozen in bags. Some, however, may need to be laid flat on a baking sheet to freeze before going in a bag. This will prevent them from sticking together.
Some vegetables need to be blanched in hot water before freezing them. Be sure to check online before you start throwing your good food in the freezer!
Foods we preserve by freezing include green beans, broccoli, corn, bell peppers, shredded zucchini and more!
Final Thoughts of Preserving Food
Preserving the harvest prevents food (that you worked hard for) from being wasted, and provides your family with food until the next growing season.
To plan accordingly, spend a few seasons figuring out what your family will eat, how much they eat, and how to preserve it. Your goal is to have the food last until the next year’s garden provides.
Start with one skill and start small. Preserving food doesn’t have to be done all at once. For us, it started with dehydrating and vacuum sealing. Then I began water bath canning and pressure canning.
No matter where you are in your journey to become self-sufficient, preserving food is achievable.
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