Whether you have an overflowing home garden, bought too much produce at the grocery store or are wondering what to do with surplus herbs on your windowsill, simple food preservation methods can help you save ingredients, as well as retain their nutrition value, for months to come. Learning how to preserve food at home is easy with these simple techniques!
There are multiple reasons to consider learning to preserve food at home. This process:
What you need to preserve food depends on which method you are using, but a basic food preserving setup can include:
These are some of our favourite methods we use on a regular basis.
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Freezing is the most basic and accessible way to preserve your own food with a minimal amount of specialty equipment.
You can freeze ingredients whole or chopped, freeze partially made or fully made recipes to use later, or freeze kitchen scraps or stray ingredients for homemade broth.
Some of the things we like to freeze are:
Whatever you are freezing, be sure to label the name of the item and the date you are putting it into the freezer. You don’t want to forget what’s in your container or how long it’s been there, or defrost the wrong thing because of misindentification.
The only downside to freezing food is if you don’t have enough freezer space. It helps to take inventory of your freezer items and consume them regularly (don’t make the freezer a place where foods you don’t want to eat go to collect freezer burn!). That way, you have an ongoing rotation of items coming and going, as opposed to only being stacked and forgotten. Meal prep and menu planning are key!
Photo: Brooke Lark on Unsplash
We adore fermented foods because of their benefits to digestive health and the immune system. We prefer fermenting produce over pickling, as fermentation yields probiotic advantages. Pickled foods, on the other hand, are brined in vinegar so you aren’t gleaning those benefits.
We are firm believers that you can lacto-ferment almost any seasonal produce into pickles. Veggies tend be easier to ferment than fruits and require less diligent monitoring (as the sugars in fruits yield very, very quick fermentation). However, there are some specialized fruit fermentation recipes such as kombucha and switchel that are delicious!
Learn to make your own pickles here. And be sure to save and sip the pickle juice!
Other fermentation projects we love are:
Ready to start fermenting? Try our self-paced Fundamentals of Fermentation course!
Dehydrating is one of the oldest forms of preserving food. Dehydrating is simply drying a food out until you’ve removed most of the moisture. Historically, cultures used the sun to dehydrate food. We can still do this, though there are some handy tools available now that quicken the process such as food dehydrators and oven drying.
If you’re following a raw food diet, the general consensus is that food shouldn’t be dehydrated higher than 118 degrees. The lower the temperature, the longer it will take for the food to dry.
Note that animal products for items like jerky should be dehydrated at a higher temperature, such as 155 degrees or above, to prevent any pathogens from developing.
Depending on the recipe, you’ll want to be mindful of the temperature you use and how long you dehydrate (as some recipes will yield a crunchy result, while others need to be more pliable and chewy).
A food dehydrator’s maximum temperature is usually about 155–165 degrees and allows for all-around air circulation. Your oven’s lowest temperature is much higher, typically about 200 degrees and unless you have a convection oven (or a convection oven setting), you may not get as much air flow.
You can use your oven for dehydration by setting the oven at its lowest temperature and cracking the door at the top to help the heat escape.
Some dehydrator recipes we love are:
We are on a mission to help people tincture at home! Tinctures are a solution of alcohol or alcohol and water, along with the plant that you’re using for medicinal benefits. The alcohol helps to extract constituents from ingredients that may not be readily soluble in water.
Tinctures usually take longer to make, anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to fully saturate the liquid with the plant medicine (think of vanilla extract, for example). But they are very low maintenance!
If you like the idea of herbal medicine but aren’t sure where to start, Everyday Herbal takes the overwhelm out of making remedies!
Canning is a newer, high-heat preserving method in which foods are sealed in airtight containers to prevent them from spoiling. Foods can be canned using water or pressure, and canned foods last for a long time, anywhere from months to years.
Canning to preserve food at home is something we have the least experience with at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, as the high heats and the perils of spoilage are a deterrent for us to do this in our home kitchen!
We highly recommend our friends over at Well Preserved (and their cookbook Batch) to learn more about canning.
If you grow your own food, don’t forget to save your seeds! With seed saving, you’re hanging on to the most important part of the plant to use in the next growing season. How to save your seeds will depend on what you’re growing, and each plant may have different requirements. Plants with seeds that are fairly easy to save are beans, peas, tomatoes, squash and peppers.
These are some quick tips to get you started:
With these easy methods to preserving food at home, you can get the most out of the delicious ingredients you buy!
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