Food Preserving Methods

Enjoy produce all year long by preserving! Whether you have a glut in home-grown produce during the peak of season, or found some great deals from local growers/stores, there are LOTS of ways you can preserve fresh produce! A variety of preserving methods are listed below, see which ones you and your family enjoy for different types of fresh produce. Not only will it save you money and be healthier for you, you will have lots of fun learning along the way!
       
ALWAYS follow a recommended recipe when canning
to ensure it is safe for shelf storage.
           
Boiling Water Canning
Also known as hot water bath canning, or pasteurization. Could be shortened to HWB in recipes.
High acid foods are processed in a hot water bath canner before shelf storage.
Examples include chutney, fruit butter, jams jelly, pickles, relish, salsa and some sauces as well as most fruits (usually in syrup or juice) that can be whole, halved, sliced or stewed.
By boiling the fruit to make jam, you are reducing the water content and the high temperature kills the bacteria. The high amount of sugar in jam, combined with natural or added pectin helps it to "gel" (set) and stops the re-growth of harmful bacteria. The tight vacuum seal formed during HWB means the bacteria have no air to grow in, and also stops any bacteria from entering the jar (recontamination). HWB is a great way to preserve fruits during the peak season to enjoy all year long.
Always follow a recommended recipe when HWB canning to ensure it is safe for shelf storage and label then store safely. Foods sealed via hot water bath canning often keep for 12 months or more in a dark, dry, cool place (like your pantry) and are refrigerated once opened.
      
Pressure Canning
Also known as a steam pressure canner, could be shortened to PC in recipes.
Low acid food are processed in a pressure canner before shelf storage.
Examples include soup, stock, stews/meals, vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood.
The high temperature and pressure not only cooks the food through to the centre (and killing any harmful bacteria), it also creates a very tight vacuum seal to prevent recontamination and spoilage. Home canning (compared to commercial "tin" canning) will result in a dish that won't taste "tinny" and will smell the same as when you canned it.  Always follow a recommended recipe when pressure canning to ensure it is safe for shelf storage and label then store safely. Foods sealed via pressure canning often keep for 12 months or more in a dark, dry, cool place (like your pantry) and are refrigerated once opened.
   
Cheesemaking, Yoghurt, etc.
Methods of preserving milk in another form, the resulting product must be kept refrigerated. Some methods only keep for a short while (ie. buttermilk), others can be refrigerated for weeks/months (refer to individual recipes for storage), and some can also be frozen.
Examples include butter, buttermilk, yoghurt, yoghurt cheese and MANY cheese varieties.
Always follow a recommended recipe when making cheese and other milk products, and label then store safely in the refrigerator.
   
  
  
Curing, Smoking, Small Goods
Long term meat preservation via exposure to smoke from burning wood.
Examples include cured/smoked meats and fish, or smoked fruits, vegetables, cheeses, spices and tea leaves.
Always follow a recommended recipe when smoking/curing, and label then store safely as the recipe states.
   
 
 
 
Dehydration
Also known as drying or dried foods.
Examples include dried fruits, dried vegetables, dried legumes, jerky, dried herbs, etc.
By removing the moisture content of produce, bacteria cannot grow and become inactive. Some foods can be left whole (ie. apricots), others can be sliced, cut into pieces or diced before dehydrating by placing into a low heated oven or dehydrator. Store dried foods in an airtight container. Dried food is eaten as is, or rehydrated before consumption.
Since most bacteria die or become completely inactive when dried, dried foods kept in air-tight containers can last quite a long time. Always check dried foods regularly for spoilage, and label before storing.
      
Ethanol (Alcohol) Fermentation
Using yeasts to convert sugars, starches and carbohydrates found in the food into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Examples of fermented foods include: beans, beer, bread, brined vegetables, kombucha, mead, salami, sauerkraut, sourdough, sprouted grains, vinegar, wine.
Fermentation methods: using a starter culture (which contains the yeast) or curing in a brine solution. The starter culture can be purchased or you can often using a little from a previous batch. Curing in a brine solution (salt + water + sometimes sugar and/or spices) results in a naturally fermented or pickle-tasting product without the addition of vinegar like pickling does. The fermentation method you use depends on what food you are fermenting, so refer to a recommended fermenting recipe and follow steps accordingly.
ie. apples: fermenting apples makes apple cider, then you can make apple cider vinegar.
ie. sourdough bread: yeast eats the sugar and creates carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. The carbon dioxide gas is what causes the bread to rise (the alcohol is burned off during baking).
ie. wine: fermenting grape juice creates alcohol. This will store for a LONG time without refrigeration, whereas grape juice needs to be canned, frozen or consumed within a few days. Always follow a recommended recipe when fermenting, and label then store safely as the recipe states.
  
Lacto-fermentation (probiotics)
Also known as lactic acid fermentation.
Using "good" fermenting bacteria (ie. Lactobacillus) and enzymes to convert sugars, starches and carbohydrates found in the food into lactic acid.
Examples: fermented dairy products (ie. cheese, yoghurt), kimchi, kefir, cucumbers, carrots, beets, green beans, pearl onions, radishes, tomatoes.
Food is placed in a brine (water + salt mixture) and set aside to develop lactic acid which preserves the food and prevents bad bacteria growth (which would cause spoilage). You will know if it has gone bad as it will smell bad! Always follow a recommended recipe when lacto-fermenting, and label then store safely as the recipe states.
      
Freezing
Storing food in the freezer.
Examples: almost all types of food can be frozen, including drinks, meats (raw and cooked), fruits, vegetables, meals, pesto, egg whites, oils, etc.
Freezing stops all bacteria (they cannot survive nor multiply in the freezing cold temperature), and freezing does not change the texture or taste of uncooked meat. However, note that most fruits and a few vegetables can become mushy - others may need blanching prior to freezing such as beans or potatoes. Don't forget to label and date food before freezing.   
  
Pickling
Similar to fermentation, food is pickled in a combination of vinegar, salt and sometimes sugar and spices too.
Examples: pickled cucumbers, pickled vegetables (many types).
Pickled cucumbers are made by soaking in salt to remove moisture, then packed in a vinegar mixture (often with added spices) and sometimes sugar to preserve them. The vinegar solution stops bacterial growth. Pickles are packed into jars and sealed via hot water bath canning (see above). Always follow a recommended recipe when pickling, and label then store safely as the recipe states (either HWB canning or refrigerating).
       
Refrigeration
The most common food preserving method is to store food in the refrigerator.
Examples: almost all types of food can be refrigerated, including drinks, meats (raw and cooked), fruits, vegetables, meals, pesto, egg whites, oils, etc
Refrigeration (cold temperature) slows down the bad bacterial growth greatly, so food lasts 10 or more times longer than room temperature. Label raw meat etc so they are only stored for a day or two in the refrigerator prior to being cooked and consumed. Refrigeration does not affect flavour or texture.
  
 
 
 
Root Cellaring
Storing root vegetables in a cool, dark place, such as an underground cellar.
There are many types of root cellars you can build (or buy), research thoroughly to decide on the size root cellar you require and always label food clearly to reduce spoilage. 

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