Photo by Ray Shrewsbury, Unsplash
The world is learning how to preserve food, whether as a hobby or to be prepared in case of disaster. Perhaps it’s a good idea to follow this trend yourself? You never know when an earthquake or flood will hit—and you may just discover you have a talent for creating delicious, canned treats.
What are the ways you can preserve food? By sealing, canning, fermenting and freezing, you can lengthen the life of food—sometimes for years. Before you look for that heat sealing machine, read on for expert tips.
Sealing Your Food
One of the ways to keep food longer is to vacuum seal it. You buy your goods in bulk, like meat and cheese, cut it up into portions, and then seal it in plastic with your machine. The idea is to eliminate all the air as you do so, because air oxidises food, which leads to it spoiling.
You can keep your sealed goods in the freezer, and only open it when needed. Be sure to put the date on first, so you know how long each item has been in storage.
You can also cook a meal, and divide it into portions, sealing each portion before freezing. This enables you to reheat a meal on your own, or have several portions ready for different members of the family. It’s great having this one hand when you don’t feel like cooking one evening.
Another idea for sealing is to freeze fresh goods such as herbs. This is ideal when you buy a bunch of coriander, and you only need a handful. Save the rest for later by sealing and freezing. It will last weeks or months.
Fermenting Your Food
Fermenting your food may sound awful, but there are health benefits that outweigh even normal fresh food. With fruit or vegetables fermenting, probiotics and bacteria that are excellent for the gut develop. And you only need a small quantity of the fermented food to produce a good effect.
The idea behind fermenting is to prolong the freshness of grains, vegetables, and milk. In fact, you can even ferment meat. The benefits may include:
- Better digestion and cognition
- Boosting immunity
- Treating irritable bowel disease
- Providing minerals for bone density
- Helping fight allergies
- Killing harmful yeast and microbes
You can ferment drinks such as kefir or kombucha. The sugar promotes the fermentation process. Yes, kombucha many contain small amounts of alcohol, but it’s not really noticeable.
Then you can ferment your vegetables. To do that, you use salt. One such delicious recipe is that of salsa. Basically, you combine all your ingredients in your canning jar, and pack it down. You then add 4 teaspoons of salt per one litre jar of vegetables. Wait for it to ferment.
You have to burp it every day, until the carbon dioxide produced by the lactic acid bacteria no longer comes out. Air is your enemy once again, so make sure you don’t open your jar too much, or you could cause spoilage through oxygen coming back in again.
This process is called lactic acid fermentation and the food will last months, especially if kept cool.
Canning Your Food
There is an art to canning that you don’t want to get wrong. Nothing is more disheartening than seeing mould on the top of your canning jar after a couple of months.
The trick is not only in the cleanliness of the jar and lid before use, but also in the boiling thereafter. The process is as follows:
- Sterilise your bottle in the microwave for one minute, not forgetting to add a spoonful of water before doing so.
- Boil your lids in a pot of water for 10 minutes for the same reason.
- Pack your still hot jar to ¼ inch from the top.
- Wipe the edge of the jar to remove all traces of spillage.
- Add the canning lid.
- Place in a canning pot or large pot.
- Cook as per canning pot directions, or boil in a large pot for 1 hour.
Key to success is not to fill the water up to the lid, or the food will spoil. You then take the cans out the water. Experts recommend cooling it down slowly under a blanket.
Make sure to wear gloves and use rubberised tongs when handling the jars, as they will be exceedingly hot.
The food will last months, especially if kept cool and out of light. Your food won’t expire, but it may start to lose nutritional value if left for longer than that.
Preserving your food takes a little time and effort, but it’s worth doing in the long run. If you’re going to start out, make sure you purchase a vacuum sealer machine, canning jars, packers and lids, and a canning pot if possible.
Of course, you could also make jam to preserve your fruit, or rolled dried fruit. The ways to keep food fresh for long are endless. Start getting creative now.