The Best Food Preservation Methods
What Are the Best Methods to Preserve Your Food?
Anyone who's invested time in learning how to work with food can attest to its inherent value. Food is a precious resource. People give it their all to cultivate and distribute crops. It's true whether we're talking about a huge farm or our own backyard gardens. The sheer inherent value of food means that it's equally important to avoid wasting it. Most of us know that we can usually store and preserve food. However, we'll soon see how different methods of preservation can work with different needs to produce the best results.
- Berries. High in fiber, berries are naturally sweet, and their rich colors mean they are high in antioxidants and disease-fighting nutrients.
- Fish. Fish can be a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease.
- Olive oil. Olive oil is a good source of vitamin E, polyphenols, and monounsaturated fatty acids, all which help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Leafy greens. Dark, leafy greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, as well as several phytochemicals (chemicals made by plants that have a positive effect on your health). They also add fiber into the diet.
- Nuts. Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans — nuts are a good source of plant protein. They also contain monounsaturated fats, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Freezing is the easiest and most commonly known form of food preservation. However, people's familiarity with freezing can be something of a problem. Everyone knows how to freeze food. But not everyone knows how to freeze food properly.
The first thing to keep in mind is that food needs to be properly protected against the dry air of a freezer. One should always protect food from freezer burn by properly wrapping or storing it before freezing. You can usually just keep liquids in tupperware or the like. You should wrap protein heavy foods, bread and rice with plastic wrap and then wrap it all over again with foil.
A common trick is to wrap up a single serving and then place them all within a larger freezer safe bag. This method of storage simplifies the reheating process. Fruit and vegetables should ideally be frozen individually and then put together into a larger freezer safe bag. This will prevent the food from clumping together into an unappetizing vegetable mash when reheated.
Dehydration is a great way to preserve food while also decreasing overall weight. The dehydration process will usually make items smaller, lighter and viable for about five years. The process works quite well for any food which will be stored at home. However, it's especially ideal if you want to bring food along for hiking, camping or hunting.
There are many different ways to dehydrate food. However, in the vast majority of cases it's faster, easier and more efficient to use a food dehydrator. These machines vastly cut down on the overall amount of time and effort needed to dehydrate food.
Adding additional salt can help the dehydration process. This process is known as salting. People typically use salting with meats to produce jerky.
Canning was the preservation method of choice before freezers became widespread. The basic principle of canning is the same whether it's home canning or the various goods which line store shelves. You simply need to create an environment where the bacteria which would normally break down food can't live. It's easy to do this with some foods with standard jars on an oven.
However, if you want to improve the range of foods and your overall efficiency than a pressure cooker is your best friend. Canning is traditionally and most easily done with fairly acidic foods. This includes berries, cucumbers and tomatoes. The most important factor is keeping acidity high enough to help fight against bacteria. The lower a food's Ph value the less effective canning will be.
4. Vacuum sealing
Vacuum sealing is a relatively new method of food preservation. You'll typically want to use this method alongside freezing. The main benefits of vacuum sealing are twofold. The first benefit comes from simplifying the packaging process. Vacuum sealing offers fantastic protection against freezer burn. Next, vacuum sealing keeps food fresh longer than simply putting it into the freezer or refrigerator.
The only downside is that you'll need to buy a vacuum sealing machine. Thankfully these machines are usually fairly inexpensive. Vacuum sealing will add a little extra prep time for any given item. However, it's a solid secondary method to improve the quality of your food in the long term.
Microorganisms are usually the bane of any type of food preservation. Most methods of preservation are based around methods to reduce the overall impact of microorganisms. For example, freezing works because microorganisms can't eat or reproduce within a frozen environment. Vacuum sealing creates an oxygen free environment which isn't compatible with most bacteria. However, fermenting instead works by helping specific beneficial microorganisms dominate the environment.
Yeasts or lactic acid bacteria are cultivated within a specific type of food or beverage. The end result will be specific types of food which have a deliciously unique flavor. Beer and wine are the most obvious examples of fermentation. But the process is also used to produce cheeses and cured meats.
Jamming only works with a small amount of food. However, when jamming or jellying works the results are fantastic. You simply cook fruit in sugar until it thickens into a gel. The jamming process is often sped up through the use of pectin as an additive. However, you can still get great results with many fruits and berries without any additional pectin. This is largely due to the fact that many fruits and berries already contain enough pectin to create a jam.
Picking the best method
In the end you might wonder which of these preservation methods is best. However, it's better to ask what the best preservation method is for any particular food. All of these methods produce great results. However, not all of them are right for every food or situation.
In the end it's all about what you personally enjoy the most. Some people have fun making jam. Others might like to keep it simple and just freeze fruit instead of making jam. Yet others want to aim for perfection and combine vacuum sealing with freezing. In the end it's best to play around with these techniques and find out which you personally find the most rewarding.
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