Cygnet Brown currently lives in the Missouri Ozarks. She loves writing, researching history, and gardening.
How to Extend Your Harvest
If you read my other article on homegrown food preservation, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of eating food fresh, root-cellaring, and freezing. Even though those are good in many ways, there are disadvantages, and many of those disadvantages can be alleviated by using a form of food preservation that can extend the use of our food harvests even longer.
Processing and sealing food in airtight containers is called canning. Canning began after the French military in 1795 offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs for a new food preservation method. By 1806, Nicolas Appert had a proven method of packaging that prevented microorganisms from contaminating the food he canned. Since then, cans and jars have been used both commercially and in homes to can large quantities of all types of foods.
- Canning alters food chemically by changing the moisture, pH, or salinity levels to protect against microbes, bacteria, mold, and yeast. It also limits food enzyme activity. Combining these chemical processes with the physical barriers of glass jars, seals, and lids effectively prevents decay.
- Canning keeps canned foods on shelves for 1 to 2 years or longer.
- This process can be economical when using homegrown or locally-grown produce.
- Glass jars can break.
- Seals can be broken, causing spoilage.
- Canning is time-consuming.
- Improper methods can be dangerous. When jars fail to seal, spoilage will occur However, inadequate processing or poor sanitation can result in deadly Clostridium botulinum contamination. Strictly following instructions provided with your canner is always recommended.
- Most canning is done in the heat of summer and can increase air conditioning costs.
- Canned food does not taste as good as fresh food does.
- Food, when canned, has lower nutritional value than fresh food. Canned fruits and vegetables have 65% fewer vitamins and minerals than freshly picked ripe fruits and vegetables do.
- It also requires a significant investment of time and equipment. Using canning equipment just once or twice a season might not be often enough to defray the cost of the equipment.
- Filled canning jars are heavy and bulky. These jars require heavy-duty shelving for storage. They also are heavy to move from one location to another.
Pickling uses vinegar or brine to preserve food and extend its shelf life.
- Pickling rivals freezing, canning, and drying to prevent foods from spoiling.
- It also adds unique flavors to meals that might otherwise be boring.
- Many fermented foods are also good sources of nutrients, including vitamins, amino acids, and healthy bacteria.
- Pickle juice can be used to facilitate hydration and can be used to decrease muscle cramps caused by heat.
- Allows food such as cucumbers and zucchini, and summer squash to be preserved longer than the food could be eaten fresh.
- Pickling alters the taste of foods permanently; therefore, the pickled item might not be a possible consideration as a substitute for a fresh ingredient in a recipe.
- High-sodium products like pickles can cause higher blood pressure, so moderate your pickle consumption.
- Like canning, it requires the expense of jars, lids, and other canning equipment. However, unlike canning, pickling does not require the use of a pressure canner.
Removing water from food and thereby inhibiting bacterial growth in foods is the method of food preservation known as drying. This method has been around since ancient times. Today solar or electric food dehydrators are used to speed this drying process and make it possible to dry food even in humid conditions.
- Dried foods, if stored properly, can keep indefinitely.
- Dried foods are extremely lightweight and can be moved easily. Drying foods can weigh as little as 10% of what the fresh food weighed before the drying process.
- Drying foods can be a great way to save foods that are bought in excess. For instance, when we buy a stalk of celery, we don't use all of it. The rest we can dry to use in soups at a later time.
- Dried fruits are a sweet alternative to sugary treats, and dried herbs and vegetables add flavor to otherwise boring foods.
- Dried food does not taste the same as fresh food does.
- Moisture can cause dried foods left in the food in the drying process or allowed in during storage can cause mold on food.
- Overly dried fruits, vegetables, and meats can be exceptionally hard, often to the point where they do not soften. The texture is often noticeably changed. Jerky, for instance, will never be made into a regular piece of meat. Fruit leathers will never become fruit or fruit sauce again. The dried product would rot before it softened.
- Dehydrated foods have had all the water removed, so be sure to increase fluid intake if consuming large quantities of dried foods.
The process of burning or smoldering plants to flavor, cook, or preserve food is known as smoking. In the United States and other parts of North America, mesquite, hickory, mesquite, pecan, oak, alder, maple, and fruit-tree woods, such as apple, cherry, and plum, are used for smoking.
- Smoking kills certain bacteria and slows down the growth of others. It prevents fats from becoming rancid and prevents mold from forming on fermented sausages. It extends the shelf life of the product.
- The smell and flavor of smoked meat are appetizing. Smoking changes the color of the meat and makes meats shine and appear redder and more appealing.
- The process requires constant attention and equipment that can be costly. It is difficult to keep the food moist due to the low moisture content in the smoker, and it is also difficult not to contaminate meat flavor. Problems can occur if the fire is too hot (cooking the meat before it is properly smoked) or if there is not enough smoke or heat (the meat goes bad before it can be smoked).
- Statistical correlations exist that indicate that smoked foods may contain carcinogens. The smoking process contaminates food with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contaminate food when food is smoked. Some experts believe that when smoked foods are consumed, it increases gastrointestinal cancer risks. Not everyone, however, agrees that the evidence is definitive.
Knowing Your Food Preservation Options
As you have seen, no one type of food preservation is best for every situation. Perhaps you'll start by trying to simply grow your own food to eat fresh, and that's fine, but when you have more than your family can eat at one time, it's nice to know that it does not have to go to waste. There are several ways to extend the life of what is left over!
Questions & Answers
Question: What about salting method of preserving food?
Answer: I have personally never used it much which is why I did not include it in the article. I have used salt in the pickling process and have used it to make sauerkraut, which I then canned, but never exclusively. However, I do believe that if you place meat between layers of salt, it will dry it out.
Question: Is this thesis regarding home preservation methods based on real research?
Answer: This is based on my own actual experience. I have used all of these home preservation methods.
Question: Have you ever been caught by the food preservative disadvantages you list in this article?
Answer: Yes, some, others I learned from others who have had these happen to them.