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Preserving Food, Basic Methods

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

There are a variety of ways to preserve your food without all the chemicals or cost of the pre-packaged varieties. Food can be frozen, canned, pickled or dried, and will keep anywhere from several weeks to a few years.

Some methods will alter the food a bit, sometimes making it better, or a whole new treat on its own. Some things won't be altered at all, and some will only really be good cooked in something. Experimentation will be necessary to figure out what fits best into your schedule.

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Freezing Foods

Freezing is a great way of preserving foods. Freezing basically pauses the deterioration of most foods, and greatly slows it in others. It is usually cheaper to buy produce pre-frozen, or in bulk when it's on sale if you decide on freezing.

Frozen foods aren't nearly as likely to spoil durings hipping. Seasonal produce can also be kept more freely available frozen, so it tends to cost less. Freezing is a great option for leftovers, or even home-made TV dinners. It allows you to become your own personal chef.

Freezing does tend to cause frostbite and foods drying out, however. Some foods have to be placed further from the door or they could defrost and re-freeze, which can cause spoiling, freezer burn, and occasionally mold.Freezing is the easiest method, but it needs to be done properly to be effective. Proper freezing merely requires freezing the meats or vegetables individually and then bagging them together once frozen.

Here are some tips for successful freezing:

  • Some foods,especially produce, will freeze better if they have been cut up.
  • Most meals and leftovers can just be bagged or put into an airtight container and frozen as is.
  • Rice and pasta tend to dry out quickly unless covered in sauce.
  • Liquids need some air at the top as they will expand when frozen.
  • To avoid frostbite, make sure you get as much air as possible out of the containers.
  • With liquids you will probably have to experiment a little to figure out just how much air is needed.
  • Foods with frostbite are still safe to eat, but they do NOT taste the same.

Canning and Pickling

Canning and pickling are two other great options. The difference is the seal.

  • Pickling is immersing a food into an acidic or sugary liquid. The acids and sugars prevent bacteria from getting to the actual food.
  • Canning is giving it an airtight seal and a quick scalding. This prevents airborne bacteria from getting in the container in the first place, and kills of a good deal of the bacteria already in the food.

When combined, this method of preservation can last for ten years or or more. This is however the most time and work consuming method. The foods must be prepared, usually to the recipe exactly. If you stray far from the recipe the food will not preserve or seal properly. You then fill the jars and cap them with new lids.

It's very hard to find old fashioned lids, and they were much more work than the new ones. You can reuse the jars,but you do need new lids every time. For canning, the jars are then either immersed in boiling water or in a pressure canner/cooker for a certain amount of time. They then need to be removed from the liquid and set to 'rest' until the lids pop down.

The lids pop as the air inside the jar cools and shrinks. The pop lets you know that the can has sealed. If the can didn't seal it's contents need to kept in the fridge and eaten. The sealed ones can be kept almost anywhere except the freezer. They will explode in the freezer.

Drying

Drying is another way to preserve food. This is about as difficult as freezing, but a little more time consuming. The food will need to be prepared. Fruits and veggies are usually sliced or cut up into chunks. Meats will need to be cut up and salted. The big deal here is no seeds, pits or bones. If you don't like skins those need to go too. You will want as uniform pieces as possible, more so with an electric dehydrator or oven than with air drying.

Produce should be dipped into an acidic solution, like lemon or pineapple juice, for color retention. Honey will also work. While this is not necessary, it does help keep the color and preserve the flavors of the foods longer. A sulfur dioxide treatment can also be used, but takes much more work. After the food has been treated, it can be dried in a commercial dehydrator, a low temp oven, or sun dried outside.
There are a few different types of directions for a solar dehydrators online, but if you live in a hot climate, a cake pan covered loosely with plastic or glass will work just as well. The cover isn't necessary, but the local squirrels and birds will consider the lack of a cover to be a dinner invitation.
Preserving your own foods is a great way to save money and eat healthy. If you combine any of these methods with bulk-purchasing or even your own garden, you will have given yourself much more control over your grocery budget, menu, and be able to keep specific foods on
hand year round.

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    • Angela Biggs profile image

      Angela Biggs 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I really need some advice. I am a newbie in cooking and faced lots of tremors. Wasting flour like everyday. Some of my vegetables dried up and some got stale. Food preservation is my new agenda :) Nice hub Marey !

    • profile image

      kim jason pador 5 years ago

      thanks for this information and even if its short,i still finished my assignment

    • profile image

      milkshake 5 years ago

      thanks heaps!!!! going to try preserving some stuff today :)

      do u know like a list of fruits that are good to preserve?????? THANKS!!!!!

    • profile image

      NAT 5 years ago

      thanks

    • filipinofoods profile image

      filipinofoods 5 years ago from Philippines

      I learned a lot from this hub! Keep up the good writing!

    • profile image

      Emily 5 years ago

      For preserving in Sulphur dioxide do you know how much to use and how long I should dip it? I'm keen to try it with bananas!

    • profile image

      diane cruz 5 years ago

      ok,thanks for sharing this information........

    • ellahall2011 profile image

      ellahall2011 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Balinese profile image

      Balinese 6 years ago from Ireland

      great hub- as i have to freeze my food to save time

      thanks for sharing

      Balinese

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      Hi MARYA,

      Am so happy and delighted to come across your hub after a long period of time and am so much and greatly informed from this particular article about food preservation.Nice write up which am rating high.

    • RalphGreene profile image

      RalphGreene 6 years ago

      Very cool post, informative article.

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

      Wonderful suggestion which i enjoyed coming across Marya.Quite appreciate the good job you did in here.A very big thank you for enlightening me the more on the basic methods of food preserving.

    • profile image

      blossom 6 years ago

      like..........awesom....need 4 school

    • profile image

      TZH 6 years ago

      thank you for the helpful tips! I'm learning how to preserve food in case of long power outages. Would you have any ideas on what foods are the most nutritious or ideal? Lets say that you've got a long term outtage or calamity and your stocked food helps keep a balanced diet and augments what you are able to forage.

    • profile image

      big mic 6 years ago

      thanks for the info i neaded it for school work and i could show my mum this aswell. BY!!!!!!!!!!=]

    • profile image

      lovely!! 7 years ago

      hiiii

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 7 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      another method is by salting which can be commonly used in preserving fish or meat products.

    • profile image

      eula 7 years ago

      hi your pictures are so cute

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      I remember my mother doing all of this. One of these days I'll have a kitchen where I can get all this accomplished.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Interesting. My wife and I work in our kitchen a lot. GBY

    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 7 years ago from Texas

      Great post. I have been canning and freezing food for many years. Not sure about dehydrating foods...can they be rehydrated? Something to look into. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • ghaining profile image

      ghaining 8 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Interesting post. Thanks for the info.

    • profile image

      Nelle Hoxie 8 years ago

      These are very good suggestions. I have a large garden and use a variety of techniques from freezing to canning to preserve fruits and vegetables. Freezing is more convenient, but we have experienced prolonged power outages and lost a great deal of frozen food to spoilage.

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