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Three Ways To Preserve Food
Cherry tomatoes waiting to be dehydrated.
Just a century or two ago, a family would not have survived the winter without going to great lengths to preserve the summer and fall harvest. Preserving food was necessary to everyone's survival. In this century however, it seems to be a lost art. Food preservation is still a wonderful thing for a person to do though. There are even some choices as to how you want to preserve your food.
Freezing is the most frequently used option when it comes to preserving food. You can freeze almost any fruit or vegetable, with the exception of lettuce, potatoes and maybe a few others. If you take the proper steps in freezing fruits and vegetables they will last in your freezer for many months. Some foods have to be blanched first and others don't. Some need the peel off and some are fine with it on. Whatever you decide to freeze, make sure it is airtight and it will last longer.
I like freezing foods because it is fairly simple. It usually requires the least amount of work of the three food preservation options. I have found that it takes up a lot of space though, so I can't freeze everything. It also requires electricity to keep it frozen, whereas the other options don't use any energy once the foods are preserved. This means that you typically have to remember to thaw whatever it is that you want to eat that day. It also doesn't do you much good in a power outage.
Canning foods is probably the second most popular option, however it is very time consuming and requires certain equipment and pricey jars. I think that it stores very well though and is perfect for grabbing and eating either straight from the jar or after a quick reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. Canned foods are perfect for power outages.
Some foods like jam and jelly can be canned using the inversion method, which does not require a canner. A water bath canner is your cheapest canner out there and will can highly acidic foods just fine. Low acid foods need a pressure canner and will be your costliest option. If you are in the market for a canner ask some older friends or relatives, they might have one they aren't using. I have my grandmother's pressure canner and it works like a charm still - at least 50 years later.
Dehydrating foods (or drying) is the third option for food preservation. I am in the process of my first attempt at drying. Supposedly you can just use your oven on a very low setting however it is taking me forever right now to dry some cherry tomatoes. I thought it would be quick and simple to make sun dried tomatoes in my oven however I am now on day 5 and they still aren't dry.
I think having a food dehydrator is the best option if you really want to dry a lot of foods. It is simple and once you have the foods in the oven or dehydrator you don't have to do anything but wait. Not all foods are a good option for drying, but once dry they store very easily and can be eaten in the dried state or be rehydrated. Once rehydrated though, I think dried foods would be best cooked in a recipe and not eaten plain. You can even make fruit leather, which is what is tempting me to actually buy a dehydrator, since obviously my oven isn't doing the trick.
So there you have it, your options for preserving food. The fall harvest is upon us at the moment and I have way more than we could eat right now. Putting extra food up for the winter, when you can't grow your own, or buy the best produce from the store is a great way to make your harvest last longer and feed your family good nutritious foods - preserved with lots of love and care.