MINIMAL PROCESSING – ROOT CELLARS, COOL STORAGE AND ROOM TEMPERATURE STORAGE
Cool storage and room temperature storage are the easiest home food preservation options. This includes cool, dry storage, such as an unheated pantry or porch, and root cellaring, i.e., cool, damp storage. “Root cellars” type storage areas may include: root cellars, unheated basement space, crawl space, in ground “clamps” (holes or trenches for food storage) other options.
Food drying is one of the oldest home food preservation methods. Food can be dried using: Commercial dehydrators, such as the Excalibur or American Harvest Dehydrator, Solar dehydrators, Sun Ovens, Baking sheets in the oven, Air drying/hang drying. Dried foods are great when storage space is tight, but not all foods dehydrate well. Store dehydrated foods in a cool, dry location in an airtight container for longest shelf life.
CANNING – WATER BATH CANNING
Water bath canning uses a large stockpot or kettle with a lid. Jars sit in a canning rack (or other material) so they are not directly in contact with the bottom of the pot, and are covered with at least two inches of water. Water bath canning preserves high acid foods (pH of 4.6 or lower), such as: Fruits, Jams, jellies and other spreads, Tomatoes (with added acid) Pickles and relishes.
Freezing foods doesn’t need much specialised equipment, so it’s easy for beginners. Before freezing, most vegetables require blanching or cooking. This stops enzyme action and ensures good quality. Fruits are frozen “as is”, or with sugars or antioxidants to extend storage life and slow discoloration. With both fruit and vegetable preservation, I like to freeze foods on a cookie sheet and then pack them into vacuum sealed packages for long term storage.
Fermentation changes low acid foods into high acid foods, giving them a longer shelf life to store “as is”, or allowing them to be canned in a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner. Food ferments through the use of salt, whey or specific starter cultures. This makes it easier to digest and more nutritious. Fermented food is also known as “live culture food”.
PRESERVING IN SALT AND SUGAR
Preserving foods in salt and sugar was more common before modern canning, freezing and dehydrating were available. Salt and sugar draw liquid out of the food. This interferes with microbe growth. Bacteria and moulds need water to grow, just like us. Because they dramatically change flavour and texture, salt and sugar preserving are useful for those with adventurous palates.
Microbes can’t survive in a high acid environment, so vinegar can be used for food preservation without heating/canning. Think old-fashioned pickle barrel.