As the harvest season draws to a close, it’s nice to have basic knowledge of the food preservation options available to you to help you stretch your gardening’s fruits out across the year. Last week on the blog, we talked about home canning, and the week before that we looked at home dehydration. In today’s post, we’ll cover the “other” category of home food preservation, including freezing, curing and smoking, and fermenting. If you are unfamiliar with any of these home preservation methods, allow us to help you get started.
Even the busiest of people have the time to throw food in the freezer for later. And most foods, from fruits and vegetables to meats and cheeses, can be frozen for a longer life. This is why freezing is definitely the most convenient modern food preservation option there is. In addition, freezing retains nutrients better than many other preservation methods, and often if you freeze produce right after you have harvested it, it will have more nutrients than produce you buy at the store, which has usually been sitting around for several days since harvesting. However, when you rely on freezing as your primary food preservation method, power outages can quickly ruin anything you’ve put away, so it’s not as reliable of a long-term method as, say, dehydrating or canning.
One of the most frequently asked questions about storing food in the freezer is How long does frozen food last? The answer is that food can last in the freezer for varying lengths of time depending on the type of food. For example, most hard cheeses can stay good in the freezer for 6-8 months, most meats for 6-9 months, and most vegetables for 8-12 months. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s recommended storage times for individual foods’ freezing storage life.
When you store food in the freezer, always remember to pack it in a tightly-sealed, moisture-resistant container. Freezer bags and plastic or glass tupperware are excellent options. Wide-mouthed mason jars can also work well. Leave a little space at the top of the package to allow for food expansion while freezing, and always label your frozen food with the date you began freezing it.
Curing and Smoking
Curing and smoking, while not necessarily long-term food storage options because cured/smoked foods usually need to be refrigerated after being cured/smoked, are included on our list today because they offer a great way to lengthen the shelf life of perishable food items like meats and cheeses. By curing and smoking your own fish and meats, you can end up with a flavorful finished product that can be refrigerated for longer enjoyment. For more information on curing and smoking, a good place to start is the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s curing and smoking pages.
Fermenting is another home food preservation method that is best followed by refrigeration, but it is a method that has been used around the world for centuries to keep vegetables for months longer than they otherwise would. If you’ve ever had yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi, you’ve been exposed to fermented foods. Fermenting vegetables basically involves soaking vegetables in brine (usually salt and water) at room temperature for a designated period of time—sometimes days, sometimes months. This process fosters the growth of good bacteria while keeping out the bad bacteria. Almost all vegetables can be fermented, and as an added bonus, fermented foods are exceptionally healthy for the body because of their high amounts of healthy bacteria. Here are a few websites to browse if you’d like to experiment with your own home food fermentation:
A Final Note about Food Preservation
All of the food preservation methods we’ve covered in the past few weeks have been HOME preservation methods. It’s a wise idea to purchase a sufficient base of food storage from food storage companies that you trust and then use home food preservation methods to add variety to your food storage reserves in an economical and efficient way. Keep in mind that technology has come a long way over the last century, and food storage shelf lives have risen to a new level. With high-tech freeze-drying equipment, food storage experts like Legacy Premium can remove enough oxygen and moisture from food to make it last in storage for 25 years plus.
Play around with all the different methods we’ve reviewed and find which works best for you. It might surprise you how many ways you can use your fresh produce to add delicious and healthy supplements to your food storage reserves.