Preserving and storing food is becoming a bit of a lost art and it’s a shame. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers all saw the inherent economic and practical value in learning to preserve food and teaching their daughters to do the same. Some may say that this skill is not as important in this day and age but I think self sufficiency is always important.
What do you do when you come across a great deal at the grocery store or the farmers market? What do you do when you’re offered a deal on a bushel of produce that you can’t pass up? What do you do when you have a bumper crop of green beans, squash or tomatoes? There’s only so much of any one food you can eat before you lose a taste for it or it begins to go bad. If you know how to preserve it, you can put it up and use it throughout the year. It is a common sense skill we need to utilize.
A great place to start is by freezing food. It is so easy anyone can do it. Just cook up your harvest in some of your favorite freezer friendly foods, or clean and blanch them before tossing them in the freezer. Blanching veggies is important because it stops enzymatic action (preserving flavor, color, texture) and it removes bacteria.
Freezing is also a great way to store fruits like berries and peaches that don’t last long once they are ripe. The only real disadvantage to freezing food is that you’re limited by the amount of room you have in your freezer. Be sure to get in the habit of labelling frozen food well (with dates) so you know what it is before you pull it out to thaw and how long you have had it.
Canning is one of the most versatile ways to preserve food. You can make and can anything from jelly and pie filling to chili and green beans. Canning is perhaps most awesome because it does not require any space in your fridge or freezer. You can store your canned goods in the pantry, in a root cellar, on shelves in the kitchen, or in your basement. Heck, you can keep canned goods under the spare bed if your are running out of room! Properly canned food stores a lot longer than any other method and that is a great way to preserve your harvest and feed your family all year long.
If you don’t have a lot of space, consider dehydrating food. You can start by using your oven on the lowest setting. Try dehydrating some apple slices, or any type of food to use in baking and cereal throughout the year. Then explore further and come up with fun snacks like kale chips, fruit leather, and even dried veggies that you can use in soup.
Another favorite old-fashioned way to preserve food is to pickle it. Pickling involves submerging the produce in a brine made of salt, sugar, water, and various pickling spices. The most common pickled item is of course pickles and it’s a great place to start. But don’t stop there. You can pickle peppers, okra, cabbage, carrots, and a wide variety of other veggies and even fruits. Play with it and see what you like. Pickled veggies make a great addition to sandwiches and salads throughout the year. Once you start pickling you might just decide you need to try fermentation on a grander scale. It’s a slippery slope, you have been warned.
Cold Store It
Last but not least let’s talk about the simplest way to store food. Things like root vegetables, apples, and cabbages store well in a dry, cool, and dark place. This used to the reason most houses had a root cellars. Today your pantry might be a good place to store this type of food. If you’re lucky enough to have a basement, you can set up some shelves to keep a lot of produce for months to come.
Take steps towards self sufficiency and economic freedom by learning to preserve food during the harvest months and make it last long into the winter.