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Food Preservation Basics

An Overview of Home Food Preservation 

The old saying that "there's more than one way to skin a cat" aptly applies to home food preservation: there is more than one way to preserve your food today for enjoyment tomorrow. When it comes to food preservation, we are faced with several viable options: canning, freezing, drying, and pickling. We describe each food preservation method and the advantages and disadvantages of each food preservation method.

Home Food Preservation Methods:

Canning is a process by which food is placed into sterile, airtight jars and subjected to heat sufficient to kill harmful bacteria. The airtight jars help delay future bacteria growth and allow the food to be preserved. There are two canning methods, water bath canning, which is used to preserved high acid foods, and pressure canning, which is used to preserved foods containing low amounts of acids. For more information on canning, see Canology's Basic Canning Guide or visit All American Cookers for more information.

Pickling is a food preservation method that preserves food in a strong mixture of water, vinegar, and salt. Often sweeteners and herbs and spices may be added to the brine. The main brining ingredients serve to make the food unfriendly to bacteria by increasing the food's acidity. As is the case with canning, the food is heated in airtight jars to further retard bacterial growth. 

Freezing is a food preservation process almost everyone is already familiar with. Freezing preserves food by slowing the growth of bacteria. 

Drying is the process of applying heat to food so that it contains less of the moisture needed for optimal bacteria growth. The drying process is accomplished by use of food dehydrators, electrical appliances that are designed to efficiently dry food. Drying works particularly well when coupled with airtight containers, as the airtight containers will help prevent moisture from re-entering the food. 

Each of the above home food preservation methods has advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into account before deciding on a course of action. For example, while canning requires that you purchase canning equipment and supplies and that you learn the basic canning principles (our shameless plug: Canology can help you with this), freezing is relatively less complex. But even with freezing, it is well worth the investment to consider using vacuum sealers, which make freezing much more effective and save valuable freezer space. Similarly, drying requires a food dehydrator, as we do not advise trying to use your kitchen oven. There are crock pots that may be used for brining as well and not all foods are ideal for brining. So these factors should be considered when choosing a primary food preservation method.   

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