Food preservation hails from ancient times when people gathered precious food into the sun, wind or ice. Dehydration and freezing are the oldest methods of preservation.
But as humans became smarter, we discovered that salt, vinegar and canning were excellent means of preserving hard-won foods as well. No matter the method there’s hardly a food that can’t be preserved for either short or long periods of time.
Here’s a quick review of several methods of food preservation.
Freezing – It’s easy to understand how freezing food came about. People in cold climates couldn’t stop the cold from freezing their food. Lucky for them, they quickly learned that it was an excellent means for keeping food longer. Not all foods freeze well, but primary sources of protein and certain vegetables and fruits generally freeze with no problems. But some foods do require tricks to get the job done right.
Dehydration – While this isn’t the quickest method of food preservation, and certainly not without its risk, it can make for delicious on-the-go snacks. Given time, air and sometimes heat, foods can be dried for longer keeping.
Fermenting/Pickling – Although seen as two separate categories, fermenting and pickling run along the same vein. One simply precedes the other. When left sitting long enough, fermented sugars and starches turn into vinegar, which gives pickling its unique flavor.
Canning – Finally, the newest addition to the food preservation scene is canning. It requires heat, pressure and cans. When heated and sealed, foods can last months to years.
SIX FOODS YOU CAN PRESERVE
Do you have an abundance of watermelon leftover from your summertime festivities? You can preserve your favorite refreshing fruit in more ways than one. If you prefer the meat of the fruit itself, then use the flesh to create a pickled watermelon dressing, which can be used instantly or preserved in a can for later use. But maybe you’re interested in something a little more unique. Try out watermelon rind pickles!
Swiss Chard Stems (and Other Greens)
Perhaps not the most intuitive choice for preservation. But greens in general, like kale and spinach, can be saved in the freezer for use in smoothies, sautees or soups. Boil the greens for a couple minutes, then blanch them. Make small balls out of the green leaves and position them on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the freezer. Once frozen you can gather all the balls into a freezer bag. Then you have serving size greens. But if you’re feeling adventurous, then you may be interested in spicy siracha pickles made from swiss chard stems.
Avocados bring a steep price at the grocery store during certain times of the year. But if you have a tree or see a good deal and want to stock up, then by all means grab a basket full. You’ll be eating guacamole for years. While frozen avocados don’t preserve well in their original form, the flesh can be used in guacamole and other spreads.
Are your backyard chickens laying eggs left and right? Before you start giving away or, worse, throwing away your extra eggs, break them open and store them in bags with a little bit of salt. When you’re ready to bake your famous chocolate cake for the holidays you’ll have farm fresh eggs stacked away in the back of your freezer.
Your herb garden looks fabulous! But you’ll have to pick it at some point. Instead of forcing yourself to use all your herbs, try one of two methods. You might think that drying them is the best option. It’s a safe and reliable method of preserving your beautiful, tasty herbs. But if you want to go the extra mile to save not only the herbs but their oils too, then freeze them. Chop the herbs and place them in an ice cube tray. Fill each cube with olive oil. Leave a little room at the top for expansion. Then freeze the cubes. You can put the cubes in a large freezer bag once frozen. Now you have herb oil cubes for sautees and other dishes to use throughout the year.
Most foods can be preserved in one form or another. Anything from meat to dairy to fruits and vegetables. It’s a matter of finding the right method. Food preservation is a sustainable and reliable method for getting the most out of your food and eliminating waste. Try one of these methods this week!