The Seven Major Methods of Preserving Food: A Guide

When faced with the task of storing and preserving survival food, if you’re just getting started you might find yourself overwhelmed and confused by all the methods of preserving food for the long-term. Today, we’ll look at the seven major methods of food preservation and how to choose which one is right for you.

Canning

This is a very popular and age-old method of preserving food. When you buy canned food at the grocery store or make it yourself at home, it’s essentially preserved in the same way. Using heat and pressure, the food is preserved in a vacuum created in the jar or can. Canned food lasts for an incredibly long time, and, if you’re doing it yourself, you might spend an afternoon canning up food that will last you years. The downside is the amount of work it could take, depending on what you’re canning, and also, if you want to preserve meat or other seriously caloric foods, you’ll need to invest in a pressure canner which can be around $100. The investment will be well worth it, especially if you are a gardener, hunter, or farmer and have lots of food and meat you could preserve.

Freezing

Freezing is definitely a really great and easy way to store food for the short term (read: 3 months-1 year). Most people already own freezers, and, if you hunt, have a big family, or like to buy meat in bulk, you might own a deep freezer as well. Freezing is great for preserving a large harvest or a great deal at the grocery store, and if you’re looking for self-reliance while the grid is still up or if you have an excellent off-grid electric system, but freezing requires nearly constant electricity, so it’s not the best option for disaster preparedness.

Dehydrating

Dehydrating is a very popular method of preserving food for hiking, camping, or survival, and many survival foods you’ll purchase pre-made will be dehydrated (or freeze dried, see below). One really great reason for dehydrating food is that it makes it incredibly lightweight, so this is a great option for bug-out food or for maximizing storage. Dehydrating typically preserves a lot of the nutrients of the food that is dried, which freezing and canning do not, so that’s another plus. You can build your own dehydrating box that will use the heat from the sun to dry your food, but this will be subject to the environment and the threat of pests. You can also purchase a dehydrator, which will require electricity, but can efficiently dehydrate a lot of food overnight, which is great. The downside is that the cost of dehydrating might outweigh the benefits, depending on the price of electricity and food in your area, but it’s a great option for gardeners, farmers, or hunters, who have a lot of excess food to preserve.

Freeze Drying 

Freeze drying is the process of freezing food and then putting it in a vacuum chamber to suck out all the air and moisture. Freeze dried food has increased in popularity recently as it will last for a very long time. You can do it at home a few different ways, but with a few different steps, and you will need a vacuum chamber. If you get yourself all set up to freeze dry it might be the only method you’ll need for preserving food of any kind, but the downside being it might cost you a bit to get set up to do it regularly.

Curing 

Curing is the process of using salt to eliminate moisture and inhibit bacterial growth in food, most commonly meat. It can take a bit of time to do, but it is an excellent way to preserve meat, which is a very important source of calories and nutrients. Being able to preserve hearty food like meat can be crucial for long-term survival. It is done by coating cuts of meat with salt or brine and letting this sit for an extended period of time. You can also smoke the meat, which will an additional flavor to the meat. If cured correctly and stored in a cool, dry place, cured meat can last indefinitely.

Fermenting 

Fermenting foods has gotten very trendy among foodies recently, but it is an ancient practice that is used to make many foods you probably take for granted. Beer, pickles, Sauerkraut, yogurt, and sourdough are all examples of fermented foods you may already be familiar with, but you can ferment all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and it’s a great way to preserve and enhance the nutrients of the food by making it a probiotic. There are many different methods of fermenting, based on what you’re preserving with it, but they all involve growing live active cultures that will preserve the product. The downside is that it can be tricky sometimes if you have a failed ferment, but the upside is you can preserve things for very long periods of time and the nutritional benefits are absolutely amazing.

Vacuum sealing 

Vacuum sealing involves placing food in a plastic bag and using a vacuum sealer to suck all the air out. It’s a great way to store food that’s already been preserved using another method, either by using in your freezer to make food last longer, or storing your dried, cured, or freeze-dried food. You can also store dried goods like rice and beans using vacuum sealing, to keep out moisture and bacteria, and even to keep non-food survival supplies safe, like ammunition or medicine. The only downside is that you do have to purchase a vacuum sealer and the bags that go along with it, but if you’re serious about keeping your food fresh and safe, it’s definitely a very good tool to have for the serious prepper.

These are the seven major methods of preserving food. It’s important to familiarize yourself with all your options so that you can make the right choice to preserve food for your family. What works for one individual or family might not work for another, so weigh your options and choose the method that will be right for your budget and storage capacity.

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