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These 6 ways to preserve food at home will help you build your food storage. Learning to preserve your own food at home is something every family should implement, not just for survival or preparedness, but for frugality, health, and working together.
An old fashioned kind of gal, I prefer to use traditional methods whenever possible. Our grandparents and the pioneers were pretty incredible at providing for themselves without all of the technology and super markets we have today and we stand to learn a lot from them.
One of my passions is growing our own food, from raising our own grass fed beef, chickens, pigs, an all heirloom garden, to a small orchard and a few rows each of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and the ever pesky wild blackberries.
Growing your own food is wonderful, but knowing how to preserve it for year round sustainability is priceless. From May to October the hiss and jiggle of my pressure canner and the hum of the dehydrator are an almost constant rhythm in our home.
These are the main ways we preserve most of our own food at our homestead.
1. Canning. There are two ways to can your food. The first is a water bath method, which is used for acidic fruits, jams, jellies, syrups, and pickling. Water bath canning is immersing canning jars with food in a bath of boiling water. This is a great way to get your feet wet with canning. Our low sugar and no store bought pectin strawberry jam tutorial will show you how to water bath can and make delicious jam.
The second canning method is a pressure canner and the only safe way to can non-acidic food, vegetables, salsas, meat, soups, and sauces. The pressure canner allows the jars to reach a higher temperature than just boiling water. I love our pressure canner because it allows us to put up the majority of our food. It also takes a lot less energy and time to pressure can food than it does heating up the water bath canner. This is our main and preferred way to can. Learn how to pressure can beans here.
2. Dehydrating. Dehydrated food takes very little storage space. It’s light weight enough to take with you on the go. To prolong its shelf life, it should be stored in a cool, dark, dry area. We dehydrate our herbs the old fashioned way, by hanging them in a warm dark area, but we use an electric dehydrator for our fruits and vegetables. You can dehydrate meat as well. Anyone else love jerky but hate the store prices?
Learn our one simple trick to shave hours off your fruit dehydrating time –> How to Dehydrate Fruit
3. Cold storage or root cellar. This simply requires a cool, damp, and dark area for root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, cabbage, and apples. Winter squash and pumpkins prefer it a bit warmer and drier. I think this is my favorite way of preserving food because it honestly requires very little work on my part. Here’s 10 Tips for Root Cellar Storage without a Basement
4. Freezing. Freezing food allows it to keep for many months and sometimes years if packaged properly. We use a deep freezer for our beef, chicken, and some fruits and vegetables. Many foods can be frozen that people don’t typically think of. You can freeze butter, milk, cheese, and even eggs. Yep, you read that right. In the summer when the hens are laying like crazy, you can put some of the eggs into the freezer to use later.
5. Salt Curing. Before refrigeration and the invention of the Mason jar in 1858, salt was used to cure meat. Salt draws the moisture out of the food. This is excellent for pork and fish, but can be done with beef as well. You’ll need quite a bit of salt, some glass jars, and/or crocks. Learn how to salt water brine your pickles here
6. Immersion in Alcohol. Many foods can be immersed in alcohol to preserve them. Herbs and fruits are immersed in alcohol to create extracts. We make our own mint, vanilla, and lemon extracts this way. Your summer fruit can also be preserved in alcohol for summer baking. Here’s how to make 5 extracts at home
Each method works better for certain crops and foods better than others. Learning which works best for your family and situation is key in creating your own real food pantry. Want to know how to actually do all of these methods? Relax, I so have you covered.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.