Best Home Food preservation and why
1st: What are you trying to do
- Preserve its Nutrition and Keep it from spoiling
- A few hours, days, weeks, months, or years?
- Save money
- By keeping it from going bad
- Buying in bulk or season
- Preserve your garden harvest
- Put up an emergency food supply
2nd: The best way to do this
The shelf life of your food storage is affected by many things; perhaps most important are temperature, moisture, atmosphere, and containment.
Temperature is the most important factor concerning general food storage shelf life.
- Generally, stated food shelf life is referenced to room temperature, 72°F.
- For every 18 degrees F, shelf life will halve or double (hotter- cooler).
- 90°F (half the stated shelf life)
- 54°F (double the stated shelf life)
- For example, if the stated shelf life is 4 years:
- Stored at 90°F: Shelf life will be only 2 years instead of 4 years
- Stored at 54°F: Shelf life will be 8 years instead of 4 years
- A Big Difference
- We learn from this how important it is to store your long-term food supplies in the coolest place possible, such as a fridge, freezer, basement, etc.
Common methods include vacuum-sealed bags, sealed jars, food storage buckets, and Mylar bags.
- To get the best storage life for most food products:
- Air-tight seal
- Vacuum sealed (less oxygen in the container)
- Opaque or stored away from sunlight.
3rd: Longer Term
Freezing and dehydration are generally the best methods for preserving the nutritional value of foods for the longer term. Proper handling, processing, and storage techniques are crucial to maintaining optimal nutrient content during preservation.
Freezing: (below 0°F)
Generally best and simplest method for preserving the food’s freshness, texture, flavor, and nutritional value.
By far the easiest method.
- Requires no special tools,
- Almost anything can be frozen,
- Most versatile
- Enzymatic activity is significantly slowed at low temperatures, preserving vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- If lose electricity or the freezer breaks can lose everything.
- Some foods need to be blanched to remove enzymes, which means fewer enzymes for your body, which have been proven to be very beneficial.
- Some foods will turn color over time, But it.
- Food has a tenancy to get mushy since the fibers are broken down from the blanching and then freezing process.
- Vacuum sealing can greatly improve this though
- Canning: Has 60 - 80% nutrient loss due to high temperatures in the canning process.
- Freezing: Has 40 - 60% nutrient loss. Moisture expands when frozen, causing food cells to rupture.
- Dehydrated: Has 3 - 5% nutrient loss due to low heat during the drying cycle and the gentle airflow; this translates to minimal loss.
- Dehydrated food weighs less by 70 - 94%.
Drying removes moisture from the food, which inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds, thus preventing spoilage. Dehydrated foods can last months to years if correctly stored in airtight containers. Many of the nutritional benefits remain, and the fiber is still intact.Consider dehydration if you are looking for an energy-efficient home food preservation method. It is relatively quick, requires lower energy input, and results in lightweight, space-efficient, and long-lasting preserved foods.
- Retains the nutritional content of certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and herbs, without chemicals or high heat.
- Reduces the weight and volume of the food, making it easier to store and transport. However, dehydration can significantly lose some water-soluble vitamins, like vitamin C and thiamine.
Remember, the best preservation method ultimately depends on the type of food you want to preserve and your specific needs and resources.
2 Things That Affect Dehydrated Food Storage
1. Moisture Content
The drier the food and the drier the environment, the longer the shelf life – to a point...
- As a rule of thumb, dried foods with 10% or less moisture will snap easily and are very brittle. (Typical home dehydrated foods might not result in the same moisture levels as commercially dried foods and, therefore, may not last as long.)
- Unless the food is packaged in air-tight containment, then the moisture from the environment will work its way in over time and reduce its shelf life.
Earth’s atmosphere contains about 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Oxygen oxidizes many compounds in food and reduces its shelf life over time.
- For maximum shelf life, foods should be stored in an oxygen-free environment. (Bacteria, one of several agents that make food rancid, needs oxygen to grow.)
- Vacuum Pack: Deprives the oxygen bacteria it needs to grow. Therefore, food stays fresher for much longer.
- Oxygen absorbers absorb oxygen within the sealed container, so 99% pure nitrogen remains– a good atmospheric condition for food storage.)
- The container you are using must be able to hold an air-tight seal over time.
- Proper Dehydration: Ensuring the food is adequately dried is crucial for effective preservation. If the food retains too much moisture, it can spoil or develop mold, even when vacuum-packed.
- Storage Conditions: While vacuum packing significantly extends shelf life, it does not eliminate the need for appropriate storage conditions. The vacuum-sealed food should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place to maintain quality and safety.
- Texture: Dehydrated foods may have a different texture than fresh or frozen alternatives. Some people enjoy the chewy texture of dehydrated foods, while others may find it less appealing.
Most energy-efficient method
Dehydration requires much less energy than other preservation methods like canning or freezing.
- Low Energy Input: Dehydrators, whether electric or solar-powered, consume relatively little energy compared to the heat required for canning or the continuous low temperature for freezing. Solar dehydrators, in particular, can operate solely on renewable solar energy.
- Short Processing Time: Dehydration often takes less time than canning or freezing. Depending on the food and dehydration method, it can take a few hours to a day or two to remove enough moisture from the food to achieve proper preservation.
- Long Shelf Life: Dehydrated foods have an extended shelf life, which reduces the need for additional energy consumption for preservation. When stored properly in airtight containers, dehydrated foods can last months to years without refrigeration.
- Space Efficiency: Dehydrated foods are lightweight and compact, which means storing more food in a smaller space requires less energy for storage and transportation.
- No Continuous Energy Usage: Once the food is dehydrated and properly stored, there is no need for continuous energy consumption, unlike refrigeration required for frozen foods.
- A home drying rack can be made very inexpensively.
- Vacuum sealing removes air around the food and seals it in airtight bags or containers. This method helps slow down spoilage by reducing oxygen,
- Vacuum sealing does not directly impact the nutritional value of food. Still, it can help maintain it by preventing exposure to air and limiting oxidation which is essential for the growth of bacteria and mold.
- It can be particularly useful with other preservation methods like freezing or dehydration.
- Vacuum sealing also helps prevent oxidation, which can lead to the degradation of fats and certain nutrients, helping to maintain the food's quality for longer.
Benefits of Combining Drying and Vacuum Packing:
Drying and then vacuum packing can effectively preserve certain types of food.
- Extended Shelf Life: By combining drying and vacuum packing, you create an environment that significantly slows down the degradation and spoilage of the food. Removing moisture and air reduces the conditions necessary for microbial growth and enzymatic reactions.
- Retention of Nutritional Value: Drying helps preserve the nutritional content of the food by removing only the water content. At the same time, vacuum packing prevents exposure to oxygen, which can lead to nutrient degradation.
- Space-Efficient Storage: Dehydrated foods are already compact, and vacuum packing further reduces the volume of the food, making it easier to store and organize.
Some other methods
- We use this method but rarely do so now because it is time-consuming and expensive. Canning jars and lids have gone way up in price. Produces lots of heat in a hot summer kitchen.
- Use to be the quickest, easy, and most reliable method of preserving food.
- Canned foods can last for years when stored properly.
- Canning can preserve certain nutrients well, especially in low-acid foods like meats and vegetables. However, the high heat in canning may lead to a significant loss of heat-sensitive vitamins, such as vitamin C and thiamine. The nutritional impact of canning can vary based on the type of food being preserved and the processing time.
- Fermentation is a natural process that involves the conversion of sugars into alcohol, acids, or gases by microorganisms. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and pickles, have an extended shelf life and offer unique flavors and health benefits due to probiotics.
- Fermented foods have the potential to enhance nutritional value by producing beneficial compounds and increasing the bioavailability of certain nutrients. Fermentation can also increase certain vitamins, such as B and K. However, not all nutrients are preserved equally during fermentation, and some losses may occur.
- Pickling is a preservation method that involves immersing food in a solution of vinegar, water, and salt, often with spices and herbs. The acidic environment prevents bacterial growth and enhances the food's flavor.
- Pickling can preserve certain nutrients, but it may lead to losses of water-soluble vitamins due to the use of vinegar and heat during the pickling process. However, pickled foods still offer some nutritional benefits and can be a good source of probiotics.
Jam and Jelly Making:
- Making jams and jellies involves preserving fruits by cooking them with sugar and sometimes pectin. It's an excellent way to preserve seasonal fruits for year-long enjoyment.
- Smoking is a preservation method that adds flavor and extends the shelf life of meats, fish, and vegetables. It involves exposing the food to smoke from burning wood or other materials. Be aware of the difference between food smoked for flavor and smoked for preservation (over multiple days). Differences can be life and death.
- Preserving herbs and certain vegetables in oil can be a flavorful and simple way to extend their shelf life. The oil acts as a barrier against bacteria.
- Root cellars provide a cool, dark, and humid environment ideal for storing root vegetables, apples, and other produce that does well in these conditions.
No single method is suitable for all types of food, and the effectiveness of preservation techniques may vary depending on the food's characteristics.
When selecting a preservation method, consider the type of food, the available equipment, and your desired storage time. Each method has unique benefits and considerations, so choosing the one that suits your needs and the type of food you want to preserve is essential.