Let’s face it—nobody likes to waste food, but sometimes you have no alternative. To overcome this kind of wastage, food preservation has been used since the caveman days, with techniques developing as information and technology evolved. Below are five useful old and new ways to preserve your food for longer.
1. Mason Jars
Originally created for home canning, the Mason jar is an obvious choice for food preservation. Healthier choices to the popular Tupperware containers, these jars were designed for long-lasting food storage. Because these jars are airtight, they work well for pantry items such as flour and sugar, as well stringing out the life of leftovers, including liquids. As their popularity has increased, Mason jars are now readily available from a variety of large wholesalers or even speciality stores such as Biome for your pick in colour, shape and size.
Although a fairly obvious preservation technique, it’s still amazing how many people forget, or couldn’t be bothered, to transfer food to the freezer so it doesn’t go off. Freezing food also has the added benefit of being an economical choice. For example, you can buy larger quantities of meat that can be divided and stored in the freezer; those abnormally large bunches of spring onions can chopped, stored and then frozen in an empty drink bottle; and herbs can be frozen in olive oil stored in ice cube containers.
What this preservation method involves is literally what it sounds like—you are removing all the water or moisture from the product. By doing this you are inhibiting the chance for bacteria to grow so your dried food can last substantially longer. Because this is a very old form of food preservation, meat, vegetables or fruit were dehydrated by drying them in the sun (for hot climates) or by smoking them. However, today you can buy a commercial dehydrator to do the job for you.
Pickling is another oldie, but a goodie, and is a popular preservation solution for foods such as vegetables. Just like dehydrating, picking’s primary goal is to stop bacterial growth, which in this case is done by using salt and/or vinegar. This allows your food to be kept for months, or longer. There are a variety of pickling recipes available to get you on the right track, as the type of salt or vinegar you use is important.
The process of fermentation is an interesting one, as it still lets bacteria, fungi or yeasts grow in the foods (just less hostile ones), but allows you to control the spoilage. What will happen to the foods during fermentation is that you will be aging or ripening them, and in the process, extending their shelf life. This is a particularly effective process for cheese.
When it comes to food preservation, you might feel as though the effort required with some of these processes is more than the reward. However, when you start making annual savings in the grocery department, you won’t be complaining for too long.
What is your most popular action for extending the life of food? Leave your answers below.