The principles of food preservation will vary based on your needs and preferences. NASA uses food preservation methods that last much longer, with less volume, than a family with a one-year or two-month food supply.
Food conservation has a long history. Using nitrates to prevent the growth of bacteria in meat was prevalent hundreds of years before the advent of the home refrigerator. There have been many technological advancements in the field of food preservation, since.
Food preservation methods
Freezing food preservation is useful because it prevents bacteria growth. It’s an ideal way to keep frozen foods like ice cream, although it doesn’t guarantee a longer shelf life or a reduced requirement of storage capacity. Once the growth of these microorganisms has started, freezing won’t help.
Drying food preservation is effective because it eliminates most of the concerns of spoilage due to bacteria. A food dehydrator will decrease the amount of moisture in food by up to 95%, with obvious benefits.
Freeze drying is a more modern method of conserving food. It combines the advantage of up to 99% moisture reduction with freezing for an extremely long shelf life.
Another option is to prevent oxidation. Oxygen exposure in food causes chemical changes (spoilage), so the ultimate way is to include oxidation deterrence in your approach to food conservation. Vacuum sealing, canning and oxygen absorbers are noted examples of this method.
A history of food preservation
One of the most obviously perishable comestibles is meat. Throughout history, meat has been combined with sodium nitrate, which thwarts the specific kinds of bacteria that spoil meat. The brawn is the dried, rather than cooked, over a long period of time in low heat.
You’ll note examples of dried meat for preservation in countries like South Africa, France, Italy and even right at home. Some methods use salt to draw out moisture and black pepper to fend off pests.
During the World War, food preservation was a high priority. Canning meat, a process that has also been around for hundreds of years, was relied upon to bring rations to soldiers, as well as families across the USA.
In recent times, a dehydrator has been used quite extensively. Chemical food preservatives are used in conventional food items like beef jerky, while allow it to last for years in a sealed bag. However, foods like raisins, dried oatmeal and beef bouillon hardly scratch the surface on the potential of food dehydration.
How to preserve food
The most affordable and effective way to store food at home, is a food dehydrator machine. They cost a small fraction of a freeze dryer for a quality model, and perform well enough to preserve virtually any kind of food.
You can adjust the temperature to between 90 and 160 degrees F. This is perfect for drying herbs, fruits, veggies, dairy, and grains, while providing enough heat to safely dry meat. As moisture is removed from your food, it leaves behind natural enzymes, nutrients and minerals while compacting in size.
Another popular option is canning. Most operations require a pressure canner, which costs more than a food dehydrator.
Some people simply use mason jars, their home oven and a pot of water to create pressure. This is strongly advised against. You can’t guarantee that your jars are properly sealed and that all of the oxygen is removed this way.
One drawback of canning is storage space. You can fill your cans to the brim, but the foods will absorb moisture and increase the amount of shelf space you’ll need for everyday foods like fruit, vegetables and meat.
You can also use a vacuum sealer to protect your food from oxidation. This is a relatively inexpensive unit that uses a vacuum to suck air out of bags that contain your food, then seals them. Many preppers also add an oxygen absorber pack to take advantage of the extended shelf life and purity of their food.
A food desiccator is your best bet for conserving a large amount of various foods at home!