by Adrian Michaels
Since buying or growing organic produce tends to be a seasonal affair, you will want to be able to preserve your fruits and vegetables to use later in the year. There are several great food preservation methods that you can use to keep food for many months, all still retaining the organic standards you are looking for. The most common are canning, freezing and drying.
Canning is a bit of a misnomer since you are really storing your food in glass jars rather than cans. You can can things like pickles and tomatoes (high acidity) foods in just a boiling water bath but for all other foods, you will need to invest in a pressure canner. Food is packed into proper canning jars, made by Ball or Mason (not old jam jars) and heated under pressure long enough to kill any bacteria. When they are removed from the canner and cooled, a vacuum is created which seals down the lids.
This is how many past generations preserved their foods and though it takes more work than these other methods, the sealed jars can be stored anywhere once finished. Your food retains much of its nutrients but the texture will be softer since everything you can gets a good cooking in the canner.
Freezing is the simplest method here but does require the ongoing use of your freezer to keep everything nicely frozen. This can be a problem if your home is subject to power outages. Some vegetables can just be cleaned up and frozen just as-is but you will get better preservation if you blanch most first. That’s a quick bath is boiling hot water to stop the natural enzyme actions that would degrade your food, even in the freezer. When thawed, your food will be the closest to fresh of most preservation methods.
For large gardens, you may need to invest in a second chest freezer if you want to use this method to preserve most of your harvest.
Drying is not ideal for all your fruits and veggies but it can be a great option to use as part of your overall preservation plan. Like canning, you can stored your finished foods without any special conditions (unlike freezing). All you need is a dehydrator, which isn’t much more than a small heater with a fan. Most commercial dehydrators will hold several trays of sliced food and have them thoroughly dry in an afternoon or overnight. For large harvests, you will want a large unit or even build your own drying racks.
Food that is dried for preservation needs to be completely dry or it can become moldy while in storage. Depending on the type of food, that can be tough and leathery or even dry enough to snap when bent. The food will shrink quite a bit once dehydrated making for better storage. The downside is that the consistency of the food once it’s rehydrated isn’t as good as the other methods.
None of these methods involving using artificial or chemical preservatives, making them perfect for the organic shopper or gardener.
About the Author
Adrian Michaels loves organic food and is a writer for Organic Food Lovers, a site for people with a passion for food that’s organic.
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