Dear Beginner Food Preserver
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I would like to tell you that you are capable of preserving foods and to keep learning new techniques! Most people preserve their own food for satisfaction, creativity, or it is a passed down family tradition. Preserving your food may save some people money by not having to throw food out if not eating it before it goes bad. There are many different techniques to food preservation like pressure canning, water bath canning, fermentation, freezing, and dehydration. If first starting out, find which food preservation technique is best for you and the outcome that you want! Do you want it shelf stable for long term storage? Do you want to use it in a month and have freezer space? Is it a food that would last better with moisture taken out of it?
My #1 piece of advice is that you get your resources, recipes, and directions from a trusted source. It is imperative that you follow a recipe/directions that is tested to ensure proper food safety steps were taken to eliminate any potential for toxin/bacteria growth. A couple of my favorite websites and resources for people who are starting their food preservation journey:
The National Center for Home Food Preservation– A one-stop-shop for all information around food preservation journey.
- The National Center for Home Food Preservation– A one-stop-shop for all information around food preservation
- USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning
- So Easy to Preserve (UGA)– many of these recipes can be found on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website
- The Ball Blue Book- 100th Anniversary Edition (Jarden, 2009/2010) – research-tested recipes by the popular canning jar brand, Ball
Pressure canning and water bath canning may seem daunting and intimidating to a beginner (it did to me). There are so many precautions you need to take to ensure that the food was properly canned to prevent a very serious disease called botulism that is caused by toxins from the Clostridium Botulinum bacteria. That word sounds very scary and it should make any person very cautious when it comes to canning. Making sure you are canning with the proper supplies (pressure canner vs. water bath canner), following exactly a tested recipe, and knowing the signs for food being properly canned. I am saying all this not to scare you, but to show you there should be thoughtful consideration to what you want to start out with in home food preservation.
If you want to learn more about proper steps to canning, check with your local Cooperative Extension office to inquire about home food preservation classes!
Freezing foods may be a great start to your food preservation journey if you have the freezer room available! There are many advantages to freezing that make it enjoyable such as many foods can be frozen while the natural color, flavor and nutritive value can be retained. Freezing works to slow down the enzymes that cause changes to the color, flavor, quality and nutrient value in frozen foods. Some foods may need to be blanched or placed in ascorbic acid to further prevent these chemical changes. You will want to freeze foods quickly and at their peak quality (freezing will not improve the quality of the foods that you first begin with). You will want to make sure your freezer is set at 0 °F for best quality (we suggest purchasing a thermometer for your freezer to know the exact temperature at all times). Most foods can be held for a year at 0 °F. Making sure you have the correct air-tight freezer containers for your foods will help keep air out, cut down on rancidity and prevent freezer burn. Again, the National Center for Home Food Preservation has all the steps you need for freezing specific foods.
To get your started, these techniques for freezing strawberries down below are easy and very cheap to accomplish!
As seen in July/August issue of Yadkin Valley Magazine