Sunday, August 5, 2012

Food Preservation

On Friday I attended a wonderful webinar hosted by Wardeh Harmon of the Gnowfglins blog.  It was a very enlightening hour and a half about food preservation!  I wanted to share some of the highlights here, and get your ideas about food preservation.  What methods do you like best and why do they work for you?

  If I ever build a house, it's going to have a root cellar! image source

I recently got a dehydrator, and I love it.  So far I've used it for sprouted wheat, fruit leather, dried mangos, soaked raw almonds and walnuts, soaked raw sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, homemade crackers and homemade granola.  Looking forward to trying jerky!

But I've never canned or fermented.  I am less scared to try after this informative webinar!

One thing I need to think more about: it is important to have some semblance of organization to your long-term food storage.  First in, first out!  Make sure you are rotating your foods, and labeling them by date as you prepare them.

Reasons to Preserve Food
  • Emergency preparedness.  And not just in case of natural disasters!  One of the guest speakers at the webinar told of how she and her husband felt prompted to start preserving food.  They worked nonstop for 9 months to build up a food supply.  As soon as they had one year's worth of food, her husband lost his job.  They lived off that food supply until he secured another job --- when they only had 2 weeks' worth of food left.  
  • It's frugal!  Buy (or grow) in bulk, and store.
  • You know what's in it, and can ensure that maximum nutrients are present.
  • Great to have on hand for camping or hiking.

Dehydrating Foods

Reasons to dehydrate:
  • Easy!
  • Low temperatures retrain nutrition and don't kill enzymes
  • Dehydrated foods are extremely portable and compact
  • They are shelf-stable at room temp.
  • Dehydrating is excellent for herbs and tinctures and almost all foods
  • You can use previously dehydrated foods in fermented recipes!
Things to keep in mind:
  • Meats should be fat free to prevent spoiling
  • You can vacuum seal or freeze dehydrated foods for longer keeping
  • Rehydrate foods with water (since brown rice is not very stable kept raw at room temperature, you can cook it and dehydrate it for later instant brown rice)
  • Foods must be totally dry and cool before storing
  • You can dehydrate food in the sun if you don't have a dehydrator!  Or in a sun oven.   
  • Although food is still considered raw if dehydrated under a temperature of 155 degrees F, meat must be dehydrated at 155 to kill bacteria
Some resources:
  • "Complete Dehydrator Cookbook" by Mary Bell
  • "Dehydrating Way Beyond Jerky" FB group

Fermenting Foods 

  image source
Reasons to ferment:
  • Increases nutrition of food!
  • Increases digestibility of food
  • Creates new (strong) complex (many say tasty) flavors
  • All foods can be fermented (dairy, grain, meat, veggies and fruits)
  • B vitamins!
Things to keep in mind:
  • You need air-tight containers for best results
  • If a beginner, use only tried-and-true recipes
  • Store fermented foods in cool or cold storage
  • Most ferments are not suited for very long term (a few good months though!)
  • Glass or ceramic containers could break in a natural disaster or in transport
Some resources:
  • "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods" by Wardeh Harmon
  • Online classes and eBooks at Gnowfglins: Fundamentals, Sourdough, Cultured Dairy, and Lacto-Fermentation

Freezing Foods


Reasons to freeze:
  • Easiest method
  • Retains nutrition
  • Preserves fresh texture of foods
  • Dry goods won't get bugs if frozen
  • You can use previously frozen foods in fermented recipes
Things to keep in mind:
  • Storing anything more than 3 months risks freezer burn and generally worse taste
  • Vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn!
  • Power loss can result in expensive food loss
  • Food needs time to thaw before use
  • Treat all dry goods before storing by freezing them for 72 hours.  This will ensure that all bugs and bug eggs are killed before long-term storage.  Then use dry ice for vacuum sealing, for long-term freshness!  This is a cool trick. 
  • Note: cool running water through an insulated building can give you cold storage.  Not sure exactly how this works, but it's a cool idea that I want to research.  You know, if I ever own land with running water.
Some resources:
  • "Ball Blue Book --- Complete Guide to Canning, Freezing and Dehydration"
  • "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving"
  • National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Canning Foods
Reasons to can:
  • You can!
  • Shelf-stable at room temperature
  • Makes ready-to-eat foods (eat straight out of jars in emergency)
  • Doesn't require any fancy dancy tools
  • Food stores well for a long time
Things to keep in mind:
  • Labor intensive!  Hot work in the summer
  • Nutrition is reduced by the high heat and/or pressure
  • Glass jars can break in natural disasters or in transport
  • Make sure your canning lids don't contain BPA
  • Low-acid foods must be pressure canned
  • If canning is not done correctly, botulism is a risk
Some resources:
  • "Ball Blue Book --- Complete Guide to Canning, Freezing and Dehydration"
  • "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving"

Other Resources
  • "Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning" from Chelsea Green Publishing
  • "Root Cellaring" by Mike and Nancy Bubel
  • "Real Food Storage" eBook by KerryAnn Foster at
  • your great-grandma


  1. I wanted to attend this webinar! Thank you for sharing your great notes. I have dabbled with all of these methods, but not extensively enough. I'll look forward to exploring some of these references. I can definitely recommend Wardeh's eCourses!

    What does it mean to use dry ice for vacuum sealing?

    I'll soon be budgeting a "Pump and Seal" into one of my monthly budgets (see It's a manual vacu-sealer, more economical and practical than its electric cousins. Using vacuum sealing in conjunction with these other methods (i.e. soaking/drying nuts, then sealing) seems to take the cake as far as I understand.

    Terrific, informative post!

  2. This is a great post. Very good information. I've been fermenting foods for a while now, and I have to say one thing: delicious! I love the taste, and they help with stomach upsets, as in pregnancy.

    I'd love to find some ceramic crocks somewhere to use. Any info on where to find them?

  3. This is a very informative post for me and other people who want to preserve their food products to be spoil. Nowadays, food preservation is become a very important thing because unhealthy and bacterized food can be danger for human health.

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  4. Hi! I'm Annie Ridge. I am using Foodsaver V3880 to preserve food. It is so amazing that it can help me to save money so much.