This ultimate guide to preserving food will teach you everything you need to know about food preservation, including freezing, canning, food dehydration, and more.

The Ultimate Guide How to Preserve Food

Last Updated on August 17, 2022 by Share My Kitchen

This ultimate guide how to preserve food will teach you everything you need to know about food preservation, including freezing, canning, food dehydration, and more. You’ll learn how to choose the best foods for freezing, how to pack and store them properly, and how to thaw and cook frozen foods. You’ll also learn the ins and outs of canning, including how to select and prepare fruits and vegetables.

Ultimate Guide How to Preserve Food by Freezing

Guide How to Preserve Food by blanching?

You must blanch vegetables before freezing them. There are two ways to blanch: boiling or steaming. The method of blanching slows or stops the enzymes that cause vegetables to lose their color and flavor. If you blanch too often, then it can cause them to lose their nutritional value. However, blanching too little will accelerate the enzymes.

How to Blanch Using the Boiling Method

  1. First, wash, drain, sort, trim, and cut the vegetables.
  2. Place one gallon of water for every pound of prepared vegetables, or two gallons for every pound of leafy greens in a pot and bring to boil.
  3. Make sure to put the vegetables in a wire basket, coarse mesh bag, or metal strainer. Then, lower into the pot.
  4. Leave it boiling according to the specified time for that particular vegetable.
  5. Cool the vegetables in ice water in the same amount of time as you boiled them (except for corn on the cob). And, stir occasionally.
  6. Drain thoroughly, then pack in a container and freeze.

How to Blanch Using the Steam Method

  • Asparagus: small stalk, 2 minutes; medium stalk, 3 minutes; large or all stalk, 4 minutes
  • Broccoli: 5 minutes
  • Brussels Sprouts: small heads, 3 minutes; medium heads, 4 minutes; large or all heads, 5 minutes
  • Butter Beans: small, 2 minutes; medium, 3 minutes; large or all, 4 minutes
  • Cabbage: shredded, 1 1/2 minutes; wedges, 3 minutes
  • Carrots: whole, 5 minutes; diced or sliced, 2 minutes
  • Cauliflower: 3 minutes
  • Celery: 3 minutes
  • Collard Greens: 3 minutes
  • Corn on the Cob (Note: cooling is twice the time): small ears, 7 minutes; medium ears, 9 minutes; large or all ears, 11 minutes
  • Corn Whole Kernel/Cream Style: 4 minutes
  • Eggplant: 4 minutes
  • Globe Hearts Artichoke: 7 minutes
  • Green Beans: 3 minutes
  • Green Peas: 2 minutes
  • Greens: 2 minutes
  • Irish Potato: 3-5 minutes
  • Jerusalem Artichoke: 3-5 minutes
  • Kohlrabi: whole, 3 minutes; cubes, 1 minute
  • Lima Beans: small, 2 minutes; medium, 3 minutes; larger or all, 4 minutes
  • Mushrooms: whole steamed, 5 minutes; slices steamed, 5 minutes; buttons/ quarters steamed, 3 1/2 minutes
  • Okra: small pods, 3 minutes; medium pods, 4 minutes
  • Onions: until center is heated, 3-7 minutes
  • Parsnips: 2 minutes
  • Peas: edible pod, 1 1/2-3 minutes.
  • Pinto Beans: small, 2 minutes; medium, 3 minutes; large or all, 4 minutes
  • Rutabagas: 3 minutes
  • Snap Beans: 3 minutes
  • Soybeans: green, 3 minutes
  • Summer Squash: 2 minutes
  • Sweet Peppers: halves, 3 minutes; strips/rings, 2 minutes
  • Turnips: 2 minutes
  • Wax Beans: 3 minutes

Freezing Directions

  1. Get the freezing equipment: bags, steamers, and pots. Then, set the freezer temperature at -10°F one day in advance.
  2. Boil the vegetables, or blanch them if needed. Then, chill in ice water. Only use the best and freshest food, and not-quite-full-grown vegetables like baby carrots and half-grown beans. For fruits, add a little lemon juice, or 1/2 cup of sugar per pound to treat them.
  3. Cut as needed, and place them in freezer bags or wide-mouth jars. However, remember to leave 1 inch at the top. Then, label them with the type of food and the date.
  4. Place bags in the freezer, and after they have frozen, reduce the temperature to 0°F. Frozen vegetables and fruits last approximately a year, except for onions, while baked goods last six months. You should be aware that meat and animal products only last for 3-6 months, so be careful.

Running a Freezer

While -5°F is the best temperature, you can save energy if you go as high as 0°F (but not higher). Then, put buckets or cartons full of water into the bottom of your freezer. So if the electricity goes out, the food will last longer, and you have a small supply of water. The freezer should also be kept in the coolest part of your house. However, it shouldn’t be placed where it freezes as it can withstand high temperatures, but not cold.

Guide How to Preserve Food If the Electricity Goes Out

Make sure to keep the door closed and cover the freezer with blankets, except for the motor vent, if the power is coming back soon. However, if it isn’t, you must pull out everything and use non-electric food preservation.

  1. First, build an outdoor refrigerator using a cooler. Make a large hole in the ground, place the cooler in, and insulate it with materials such as straw or bricks. Then, cover it with something very heavy to keep the animals away. Moving lots of items from the fridge to the cold storage is also recommended. If you have a running stream, you can make a waterproof container to store food. This will keep it even colder.
  2. However, meat will not stay fresh long in a cooler. If you plan to eat some of the meat within the next week, use a barbecue or fire to cook them. Cooked meat can be kept fresh for longer if refrigerated than raw meat. It usually keeps for approximately 5 to 6 days. Then, salt and dry the rest of your meat. Although you could smoke the meat, it takes a smokehouse, several weeks of time, and constant supervision to properly do so. Salting is a better option if you suddenly have to take care of all your meat.
  3. You need to clean the meat, and remove anything you don’t like. However, it is worth keeping the fat as it could be useful later. Dry it thoroughly, and leave it whole, but cutting it into smaller pieces will make it more likely to preserve in the middle. You can rub spices on them, and add a lot of salt into them.
  4. After you have rubbed in as much salt as possible, you can cover it in a layer of salt to coat it. It should be hung up somewhere at a temperature of 59°F for at least three weeks. Make sure to check for any signs of spoilage. The ideal storage options include a basement or cold store. Once you’re ready to cook the meat, rinse off the salt. The salt dissolves into the water in your meat, and it prevents bacteria growth if the balance is higher than 3.5% salt to water. It should be at least 10%. This is impossible to control, but you can make sure that you have it if you rub a lot of salt on the meat.

Freezing vs. Drying or Canning

It’s better to freeze asparagus, sweet green peas, snow peas, whole berries, melons, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and freshwater fish than canning or drying them.

Food You Can’t Refreeze After It’s Been Thawed

You cannot refreeze all types of meat, ice cream, and vegetables once they have been thawed. But, you can freeze fruit and bread without any problem.

Ultimate Guide How to Preserve Food by Canning

Note: If you did not do canning properly, you can end up with botulism and die. Follow the steps to the tee, and use proper seals and jars.

Canning Equipment

A pressure canner, enameled canner, glass canning jars, a sieve, canning lids and seals, wide-mouthed funnels, rubber gloves, jar lifters or tongs, and a loud timer are some of the equipment you are going to need.

Canners

A pressure canner includes a dial-type temperature gauge, pressure regulator, lock-down clamps, and a pressure gauge. Without a precise pressure regulator, it is not recommended to use it. It was common practice, but it is not recommended today. This is due to water boiling at 212°F, and this is not hot enough for all bacteria to be killed. Therefore, pressure is used to increase the temperature to 250°F.

An enameled canner, which is either blue or black with white speckles, a lid, and a canning rack, is used to sterilize and boil things. You can also use it to can fruit with high acidity (this makes it safe to can), known as water bath canning.

Jars

You must use heavy mason or mason-type jars for canning. Old mayonnaise jars won’t work as they are fragile and can break under pressure. However, it is possible in enameled canners. There are some companies that sell classic mason jars with wire bail lids. However, it is cheaper to get reusable jars and replace the lids and screw bands. This type features a small lid with a rubber seal and a metal band or ring that tightens it. The rubber seal can only be used once, but the ring can be reused. You can throw away the lid after one use. Also, do not use jars that are cracked, chipped, or with a worn-out rim.

Pressure canning

A pressure canner includes a dial-type temperature gauge, pressure regulator, lock-down clamps, and a pressure gauge. Without a precise pressure regulator, it is not recommended to use it.

  1. You can blanch, skin, pit, slice, and poach the food as needed to prepare it and use a canning recipe for each mixture. Only use the freshest fruit, and remove any infected or bruised parts.
  2. For 30 minutes, boil all stainless steel and plastic equipment. After that, wrap it in a towel. Then, clean counters with chlorine scouring powder or another antibacterial solution and rinse with boiling water. Dip the knives with wooden handles in boiling water. Wash the canning jars, and put them in boiling water (180°F) for 10 minutes. Canning lids should be heated using hot water, but do not boil them.
  3. Add the food into the canning jar, and add liquid until there’s only 1/2 inch space from the top (for air space). Cover the container with a tight-fitting lid, but not too tight that air cannot escape.
  4. Place the jars in a rack in the pressure canner with 2 to 3 inches of boiling water at the bottom. The jars should not touch the sides, the bottom of the canner, or any other jars. Then, fasten the lid, and open the petcock. For fruits, place jars on a rack, and cover with 2 inches of boiling water. Place the lid on, but don’t tighten it. Then, leave the petcock open for the steam to escape.
  5. Turn on the heat until steam escapes from the petcock in a steady stream. This takes about 10 minutes. Close the petcock when the steam becomes almost invisible at 1 to 2 inches.
  6. Quickly raise the pressure to 2 pounds less than what you need, lower the heat and gradually increase the pressure by 2 pounds. The process should take approximately the time required for each food item. Then, turn off the heat and let the pressure fall to zero. After waiting for 2 minutes, slowly open the petcock. You can open the lid away from your face to prevent steam from burning or wait until it cools down.
  7. Take the jars out using tongs, and hold them straight upright. Don’t tip them! Let them cool for at least 20 hours on a dry, non-metal surface. Once they have cooled, test the seals, wash, dry, and put a label on them. After that, remove the jar rings, and store them in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Pressure Canning Altitude Adjustments

Altitude in feet Weighted gauge Dial gauge
Under 1,000 10 pounds 11 pounds
1,000 to 2,000 15 pounds 11 pounds
2,000 to 4,000 15 pounds 12 pounds
4,000 to 6,000 15 pounds 13 pounds
6,000 to 8,000 15 pounds 14 pounds
8,000 or more 15 pounds 15 pounds

To use the chart, you need to find out your altitude. For every 1,000 feet, use the appropriate pounds. The poundage raises the temperature, and it takes longer to heat up if you’re located higher.

Water-bath Canning

  1. Only use highly acidic foods like high-acidic tomatoes, tomato sauce (no meats or mushrooms), jam, jelly, juices, barbecue sauce, chili sauce, relish, pickles, etc. Or if you have a recipe that calls for an acidic additive, specifically water-bath canning in an enamel canner. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid (vitamin C) per quart if you are in doubt about the level of acidity of something.
  2. Clean and boil the jars to sterilize them, and heat the lids (same process as step 2 for pressure canning). Then, fill the jars using the hot food in the recipe you are using. Place a new lid on the jar, and screw on a ring firmly.
  3. The canner should be filled with water until the water reaches 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the tallest jars. Bring the water to boil, and place the jars on the wire rack in the canner. This is the water bath. Cover it, and allow it to reach a full rolling boil.
  4. When the water has reached a full boil, the processing time begins. Once the processing time has ended (check the recipe), carefully lift each jar and place them on dry folded towels. The lid of each jar will seal, and you will hear a ping as the lid is sucked in. Remember not to touch them until they are excellent.
  5. The next day (this usually takes a long time to cool), remove the rings and check for a good seal. Then, wash the jar, label it with the contents and date, and place it in a cool, dark, dry place.

Water-bath Canning Altitude Adjustments

Altitude in feet Increase processing time
1,000 to 3,000 5 minutes
3,000 to 6,000 10 minutes
6,000 to 8,000 15 minutes
8,000 to 10,000 20 minutes

The Water-bath canning process takes longer at higher altitudes.

Food Safety Rules and Guide How to Preserve Food by Canning

  • You should never eat from a jar with a lost seal. The lid will not make a suction noise when you open it and won’t get sucked in.
  • You must ensure that the temperature is high enough when you are canning and do it for a long time.
  • Store the jars below 40°F.
  • Before eating, cook the canned food for at least 10 minutes, or bake at 350°F in the oven.
  • Do not use any recipes or methods that were created before the mid-1980s. Always use modern recipes.
  • Don’t attempt to remove mold from jars. Throw them away. To prevent mold, store jars loosely.
  • Do not use jars bigger than a quart as they cannot be heated sufficiently.
  • Before you use the jars, make sure to inspect the top rim for any nicks.
  • You can always start again from the beginning of your boil drops or your temperature drops at any time.
  • A boil is an extremely hot bubbling boiling, not tiny bubbles.
  • Hot food should be placed in hot jars, and cold food should be kept in cold jars since temperature changes can cause the glass to break.
  • Hot jars should not be placed on a cold surface or in cold air.
  • Check the processing time for altitude, then adjust as necessary.
  • Cover the jars with more boiling water if your water bath does not cover them by at least one inch.
  • Add a slice of tomato to everything you can. Tomatoes have enough acid to prevent botulism from occurring.

How Long Canned Food Lasts

According to government authorities, canned food should last for a year, and then you must throw it out. However, most home canners keep their food safe after that period without issues. You can keep your food safe for as long as 10 to 20 years if you adhere to all safety guidelines. But, it will have a lower nutritional value, and it is riskier the longer you wait.

Ultimate Guide How to Preserve Food by Dehydrating

Using Food Dehydrators for Food Preservation

Food dehydrators can dry any food, including chips, jerky, and fruit leather. It can also make stale chips and crackers taste better, recrystallize honey, dry bread sticks, pasta, flowers, dyed wool, start seedlings, grow sprouts, and make yogurt. A home power source can run a low-wattage dehydrator.

How to Dry Herbs by Hanging

You can bunch the plant and tie them up using a string. Then, hang them upside down from the ceiling. This will take approximately two weeks to dry completely, and if they are kept this way, they will retain their flavor for longer. Once you’re ready to use them, remove the leaves and crumble them up. You should ensure that the room is dry, cool, and airy.

Guide How to Preserve Food Using Screen Dry (Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, and Seed Pods) in the Sun

  1. Only use ripe fruit and vegetables. For fruit leather, you can use overripe ones. Wash them properly, peel, and slice thinly unless you use peas or corn. For seed pods, harvest them before they burst.
  2. Dip the fruits in a gallon of water containing six tablespoons of pickling salt, and allow it to soak for no more than 5 minutes. Blanch the vegetables, and chill them in cold water. After that, use a cloth to absorb the water. Prepare the fruit leather.
  3. One layer should be spread on a tray to dry. If you are doing leather, make sure to line it with plastic. You should keep moist foods separate from dry foods. Each type of food should be dried separately. Then, label everything to be able to identify it.
  4. Place the trays in direct sunlight or an oven or electric dryer. It should be dried at a temperature low enough so it does not cook but high enough so that it will dry before it spoils.
  5. Turn large portions of food three times daily, and turn smaller foods once or twice a day. Move almost dry food to the top and the moist food to the bottom in a dehydrator.
  6. Vegetables turn brittle and break when bent if they are dry. While fruits are leathery or brittle and should not produce any moisture when squeezed. Pods will become dry and brittle.
  7. For a week, place the food in a large bowl, and stir it 2 to 3 times a day. Keep it covered with a screen or porous fabric. This helps prevent mold growth. Then, repack it more tightly in another container.
  8. You can place it in the oven at 175°F for 30 minutes if you want to pasteurize. Then, store the dried foods in the dark or a dark container. Otherwise, it will lose nutrients. Don’t forget to label it and inspect it in the first two weeks for moisture. If there is any, dry some more.
  9. Food should last for at least six months and more. Should you find bugs, remove any bugs and roast the food at 300°F for 30 minutes.

Homemade Fruit Leather and Vegetable Leather

  1. Even fruit that is already fermenting can still be made into good leather. Wash, peal, remove the seeds and pits, and mash or blend the fruit to grind it. For vegetables, precook, spice, and sweeten them to your liking. However, it will be sweeter when it is dried, so do it very lightly.
  2. The puree should be thin enough for you to pour it, but not too thin for it to be watery. Add water or fruit juice to thin it out if it’s too thick. On the other hand, you can add another type of fruit puree if it’s too thin.
  3. Pour the puree on a tray lined with plastic wrap. Then, to make it the same depth, tilt the tray. 120°F is the best drying temperature.
  4. Allow leather to dry until it is slightly sticky, but peels easily from the plastic. Then, cut into strips, and roll up using the plastic wrap.

Sun-dried Jerky

Slice meat into lean, trimmed strips about 1 1/2 inches by 1/2 1/2, and you can cut the grain as long as you prefer. Trim off the tendons, gristle, and fat. Then, sprinkle it with salt and ground pepper. Dry it under the sun, 4 feet above a slow fire. Make sure to use non-resinous hardwood (green is fine) for firewood. And, the flames should be kept very low to discourage birds and insects from coming near it. Also, it should be dried in the middle of day, not when the dew might cover it.

Ultimate Guide How to Preserve and Store Eggs

Cold Storage

Avoid storing eggs in areas near food that smell, like onions. Eggs should be packed in a ceramic, wood, or plastic container in sawdust or oatmeal with the small end down. Use the root cellar, basement, or fridge if you don’t have cold storage. You should collect eggs as soon as they are laid. The eggs will keep for 6 weeks in the refrigerator, but they will last up to 2 months if fresh eggs are stored in plastic bags. They will last about 3 months if they are kept at 30 to 40°F in a fairly high humidity environment.

Pickled Eggs

You can hard boil eggs, cool, and remove the shells. For 2 days, soak the eggs in a brine of 1/2 cup of salt per 2 cups of water. Take out the brine, and heat 1/4 cup of pickling spice, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1 tablespoon of sugar until it boils. Then, pour it over the eggs, and let it sit for 7 days to cure.

Freezing

Only use fresh, clean eggs, not ones you have to clean. Crack the eggs, and place the contents in a freezer container. You should only freeze the number of eggs you will use at one time for every container since you can’t refreeze eggs after thawing them. Stir together, making sure not to whip in air, and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt or 1 tablespoon of sugar to each cup of egg. They can be stored for 8 months.

Drying

First, beat very fresh eggs well, and pour them into a 1/8 inch layer on a drying surface lined with foil or plastic. You can use plates if you are leaving them outside, and pans for the oven. Or, you can use a dehydrator. Dry the eggs in a dryer or oven at 120°F for 24 to 36 hours. Then, turn the egg over, remove the foil or plastic, and break it up. Finally, let the egg dry for 12 to 24 hours. Under the sun, it will take 5 days for the eggs to dry sufficiently to break easily when touched. You can either grind the egg into a fine powder for baking. Or, add 1/2 cup of water for every 1/2 cup egg powder to reconstitute them. Dried eggs can last for 3 to 4 months.

Lard Pack

Make sure to use very fresh, clean eggs. Then, dip them in melted lard. Pack the eggs in salt, in a large bucket, so they don’t touch one another. Next, keep the eggs in a cool area, such as a root cellar, and it can last for up to a year.

Ultimate Guide How to Preserve Food by Live Storage

What is Live Storage?

Live storage allows you to keep certain fruits and vegetables in a cellar for a long time without processing them. Pumpkins, potatoes, dry beans, peas, onions, parsnips, apples, oranges, pears, grapes, tomatoes, and most root vegetables are all excellent options.

Preparation

If you plan to store food in live storage, leaving the dirt on is a good idea. This will preserve the food from any decay. You can use untreated wood bins, plastic buckets, or enamel cans to prevent fruits and vegetables from mixing, as the gas from apples can cause vegetables to sprout. Meanwhile, root vegetables should be packed in damp sawdust, sand, or moss. Avoid exposing potatoes to sunlight as they can turn green and become poisonous.

Maintaining the Storage

Place a thermometer inside and out of the cellar to monitor the temperature daily. To maintain 32°F temperature, use doors, and windows. Open the doors in cold weather, and close the doors in extreme cold and hot weather. Humidity is essential to ensure food doesn’t dry out. This humidity usually ranges from 60 to 75%. Therefore, if necessary, pour pans of water, sprinkle water on the floor, or cover the floor with damp sawdust. If the area is too damp, move the pumpkins, squash, and onions to a dryer area. Otherwise, they will rot. Get rid of all food that has been spoiled. And if it is about to spoil, dry it or can it immediately to prevent it from rotting. If it is moldy or rotting, throw it out, and treat insects immediately.

Ultimate Guide How to Preserve Honey

Saving Honey

Honey can be stored in any container and does not need to be frozen, canned, or refrigerated. It should not be refrigerated as it can crystallize faster. Also, it shouldn’t be stored for more than 75°F when stored for a long time since this will cause it to lose its flavor. Use a container with a wide mouth as honey will eventually crystallize, and you can scoop it out instead of pouring it. If you are keeping a small amount in your kitchen, place it in a warm place.

Types of Preservation

Freezing

It doesn’t need to be frozen as long as it doesn’t crystallize. It will liquefy if you warm it.

Crystallizing

Honey naturally goes through crystallization, and it simply dries. You can use it in the same way as liquified honey for any recipe. And to make it liquid, heat it to 130°F quickly. Then, let it cool down as fast as possible. You can put it on your wood stove if it is canned. On the other hand, if it is in a jar, put it in a double boiler. It shouldn’t get any hotter than 130°F.

Conclusion

Now that you know the ultimate guide how to preserve food, it’s time to get started! The next step is to start working up some recipes and learning which foods will work best with your particular preservation methods (just a simple search online should do the trick, especially at sites like Canning 101). Then get out in the backyard and experiment, or hit up the farmer’s market to find inspiration. You don’t have to have an ample food supply to save money and time with food preservation, so don’t be afraid to experiment!

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