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This guide to food preservation is for ordinary, everyday people who want to put food away to feed their families in case of emergencies. It is not a guide to preserving with salt, smoking, or processing wild game. I’ve never processed wild game, so I can’t tell you how to do it. I can only tell you what I’ve done for my own family. I had a very good neighbor that taught me how to can and preserve food several years ago, and I want to pass this along to you. It’s a simple process, so let’s get started.
Never, Never Do This
If you store food like this, you are inviting a rodent and bug picnic. Please use good food preservation methods for your storage. It’s a lot of work and money only to find it destroyed when you need it most.
Not only do plastic bags create a pest problem, but your food will also get stale because these bags are not air-tight.
Food Preservation Methods
There are so many ways to preserve food, and we’ll go over several of them in this user-friendly guide. Like I said before, it’s a very simple process. However, you do have to be careful and follow directions exactly because you don’t want to have food spoil or cause botulism. The ideas presented here are my own, but please use your own good judgment in preparing the food and sterilizing your jars, lids and utensils.
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I would advise you to start a garden now to prepare for the difficult times that are coming. But, in the meantime, you can find great deals on food at farmer’s markets or Amish produce stands. Buy bushels of this food and start your food preservation so you will have food on hand while you work your garden in the growing season.
#1 – Pressure Canning
Pressure Canning is a great way to preserve your garden harvest, but I want to give this disclaimer for safety’s sake. I’ve never had a problem with any canned food – but you must be aware and pay attention to the correct pressure and processing time.
Botulism can be a real concern if you fail to follow directions for canning. Pressure canning will destroy clostridium botulinum bacteria in low-acid foods when they are processed at the correct pressure and time. Pressure canning is the only recommended method for canning vegetables.
How does canning preserve food? It removes oxygen from the jars, prevents the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds to create a strong vacuum. This forms a tight seal that keeps the liquid in and air/microorganisms out. Home-canned food should be stored in a dark place at a temperature of 50-70 degrees F. Much of the food preservation methods mentioned here just plain common sense. Use clean, fresh food, remove the air, and keep it in a cool dark place. Refer to this guide for more information on the safe use of pressure canners.
Always use fresh, mature fruits and vegetables and trim off any spots or blemishes. You can use either a raw or hot pack method. I usually use the raw pack method because it’s easier. You simply prepare your vegetables by washing, and cutting them into manageable pieces. Then place them into your jars (wide mouth jars are easiest to work with), leaving recommended headspace…and covering with boiling water.
Why not can a meal in a jar? It will be fully cooked and can be eaten straight out of the jar or heated up if you have a way to do so. Place your choice of meat and a few favorite vegetables in the jar…and you have a ‘meat & three’. It will be a small meal for two people or one meal for someone with a big appetite. Remember that anytime you have meat in the canning jar, process it as though it was all meat. This is usually 90-minutes at 10# pressure unless you live in a high-elevation area.
This can be a beef stew or chicken with broccoli, potatoes, and carrots. Food preparation should contain almost anything your family likes. You can layer it as shown or combined. Be sure to season it well and you’ll have a tasty meal. *Tip – Don’t use Iodized Salt.- Plain or canning salt is best for food preservation. I usually add some spices as well. Put the salt/spices on top and they will flow down through the jar when you add the hot water.
Here’s a very basic infographic that shows how very simple the pressure canning process is. Please refer to recipes and canner instructions for your specific canning project.
#2 – Vacuum Sealing
Vacuum Sealing is one of my favorite ways of food preservation. It doesn’t take the place of pressure canning – but you can put away a lot of food with this awesome piece of equipment.
The Food Saver will vacuum seal both bags and jars. Vacuum sealer bags are good for meat that will go in the freezer. The meat will last for a long time and won’t have that dreaded freezer burn. These bags are also good for beans, rice and many other items.
Freezing meat is a wonderful way to preserve it, but keep in mind that it will spoil if the electricity goes off. In case of a power outage, you’ll have to quickly can that meat before it goes bad.
I use the Food Saver for jars of flour, powdered milk, pasta, gravy and salad dressing packets and even candy. I’ve vacuumed sealed oyster crackers, but haven’t tested them yet. Just about anything you can think of and you can use any jar that will accept regular or wide-mouth canning lids.
#3 – Dehydrating Food
Dehydrating food is a great way for food preservation if you are short on storage space. You can put just about any fruit or vegetable in the dehydrator, and place it in a vacuum sealed jar when it’s finished. I like to dehydrate a mixture of vegetables to use in stews and soups when needed.
My favorite dehydrated fruit is bananas. Dried bananas taste better than candy! And pineapple isn’t far behind.
It’s easy to dehydrate all kinds of meats that you can use in stews or soups. I’ve dehydrated hamburger and then vacuumed sealed it. You can make fruit leathers or beef jerky. I’ve even dehydrated eggs. Follow recipes in a good Dehydration book.
You could even use an abandoned car for a dehydrator in case of emergency. Put a tray of sliced food in the front or rear window and it will heat enough to dehydrate the food. Or you could purchase a sun oven. Just use your imagination for food preparation.
#4 – Freezing
It’s so easy to vacuum seal foods for the freezer, but again I remind you…if the power goes off, you’ll have to can it very quickly.
Flour and rice will last longer if you put it in the freezer.
#5 – Preserving Eggs
If you have chickens, chances are that your eggs pile up fast. What to do with them? The answer is to preserve them in lime water.
You can’t use commercial eggs, but only clean, fresh ones that haven’t been washed. Dissolve 1 oz of lime to every quart of water and place your eggs in the lime water. Store at room temperature in either plastic or glass. A 1-gallon jar will hold approximately 40 eggs and they will keep for up to 2 years.
This method has been used since the 1800’s. You can purchase pickling lime at the grocery store – or buy larger bags of calcium hydroxide or hydrated lime from the garden store. It is hard to dissolve, so you might want to use hot water to help it along. But, let the water cool before adding the eggs.
#6 – Food Preservation in a Root Cellar
A root cellar can be an underground space built for storing food, or it can be a room in an un-finished basement. A crawl space is a possibility depending on how hot or humid it gets in the summertime. Humidity is the enemy of canned food because it will rust the lids and result in spoiled food. You want cool, dark and dry spaces. The lower the temperature, the longer your food will last. 50-55 degrees F is ideal.
You can make a small root cellar with 5-gallon buckets with tight-fitting lids. Dig a hole and bury the bucket to the top, and it will stay cool without freezing during the wintertime. If you have a problem with pests trying to dig up the bucket, just place something on top of it.
You can use your root cellar space for these vegetables:
- Winter Squash
Check your food storage from time to time for any jars that have lost their seal or for pest infestation. You can easily tell if a jar has lost its’ seal if you can push down on the center. A properly sealed jar will have a firm feel when you push down on the center of the lid. If it has lost its’ seal, it will easily pop up and down and feel loose.
#7 – Food-Grade Buckets
Food-grade 5-gallon buckets are a good way to store dry food such as grains, beans, corn, oatmeal, popcorn, etc. Use sealed mylar bags with oxygen absorbers inside the bucket and use a gamma-seal lid. This method will keep food for a long time.
This is also a good way to store feed for your small animals or pet foods for those 4-legged family members.
Be sure to label the bucket with the contents and date, and rotate to use the oldest first.
Long-Term Storage Foods
Long-term, freeze-dried food is a great way to put a lot of food in a small space. It is sold as being nutritious and delicious, and some of it is. However, I would caution you to order small cans of several different items and taste them for yourself. I would advise checking the nutritional/calorie count because some of them have ’empty’ calories that won’t give you the energy you need when times are tough. Check out My Patriot Supply for the best long-term survival food.
Preserving Cooking Herbs
Pick the best of your cooking herbs and vacuum seal them to retain the fresh flavor. You can also use an ice cube tray and fill each compartment about 2/3 full then finish filling with olive oil. Place in the freezer until frozen – then place them in individual baggies to keep frozen until ready to use them. They can be used in soups, stocks, broths, stews, etc.
You can also bundle them together and hang up to dry. When dry, then simply cut them up, put them in a small jar and vacuum seal.
Preserving Medicinal Herbs
Medicinal herbs will make a great addition to your storage and will surely come in handy in emergency situations when you can’t get prescriptions filled. They can be made into tinctures, lotions, salves, and creams. Herbs can also be dried and preserved to make poultices. I’ll have another article specifically focused on medicinal herbs, so watch for it soon.
I hope you’ve found this guide informative. I’ll be sending out news updates and new articles as often as I can, so be sure to sign up for my updates. I promise not to ‘bug’ you, but only to inform you from time to time.
And please leave a comment about anything you would like to see covered, or with anything you have learned that we can all benefit from. Thanks in advance and hope to hear from you soon!