The harvest is coming in. The kitchen is buzzing. The pressure is on to get everything put up, frozen, and processed before the the food is wasted.
You only have 2 hands! You can only process six jars at once! What can you do?
The clock is ticking and that food is quickly turning to compost.
Like most of us, you probably think canning your harvest is the only thing you can do. But that isn't true. There are several ways to preserve the harvest:
Each method takes a little more technology to do than the one preceding on this list. The earliest preservation method was drying food. Later, smoke was added for flavor and it also worked as a preservative while speeding up the drying process. Adding smoking to the salt curing method gives us ham and bacon.
Did you ever wonder why the Roman Soldiers received their pay in salt? It was to preserve their food. Curing goes a step further, adding spices and liquid to the salt. If carried even further, we get a fermentation process going and healthy microbials grow in the brine solution as the food breaks down. We often see sauerkraut in this process, but olives and cucumbers also process this way.
Alcohol came along when grapes and fruit rotted. People discovered that controlling the process produced wine. This was watered down to "purify" the water they drank. As wine continued to ferment, it became vinegar, which is used to pickle foods as well as clean surfaces.
Canning food at home was done to preserve food for later consumption, It was often unreliable, but a more attractive solution than leaving food on the counter, raw, drawing flies as it rotted. This is done by putting foods into jars and boiling or them, or more recently, by using a pressure-canner and driving out all the detrimental microbes. This method works well as long as air does not get into the container. Some jars of preserved foods have been found in abandoned dwellings from the American Pioneer days that are still edible, though the recommended storage of canned foods is no more than 2 years. Some foods last very well in this method for over 10 years, such as dried beans, rice and other dried foods, as canning keeps moisture out, retarding spoilage.
Electricity came along and refrigerating and freezing foods became possible. This reduced the need to clabber milk and make cheese to preserve it, and sped up the processing and preserving of meats.
Home processing to preserve food can easily be done using the pickling method. It takes little equipment and some imagination to create beautiful and flavorful preserved foods.
There are two ways to pickle food: The long way, using salt; or the short way, using vinegar.
All you need is your jars or a crock, a sharp knife, and some food you want to preserve. The basics all start here.
Almost any food can be pickled. This includes all vegetables, fruits, cooked eggs, and raw meat.
Meat is never salt pickled, but can be dry cured with salt, as stated above. However, a vinegar pickle of your meat is possible. Marinades are an example of quick pickling meats. There are longer pickles that include meat, and we have recipes for those here.
Raw eggs are often "limed," which entails making a food-grade lime solution and placing clean, raw eggs in the solution. Eggs processed in this way keep for up to two years in your cellar.