There are several food preservation techniques. These include:
Each technique, or method of food preservation, is progressively more involved and requires more input to carry out. Each is discussed below in more detail.
The earliest and simplest technique of preserving food is to dry it. This is done on a dry day or in a protected area on a wet day. The food is hung up to dry.
Today, drying is referred to as dehydrating and is a common method of food preservation. Many home dehydrating machines are available, and an oven can be used in place of a dedicated machine.
An advance on this technique is freeze-drying, which preserves more of the nutrients and flavor, and is easier to reconstitute later. However, it is still out of reach for most home kitchens and requires electricity to accomplish.
Many people will simply hang up herbs in an out of the way place to dry them for winter use.
After drying, some foods are ground into a powder to produce instant foods that only require water for consumption. All the flavor of the food is preserved, as are the fiber, calories and nutrition.
Smoking food requires a smoking fire and a chamber to trap the smoke. This is similar to drying food, but using a fire source and chamber makes this method of preserving food more complicated.
The results are well worth it! The flavor of smoked meats are a delight to the senses. Different woods add different flavors to the food, such as apple, mesquite, or hickory.
Ham, bacon, and brisket are common cuts of meat that is smoked. This method is best done with fatty cuts of meat.
Meats, cheeses, fruit and seafood can all be salted to preserve it for later consumption. If liquid is added, a process called fermentation begins. The limes above will be perfectly usable for sweet or savory dishes up to two years later with no refrigeration.
Curing includes either salting or smoking as interim steps, but carries it further to include aging in the process. Food is left to the air to dry further, and reduce in size and humidity. Spices are often included in preparatory steps, and tying the food up in netting, as for sausages, is often part of the process.
Pickling and Fermenting are next in complexity.
Pickles need either salt or vinegar to make. Salt, as we've seen above, is often used to dry foods. When added with a liquid, fermentation occurs, preserving and changing the food to something different. We typically think of Sauerkraut when we think of fermented food, but olives, Kimchee, and other foods are also produced.
By fermenting foods added, usually healthy, microbials are developed in foods. We call these probiotics and they promote health in the body and often actively fight disease.
Pickling with vinegar produces what we typically think of as "Pickles" whether soft or crunchy.
The ratio of salt, vinegar, salt and spices produces the different foods we associate with pickles.
Canning is done by filling jars and then processing them for shelf-stable storage. If a food has sufficient acid content, a water-bath jar sealing method is sufficient. If there is not enough acid present, as in some fruits and most meats, then pressure-canning is required. The USDA puts out a book that can tell you what the requirements are for your area and altitude. For food safety, we urge you to follow their guidelines.
Last on our list is freezing. This method requires a constant input of electricity or ice to maintain. It is how many of us purchase and later store food.
We purchase food in the store, already frozen, and transfer it to our home freezers. This is inefficient in energy usage, but does preserve the most nutrients of the methods discussed.
And as you can see, all types of foods can be frozen for later use. Even bread to be baked!
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