Storing and Preserving Food without Refrigeration
With all of today’s modern conveniences, it is probably pretty difficult for most people to even imagine a world where food could not simply be bought at a grocery store and thrown into the refrigerator. The fact of the matter, however, is that up until 100 or so years ago not many people had the luxury of a freezer nor a refrigerator. Though the skills and techniques behind keeping food fresh and edible without refrigeration have largely gone by the wayside, they are just as valuable now as they were 300 years ago.
Downsides of Refrigeration
There is no denying that refrigerating and freezing food is the easiest way to keep it fresh longer. Having said this, however, refrigerators are not infallible and definitely have some drawbacks. The first and most obvious drawback relates to the limited space you have within freezers and refrigerators. If you are part of a family that grows vegetables or raises livestock, it would be nearly impossible to keep an entire crop’s yield or herd in the confines of a refrigerator. For this reason alone, refrigeration is simply impractical. What’s more, food frozen or refrigerated for more than 21 days tends to lose a lot of flavor as well as most of its nutritional content.
The biggest downside to owning vast arrays of frozen food is the ever-lingering possibility of a prolonged power outage. Should the electricity in your home go out, it only takes a little more than a day for a freezer full of food to begin going bad and rotting. When you think about it, you are relying on a lot of factors that are out of your control to keep your food fresh and edible, and that doesn’t make much sense. Even if you build your own survival kit, refrigeration won’t be an option.
3 Ways To Preserve Food Without Refrigeration
The next few sections will cover the best and most popular ways of storing food without refrigeration. It is important to note, however, that storing meat and dairy products is a different subject entirely and that this article will cover preserving food like fruits and vegetables for extended periods of time without the use of electricity.
Canning Fruits and Vegetables
Home canning is by no means a difficult nor complicated process, but it is a calculated procedure that must be followed very closely to ensure optimal results. Because the initial steps of canning requires the heating of the food to be canned, it is advised that you build a fire and use that heat because A. your gas bill will run up quickly and B. there is only a limited amount of space on your gas or electric stovetop. It is also advised that beginning canners start out with fruits and work their way to vegetables once they have gained more experience.
The following is a simple list of the items you will do well to have to complete the at-home canning process: 1 small paring knife 1 tub/bucket 1 large pot 1 flat-bottomed pot 1 pressure cooker (optional) 1 food mill (optional) Glass or can containers (with tops) Once you have assembled the aforementioned supplies, the next step is to actually begin the canning process. Before you ever lay a finger on a fruit or vegetable, you must first boil your can or glass containers as to sterilize them and make them suitable for storing food.
Once you have boiled your containers it is imperative that you keep them in hot water until you are ready to use them. While your containers are boiling you can prepare your fruits and vegetables however you would like; this is where the food mill may come in. The food mill can be used to turn solid fruits and vegetables into things like mashed peas and applesauce. Having said this, however, it is not a necessity that you mush your food up in order for it to be canned, whole or sliced fruits and vegetables work just fine.
A tip to help prepare foods with skins is to blanch them. You can do this by simply placing the food into boiling water for up to two minutes, removing, placing under cold water for a second and in most cases the skin will already begin to peel off on its own. Once your fruits and vegetables are prepared all you have to do is simply place them into the can and allow half an inch to a full inch of head space at the top of the container. When placing food into hot, sterilized containers it is important that you do not over pack them. If there are any leftover air bubbles in your containers it is suggested that you use a knife blade to remove them. The processing (eg. The boiling and continued heating of the containers) is exactly what makes canning such as surefire way of preserving food. By boiling containers you are in effect killing off the bacteria inside the containers that would otherwise work to make your canned food go bad.
The processing of fruits and vegetables via a pot of boiling water or a pressure cooker is another essential step in the canning process. A pressure cooker will naturally prepare the foods for canning much faster than a pot of boiling water, but either one works fine. The processing time varies between different fruits and vegetables but should always be strictly adhered to. If done correctly, canning fruits and vegetables is an extremely efficient way of preserving foods for extended periods of time.
The oldest method of preserving food for longer periods of time without the convenience of refrigeration is the simple storage method. The simple storage process involves placing perishable food in a cool, dry place as complex as a household cellar or as simple as a hole in the ground. This method will extend the life of your food but only for a limited amount of time.
One of the easiest ways to store some food is by not really doing anything at all. There are a number of vegetables that can simply be placed in a shallow hole in the ground for a majority of the winter and will be perfectly fresh to eat. Keep in mind, however, that not all vegetables can be kept in the frozen ground in this manner.
Most vegetables and a few fruits are able to be stored in a deep cellar or hole in the ground. So long as the fruits and vegetables are in a cellar that is kept between 35 and 50 degree Fahrenheit and is cool and dry, they will have no problem staying fresh for weeks on end. Be sure to avoid washing the fruits and vegetables before placing them in the cellar as well as bruising them. Bruised fruits and vegetables are much more prone to spoiling than those fruits and vegetables that are handled with care.
Drying Fruits and Vegetables
Many of the fruits and vegetables that are unable to be stored are able to be preserved through drying. Drying is arguably the most effective preservation method because if the fruits and vegetables remain dry they will be edible almost indefinitely. Drying is, in many ways, just as easy of a preservation method as storage, but it does have a few unique attributes. In general, there are three techniques involved with drying fruits and vegetables; each technique is used for only a certain set of fruits and veggies however.
The first drying technique involves mushing up fruits like apricots or peaches into a pulp and then spreading over a clean, flat surface. After mashing up the fruit you can then simply place it in the sun and the drying process will happen naturally. Another way of preserving certain fruits and vegetables involves chopping the vegetables up and placing them on a cheesecloth that is propped up by some type of splint. You should then place an additional cheesecloth on top of the fruits and vegetables to cover them and then place them in the sun to dry. Finally, other fruits and vegetables can be draped over a string and hung out to dry. The drying of fruits and vegetables is a great way of preserving them while still retaining most of their nutritional value. It is important to remember, however, that once you have dried foods they must remain dry or they will break down at a rapid pace.
There are countless additional ways to preserve food, but the three aforementioned techniques are by far the longest-standing and most effective. When done right, the preservation of food without a refrigerator is a lot easier than most people nowadays would initially believe. Not only is it easy to do, it is also a great way to stay prepared for the worst.