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Which Methods of Food Storage are Correct?

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Food preservation is a process that is used to store food safely for a longer period of time. Not only does it help keep your food at its best quality, but it minimizes the possibility of bacteria growth, and also saves you a bunch of money in the long run by eliminating food waste. As many of you know, there are several food storage methods out there. 

Which Methods of Food Storage are Correct?

I’d like to take a few moments to share with you not only what they are, but also the pros and cons of each of them. That way you’re able to decide for yourself which food storage method is best for you. This isn’t a comprehensive guide to food storage, but instead, an overview of which methods of food storage is correct. The main goal is to avoid food spoilage, so let’s check out these methods!

Which Methods of Food Storage are Correct?

Canning

How many of you remember licking your chops while watching your grandmother or mother canning delicious jams and jellies, applesauce, and vegetables while you were growing up? Maybe some of you still continue with this practice today? Canning is a cost-effective food preservation method that has been practiced for centuries. Canned foods make for wonderful gifts, especially around Christmas time. Another benefit of this method is that you can get 1 to 5 years out of canned foods depending on what you’ve canned. Now, the USDA states one year, I get it. I admit I have eaten peaches that were 4 years old. They were still sealed and tasted great. I used a Presto Pressure Canner for many years and then I saved up for an All-American Pressure Canner. The Ball Water Bath Canner shown is the one I have been using for the last few years. After taking my Master Canning and Preserving Class I purchased this one, The Ball Electric Water Bath Canner.

The basic steps for canning include sterilizing the jars and lids, preparing your food (washing, peeling, slicing) packing the food into the jars, sealing them with an airtight lid, and then heating them to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time in order to kill bacteria or any other microorganisms. You may also need to add acids like vinegar or lemon juice if they aren’t acidic enough. 

Canning is especially beneficial for those living in rural areas because it can be done with produce from your own garden. However, it does have some drawbacks like the fact that you have to make sure the food is free from bacteria before canning. Canning also does allow certain foods to lose some of their nutritional value, but not entirely. The canning method is super popular still today! I can only recommend these two books for canning, The Ball Canning Book and the USDA Canning Guide. Please be safe when preserving your food.

Dehydrating 

Dehydrating is another type of food preservation that also dates back centuries ago. It can be used for things like fruits, vegetables, and even meats. Dehydrated foods don’t take up too much room because the water has been removed from them, making them great for long-term storage.

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The process of dehydrating involves slicing your produce or meat into thin pieces in order to remove moisture quickly and evenly, then heating it up until all the moisture has been removed. Dehydrated foods are typically stored in airtight containers and make a convenient snack on the go.

The major benefit of this method is that you don’t have to worry about spoilage since there’s no liquid involved in the process. However, it does require the use of electricity which can be a bummer for those looking to minimize their energy consumption. Additionally, some of the food’s nutrients may also be lost while dehydrating them. Dehydrating food items is one of the most popular food preservation methods! I use an Excalibur Dehydrator.

Freezing

This method of food storage is probably one of the more common methods used today. We all know how convenient it is to pop something in the freezer for later use! As long as you keep your freezer at 0°F or less, frozen foods are safe to consume up to 6 months after they are prepared and stored properly. Freezing is especially beneficial for those living in urban areas because the majority of them don’t have backyard gardens. 

The process of freezing food is simple. First, prep the food by washing, peeling, slicing, and then packing it into airtight freezer containers or bags. You’ll want to make sure to press out as much air as possible before sealing it and then placing it in the freezer.

Freezing is actually a great way to preserve foods while still keeping their vitamins and minerals intact as some of them are not lost during this method like they would with canning. The downside is that if your electricity goes out or you forget to put something back in the freezer after taking it out, you’d be wasting money on spoiled goods. In case of an emergency, you can shop in your own freezer, instead of going to the grocery store. Just make sure you have enough freezer storage space.

Pickling

Pickling is a great alternative to canning and freezing, but more so for those who enjoy fermented foods. This method of food storage works best with vegetables like cucumbers, okra, onions, and carrots. Once you pickle these veggies in a jar filled with vinegar, sugar, water, and spices then seal them up tightly before refrigerating them; they will last several months!

The pros of this method are that there’s no need to use advanced equipment or heat food over high temperatures. Pickled foods keep their crunchy texture and have an extended shelf life due to the vinegar solution used which helps protect against bacteria. The cons are that this food storage method doesn’t preserve foods as long as other methods do (about 4-6 months) and that it doesn’t work with all vegetables. If you follow food safety guidelines, then pickling is easy!

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Freeze-drying

When you hear the word freeze drying, you probably think of astronauts and their space food! But freeze-drying actually dates back to World War II when it was used by the United States Military. It is great for long-term storage because foods can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container or bag without losing any of their original flavor, texture, or nutritional value.

The freeze-drying process involves freezing a food item and then subjecting it to a vacuum chamber that removes any moisture from the food. This method happens to be very expensive so unless you plan on feeding an entire army; this may not be the best option for you. However, if money isn’t an issue then freeze-drying may be a great way to preserve and store food for an extended period of time. Proper food storage that stores food products long term includes the method of freeze-drying! When you ask “which methods of food storage are correct?” ..it would be freeze-drying!

Cold Storage

Cold storage is a great way to store fruits and vegetables for long periods of time. It basically involves keeping food in temperatures below 40°F, usually with extra humidity or carbon dioxide. This method works best with foods that don’t need oxygen like potatoes, apples, beets, carrots, and onions. You can store them at home by placing the product in an airtight container and then storing it in your refrigerator crisper drawer or even a root cellar if you have one available.

The pros of cold storage are that no electricity is involved and the food will remain fresh longer than if they were stored without this method. The cons are that not all types of food do well with this type of preservation so you’ll want to make sure to research what foods work and which ones don’t. Additionally, the items must be handled carefully in order to prevent it from rotting or becoming moldy. There are many different food types that you can do cold storage with, just make sure it’s one of the best methods for the food you’re wanting to preserve.

Final Word

So, which methods of food storage are correct? When it comes to long-term food storage, each method has its pros and cons depending on your individual needs and preferences. Canning is useful for those with large gardens and freezing works great for urban dwellers who don’t have much room to garden. If you like fermented vegetables then pickling could be a good option while freeze-drying is the best choice if money isn’t an issue. No matter which method you choose, make sure that you research how best to prepare, store, and consume your food before diving in! May God Bless this world, Linda

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22 Comments

  1. Great post Linda! I’ve preserved foods all the ways you talked about. I especially like the canning and dehydrating methods. After I dehydrate my foods, after making sure they are dried well, I usually vacuum pack them. They seem to last longer that way. I’ve used bags and jars for vacuum sealing. I like Jars, best, but bags work as well.

  2. Linda,

    Also salting, which is sort of like dehydrating without a dehydrator. But seriously, I think we use every one of those methods except freeze drying (since those machines are too expensive for us). We do have some freeze dried foods as well as MRE’s in storage however.

      1. Matt,

        I hope you store iodized salt as well. Goiters were practically an epidemic in the US before the introduction of iodized salt. Aside from seaweed, seafood, and to a lesser extent milk and eggs there are too few decent sources of iodine aside from iodized salt.

    1. Ray,
      We have plenty iodized salt stored for daily use in seasoning. However, we have never done any salting of meats for storage purposes. I know for this purpose one should use non-iodized salt. However, what is the best salt to use for this purpose? I would assume any non-iodized salt such as sea salt. But, should it be a coarse or fine grind? Thanks for any help you can give on this.

      1. Harry,

        My grandparents used ordinary table salt (with no additives such as iodine) to cure fish and game meat. I know others use Kosher salt. Just don’t use any expensive salt because it takes a about a cup and a half or two per pound of meat. What you do is rub half the salt into the meat, hang it someplace bugs can’t get at it (preferably in a room with a temperature between 35 and 50F) for 4-5 days. Then you rub the rest of the salt into it and allow it to finish curing. We hung venison streaks from deer we’d hunted in the Fall in our garage in a sort of tent made of mosquito netting. The meat lasted for months through our fairly mild Winters without spoiling.

        1. Ray,
          Thanks for the info. I have 50 pounds of fine sea salt on order, no additives. Matt recommended to use fine grind rather than coarse so that the salt will more easily fill in any cracks and crevices in the meat. Not sure how soon we will do the salt curing, but I may go ahead and order another 50 pounds so that we don’t run out when we start the process, probably in the fall. Thanks again.

          1. Harry,

            I’m glad you found the information helpful. I found a few links to articles I’d suggest you read if you’re serious about curing meats or fish with salt. The recommendation about how much salt and which kind to use varies but most butchers use so-called pink salt which contains nitrites and nitrates to prevent anerobic bacteria such as botulism from being able to grow. Neither regular table salt nor sea salt contain those two additives. My grandparents used regular table salt but like I said, butchers use curing salt. By the way curing or pink salt is pink because it is dyed with red food coloring. That is to keep people from confusing it with regular table salt–since pink salt is toxic to humans. Here’s the first link.

            https://www.thespruceeats.com/pink-salt-using-nitrates-to-cure-meat-1447029

            And here’s the second.

            https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/lit_rev/cure_smoke_cure.html

            The University of Georgia always has great articles on preserving food and I trust them, but both sites agree that anyone attempting to salt cure meats only do so using a reliable recipe.

            The following link is to an article that has more links to “reliable recipes.”

            https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/lit_rev/cure_smoke_meats.html

            Good luck with learning this preservation method.

      1. Sandra, the key to MRE’s is to check the Inspection Date (much more important than the Pack dates. Your MRE 5-7 year shelf life doesn’t start until AFTER the Inspection Date. As with any other long term foods, they keep longer if stored in cool (70 F or below), dry conditions, where it should be fine for more than eight years. If stored at 100 F the shelf life is roughly 1 year 10 months. So, storage temperature is very important. Another important consideration regarding expiration dates is that the estimated shelf life of MRE’s is based on taste tests conducted by the US Army’s Natick Research Laboratories. So, the shelf life is based on taste, not spoilage.

        I have personally consumed, without ill effect, MRE’s that were 12 year past their Inspection Date, but they had been stored in an old fridge in my garage, so they stayed cool. And the Mylar packaging didn’t allow the humidity in the fridge to bother them.

  3. Morning Linda, I really didn’t read much of this article, because I haven’t really gotten into a lot of these ways of storing food but for a few. I still use a lot of plastic ware and zippered bags, and believe it or not some empty soda bottles; which keep my diced onions and celery in the freezer. I also use and glass jars that are still being sold in stores for some types of foods, and use empty PB jars and such for storing all sorts of items. I want to learn canning, I don’t think I’d have too much trouble learning, but first I need to have more room to do it in as my new apt will give me, then to buy the equipment to start canning. I’ve been making various seasoning mixes, like Prairie Dust, Farm Dust and several others things to make my life easier. I have saved tin cans for making candles and burners like Sterno. I’ve been collecting recipes of all sorts, but right now I’m only putting the ones I like together. When I get my canning starter package, which a well known hardware store sell at a very reasonable price, I’ll be coming to your site for more info. Thanks to you, I have learned a lot in the two years I’ve been learning how to prep and you have been a big help. You’re the best!!!

    1. HI Pamela, thank you for your kind words, my friend. I have cut way back on canning because of my energy level and with only two of us, my garden is shrinking (once the house is done) but I will always preserve food no matter how it works for us. I love hearing you are making your own seasoning mixes, it’s so fun and so much healthier! Love it, Linda

  4. Pickling is a great way for long term storage….I am still eating ripe cukes ….the ones that get lost under the big leaves and cuke turns big and yellow…..mother called them “Slippery Jims” always made them and I have too….also, still eating pickle relish we always made…..both are still good …think I made them back in the….I just checked…the Slippery Jims are from 2013 and the pickle relish is from 2011……they seem to last forever if the lids and rings don’t rust. I have Hersheys Cocoa that our Relief society got in 1984 that is still as good as new…keep it in a gal. jar yet. Foods last much longer than companies or others say.

  5. We definitely have iodized stored as well but it’s not the best for salting meats. We also store pink salt and sea salt.

  6. Matt,
    Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. I have 50 pounds of fine grind sea salt on order. I will order another 50 pounds once I have the first 50 divided out and securely sealed and stored.

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