Preserve Food to Reduce Costs and Your Carbon Footprint!
Learning how to preserve the harvest is a great way to save money and live a more sustainable lifestyle. Don’t want to spend a ton on produce shipped long distances in the winter? Tired of buying processed goods packaged in plastic and wrappers? I know how you feel!
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to save money, increase your self-reliance, and be green too. I have been canning, freezing, dehydrating, and pickling foods for years as a way to reduce my grocery bill and my carbon footprint. Every little bit you can do for yourself is a huge help for your wallet and the planet!
This post was originally published on The New Homesteader’s Almanac.
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Basics of Food Preservation
It might seem like a ton of work to preserve the harvest from your homestead, the farmers market, or in-season sales at the grocery store. However, you don’t necessarily have to slave over a hot stove all day to put up the abundance. Here are the basic methods of food preservation and some recipes and instructions to get you started on preserving food like a pro!
Preserve the Harvest by Dehydrating or Freeze Drying
Dehydrating food is the process of removing the moisture to make it shelf-stable. Freeze drying removes moisture under very cold conditions, such as in a deep freezer.
Properly dehydrated and freeze-dried food will remain safe to eat in an airtight container for long periods of time. This is a great way to build up a stash of emergency rations, preserve the harvest on an off-grid homestead, or simply save food for the winter.
Here are some great articles to help you learn to preserve food by dehydrating or freeze-drying:
Preserve the Harvest by Freezing
Freezing food is one of the simplest methods of preserving it for the winter. In general, frozen foods should be used within 3 months to 1 year for best qualities. You need a freezer, obviously, and freezer bags or reusable freezer containers.
Most vegetables should be blanched to kill enzymes that cause the food to deteriorate even when frozen.
Here are some articles to get you started on freezing food:
How to Make Jam from Frozen Fruit – No time to can jam during the busy harvest season? Freeze the fruit and make jam later!
How to Freeze Green Beans with 3 different methods of blanching.
If you don’t have enough tomatoes or time to can them, check out this tip – Freezing Tomatoes for Canning Later in the Year
Preserve the Harvest by Canning – Hot Water Bath vs Pressure Canning
It’s important to know whether to use a water bath canner or a pressure canner before you get started as a canning newbie. Acidic foods such as pickles, fruits, jams, and jellies may be processed in a water bath canner. Low acid foods such as vegetables and meats must be preserved with a pressure canner to kill botulism spores that may be present.
Here are 2 reliable guides to canning foods for beginners:
For additional recipes and information about canning, check out these articles:
Preserve the Harvest by Fermenting, Brine Curing, and Culturing
Lacto-fermentation and brine curing are great ways to increase healthy probiotic bacteria in your diet. Vegetables are chopped or shredded and packed in either salt, whey, or a cultured solution that encourages or introduces beneficial bacteria.
Other forms of fermentation include making wine and beer and aged cheeses.
Here are some articles to read up on these processes:
Preserve the Harvest in a Root Cellar
Some fruits and vegetables keep very well under proper conditions, sometimes for months! If you have winter squash, potatoes, onions, carrots, apples, cabbages, and other garden goodies, you can keep and use them through the winter. Some varieties keep better than others, and it is important to provide the proper temperature and humidity for each crop.
For more information about harvesting and storing these garden goodies, check out the following articles:
How to Preserve Garlic – Including how to store in a root cellar, how to freeze, and how to pickle!
Preserving the Harvest Doesn’t Have to be Hard!
There are plenty of ideas here for simple ways to preserve food and save money. Dehydrating and freezing food is easy and you may do small batches very quickly. Brine curing and fermenting are also great ways to use odds and ends of your harvest. Even if you have a small garden or a few herbs, it pays to save those goodies for the rest of the year
Homesteaders with extra eggs from their flock might be interested in reading 9 Ways to Preserve Eggs. These tips may help you keep enough eggs to last through the winter!
Once you have the hang of preserving small batches of food with some of the easier methods, you just might want to work your way up to pressure canning you own veggies and meats!
What is your favorite way to preserve the harvest from your homestead?
In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.
The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.
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