Our Five Favorite Methods to Preserve Food

We’re not big fans of food waste at The Seasoned Chef. When you enjoy one of our classes, you’re actually able to enjoy what you’ve created as a meal following. That which you don’t finish during class, you get to take home with you, and following that we’ll make sure the food is enjoyed by someone on staff or we’ll donate it, depending on the meal.

Alternatively, preserving food at home is a worthwhile endeavor, as well. It’s easy to do, saves your family money, and some methods of preservation bring an extra dose of health to your pre-prepared meals.

When you’re preserving food, your goal is to slow down or stop the activity of microorganisms and enzymes.  While there are several ways that this can be done, each that provide different flavors and benefits, it’s important to note that different foods are best preserved in one way versus another. Below are our top recommendations for preserving food at home, as well as high level instructions and tips.

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Recommended Methods to Preserve Food at Home

1) Pickling

Similar to fermenting, pickling your food in vinegar is creating a high acidity environment, but without the need for heating and canning! This is becoming the most popular method of preserving food right now. Not only does it preserve food, it flavors it as well.

Plus, we love the added health benefits from using vinegar in our foods.  It helps our bodies control blood sugar and cholesterol levels, improves digestion, treats acid reflux, as well as enhancing the blood flow to your muscles.

  • We recommend pickling many of your vegetables to add an extra pop of flavor to dishes all year long. Cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, and mushrooms are a few of our favorites!

Pro tip: We love pickling so much that we’re adding a class full of pickling and the delicious flavors vinegar provides!

2) Freezing

The colder your food is, the slower the microorganisms and enzymes grow. Of all preservation techniques, freezing your food will give you the flavor that’s closest to fresh food, and it requires little specialized equipment, as most homes have a freezer available at this point.

When you decide to freeze your fresh foods, here are a couple tips to consider:

  • Consider vacuum sealing your food prior to freezing, as this will extend the storage life of your food 3-5 times longer.

  • Sprinkle your fresh fruit with a little bit of sugar prior, which limits enzyme activity while frozen.

  • Prior to freezing your fresh vegetables, first blanch them in boiling water to destroy the enzymes and microorganisms that exits.

  • Once your food is unfrozen, the enzymes and microorganism activity accelerates once more, so plan to cook and/or consume your food soon afterwards.

3) Fermenting

Fermenting changes low acid foods into high acid foods through the use of salt or another starter culture. Considered a “live culture food,” fermented foods are typically easier for most people to digest than fresh foods!  But be aware that the flavor profile of your foods will change quite a bit through this process.

When preparing for fermentation:

  • Popular fermented foods would be options such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and sourdough bread. If you can picture the flavor profile of these foods, it will help you to decide which food might be best to ferment - it’s a little bit of a saltier flavor than some might be used to on an everyday basis.

  • While fermenting does not require a lot of specialized equipment, we would recommend that you use mason jars that are designed to be completely airtight, as well as planning on the jars taking up space in your refrigerator, as fermented foods do need to be stored cold to be preserved.

4) Drying/Dehydrating

Similar to all preservation techniques, drying is only ideal for certain foods.  Specifically, we recommend drying for fruits, fruit leathers, herbs, some meats. Your food will end up tasting different than when fresh and you should expect a little bit of a “crunch” texture-wise.  However, this technique takes up very little space storage-wise and it’s much cheaper to do at home versus buying these foods at the store - has anyone seen the price of beef jerky lately!

A couple quick tips:

  • Herbs can be hung dry in a cool, dark space. Picture this being similar to drying out flowers.

  • An electric dehydrator would be preferred for fruits and vegetable, but you can also try putting them on a baking sheet and putting them in the oven to remove all of the moisture.  Though please note that this is not the same thing as baking your food, so you will want to treat it differently.

5) Canning

There are two different kinds of canning that are typically used, water bath canning and pressure canning, and the type of canning that you decide to use should vary by the food.  While this method of food preservation is easy to do once you get the hang of it, both methods do take more equipment, such as a pressure canner and canning salt.

A couple tips to know:

  • Canning is an ideal way to make foods like jams and jellies, applesauce, and canned fruits and vegetables that you might otherwise purchase at the grocery store.

  • Get creative when it comes to this method - we love to can our pie fillings when the food is fresh so that we can make delicious cherry and apple pies all year long!

Did you know…

We are teaching an upcoming class on pickling this fall, which will teach your step-by-step how to complete this process in your own home. Keep a look out for it! From an easy to make kimchi, to pickled red onion, to a delicious grilled steak sandwich with giardiniera, you’ll definitely want to preserve these recipes.