The art of preserving foods has been with us for thousands of years. Born of necessity, this is now a rapidly expanding and popular activity worldwide. Over time an enormous variety of different techniques have been perfected. Some ancient techniques still stand up today!
Look no further for our comprehensive guides on all the food preservation methods, techniques and styles.
This is a serious subject. Preserving food can be either a fantastic hobby or even a full occupation.
You might be surprised where this journey takes you.
You'll get a comprehensive range of guides on all the types of preservation whether it be fruit and vegetables or meat, fish and poultry. We'll also throw in our advice on which products are bogus and which do the job the best!
So how does it work?
Good question. Food preservation is split into a variety of different techniques that vary depending on the product you are looking to preserve. There are a range of techniques and processes for any type of food and all of these produce a different end result in terms of longevity, taste and texture.
The links on this page will take you to full guides on different techniques. The following food preservation methods are covered.
We'll be going over a few of these right here for you. It'll help get an idea of the vast world that this is.
It's worth noting that while this might sound like an expensive hobby you can actually get started with your first project or two with very little investment.
We can't guarantee you won't get hooked and start browsing our product list hungrily though. That's just a risk you'll have to take.
Canning is the perfect place to get started. It's low cost and you aren't restricted by a purchase that only caters for a specific type of preservation. With the right ingredients and simple airtight jars you can start working with anything from fruit and vegetables to poultry, seafood and red meats.
The history of canning truly began in the modern sense approximately one hundred and eighty years ago. Born from a need of better food storage more than a leisure activity it has evolved over time with researchers and producers refining new ways to retain quality and increase safety.
This is a serious consideration when working with canning. As fermentation takes place and products break down within their containers you run the risk of dangerous fumes and gases being released.
This is nothing to worry about if you follow the right techniques but it is a real enough risk to be discussed before entering into any details of technique and process.
The danger comes from bacteria.
Certain types of bacteria can grow and develop within sealed food containers and create toxins. Boiling containers and food can usually get around this danger by destroying the bacteria which cannot survive at extreme temperatures both hot and cold.
So what's on offer?
Canning has exceptional variety and potential. As we've discussed you can work with a massive range of foodstuffs and produce some exceptional products.
It's worth noting that with some processes and specific food items that the canning process can take some time. This isn't universal – some techniques can be finished within a short space of time. Some fermentation and pickling methods though can take months to be properly finished.
We guarantee it's worth the wait!
A great point about getting into canning is that it's front loaded work. That means that you'll be doing your hard work at the start by getting your ingredients and equipment together and ensuring your safety checks are adhered to properly.
Once that's done though you just have to wait!
What this means is that you can can a large volume and variety of foodstuffs at any given time. With this in mind you can create a schedule of canning that means you'll never have to wait too long to enjoy some delicious preserved foods.
This level of planning works particularly well with seasonal foods – savoury comfort type foods like sauerkraut are fantastic for winter and spring whereas preserved fruits are perfect to mix with treats like ice cream and yoghurt in spring and summer.
Get the full run down right here.
There's more to freezing than oven chips and peas! This is a serious part of getting into the other types of preserving foods. It's also a very clever way to enhance and develop the certain products and foodstuffs by using the freezing and storage time to mature flavours further.
While most family households will have a simple freezer located in the kitchen or pantry the placement of these items and particularly the larger units is important. A cool and dry area is critical.
The freezing process is as much to do with the food as the freezer. You need to make sure that your prepared items are as good as they can be before they are placed in the freezer.
The way freezing actually works is that it slows the development and growth of certain microorganisms that contribute to the spoiling of foods. It also slows other chemical changes that likewise cause food to turn sour or rotten over time.
Meat is particularly affected by the freezing process as the production and activity of enzymes that cause meat to spoil are halted by the extremely low temperature.
The types of crystals produced when the freezer is activated can also affect food quality. A fast freeze is ideal – this means that small crystals are formed. Larger crystals are an indication of a slow freeze and this can have bad side effects like the rupturing of cells in your food products which can ruin texture at best.
Some examples of freezing techniques:
Sugar packing fruit
This is a particularly tasty method and simple to do. You just need your prepared fruits and a shallow pan or bowl. Depending on your fruit size you'll want to slice or chop the fruit and place it in the bowl. You then simple sprinkle white sugar over the top and allow to rest.
Once rested the fruit will then have leaked some juice which needs to be drained. Once this is done you can then place these items into a container. A great tip is to add in a small water resistance piece of crumpled paper over the fruit to help avoid free standing juice that might negatively affect the texture.
This is an obvious function of freezers in most households and for good reason. Proper preservation of meat through freezing can make such items last for many months, giving you a greater ability to take advantage of opportunities to slaughter whole animals for storage or simply grab the best deals and reduced price cuts from supermarkets and butcher shops.
A few tips on preparing the meat for freezing can make your life easier. It's a good idea to trim down excess fat and particularly remove bones where possible. This will help avoid sharp edges piercing the packaging and will keep the thawed product quality high.
You will also want to make sure that you pack individual cuts in separate wrappings before putting them in the freezer together. If you've ever snatched a great deal on a bag of chicken breasts and pulled a basketball sized hunk of meat out of the freezer in one go you'll know what we mean!
More on freezing right here. (link)
Your first thought when it comes to dehydrating food might be meat jerky. This isn't quite correct! Dehydrating food uses a specific electrical appliance that is called, surprisingly, a dehydrator.
These items contain fans and vents for ventilating the product safely as well as electric heating elements. The goal of these is to produce the perfect one hundred and forty degrees temperature that gives the quickest dehydration without compromising quality.
Some dehydrators can be expensive. These are usually do to particularly rugged and long warranty parts however. Advanced features also ramp up the cost such as larger containers or interactive menus that can tailor the dehydration process to better suit specific or demanding types of food.
A basic dehydrator won't break the bank by any means and is a fantastic way to get into this rewarding and delicious hobby!
Some pointers on product quality.
You'll want to make sure your chosen product has some of the following features.
- Non wooden walls – wood is hard to clean and keep hygienic
- A design that will fit easily on a kitchen counter top
- A reliable and fully enclosed thermostat
- A warranty of at least one year is ideal – these products usually see heavy use
- Plastic mesh trays for storing the produce – these are easy to clean
- A dial so that you can select temperature as some items need higher or lower
- A timer! While some foodstuffs take longer you'll also need to at times be quite precise to avoid losing quality on your end production
Types of dehydrators
While you'll of course have a range of different brands and sizes of dehydrators there are two distinct variations it's good to be aware of.
It comes down to air flow.
Dehydrators with vertical air flow will have their fans and heating elements located at the bottom or base of the dehydrator. This can be problematic at times as depending on your product you might see juice or liquids can spill and leak directly onto the heating elements. This can be bad news as you might imagine, causing either a burned flavour developing or much worse a fault with the element that can damage the dehydrator.
Horizontal air flow units will have their fan and element located on the side. The main benefits of a horizontal airflow is that it lowers the potential mixing of flavours – this means you can place different products in the same single unit together. It also means that equal heat is applied to all the different trays to make sure the drying process is applied evenly.
Check this page for reviews of some of the best food dehydrators on the market
You don't need to break the bank as we've discussed for dehydrating. Most of the expensive advanced features can be avoided by having simple good planning on your own end. Scheduling and being aware of what products work well together will see you through even with a basic unit.
Heat, smoke and salt. Simple enough!
The fact is there is a huge amount of depth to smoking fish. While some might turn their nose at the idea of drying fish for taste the truth is there are some absolutely delectable types of fish that can be dried and flavoured up.
A key part of the draw of this is the smoking process. Depending on the type of materials used you can impart some mouth watering flavours into your fish of choice.
It's also a very healthy option. As if most types of fish aren't healthy enough already the drying process means that you are getting maximum nutrition from every mouthful without compromising taste.
It's also of course an effective way to eke out the longevity of your fish. While freezing works it can take up space and be inconvenient to store whereas you have a lot more freedom with storing a dried product. It can also be easier to package and access when on the move for instance.
It's important to note that you need to be careful with your smoking. Similar to what we discussed with canning you can run the risk of dangerous food borne illnesses if you don't follow the correct precautions.
This is usually in the form of nasty bacteria that develop and grow in the kinds of conditions your fish are likely to be in during the prep phase. The worst of these is called clostridium botulinum and is accompanied by a number of similar varieties that can cause problems.
The good news is that this can be easily avoided by you simply being aware of the dangers and following proper process. You'd have to be very sloppy and unaware to be in any real danger, but it's best to act with extra caution all the same.
How does it work?
The essentials of smoking your fish is as the brining and drying.
Before you have your fish ready to go you need to trim it and prepare accordingly. This can vary depending on the fish species and the type of meat – fatty and lean fish meat will need to be treated a little differently. Most good purchased smokers will have general guides on the specifics that you can reference.
Once your fish is prepared you'll need to have it salted. This is usually done by simple leaving the fish in question in a bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes in a brine mixture. Salt levels are critical for safety and quality in the smoking process and the general guideline for a good brine is one part salt to seven parts water.
Once the fish has been salted sufficiently you'll then put it in the smoker. It's worth noting here that you will need a good quality smoker to be able to reach the temperatures required for a full smoke.
It's often the case that cheaper units won't hit the required temperature of around 160 degrees. This means that you'll often need to transfer the fish over to an oven to finish the process.
For a good list of quality smokers that get the job done take a look right here.
So what are you waiting for?!
We've barely even scratched the surface here.
There's a vast amount of delicious food you can put together with different preservation techniques. Some of these are richly steeped in certain cultures with recipes that are well defined and truly jaw dropping.
You can also look towards combining different preservation end products together.
There are some recipes you just can't do without well preserved food and the amount of control you can have over the process by doing it yourself is as liberating as it is fun. Whether it be different spices and types of wood for smoking or a family recipe for canning and pickling there's a lot out there to play with.
It's even healthy. Can't beat that! Smoked fish for instance is practically a super food. Many of these processes result in some truly nutritious and lean, low fat produce that will help keep your taste buds going and your waistline slim at the same time.
So get started. We've got the best in the businesses right here. Each of our pages will give you some fantastic product recommendation as well as a further sense of the processes and recipes you can use.