Preserving food, like curing, is a HUGE topic. This technique was used widely not long ago; your grandparents, or maybe even your parents, probably preserved vegetables, fruits, and even meat. Why? Well, preserving was a necessity in the winter months, back when there weren’t refrigerators or tractor trailers delivering foods from the South on a daily basis. I see knowledge and experience in food preservation becoming important as thrift culture reemerges in the western world. I mean, if you can preserve, you’re freeing your fridge from storing all of your food. If you can preserve, you can CAPATALIZE on top quality, maybe organic (that’s what I’m buying, and I ain’t paying retail for it!), produce when it’s in season. You can stop time, so to speak, you can eliminate or postpone rotting indefinitely; at least for a couple of years, but maybe even ten in the case of some pickles.
The technology is very rudimentary and the tools are WIDELY available. You likely have most of what you need already in your home. One of the most widely used techniques is jarring or canning. The jars, often called Mason jars, are widely available and they come with instructions on how to can foods. YOU MUST FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER!!! Don’t ‘wing it’ when jarring foods or you will waste your time and money as the food goes bad. All of the information is on the package, just read it over and learn it. The jars are reusable and once you start to take action and preserve your own food, you will love it! You will be addicted. It’s fun and thrifty and truly healthy – imagine all of those fresh fruits and vegetables from the summer and fall, preserved for your enjoyment and nourishment throughout the winter: asparagus, carrots, beets, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, cherries, pears, apples…
- Using whatever ‘recipe’ you wish, cook the food that you wish to preserve--relish, pickles, jam, chutney, confiture, rillet, vegetables, fruits, cured meats, cured fish, whole cured duck, whole cured chickens, boiled eggs (these are just a few of the potential foods for canning)—in a pot of the preserving liquids, on the stove. Until you become a master, you will have to follow a proven recipe; salt and sugar levels must be accurate, for example, since they’re what prevent food born illnesses from growing. These illnesses cannot grow in high acid (vinegar), high salt or high sugar environments. Low acid and low sugar create a perfectly good environment for a deadly food born disease to grow.
- While you’re cooking your preserve in a pot on the stove, you must sterilize your jars by boiling them (and their lids) in water for 15 minutes (read the instructions on the label). Then, remove the jars and lids to a clean surface (i.e. a clean counter that’s covered with clean tea towels to absorb the water). Do NOT touch the lids or jars with your bare hands, but use tongs and wear rubber gloves (available at drug stores).
- Pour your hot preserve into the hot jars using a ladle, and be sure to leave an air space of about 1 inch at the top.
- Place the lids on top of the jars and gently turn the sealer (the ring) so that it’s tightened about ¾ of the way.
- Put the jars into a hot water bath (big pot of boiling water) and boil them for 15 minutes.
- Remove, and allow them to cool. This
step will create a powerful suction and the lids will become tightly
sealed to the jars. At this point you must tighten the sealer (the ring) the
rest of the way.
Food for Thought:
Survival isn’t a word that people often think of. I must say, however, that western nations, especially the English speaking nations like Canada, the U.S., and UK, are at risk of having food sources disrupted. I have lived all over Canada and one thing that’s very common is the dependence upon foods that are imported from hundreds, even thousands of miles away. We shouldn’t be stupid and unrealistic about the risks. If ‘shit hits the fan,’ and oil goes to $400 a barrel or politicians get wild (wilder) and make more stupid decisions (it all they do), food sources could be disrupted. I once read that 1800 tractor trailer loads of food travel from California to Canada each day--mostly in the winter. The northern U.S. relies on similar arrangements and the U.K. is also a net food importer.
There’s nothing wrong with trade, it opens us up to better products at better prices, but don’t be naïve about food. If there’s the right sort of event and long-range food trade is disrupted, your grocery store shelves may be empty! Those of us who use the preservation or curing techniques will have it made in the shade. We will be able to enjoy tasty foods year round, even as some of our brethren struggle to find food. Don’t lose sight of this. Learn to preserve. Even if none of this happens you have still learned a thrifty and fun cooking technique!