Living in a cold climate with a short growing season – food preservation is essential. In order to be able to eat homegrown food all year round, we have to store it away. Here are 5 ways to preserve food that we use. These are the 5 ways that are suited to preserve vegetables, fruit, and herbs.
Into this category fall simple dry storage, root collaring, and earth storage. What method to use depends on the fruit or vegetable and the climate.
Dry storage is great for garlic, squash, green tomatoes to after-ripen, ground cherries, melons, sweet potatoes, and all dry legumes and grains. If a dry dark storage room or closet is all you have, you can also store potatoes to some degree.
In our house, we use the basement for that. It is dry and cool in there, also not a whole lot of light comes in. However, the room is partially heated. A few shelves hold pails with grains and legumes as well as garlic, and other vegetables that need dry storage.
Root cellaring is great for all root vegetables except the sweet potato and garlic, as those keep better in dry storage.
Earth storage, where you bury or leave things in the soil is mostly used in a warmer climate, we have only used it for carrots. But that also is a great method for root vegetables and cabbage. My mom used to bury our cabbage upside down in the garden soil. She used to say that it mostly depended on the weather. If she could catch the change from dry warmer weather to wet and cold at the right time, the cabbage was good for a long time.
There is also the possibility to simulate this method in a sandbox indoors. In our dry climate, the challenge would be to keep it moist, so we have not experimented with it.
A great resource for all types of natural long-time storage is the book Root cellaring, by Mike and Nancy Bubel.
We personally have a cold room in the basement which used to be the coal room. We insulated the walls and ceiling to the house, so no heating comes in. It works very much like a cellar, however not as cool in the summer.
See a list of what we store in long-term storage here.
Dehydrating fruit and vegetables for long-term storage is a simple method to store lots in a small space. Several huge zucchinis fit into one jar if dehydrated.
Dehydrators come in different sizes and price categories. Growing up though, we dehydrated everything we wanted simply on a rooftop in the sun.
Today I air dry culinary herbs and herbs and flowers for tea.
One of our future projects is to build a solar dehydrator, our dry climate and intense sunshine would be great for that.
We love dry fruit and greens. See our blog articles on dehydrating here.
Freezing does require a freezer and constant power at least during the warm months. Besides that, it is a great way to preserve food. Berries are number one on our list for frozen food. Also, we find that corn and peas store best in the freezer, along with many other vegetables and greens.
See all the blog articles on different fruit and vegetables that we freeze here.
Freezing can easily be combined with dehydrating especially if you want to lower energy use or are off-grid. Use solar energy to dehydrate during the warm months and freeze the dehydrated goods to preserve them for longer.
We also find that some things like sour cherries taste better if we don’t dehydrate them completely, just a bit to make them sweeter, and then freeze them, they turn out delicious.
Freeze-drying is an interesting new method that we plan to look into more in the future.
Read also about how we organize a chest freezer with plant food.
Fermenting is a very natural, delicious way to preserve food. The list of things that can be fermented is very long. A great book to get started is Fermented Vegetables by Christopher and Kirsten K. Shockey.
Our favorite fermented vegetable is cabbage. We have done it The Simple Way for years. Upgrading to a water-sealed fermenting crock, however, brings fermentation to another level. Read on how to use a fermenting crock here.
Fermented vegetables have the advantage that they are full of good bacteria. Also, there is no heat involved, so it still is raw food.
Canning has gained popularity in the last couple of years. To have a pantry of canned jars filled with summer goodies is very satisfying.
Canning fruit, or pickling vegetables along with yummy salsa, relish, and other condiments is all done in a water or steam canner. For a list of recipes that we use and have already shared click here.
A great recipe book for canning is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This book has so many great recipes that I would say it’s a must-have for everyone who likes canning and preserving.
For potatoes, beans, beets, and other non-acidic foods you need a high-pressure canner. We use the Presto canner and are happy with it.
Presto has a canner for induction glass cooktop that works on gas, electric, smooth-top, and induction ranges. If you don’t have a canner yet but are considering getting one, that would be the one I would recommend. With this one you are set for whatever cooktop you will have in the foreseeable future in regards to technology.
Our goal is to eat what we grow. In the summer when the garden is bountiful, we enjoy harvesting just before making a meal. But we also strive to preserve as much as we can for the long winter months.
This is a short video that captures a portion of our food storage. If you can’t see the video below, click here.
Do you preserve food? What is your favorite way of food preservation?