Growing up, I used to help my mother weed our garden on a little plot in our backyard. She would hand me a trash bag and ask me to pick one hundred weeds as a chore each week. This was something I fought against, but now I realize and appreciate the value of her lessons as she taught me how to work hard at a young age from tasks like this around the house. We also preserved the fall harvest each year by canning and dehydrating what we didn’t eat.
Years later, as a young mother, money was tight with me taking care of our four little ones and my husband working. I learned in my youth how to make meals from scratch and stretch the money by growing and preserving a garden, which proved invaluable to my growing family.
Many of these skills have become lost through the recent generations. With fast food and packaged meals, we are able to keep very busy schedules for ourselves and our families and not have to worry about food preparation. As a result, however, our health has deteriorated and our stress levels have increased.
Getting back to the basics, for me and my family, has improved our health and brought us closer together. I do work at home most of the time and I teach outside on occasion. I continue providing home cooked meals the majority of the time with occasional visits to restaurants when schedules are tight. I also teach my children these skills so they can take care of themselves when they are ready to go out on their own.
Creating balance in life can be a challenge, but as we have lightened our schedules, getting rid of things that aren’t as important, and focusing more on our family, we have noticed a big difference. We often visit our “family store” in the basement and enjoy jars of canned peaches or pears, green beans, and the many other foods we have stored up. This has also helped us greatly as we live further out in the country and access to a store has not always been convenient.
FOOD PRESERVATION OPTIONS:
Preserving food is important for many reasons, one of which is for emergency preparedness. It is always good to have a year’s supply of food on hand, where possible. There are three things that destroy the nutritional value of food: water, heat and oxygen. Here are different methods that can be used to preserve food and the pros and cons of each.
Canning: This method uses high heats, which destroys over half the nutritional value of the food. Because there is water involved, it only lasts about 3 to 4 years. Get a good recipe book that accounts for altitude adjustments. If not done properly, botulism can develop, which can be deadly. Always be sure the lid is sealed before opening for use. If not, throw it away.
- A Hot Water Bath is for foods that are high in acid such as tomatoes, peaches, pears, etc. Using a little sugar or lemon juice and salt will help preserve these foods for several years.
- The Pressure Cooker method is for foods with lower acid content such as beans, squash, meat, etc. Because of the low acid, they need to be processed at higher heats and pressure to be sure they do not spoil on the shelf.
Dehydrating: This method can be done out in the air to dry produce and herbs using mesh dryers for a day or two. Be sure to keep it out of the sun. An electrical dehydrator may also be used for produce and meats for jerkies. Most of the moisture is removed from the food and dried. Heat is present and about 40% of the nutritional value is lost. The food will last about 2-4 years.
Freezing: Using freezer bags, food may be frozen from 3 months to one year. The longer it is in the freezer though, the more prone to freezer burn it becomes. The nutritional value of frozen foods decreases by about 20% or more and the texture of beans, cheese, and other foods often changes.
Freeze Drying: There are companies who offer freeze dried foods including fruits, vegetables and pre-made meals in cans. This is how the astronaut food is made. It is very light weight and dried quickly, taking all of the liquid out. There is no heat applied during the process so the nutrients stay intact. When rehydrated by adding water or allowing your saliva to mix with the food, it tastes like the original version and has a very similar texture. These are expensive to purchase but there are now home models available to freeze dry your own food that takes about 24 hours to process about 6 pounds of food. The food lasts 20+ years, making this the best method to preserve.
Fermenting: This process is done with a brine which is a mixture of salt and water and sometimes vinegar, which produces lactic acid. This is the way our ancestors would preserve food without refrigerators. The added benefit of fermentation is that probiotics naturally form which are excellent for gut health and highly recommended to eat regularly. Sauerkraut, kimche and other vegetables like carrots, onions, garlic, etc. may be fermented. Again, water is present so the food will go bad over time.
Preserving food in a variety of ways is great to do with your fall harvest to ensure you and your family have nutritious and delicious food to eat during the winter. You may also buy produce at local farmer’s markets in bulk to preserve. Always be sure to label and date each jar or package and rotate using the FIFO method (first in, first out). It takes a little work but when you get your family members involved, it can be really fun. Teach them the value of preparing their own food and they will take these skills into their adulthood to help feed and care for their families, too…(click here to get an awesome Dill Pickle recipe from Wendy)
Written by: Raw Chef Wendy Thueson
Originally published by Utah Valley Health and Wellness