Last week we talked about it is better to have something rather than nothing. Now on to a whole series of ways to preserve food so we can build up our supplies and make the most of what we might have or have come by on a great special. There are so many ways to build up a pantry!
This week I am thrilled to have a post by Glenda who is a great teacher to me. Before we get started I have to show you Glenda's stove...
I just love it. I just had to show you!
Now over to Glenda...
There are many ways of preserving foods to stock our deep pantry shelves. History is the best teacher to learn different methods of food preservation, storage, and stocking. Very early forms of preservation of foods were sun drying, open fire or stove drying, salting, smoking, fermenting, and root cellaring.
In earlier times, farm wives and homesteaders grew what they were going to eat for the upcoming year. The homemaker had to work long and hard in her garden and in the kitchen, preserving the food for the non-growing months. The Little House on the Prairiebooks are full of examples of the hardworking homesteaders and the difficulties they faced. Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote in her book Farmer Boy: “There was no rest and no play for anyone now. They all worked from candle-light to candle-light. Mother and the girls were making cucumber pickles, green-tomato pickles, and watermelon-rind pickles; they were drying corn and apples, and making preserves. Everything must be saved, nothing wasted of the summer’s bounty. Even the apple cores were saved for making vinegar.”
Early homesteaders built smoke houses to smoke the meat for winter. Sometimes, the meat was hung and the dairy items kept in early ice houses which were built with thick insulated walls and high up ventilation. The ice would be packed in sawdust to preserve it for long periods of time. Some ice houses were built partially underground.
The modern form of canning in jars and cans is relatively new. Jar and metal can preserving of foods was first developed in the early 1800’s. The modern two piece canning jar lid was not invented until 1915. We live in an age of blessings and convenience.
In our home, we employ several methods of food preservation. All work well and, due to modern conveniences, it takes a lot less time than it would have 200 years ago to preserve foods.
Air drying is one of my favorite ways to dry herbs, although they can also be dried in a dehydrator. I hang the herbs, I cut from the yard, on a large clothes drying rack in a room with a southern facing window.
I cut the herbs, place a rubber band around the stems then put a large paper clip through the rubber band. Next I make a label for the herb bunch and put the label on the paper clip. I hook the paper clip over string or ribbon that has been tied onto the dryer rungs. This is a very easy and inexpensive way to dry herbs to use during the year for cooking.
Once dry, I place the bunch on a piece of wax paper, fold the wax paper over and roll it around rather vigorously to shake loose the leaves. I dispose of the stems and grind the leaves in a small manual herb grinder, then store them in labeled glass canning jars of various sizes for future use. I sometimes vacuum seal the canning jars if I have a lot of an herb, which keeps the herbs fresher longer.
Dehydrating foods, using a food dehydrator, is another favorite method of food preservation. Dehydrated food saves a lot of space on shelves as it reduces in size significantly during the dehydrating process. We use our dehydrator for drying fruit and vegetables. One year we were blessed with 250 pounds of fruit from one of our dwarf plum trees, so after canning plums, canning plum conserve, and canning plum jam, we dehydrated the remainder to eat like candy.
Carrots and celery are easy to dehydrate and inexpensive when found on sale. They are nice additions to soup, stews, and casseroles during the winter. We purchase a four pound bag of organic carrots from Sam’s Club for $2.98. We wash the carrots thoroughly, then dry them before slicing into a uniform size with the electric slicer. Then we just lay the slices on the dehydrator trays and dry for the specified time required. Celery is done the same way. A good old fashioned cutting board, a sharp knife, and a good eye for size will elicit the same results.
In season, most fruits and vegetables are available for a reasonable price in grocery stores or at Farmer’s Markets. It is relatively easy to grow one’s own fruit and vegetables. People are now enjoying their home grown food in areas as small as patio’s and balconies. Many vegetables and herbs grow very well in pots. Some people are fortunate and know gardeners that have excess and will either give it away or sell it at a very inexpensive price. Some farms allow people to pick berries, corn, or other farm produce and purchase it less expensively. Some people who have fruit trees will allow neighbors to glean the produce as they don’t want it for themselves. Water bath canning, pressure canning, or dehydrating these items adds significantly to the pantry and food security for difficult times.
We purchase broccoli, fruit, and chicken breasts, currently, from Sam’s Club in large packages. It is very cost effective to buy a large bag of organic vegetables or fruit and break it down into serving sized portions and vacuum seal it.
I love the vacuum sealer attachment for the Food Saver as it helps extend the shelf life of dry goods. I use canning jars for sealing chips, nuts, seasonings/spices, bay leaves, crackers, and many other dry items with the vacuum sealer attachment for jars.
Fermenting foods is another good way to preserve them. Sometimes, depending on the food, it might require refrigeration after the fermentation process. A few foods that would classify as fermented would be yogurt, sauerkraut, and fermented vegetables. Wine is, also, a fermented product from grapes. Elderberry wine or syrup is a wonderful addition to the home pantry.
A good source of information for early methods of food preservation is the bookPreserving Food without Freezing or Canning. This book addresses various preserving techniques using salt, sugar, oil, alcohol, vinegar, dehydrating, cold storage, and lactic fermentation.
A few other books that I have found very useful are Making & Using Dried Foods, by Phyllis Hobson; Sourdough Cookery, by Rita Davenport, and two of my very favorites arePantry Cookbook and Growing and Canning Your Own Food, both by Jackie Clay.
In addition, the internet is a good source for historical and current information on food preservation. If I find an excellent article on the internet I will run a copy, site the source, and save it in a binder for future reference.
Thank you so much Glenda. And also thank you to Glenda's husband John for taking the photos.
This summer I am planning to use air drying much more. Also to use the sun to dehydrate tomatoes, apricots etc.
How many times have we wasted things that we could have preserved in some way? Sometimes time beats us. But it doesn't have to. Once I was given a whole bag of plums the day before we were going away on holidays. I put them in the freezer and stewed them and made jam when I got home! The freezer is very handy for buying time!
The more we learn, the more we can save money on food and add to our pantry.
Thank you so much Glenda! xxx