As more people around the globe begin to become aware of the quality of, and process by which their food is produced, many are taking food production matters into their own hands. Off-grid and sustainable living enthusiasts are one of the largest segments of this faction of modern self-sufficient farmers. And although the idea of producing and storing one’s own food organically and preservative-free is widely considered to be forward-thinking, many of the techniques required to do so are centuries old. While many are eager to start learning how to set up their first greenhouses and hydroponic systems, too many do not consider how they will keep and preserve their food once it’s harvested. These techniques are important, not only for keeping organic food fresh and additive-free, but also for those who do not have the means to grow fresh food during winter months.
Canning is a popular method of preserving fruits and vegetables, and can be done in two different ways: pressure canning or using a hot water bath to sterilize the cans. When canning, it is important to choose a lid for your jar that is made for the method you use, and to ensure that you do not use a jar that is too big, as the empty space can lead to bacteria building up. If you intend to use salt as a part of your canning process, use canning salt rather than table salt.
Some foods can also be dried out, dehydrated; removing all the moisture also prevents mold and bacteria from growing and spreading, making this a perfect way to preserve food such as fruits and meats. Dried food will typically last from 4 months to a year. Food can be dried either through sun-drying or using a dehydrator.
One of the world’s oldest methods of food preservation is pickling, using salt and vinegar to prevent bacteria from growing on food. Fruits, vegetables and even eggs are all suited to preserving via pickling. Again, as salt is an integral part of this method, it is best to avoid table salt in favour of canning salt or pickling salt when making your pickled vegetables and fruits.
Meats can be cured or salted; covering pieces of meat with a mixture of pickling salt and brown sugar and storing it in cool storage, such as a root cellar, is one of the simplest ways of preserving it. After a month in cool storage, the meat is safe to pack away. The purpose of curing meat is to use salt – in the form of powder or brine – to dehydrate the meat. Dry curing is described above, while wet curing involves soaking the meat in a brine solution.
Because refrigerators draw a significant amount of energy, root cellars can be a preferable method of food storage for off-grid living, using natural cooling and insulation to preserve food. The root cellar should be cool and maintain a humidity of 85-95%, which prevents moisture loss. Basement root cellars should use the foundation walls where possible, and so should be built in a corner of the basement. Additional walls may be added and ought to be insulated.