Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top Three Methods To Preserve Your Harvest

Yes, that's right folks, harvest time is right around the corner!  Finally, all that hard work put in since before the snow was even completely gone is about to pay off.  If you're like me, you have already been enjoying the bounty all summer long with fresh greens, ripe red tomatoes, crispy cucumbers and much much more.  But let's face it, a big part of growing your own food as a prepper is to be able to grow more than you can eat at the harvest time and put some of that food up.  Here are the three most popular ways to do this:

1 - Home Canning
There are two ways to can your food and each is specific to the foods you are trying to preserve.  With home canning, the factor that will determine how you do this is food acidity. 

 High acid foods such as tomatoes and most fruit can be water bath canned.  Simply put, the food is placed in sterilized canning jars and the whole thing, jar and all is boiled for a certain amount of time in order to kill harmful bacteria and seal the jar to prevent spoilage. The high acidity in these types of food help a great deal in killing the bacteria and making your food safe.

Low acid foods such as vegetables, meats, and others MUST be pressure canned.  A special pressure canner (not a pressure cooker) must be used for this.  Given the lack of acid to help kill bacteria, a higher temperature must be attained and maintained in order to make the food safe.  Pressure canners do this by increasing the temperature inside the canner.  I won't get into the physics here, but that is the basic idea.

Of course, with either method of canning, different foods will have different processing times. Consult a reputable canning book such as the USDA guide to home canning or the Ball Blue Book of canning for specific instructions.

2 - Dehydrating
 I'm sure you have all seen the different blog posts, youtube videos and instructables showing how to build and use a solar dehydrator.  Unfortunately, due to the relative humidity levels in Canada, this simply doesn't work too well here.  You will need to purchase an electric dehydrator to do this effectively and safely.

As with canning, different foods need different processing times and you should seek out a reliable guide before you dive in.  Dehydrating has some advantages over canning in that you do not need to buy special containers to hold you food.  Anything that keeps out light and air will do...Tupperware does a good job of this, but also food grade buckets, freezer bags, etc. can be used.

3 - Root Cellaring
Sure, building a root cellar is a lot of work.  If you can't do this in an outside corner of your basement, you may need to dig one outdoors.  Hiring an excavator can make this a quick and back pain free exercise, but can add expense. The whole idea is to keep food cool and humid.  Again, different foods need different temperatures and humidity levels, so dividing your root cellar into two separated rooms might be a good idea. 

The biggest advantage to root cellars is that once built, there are no additional costs for special containers and lids, nor the need for a power grid to get it working.  The down side is that not all produce is suited to root cellaring.  Produce such as apples, potatoes, squash, and many root vegetables do well, but don't expect a harvest of green beans to last.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all three of these storage methods and simply put, there is no one solution that will work on it's own.  As with most things in life, diversity is the key and a combination of all of the above will give the best compromise to your harvest preserving needs.

Happy Harvesting!

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