Alternatives to Canning: Preserving at Home
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Recently, you may have found it a bit difficult to get your hands on the canning supplies you need. You’re not alone. With supplies out of reach and a garden ready for harvest, there are a few home preservation methods to consider when canning isn’t an option.
Reminder: when preserving at home, the MOST important part of the process is to ensure you are using safe methods for preserving your food. As with canning, proper, tested preservation procedures protect against contracting foodborne illnesses. The resources referenced below demonstrate safe processes for preserving at home.
With one look at the number of frozen food aisles in a single grocery store, it is clear that freezing is a desired method of preservation. Just as freezing has become a commercially popular way to preserve our food, we can freeze our own produce as well. To maintain the best quality and fresh flavor in each item we freeze, it’s important to know which produce items require which processes. For example, most vegetables require a quick blanch. With fruit, you have the option to dry pack many whole items, such as berries. You also have the option to pack your fruit unsweetened or sweetened, dependent upon how you plan to use your item and what your personal preferences are.
- To get started, view general freezing information. This walks you through everything from containers, to labeling and packaging, to thawing and preparing.
- For “why” and “how” to blanch vegetables: Blanching
- For more on dry pack and unsweetened pack fruits: Unsweetened Packs for Freezing Fruits
- To learn more about individual processes for freezing, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation to find your produce item: Freezing
Dehydrating / Drying
If you prefer not to rely on an unbroken supply of electricity to keep your food safe, freezing may not be an option. Dehydration may be a food preservation method to consider. Where freezing prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause spoilage, removing the moisture from certain foods (drying them) is another process used to do the same. For most meat and produce, drying requires an electric food dehydrator. This is an investment to account for before getting started.
- Information about what to look for in a food dehydrator: Dehydrator
- To explore information on drying by produce item, and to learn about other methods such as sun drying and vine drying: Drying
Fermentation is a food preservation method as old as time itself, but like all methods, it is important to be safe when proceeding. Instead of preventing the growth of microorganisms (as do freezing and drying) fermentation IS the metabolic process of bacteria in an anaerobic environment – an environment without free oxygen present. It is common practice to use canning supplies in fermentation processes; however, there are alternative options for certain fermented items.