If you’ve ever been away on vacation and the power goes out – and stays out – can you imagine the state of your refrigerator or freezer when you return?
So let’s take this scenario a little further.
Imagine what would happen if you couldn’t replace that food – such as in the event of a natural disaster, electrical failure or a large disruption in food distribution.
If you can’t figure out how to store that frozen food in another form so that it won’t spoil, you would be hungry. That’s an unfortunate state to be in – especially during stressful times.
Is there anything you can do to preserve your food safely so that you don’t have to depend on electricity, and that your family won’t go hungry?
One way is to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers, who had no electricity or refrigeration to keep their food edible.
The good news is, these same methods of food preservation are available to everyone today, no matter where you live.
People have been smoking their meat for centuries.
Most often, this method was used in areas with too much humidity to be able to air dry or dehydrate the meat.
Smoking for a month or more also allowed larger cuts of meat and whole fish to be dried and preserved effectively, instead of the thin strips usually used for traditional drying methods.
They cured sometimes meat or fish with salt crystals or brine.
If kept well-ventilated in a cool and dark place after removal from the smokehouse, smoked meats can last a long time.
2. Curing (salting)
It takes considerable time and effort to cure meat, but it is how traditional favorites like bacon and pastrami were preserved.
It’s a cheap and easy process to learn, but like the other food preservation processes, the meat must be stored in a cool, dry area. Also, curing can be combined with smoking to enhance flavor.
Historically, salt has been a valuable commodity. In fact, did you know that for a time, Roman soldiers were paid with salt as their wages?
This is a traditional and very simple method of preserving food.
Brine comprises salt, water, and sugar. To preserve the meat, they weighed it down in a crock filled with brine.
If you’re curing in large quantities, be sure to have space to store your crocks.
4. Pressure Canning
While it works perfectly for vegetables and fruit, it’s impossible to water bath meat; it’s not acidic enough.
But if you own a pressure canner, it’s easy to preserve meat using this method.
The jars are portable and can be reheated when you’re ready to eat.
The best part is that pressure canners are affordable, perfect for anyone, no matter where they live, and are also great for preserving vegetable harvests.
Dehydrating meat (and vegetables too) is probably the healthiest and easiest way of storing them.
It’s also a method of preserving food that’s been used a long time. The method is used to preserve everything from vegetables and fruits to meat, fish, and fowl.
When drying foods, it is critical to remove as much moisture as possible.
6. Store in lard
Did you know that fat – especially beef fat, tallow and suet – have great preservation properties?
Pioneer women would often place meat into a crock or barrow and top it with tallow or suet to preserve it. Congealed fat prevents oxygen and airborne microbes from reaching the meat.
Any container containing these combinations needed to be sealed from the air.
7. Freeze Drying
Unless you live in a climate that’s perfect for this option, you’ll need to buy a freeze dryer for this method. However, freeze-dried food does come with a lot of benefits.
Freeze-dried food is lightweight, and it keeps most of its nutrients.
Food that has been preserved this way is also ideal for backpacking or for emergency travel because it is so light.
8. Natural Refrigeration/Freezing
It is worth mentioning this method of food preservation, even though it is not the most reliable method.
During the winter, it’s possible to store meat outside in colder climates, but you’ll need to monitor the temperature if it warms up.
Additionally, you should keep it in a secure container or building.
If meat is left out, frozen or not, predators may be drawn to it.
Historically, people used hand-dug wells as refrigerators. For short-term refrigeration, they placed the meat in watertight jars and lowered them into the well.
The meat would stay good as long as the temperature remained consistent.
Finally, a food preservation method that we still use today, vinegar.
This solution is probably the most potent natural antiseptic you can safely consume. It’s actually acetic acid, usually at 4 to 5 percent solution in water.
And one benefit; it is easy to make, using different foods (e.g. apples).
Vinegar can preserve everything, including vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, and poultry.
A typical process involves immersing food in vinegar in a container or cask, and they sometimes added salt as a flavoring and preservative.
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