What Are the Best Tips for Preserving Food?

Andrew Kirmayer

When storing food, it is important to preserve it in some way so that bacteria, mold, and yeast can’t grow and contaminate it. Preserving food can be accomplished at home in various ways, including canning, freezing, and drying. With the proper equipment and by following a few steps, any of these can be done safely. Fruits and vegetables are among the most commonly preserved foods and can last for a long time if they are protected from the elements.

Pickles are usually made with vinegar, which helps preserve them.
Pickles are usually made with vinegar, which helps preserve them.

Canning foods can be done at home but certain guidelines need to be followed so the food doesn’t spoil. The type of food, size of canning jar, and how high in altitude the procedure is done affect how home canning is accomplished. It is also important to follow a recipe, because factors such as heating cause the contents to expand; for each food type a certain amount of space should be left unfilled to accommodate expansion. The equipment used for preserving food by canning is also important. Water canners should be used for foods with high-acidity, while pressure canners are suitable for low-acid foods.

Canning is one way to preserve food.
Canning is one way to preserve food.

When using the open-kettle method of canning, it is important for everything to be sterilized, usually by heating. Fruits and vegetables should be boiled in water and then sealed in a jar quickly afterward. Once the jar is labeled, it should be kept in a cool location. As with any way of preserving food, the kitchen, fruits and vegetables, and utensils and jars should be thoroughly cleaned. Acids in fruit can react with iron or tin utensils, which should never be used because a metallic taste will spoil the food.

Moldy tomatoes should be discarded to prevent the development of food borne illness.
Moldy tomatoes should be discarded to prevent the development of food borne illness.

Preserving food by freezing is another common method. The food should be frozen at the recommended temperature, and can begin to deteriorate if it remains frozen for a long time. Information on shelf life can be found on food packaging and online. To maintain quality, there should be some air circulation in the freezer, and the packages should be labeled with the date they were first frozen.

Boiling canned food in a canning water bath helps kill dangerous bacteria that can grow in canned food.
Boiling canned food in a canning water bath helps kill dangerous bacteria that can grow in canned food.

Drying, a long practiced method for preserving foods, requires little preparation but needs to be done carefully to prevent mold from getting in. This method can be done outdoors, in a convection oven, or in a microwave in the case of drying herbs. Preserving food should be done according to general guidelines or specific instructions for fruits, vegetables, or any other kind of food to be stored for long periods of time.

A jar lifter may be used to remove sterilized jars from a boiling water canner.
A jar lifter may be used to remove sterilized jars from a boiling water canner.

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