Most people today purchase food, take it home and them immediately put it into their cabinet or refrigerator. However, if you’re in a situation where you don’t have access to cold storage, you’ll need to know how to keep your food safe. These methods are the best way to preserve food without electricity and are the best ways to avoid any problems.
Canning is an older method that keeps food safe from bacteria and other contamination until you’re ready to eat it. This process is fairly labor intensive and requires a heat source but can be done over a fire. There are multiple stages of work required to can something. You’ll have to prepare the food with additive such as a sugar syrup or brine, sterilize the glass jars and lids, fill and heat the jars, and then store them until ready for use. Most people can in large batches to make this process go faster.
Learning how to can is a valuable skill and most canned goods will last for several years. Although the upfront costs of the canning equipment and glass jars can be expensive, most of it will be reusable and well worth the cost.
This method of food preservation is considered to be the easiest and the least labor-intensive option to preserve food. Since most bacteria and mold need water to grow, drying is effective since it removes the water from the food. Fruits, some vegetables, and meats can be dried safely. You can also then rehydrate foods if desired.
There are a few options to dry foods without electricity. Probably the most common option is to prepare the foods and then leave them in a sunny spot where they will dry naturally due to the heat. This method works best in a dry, warm climate with full sun.
Fermenting is a similar method to canning although it doesn’t seal up food. Instead, this method does allow for the entry of “good” bacteria and it uses an acidic brine as the solution. The brine will allow for the foods to ferment over time and prevents harmful bacteria from growing.
Fermentation is most common for vegetables and meats. Since the brine is a vinegar-like solution, it will be a strongly flavored food product. Not everyone enjoys fermented foods but this method is easy and does not require the same labor as canning.
Salt Curing or Brining
Salt is a substance that prevents bacterial growth and it was one of the oldest methods used to preserve food. Most organisms cannot tolerate a salt concentration that is greater than 10% and this method is most used for meats. Curing is a type of preservation that involves rubbing a salt and sugar mixture into fresh pork and then packing it tightly in a sealed crock where it is then stored at a cool temperature.
Brining is similar but the meat is also packed in a salty brine solution that has to be changed on a regular basis. The only disadvantage to this method is that when the meat is ready to be eaten, it has to be soaked in water for a long period of time. This soaking is necessary to remove the excess salt and make the meat edible.
Root Cellars and Storage
Although some foods are not safe if left at room temperature, many fruits and vegetables will last for months if kept in a somewhat cold environment. Think about root cellars that people would use to store root vegetables and fruits throughout the winter months. These underground spaces will keep most vegetables and fruits safe for consumption and without danger of rotting.
A root cellar can be any underground space. The only requirement is that it needs to breath and a ventilator is required. This will allow air to circulate and prevent premature rotting. Store foods like potatoes, apples, onions, squash, and other shelf-stable foods in this underground space and remove any foods that become bruised or develop bad spots.
While preserving food without electricity can be a challenge, there are many methods available today. Anyone who needs to ensure that they have a preservation method without the aid of electricity can use one or more of these methods to avoid food spoilage.