Today we have many options for long term food storage, as long as all of our appliances are operating properly. There are several techniques used to preserve fresh foods for extended periods of time under normal conditions, including freezing, canning, dehydrating, and freeze-drying.
Archaeologists have found evidence that man started freezing meats thousands of years ago. At first, freezing was only possible during winter months in temperate climates.
Before electricity became common in homes, there was the ice box in the city and the dairy in the country. Dairies were basically underground rooms where temperatures were cooler.
Ice boxes varied in design, but they made use of large blocks of ice to keep milk, dairy products and other foods from spoiling. The first refrigerators were not that different from the iceboxes.
Deep freezers became popular in the 1950s for several reasons. Concerns over previous wars and poor relationships with foreign countries were among them; people were motivated to have extra food on hand “just in case.”
Practically all foods can be frozen. Although the taste can be negatively affected in some cases, the foods are safe to eat for months. It is a common practice among hunters to store wild game in the freezer during the hunting season and use it throughout the year.
Canning became popular for long term food storage with the invention of the pressure cooker. Hot baths can be used if no pressure cooker is available, but the cans are less likely to seal.
Canning is typically used for fruits, vegetables, soups and sauces. The foods can be prepared as they would be if they were to be eaten that day. Green beans and other fresh vegetables will cook in the pressure cooker.
The foods are placed in glass jars. The lids used to seal the jars are special. They have a rubber seal around the edge. A metal ring holds them in place until the falling temperature causes a vacuum seal.
Canned foods are ideal for long term food storage, because there is no need for refrigeration. The foods keep for years, rather than months. When the jar is opened, they are ready to eat.
Drying foods to preserve them is not a new idea. Native populations dried strips of meat in the sun or over open fires to make jerky. The appliances available for drying foods at home are relatively new.
Dehydrators are easy to use, affordable appliances. Most include instructions or recipes for dehydrating a variety of foods. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats can all be prepared for future use if you have a good dehydrator.
Buying Freeze-Dried Foods
Instead of attempting to prepare foods for long-term storage at home, you can buy freeze-dried items. It is not practical to freeze dry your own foods as the necessary equipment is large and expensive.
Freeze-dried foods have a nearly unlimited shelf-life. The package should indicate the expiration or use-by date. The foods do not spoil after that date, but the flavor may be compromised.
Freeze-dried foods are popular for long term food storage, because they take up less space and require no refrigeration. You can store them in your pantry along with canned goods for emergencies, and they are also a good choice for hiking and camping trips due to their light weight.