Part of becoming a competent prepper is securing enough food for you and your family in times of need. The problem is, most food only keeps for a certain period of time. Throughout history man has developed methods and strategies to preserve the food he has found. Methods like smoking and salting were used to preserve meats for long voyages on a ship and canning was used to preserve fruits, berries, and vegetables.
Modern technology has also given us access to methods unavailable to ancient man. Let’s dive in to some of the ways you can preserve your food for the long term.
First, let’s talk meat…
Curing and smoking
Smoking meat is an ancient backwoods method of preservation. Most families had a smoke house where meat and fish were prepared for long term food storage. Smoking and curing are the all time classic ways to preserve meat and it’s a very basic process.
Curing meat- First the meat is generously salted. The salt serves to dehydrate meat of its water content. Water and moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria. Most methods of long term food storage work to remove this water content from the foods. Other anti microbial seasonings like cayenne pepper can also be applied at this point. Sugar is then added to the mix to give the meat a better flavor when it comes time to chow down.
Next, a little bit of sodium nitrate to add another layer of defense against dangerous bacteria. Celery juice or other leafy green vegetables are used to coat the meat. You can purchase the extract ready made or create your own juice.
There are also ready made curing salts available which contain healthy levels of sodium nitrate. Once your meat is generously slathered with your curing solution, place the meat into plastic bags and store in a cool dry place. Alternatively, you can hang the meat.
Smoking meat – Smoking your meat is another method of preserving those nice cuts of yours. The process is similar to curing but this time you expose the meat to a low heat environment with lots of smoke. Slather the meat in salt and spices and then place the meat in a smoker or smokehouse. The smoke serves to preserve and dehydrate the meat and leaves you with what is basically jerky. Jerky can last indefinitely although all preserved meat should be eaten within a 6 month time period to take advantage of the full freshness. If the meat is too salty you can soak it before eating to remove some of the salt.
Hot vs cold smoking
The two primary ways of smoking your meat are hot smoking and cold smoking. Hot smoking exposes the meat to temperatures up to 160 degrees. Meat smoked in this way can last up to a week without refrigeration. Cold smoking uses the same process but at lower temps and for much longer. This is ideal for storing meats long term. The longer exposure to the smoke drys the meat rather than cooks it, leaving you with a meat that can store for a considerable amount of time.
Canning is a classic “old timey” method of preserving foods like fruits and vegetables (think little house on the prairie.) The canning process involves placing your food into canning jars and then boiling them for a certain period of time. During this process harmful micro-organisms are destroyed and the heat drives out all oxygen, leaving you with a vacuum sealed jar. The two types of canning methods are water bath canning and pressure canning. High acidic foods like fruits and jams don’t require as much heat and can be boiled using the water bath method. Low acid foods need a higher temperature to kill bacteria and therefore must be processed in a pressure canner. Refer to the infographic below to determine what foods require what method.
Water bath canning – This is by the far the easiest method of canning. It’s the method reserved for high acidic foods and only requires a few basic pieces of culinary equipment:
Foods are ladled into your cans and then placed on a rack submerged in boiling water. Cook time depends on the food. I recommend picking up this book on canning and thoroughly reading into the subject.
Pressure canning – Lower acidic foods need more heat to kill micro-organisms. This extra heat is achieved with a pressure canner. The pressure canner creates its own vacuum and uses steam to expose your cans to the higher temperatures of heat. The process is slightly more complex than water bath canning but easy to accomplish when you understand a few basic pitfalls. For example, the pressure cooker operates differently in different elevations. Once again, pick up a good book on canning and read.
Freeze drying is quickly becoming a favorite among preppers who have some extra bucks to spend. You can freeze dry virtually anything as seen above. Freeze drying works by freezing the food in a vacuum and then warming the environment, allowing the water from the food to evaporate. The result is food with zero water content. No water content means bacteria cannot survive. Freeze dried food can be stored indefinitely and easily rehydrates at any time. It’s the ultimate method to store your food for the long term.
The only con of freeze drying is the up front cost of the freeze drying machine. The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer for example will run you about 3 grand but it’s well worth it, especially if you’re serious about prepping and protecting your family.
My review of the HR Freeze dryer goes in depth into the freeze drying process and compares it to other forms of food preservation methods (canning, freezing, etc.)
With a little work and studying you can squirrel away enough food to survive any fully blown SHTF situation. If the EMP blast hits, you’ll be ready. When the power grid goes down, you’ll be ready. If anything, having well preserved food stored away will give you peace of mind even in times of normalcy.
Thanks for reading!