I'm no expert on all this. I'm still learning myself, but I thought it would be beneficial to share the basic knowledge I do know to at least kick start other's learning about this for any hard times ahead.
Canning - sealing food in cans or jars. (Can be used for dried, cooked, or wet foods)
Whenever I have too much fruit to the point I don't know what to do with it all before it goes bad, I make jam. When done correctly, canned/jarred food have very long shelf lives unopened. Even once opened, you can go a season or two without worrying if it'll go bad.
Note: always smell and visually check canned food before tasting it. Signs of spoilage include a bulged can or lid, and discoloration of the food, etc.
If the can or jar is in good condition, and you complete the process correctly, you can expect the food to last for several years (unopened).
- a cooker and large enough pot (you can go as simple as a fire with a pot)
- ingredients for the type of food you want to can/jar
- clean jars with sealing lids (I'll be talking about jars since I've not used cans)
Gather your fruit (or vegetables) and wash them thoroughly. Use food at the peak of ripeness not once it starts over ripening and going bad. Don't soak the food in water for long otherwise you'll lose some of the nutrients.
Jars need to be airtight. You typically see this with mason jars having a rubber seal on the underside of the lid. Avoid jars with cracks and chips, and can't seal properly. For cans, avoid rusted, dented, or otherwise damaged ones. Sterilize your cans/jars along with the lids to kill any reaming bacteria and nasties that could contaminate your food.
If you buy jelly/jam or anything that comes in a glass jar - wash them out after use and save the jars and lids. That way you don't have to worry about trying to find glass jars to buy. You can reuse these again and again.
How to sterilize jars:
There are many recipes for different cooked foods you can preserve in jars, so find one that best suits the food you are wanting to make. Make sure the food is cooked at a high enough heat to kill any bacteria or contaminants in the food.
When you add the cooked food to your jars, the glass needs to be up to a similar temperature as the food you are putting in it since you don't want it to crack. Wipe away any spillage on the jars and seal the lids. I put my jars straight into the fridge and eventually as the jars cool, you'll hear a little metallic pop sound. That's the signal your jars have sealed properly. Check the jars by touching the center of the lid. If you can't push it in, it's sealed. If you can and it pops in and out, it hasn't sealed yet or properly.
Another way to seal your jars is by placing them into a hot water bath. I've not tried this myself so I'll link a video on the method with another version of sterilising jars for anyone who doesn't have an oven:
Sterilizing and sealing the jars:
For any foods that are low-acidic, you'll need to either bring up the acidity somehow (e.g. using lemon juice or salt) or use the "pressure-canning" method to avoid the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacterium. I didn't even know this was a canning method since I've only worked with canning fruits, so if other's can contribute their experiences on this method if they've tried it, please add on. (Low-acidity foods include meat and vegetables).
The method above is for the water-boiling method which works very well for high-acidity foods (fruits, pickles, jams, etc).
This article goes into way more depth than I have here. It's pretty thorough on food safety:
https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/cann ... s-at-home/
Label your jars once you're done so you know when they were made and sealed, and what the contents of them are.
If you're preserving something that isn't cooked (like jams) before placing into jars such as sun-dried tomatoes, filling up the jar with olive oil (making sure the dried tomatoes are completely covered, you can add herbs into the oil as well so long as they don't float to the top) can be another way of preserving them. Similar to how pickles and olives are usually kept in vinegar and salt to keep them preserved, or canned fruit is kept in syrup or juice. The food must be completely covered by the liquid to avoid mold or bacteria growth, and spoilage of any food at the top of the jar.
Note: Some foods will expand once jarred and others will shrink.
https://www.thespruceeats.com/brief-his ... od-1327429
Other methods of preserving food are as follows: (these I'm less experienced with so details may be limited - again, personally research for further knowledge and be safe).
Freezing - preserving food through freezing at the peak of freshness.
This one is simpler than the first in terms of what you need to do.
You can freeze any kind of food, breads, meat, vegetables, fruit, and even pre-cooked meals as long as you freeze it when it's freshest. Thoroughly wash any food you intend to freeze when they are ripe. For cooked foods, let them cool down completely before packaging them appropriately. Freeze the food as quickly as possible at 0* degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This temperature needs to be constantly maintained in order to avoid spoilage or freezer burn.
Freezing will prevent bacteria from being able to grow and so you don't have to worry about food borne illness happening, however, freezing will not kill any bacteria already on the food.
Small tips to know to avoid freezer burn:
- Wrap any food you're freezing tightly to prevent the dry air of the freezer from damaging the food.
- Keep the freezer door closed as much as possible to maintain constant freezing temperature. When you're getting things out, don't leave it open mulling over what you want to use. Decide that before hand then grab it out of the freezer and close it.
- Don't overfill your freezer.
It would probably be best to have a second freezer to your normal house fridge/freezer in order to maintain temperatures better. Before electrical freezers people had iceboxes or ice chests to store meats.
Drying - the removal of water or another solvent by evaporation from a solid, semi-solid or liquid.
Dehydrating, sun-drying, or the more complicated freeze-drying.
You want to expose the food you wish to dry to high enough temperatures that will evaporate any moisture in the food without actually cooking it. The better the air circulation around the food item, the better the results. (Excluding freeze-drying method here, I know zero knowledge on that).
After the food is adequately dried, you can package the food or jar it in syrup, oil, or salt (I'll touch on salt more in a moment).
You can actually buy a dehydrator, use your oven, or hang the food to dry in the sun. (Please use common sense and don't smoke or spray weed killer or whatever around your food that's drying in the sun). You can dry many types of foods from meat and fish to fruits and vegetables, tea leaves, etc. Using a dehydrator will provide more consistent results but drying has been used since ancient times to preserve food so even though sun-drying will take longer, it is still very effective.
Drying prevents the growth of bacteria, yeast, or mold, as there is no moisture in the food.
Salt - the use of salt to preserve foods (sodium chloride, specifically here).
Salt is your best friend. It not only helps to draw out moisture in foods, but also dries them, and prevents the growth of bacteria and what-have-you the same way drying does.
Side note: salt water is great for keeping wounds clean and preventing infections, as well as promoting healing of the body. Yes, it'll sting like a bugger, but salt water will save you further trouble with wounds or even mouth sores and sore throats.
Way-back-when, people use to store meat in salt bags or barrels, completely burying the meat in salt or brine. This was done for fish as well, and sometimes vegetables (familiar with pickling and salt pork?).
Ready the meat during autumn when you don't have issues with flies and rot. Pack the meat (or fish etc) in salt to cure, completely covering the meat in salt, and let sit for 1-3 weeks (depending on what you're doing with it). The barrels used back in the day had holes in the bottom to allow water and meat juices to leak out. From here, people would either smoke the meat or leave them in a barrel of brine (or in some cases, just more salt). When ready to use the meat, rinse off the excess salt and prepare as desired for the meal.
Meat like this for a family could last the whole winter and then some.
James Fenimore Cooper wrote in a novel of his: “I hold a family to be in a desperate way, when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel."
Smoking - curing meat by the use of smoke
Never use wood or branches that gives off toxic smoke. Jerky is something most should be familiar with. It's made by curing the meat through smoking. The thinner the pieces of meat, the faster it will cure. The longer you smoke the meat, the longer it will last. After smoking, if the meat is still chewy, it can be prone to rotting and spoiling faster than if it was snap-dry.
I'm not too familiar with smoking and the safety precautions etc, so I'll provide some links for that instead (please continue personal research):
This ones gives a good idea of the process of curing meat. She uses both the salt method to prepare and season the meat, and follows it with smoke curing and drying (subtitles for english speakers availabe):
There are two types of smoking methods as far as I know: cold and hot. Which one you go with will depend on the process and the type of meat you choose. Cold smoking doesn't actually cook the meat whereas hot smoking does, so cold smoking is often pared with other processes for curing the meat.
For any preserving methods that involve the food being dried, store these foods after drying either in syrup, oil, salt (or brine), or hanged in a cool dry place void of moisture. You can re-hydrate dried foods in a water bath when ready to use, if desired.
Fermentation - the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms—yeasts or bacteria—under anaerobic conditions.
I have no familiarity with fermentation but it is a way to preserve food and when done right kills off harmful bacteria. We usually think of alcohol when regarding fermentation but it is often used for preserving vegetables, fruit, and turning milk into yogurt. Sauerkraut is a perfect example.
Most of these methods of preserving bounce off each other, and combine together to make the end result of preserved food.
I know this is not as fleshed out as I was able to make the post on sewing, however, I hope what I can bring to the table helps others in some way for the future. Before the times of electricity and refrigerators, these were the methods used to preserve food for the season.