Food Preservation Q and A

Sharon August 17th, 2010

Ok, folks, ask me anything you want about food storage, food preservation, etc… and I’ll endeavor to answer!  Free for all – ask what you want!


69 Responses to “Food Preservation Q and A”

  1. Sharon says:

    K.B. – Re:BPA – if you are canning correctly, you food is never in contact with the BPA coating on the lid, unlike commercially canned foods, where the BPA is throughout. The food doesn’t touch the lid at any point if you are using appropriate headspace (and I tend to err on the side of a tiny bit more headspace). So I don’t think BPA in canning lids is a serious issue – you can buy BPA-free canning equipment – weck jars or reusable lids. I’m just using the reusables for the first time, and so far, I like them, but I don’t have enough experience with them to be able to say much about them yet. I love weck jars, but they cost a bundle. But I tend not to worry very much about BPA in canning lids because they never touch the food at any point.

    On dehydrator trays, that’s a bigger issue – if you can afford it, I’d recommend either a homemade dehydrator or an Excalibur, which doesn’t have BPA on its trays. Or if you have a BPA-laden dehydrator, you can cover it with cheesecloth and then put the food on that – just make sure it doesn’t come anywhere near the heat source and cause a fire.

    I’ll do the website one as a post in the next week or two, if you don’t mind.

    The answer to the blanching question is that it depends on the food – some foods are better quality when blanched, but it is certainly possible to go overboard on blanching (I have a book that says to blanch strawberries – that’s completely insane). I tend to think that very rigid plant matter freezes better when you soften up the cell walls with heat a bit, but most softer plants do fine without. It is never totally necessary, but often the flavor and texture are better with things like zucchini, corn, etc…


  2. Rachel says:

    If you are still taking questions, I’ve been wondering about canning in a steam canner that I saw in Lehman’s. Are they safe for foods that could be waterbathed?

  3. Sharon says:

    Brad – Well, you can get precise recipes for preserving precise quantities of meat with salt, but basically, you simply cover the meat with so much salt that bacteria can’t live in it and decomposition can’t occur. This is quite a lot of salt. What I’ve done is spread a lot of salt over the meat and lay it out in a cool, airy place, covered and safe from pests for a day or so. You can also actually bury it in salt, or preserve it in a salt brine (salt pork is done that way, for example – it depends on what kind of meat you are trying to preserve and what food traditions you are drawing on). Afterwards, very small amounts can be used as is – ie, a tiny bit of salt pork can be used without rinsing to add flavor (but don’t salt it any other way) or more commonly, you soak the meat repeatedly in several changes of cold water before using it.

    Fern – I have a solar dehydrator based on Sue Robishaw’s Midwest Solar Dehydrator – it is designed for humid climates. There’s a plan in her book _Homesteading Adventures_ or you can check out the info on her site (following the links to “homesteading). It really works very well – and we’re pretty humid too!

    Annette – you’ll find that there are lots of posts on those subjects in the sidebar. If you search this site for lacto-fermenting and “low energy food preservation” you should find what you want. If you have more specific questions, I’m happy to answer those too!

    GeekyGardener – I like the answer about making candy out of them – yum! But yes, you probably can open jars (I’m assuming this is canned jam, not freezer jam?), mix the jam with fresh fruit, and reprocess. Just make sure it all comes fully to a boil and that the proportions of acid and sugar are appropriate – the only worry I’d have is that it wouldn’t set up properly at all after reprocessing, but for that you’d have to experiment.

    Hi Lynne – You can if you do it right away, but just do it very gently so you don’t wash away the outer papery skins – otherwise it won’t dry well.


  4. Sharon says:

    Tara – I don’t think whey is necessary to lactofermentation, but I’ve like the taste of the things I’ve made with it, so definitely give it a go. Sally Fallon uses whey in everything, practically, in _Nourishing Traditions_ – we tend to mix our whey with grains for the chickens, so I’ve only done it a few times myself, though.

    Jeannette, you already mentioned mint sauce. I make mint syrup, to be mixed with seltzer or water (very refreshing) – simple sugar syrup with mint. You can also use the syrup to soak a cake.

    Michael – Sure, it is viable. You will have to cook the tomatoes down further when you make sauce because raw tomatoes are very liquidy, so it is less a way of preserving tomato sauce than of putting off the processing until another time. This makes sense if you are very busy in the summer and are running a freezer anyway, or if you can use an ambient heat source (wood stove, for example) to cook down the tomatoes later, or if there’s some other compelling reason to save the trouble for later.

    The only argument against it that I have is that if you would normally be using that freezer space for something else, it doesn’t really get you far ahead, and uses a fair bit of electricity, which in the US is mostly coal fired. But if you have a ton of space in your freezer you wouldn’t use anyway, then it isn’t a problem. You can also cook down the sauce ahead of time and freeze that too.

    Ok, I’m definitely coming back to the rest of these over the next few days – what fun!


  5. Tara says:

    Thanks! I have lots of chickens, and they get all the whey they can consume, as do the dogs, and I still have more (I have GALLONS). So I will give that a try for the lacto fermenting. Even if it only uses a little, it’s worth a go!

  6. Hazel says:

    Wow, thanks for all the answers Sharon. Kate asked what I would have asked- I’m very new to lacto-fermentation, and wasn’t sure what to do with my kimchi other than eat as is. I’ll be stirfrying some over the W/E :-)

    Re: the tomatoes, I would just put them in the freezer as they are. The skins will slip off when they’re defrosted and they can be pureed/chopped when cooked. Even quicker if it’s the freezer or the compost heap for them….

    Pears: The Cottage Smallholder has some lovely jam recipes, as well as the Belgian Pears recipe. Her Pear and Lemon jam is delicious, and should use up some unripe pears. I made some for my parents last year and my Dad has made me promise that I make more for this Christmas! It is an English site, so process as you usually would after following the recipe.
    I’m experimenting with the Pineneedle vinegar Fiona mentions at the moment.


  7. T says:

    I live in an apartment in Michigan and have no supplies (canning materials, dehydrator, etc.). Where do you suggest I get started?


  8. Laura-MI says:

    I’m getting started in food preservation in phases and am currently only water-bath canning, oven drying or freezing. How would you suggest we preserve our red-skin and yukon gold potatoes and carrots? Would carrots freeze better shredded, in recipe amounts, rather than whole? We have a cold basement, how could we best store them there? Thank you for offering this Q&A. I could ask so many more questions. Thanks also for the inspiration you are providing to so many of us!

  9. Debbie says:

    Sharon, in French an autoclave is a pressure canner, and if you google the word it actually shows an All American Canner and states that it is a stove top, and the simplest of autoclaves. Just to let you know.

  10. Kathy AO says:

    About freezing tomatoes – I threw them in whole before and was sorry. Take out the stem core, even if you do nothing else. The skins slip off wonderfully afterwards, but I froze my hands off trying to cut the cores out before they became complete mush.

  11. Bonnie says:

    I love your blog!
    Two questions: How to use a car for dehydrating vegs (esp. chard), and how to make your hot sauce?
    We have a van that is seldom driven, and our climate can be humid.

  12. Louise says:

    Thanks to the people who gave sugeestions for small unripe pears. I’m experimenting by making using a couple of pounds for spiced pears, I’ll try the belgian pears too, and some chutney, just a couple of pounds of each. While I’ve been getting round to doing something with them some have ripened enough to eat raw as weel so I’ll probably end up using them all. Thans again.
    to Sharon – both this blog and your other one on Science blogs are both complusory reading for me. I’m also reading independence days and am starting to set up food storage systems, adapte3d for the UK. Thankyou for both blogs

  13. ChristineStone says:

    Hi Sharon,
    We tried water-bath canning for the first time yesterday: plums, greengages and apple slices, in a sugar solution. Our problem is that the fruit has floated to the top of the jars, coming out of the solution into the air space and leaving a big gap of just-liquid at the bottom of the jar. Is this a problem? how can we avoid it?

  14. Sara: in northern rural Alabama says:

    Hey Sharon,
    Could you re-post or just e-mail me the link to your post on “doing stuff anyway” cause it’s the right thing to do. I don;t really remember the name of it but the article is what brought me to your blog and helped me to get through my immobilizing fear of Peak and Climate issues.

    Toda rabah!
    [email protected]

  15. Tricia says:

    I picked 20lb of rock hard pears from an abandoned tree and am going to try to ripen them. How ripe should they be before I can make jam or can them? I think they are seckle pears and have read if they get too ripe they get mushy.

  16. Tom says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I spent last weekend pressure canning tomatoes (slip the skins, cut in quarters) with my mom. We followed the presto instructions she’s been using since the 1960′s (5 lb. pressure for 8 minutes). When I got home to pressure can tomatoes from my garden, my new presto’s instructions say to process at 10 lb pressure for 25 minutes. Since we have never gotten sick from my mom’s tomatoes, are the newer instructions overkill or did we just get lucky all those years? Makes me wonder why they changed so much. Also the new instructions differ in that they advise to add lemon juice. Is that just to improve appearance of the tomatoes or does it add to the “preserving process?”

    Thanks so much for your wonderful websites and books!


  17. Bridget says:

    I just finished Independence Days. THANK YOU! Tried to root cellar some of the pears from our tree, and they promptly spoiled (basement not as cool as I thought). I have another location in mind but it won’t be cool until fall really kicks in. (Our climate in Erie, PA is similar to yours.) So, my question is, what do you do with fruit (apples, pears) between the time it needs picking (now) and the time the root cellar is cool enough (October?)? I’m sure you’ve encountered this dilemma before!

  18. Vickey says:

    Hey, Bridget! We’re just an hour east of you on 90. Email me off list if you’d like to compare notes. (vkaiser[at]stnydotrrdotcom) Glad to see ya here!

  19. Deb says:

    Can I take cheese that I buy (like Gouda) which is already waxed, can I store it in my pantry safely? The temps there range from 68-72 degrees. Thanks!

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