Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Storing Your Extra Food

Waste not, want not

So you started your first garden and planted 6 tomato plants. Now you have too many tomatoes. Or you have more then one raspberry plant, and they all ripen at the same time. Or in your fridge you have that extra herbs from yesterdays dinner. Maybe you should be freezing, canning, or dehydrating?

As with most things in life, everything has its place. In my kitchen (like most people) I have a frozen food in the freezer, canned food in the pantry, and dehydrated snacks in the cupboards. When I have to do the work, I prefer dehydrating. This process takes a fraction of the time, space, requires no refrigeration, keep more nutritional value in the food, and will last for years.

The Freezer is one of the biggest parts on my energy bill (mine is even the newer Energy Efficient model). For all vegetables you need to take that extra step, of steaming, before freezing. I get about 3 months before freezer burn sets in. Nutrient lose for frozen food is 40-60% from the moisture expanding when freezing, causing food cells to rupture.

Canning is so much work, there is a reason it is done in big batches. You need to throughly clean and sterilize all the jars/cans. Then you need to prep all your food using the right ratios of salt or sugar. Next you need to pack each can/jar so you have enough 'head room'. Then boil them for the right amount of time and let them cool. Even after all that there is still a good chance of a few going bad from botulism. My mom would only keep canned/jarred items for only a year. The longest I have seen groceries store canned items is 3 years (salt a main ingredient in that can). One batch canning need pot that is 16 -33quart (4-8 gals) of water boiling. Weather you use gas of electric, that 2hrs of boiling is going to be easy to spot on your energy bill. After that no energy needed. Nutrient lose for canning food is 60-80% from high temperatures and foods immersed in water during period of preparation.

Dehydrating is just easier. Most of the food I dehydrate just needs to be cut into slices and set on the dehydrator. 8hr-12hrs later take it out and put it in an air tight jar. You can't over dry food, so if leave if for any extra day in the dehydrator no problem. It should last 2-10 yrs, maybe longer. A single light bulb uses more electricity then my dehydrator and after pack it no electricity needed. No salt or sugar preservatives are use. Nutrient lose for dehydrated food is 3-5% from low heat during the drying cycle and the gentle air flow.

Summary Chart
ProcessNutritional LossExpiration AveEnergy
Dehydrate3-5%2-10 yrsLittle
Freezing40-60%3 monthsLots
Canning60-80%1-3 yrsLots