Food preservation refers to the processes you use to prepare food for safe, long-term storage, whether you plan to use it at home, for prep in a commercial kitchen, or to sell directly to consumers. Preservation methods help inhibit bacterial growth and other types of spoilage, meaning the food is safe and satisfying to eat in the future.
Food Preservation Methods
- Chilling: Storing food at a low temperature is the simplest, and often safest, way to store many types of food. Fridges preserve the quality and safety of food because the cold slows bacterial growth and minimises spoilage. Depending on the type of food, it can last between a few days and a few weeks in the fridge before the texture and taste deteriorate.
- Salting: The Ancient Romans valued salt so highly as an ingredient for preserving food that they used it as a form of currency. Salt draws water out of food and stops bacterial growth. In high concentrations, it can even destroy bacteria cells, although by this point the food is likely unappetising. There are two forms of salting; Dry curing – you apply salt to the food, such as meat, and leave it to draw out the water. Wet curing – better known as brine, you mix salt with water and add food to the liquid to preserve it, usually together with canning.
- Canning: Keeping food canned significantly extends its lifespan – but only if done correctly. The canning process preserves food by removing oxygen through an airtight seal and containing food in an acidic, sugary, or salty environment, where bacteria cannot thrive.
- Freezing: If stored properly, frozen food can last for months. In fact, because bacteria cannot grow when frozen, food you keep in the freezer can remain safe to eat for almost indefinite periods of time. However, it will eventually deteriorate in quality and become unappetising, so you should use most frozen food within a few months or a year.
- Sugaring: Preserving food in a high-sugar environment stops bacterial growth by reducing the food’s water content. It works particularly well for fruit: you can make jam and marmalade that lasts for a long time, and you can use canning to store it. All sorts of sugary substances work well to preserve food, including sugar granules, sugar syrup, or honey. Some sugaring recipes even use alcohol alongside sugar to preserve certain foods. You may use sugaring to preserve foods such as: Fruit – apples, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, and more preserve well when sugared. Vegetables – ginger and carrot are commonly sugared and used for relishes or condiments. Certain fish and meat – you can combine sugar with salt or another liquid to make a brine that helps preserve meat and reduce saltiness.