What's Your Favorite Way To Preserve Food?

I don't own a dehydrator (yet?) and am curious if that is anyone's first choice method for preservation?

I do some canning and still like the idea of having stuff on the shelf ready to go but seem to end up freezing stuff more than canning...lately I'm thinking that I should be better rounded in my food storage in case of a power failure, evacuation or what have you? Anyone care to share strategies?

Comments

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 1,001 ✭✭✭✭

    I do dehydrate but honestly my dehydrator is terrible. I want to save up for an Excalibur. If I had a better dehydrator I would do alot more that way. I also want to learn how to can. For the moment though we mostly freeze, ferment and dry foods when we are able to.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,690 admin

    I am in the same boat as @karenjanicki. I have a dehydrator but it isn't a very good one. It only has an on/off switch. No temperature control. So I have to watch it closely and turn it on and off all the time. I, too, would like an Excalibur. So @sudborough, if you are going to get a dehydrator, spend the money and get one that is suitable for your uses.

    But that being said. I do like my dehydrator for some things. I have it full of hot peppers right now. I dry my hawthorn berries in it and have done elderberries and cherries as well. I would dehydrate more with a better machine.

    A friend of mine is getting a freeze dryer this week, so I am very excited about the prospect of getting to play with it. That will probably have me dehydrating a lot more.

    I also can and freeze. Freezing is mostly what I do with berries, some juice, some veggies and meats. Canning is usually for pickles, relishes, chutney, antipasto, jams & jellies, some juice, ketchup & other sauces, I have canned meat before but with 4 freezers and living on grid, I don't have reason to can meat at present. I also have a back-up generator to assist if there is a power failure. If I lived closer to the coast and had access to more fresh salmon, I would can that as well as freezing some cuts.

    Another method of food preservation is smoking. We have a smoker and like to do that with trout and other fresh water fish. If there is a lot, I will can it after smoking. We have smoked game in the past that kept very well without refrigeration. I was thinking of smoking some peppers this year but it is a project that will have to wait for another harvest.

  • sudborough
    sudborough Posts: 36 ✭✭✭

    @karenjanicki & @torey thank you for the Excalibur recommendation! I am not yet ready to buy but certainly appreciate your input.

    I started canning tuna 3 years ago when we first moved to the coast. Last year I experimented with some meals in a jar for my daughter to take to college (we jokingly called them Mom-er-ees 🤣) her roommates thought she was weird but she said it was amazing to be able to just open a jar and quickly heat up dinner in a skillet.

    torey please keep us posted about the freeze dryer. I saw one a few months ago and was intrigued - I would love to hear about some first hand experiences!

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 1,001 ✭✭✭✭

    I would love to get my hands on a freeze dryer but my goodness are they expensive. I have a vacuum sealer so I sometimes use that to do long food term storage of the things I dry. But with my lousy dehydrator I've really only done some fruits and herbs. I really want to get a smoker myself. I think that would be a great way to preserve meat.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,690 admin

    @karenjanicki Yes, the freeze dryers are expensive. Its out of my price range. My friend had a small inheritance that allowed her to purchase it.

    But smokers are much cheaper. We are using a Big Chief model at the moment. I think you can get them for just over $200. A few years ago we had a large, homemade one that was 4'x 4' square with 8 foot sides and a peak roof. So basically 4 sheets of plywood and some 2x4's, a bit of roofing and hinges for the door. We salvaged kitchen oven racks from discarded stoves at the local landfill and had a couple of meat hooks we found in a second hand store. We were hunting a lot more in those days and would smoke whole racks of moose ribs inside. It was a well used smoker.

  • sudborough
    sudborough Posts: 36 ✭✭✭

    @torey thanks for the smoker intel - your DIY version sounds amazing!

  • frogvalley
    frogvalley Posts: 675 ✭✭✭✭

    We freeze almost everything as we have solar panels with a battery backup so no loss of electricity. I would love a freeze dryer, but have been waiting for others to start using them and give feedback as we've been on the bleeding edge of so many things that we can't afford to make "mistakes" at this stage of our lives.

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 1,001 ✭✭✭✭

    That's so cool! Did you build it from a plan or just figured it out?

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭✭

    I have an excalibur and it is definitely worth the money. I couldn't be happier with it. I've had it approximately 20 years and it still works great. It came with a couple of the silicone sheets and then I bought extras so I have one for each tray. I have the 5 tray because I thought it would be easier to store but if I had to do it all over again I'd get the 9 tray. I tend to do a lot at one time and some things take up a lot of space in the beginning so I have to use every other tray. Mine came with a timer but now that they charge extra I wouldn't pay extra because how long I dehydrate depends on so many variables.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,690 admin

    @karenjanicki No, we didn't have plans. Just looked at the pile of materials that we had available and went from there. If you use plywood sheets, it is pretty easy to build a frame to accommodate them as walls. As I recall, we used an extra sheet of plywood to make the roof. It had a two foot rise on it so it was a 6/12 pitch. For the door, we just cut it out of the plywood sheet, attached hinges and hung it back in the space where it had been cut out. We put 2x4 bars (on edge) across the top of the walls (from side to side) both for stability and a place to hang the meat hooks. We were able to use it as a hot smoker but also, because it was on a bit of a rise, we put in a tunnel so that we could have the smoke source outside of the actual building and just funnel the smoke, without much heat, into the smoker, giving a cold smoke process. We did this with hams and bacon. But we liked the hot smoke for fish and red meats.