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Food Preservation

“There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise.” Proverbs 21:20


Fall has finally arrived with its cool breeze, beautiful colors, and bountiful harvest. We enjoy the reward of a whole year’s labor and, although we have experienced unnumbered blessings working in the garden, field, greenhouse, or orchard, we still eagerly look forward to a few months of relaxation. As in every domain in life, times of rest are usually preceded by periods of preparation, and fall is no exception. In order to fully enjoy the fruit of our labor, we need to prepare diligently for the winter months that lie ahead. Beside the material benefits of preparing for winter, every step in this process will build into our lives that character trait known as prudence.

The Bible has many examples of prudence and foresight recorded in its sacred pages. One of the most striking stories is Joseph’s preparation for the seven years’ famine. “And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.” Genesis 41:47-48. His discretion and insight did not spring from a lack of faith in God’s provision. Rather, he acted in faith according to the knowledge revealed to him by God.

In this age of plenty, the word faith has gradually lost much of its practical meaning. We can easily go to the store and find whatever we need to supply our daily bread. We trust that God will provide us with spiritual blessings, but what about trusting Him for our daily needs? Growing and preserving our own food are God-appointed methods to enhance our relationship with Him. Besides the spiritual advantages of food preserving, we may enjoy better health by consuming more organic produce and enjoying healthier meals prepared at home. Preserving our own food gives us more independence and self-reliability, making us able to help others who may be in need. Just as “all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn” during the seven years’ famine, God can make us a blessing even through the food we preserve.

Several methods of food preservation may be used. In this article only three of them will be discussed in detail: freezing, dehydrating, and canning.

Freezing

Freezing is one of the simplest methods of preserving produce from your garden. Because it requires the least handling and processing, most of the nutrients and enzymes in the foods are retained, making freezing one of the healthiest methods. The downside of freezing is the need for a constant supply of electricity.

Most fruits and vegetables can be easily prepared for freezing. Berries and small fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, currants, cherries (sweet and sour) can be frozen in their raw state and used for different tarts, smoothies, and desserts. They can also be unfrozen and mixed with honey or some other natural sweetener to make a delicious raw jam to go on your bread or with your cereals during winter, when raw food is scarce and you need extra antioxidants and vitamin C to boost your immune system. Apples, pears, peaches, and prunes may be sliced or cut in halves. If you prefer to peel them, an easy method is blanching (pouring hot water over them) and then placing them in ice-cold water, making them easier to peel off.

Frozen vegetables are very handy when you need to prepare a quick meal. Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans, squash, eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, and greens such as spinach, kale, chard, celery, parsley, and dill are some of the vegetables we find easiest to preserve in the freezer. Hardy greens such as spinach and kale may be scalded for 1-2 minutes in boiling or very hot water and stored in zip lock bags or plastic/glass containers after letting them cool off. Broccoli, cauliflower, squash, green beans, and mushrooms may also be blanched for a longer time and then chopped, thus reducing their size and saving space in your freezer. They can be used for different casseroles, stews and salads. Herbs such as parsley, celery, basil, and dill can be finely chopped and preserved in small bags in the freezer, ready for stews, soups, or as a flavory addition to any vegetable dish. With herbs, we sometimes prefer to wash and put them in bags without chopping them; then, when taking out a bag, we crush it with our hands, causing the large, frozen leaves and stems to break into smaller pieces. Peppers and eggplants can be sliced and placed in bags as they are, or roasted and peeled for appetizing side dishes or salads.

A few useful tools while preparing your fruits and vegetables for freezing would be a seed remover, a vacuum sealer, and bags, containers or mason jars. If you have processed your fruits or vegetables and want to preserve them in mason jars, be sure to leave enough space for the food / liquids to expand. Otherwise, your jars may break.

Dehydrating

Dehydrating has been used since ancient times and has many advantages. One of them is that, although you do need electricity when using a dehydrator, you do not need a constant supply of electrical power. The food is preserved while still retaining its raw nutritional content.

If you choose to buy a dehydrator, you can easily find a chart with the times that different foods require for dehydrating (usually between 8 – 12 hours). You may also choose to build your own dehydrator. Below is a video that teaches you how to build a non-electric one that uses solar energy for dehydrating.

Non-Electric Dehydrator - How to Build an Infrared Solar Dryer


Fruits and vegetables should lose about 95% of their moisture in order to preserve well through the winter. It is best to let the dehydrated foods cool down before placing them in bags or jars. Dried fruits and berries can be used in granola and muesli or as snacks. Dried vegetables can be soaked, blended, and used in different dishes.

Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, stevia, and other herbs can also be dried and kept in sealed bags or mason jars. Dried medicinal plants such as chamomile, echinacea, yarrow, and calendula may be used as remedies for common ailments. Herbs are very simple to dry even if you do not own a dehydrator. You can tie them up in bunches and hang them around in a dry room with plenty of air flow, or place them on newspaper and let them dry for a few days or weeks.

Dried foods have a long shelf-life and if properly dried may last for about one year. They store best at room temperature in a dry, dark place.


Wherever fruit can be grown in abundance, a liberal supply

should be prepared for winter, by canning or drying.

The Ministry of Healing, p. 299

Canning

When canning, it is important to have clean jars and good lids. Rusty lids or lids that do not seal perfectly should be discarded. The produce should be processed when at the peak of freshness, having no signs of rottenness or decay. Canning involves several steps such as preparing the raw food material (washing, cutting, grating, etc.), processing the food (boiling), filling the jars, and processing the jars.

Jellies, jams, juices, sauces, and vegetable mixes are a special treat during winter. Fruit jams and jellies can be made by bringing the fruit down to a boil and adding some natural sweetener. Do not add more water than necessary; some types of fruit give off their own juice after a few minutes of boiling. If you want your jelly to be stiffer, you may add some natural thickener such as cornstarch or agar-agar.

Tomato sauce may be prepared in a similar manner, chopping the tomatoes and bringing them to a boil with a pinch of salt.

Apple, pear, peach, cherry, nectarine pieces and small fruits may be boiled with more water to make appetizing compotes.

You may also prepare a vegetable mix of carrots, parsnip, parsley root, beet, celery stems/leaves to use for quick soups or stews. Grate the vegetables, mix them with salt and some acid such as lemon juice, and fill the jars with the mixture. Then process the jars using the water bath canning method.



Canning may be done in many different ways: hot packing, water bath, steam canning and pressure canning.


  1. Hot packing. After the food is thoroughly cooked, fill the jars with the hot content up to their neck and seal them immediately. Turn the jars upside down and cover with blankets. As the contents cool down, the pressure created will cause the lids to suck in. Check the jars after 12-24 hours by tapping the lids gently. Keep inside the refrigerator any jar that was not properly sealed. Hot packing is the simplest way to can, but it may present the risk of spoiling if not properly done.

  2. Water bath canning. Water bath canning is a more complex but secure way of canning your produce. It consists of filling the jars, loosely placing the lids on them, and boiling the jars until the contents are thoroughly processed. You may fill the jars with either raw content (cold packing) or pre-processed food. Keep the jars a few centimeters apart to prevent them from touching each other. If you do not have a rack, you may use clean kitchen towels to prevent them from banging against the bottom of the pot. After the water starts to boil, you may process the jars for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the produce (raw contents will take more time). Remove the jars with a pair of tongs or hot water gloves and secure the lid. As with hot packing, leave the jars to rest for 12-24 hours before checking them for secure sealing.

  3. Steam canning. Steam canning is similar to water bath canning in that the jars are being processed at a high temperature. This process requires a steam canner.

  4. Pressure canning. Pressure canning may be used for foods that require a longer cooking time, such as beans, lentils, peas, green beans, etc. Never leave a pressure canner unattended.

Storage crops such as potatoes, other roots, winter squash, garlic, and onions may be stored in a cool cellar during the winter. Carrots, beets, and parsnips are best stored in sand. Practically, almost any fruit or vegetable can be preserved and be ready to use in your kitchen. It is important to consider your own needs and resources and choose the most appropriate preservation method that works for you and your family. Remember that food preservation is not only about food; it brings a loving touch to your meals and may be a means to reach out to others and start meaningful conversations. Enjoy the blessings, and share them! “We should all become witnesses for Jesus. Social power, sanctified by the grace of Christ, must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour. Let the world see that we are not selfishly absorbed in our own interests, but that we desire others to share our blessings and privileges... Let all who profess to have found Christ, minister as He did for the benefit of men.” The Desire of Ages, p. 152

 

Raquel Vasilache has grown up loving nature, family, and God. She enjoys hard work in the garden, field, greenhouse, and orchard and is currently teaching English at Integritas International High School.

 


Additional resources:


Food Preservation 101 by Deidre Dealy

Food Preservation by Jennifer Dysinger



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