When people buy food these days it is either already precooked, or is waiting in some form of packaging. Nearly all of this food has gone through some process of preservation to keep decomposition at bay, some of these methods have risen concern of possible dangers to human health. Modern food preservation techniques have become a massive operation as society continuously grows to more immense sizes and, just like any other forms of modern production, methods of reducing cost and increasing efficiency are discovered and utilized at the expense of health.
Since 12,000 BC this has proven a very important technology to help a society last throughout unfortunate times of drought, unseasonable weather, seasonal differences and varieties of crop failure. There are many different ways to perform this task that are better for us, but are not well suited for monstrous amounts of food. For those who like to buy fresh food or grow their own, this article will help in understanding preservation methods and discuss the dangers of certain types of modern food additives.
Freezing, fermenting, pickling, curing, canning, drying and/or dehydrating and jam and/or jelly are simple and safe methods that we will cover. It’s very important to note that for each type of food a different preservation method is required, while some foods may be excellent to can or jam, others are better to freeze or dry. Conversely, some foods are not meant to be preserved as others are and can be of great detriment, always use methods and recipes that have already been tested.
Don’t take chances with the food you prepare for you and your family. Use only tested recipes that have been scientifically determined to be safe.
– Food Safety and Preservation
Note to readers: This guide is deceptively packed with a lot of information and if you plan on preserving foods then you may want to bookmark it, click the links any time you want to learn more about something.
Dehydrating, Freezing Food, Canning, Jams and Jellies
These are four of the most commonly practiced food preservation methods, prompting a search will usually bring you to websites which explain all four methods in great depth.
Dehydrating, or drying, is the oldest method of food preservation known to man. Today this is done with dehydrator boxes which have screen panels inside of them to place fruits and vegetables on, or a small hot building to hang herbs or dry meat jerky. This is the most simple way to dehydrate foods, a nice innovative sustainable method is by solar dehydrators which use passive solar collectors that were originally designed to heat homes. Basics on Dehydrating Food
If you are using the internet to read this then it is very likely that you have frozen food at some point in your life, you’re probably wondering “what more could I possibly learn about freezing foods?”. You’re in for a surprise, most fresh vegetables must go through a preparation process called blanching which involves scalding them in steam or boiling water! Even freezing meats or prepared meals has recommended processes which gaurantee the safety and longevity of your food, there are even recipes to learn about.
Canning is a very popular method of food preservation and food storage, this can be, and commonly is, used to store foods that have been dehydrated, turned to jam, fermented and pickled! Thus the process of canning is actually to preserve and/or to store already processed food in an airtight container. Mason jars are glass containers used for canning, the Ball Canning Company is one of the most popular and long lasting companies that make them, another great company is Tattler, which makes reusable canning lids. This is the epitome of safe food preservation, but as previously mentioned it is very important to follow already tested recipes for the safety of those who will eat it. “How Do I? …Can” and Simply Canning are excellent guides to get you started.
Jams and Jellies are made from a wide assortment of fruits and there are many blogs across the internet giving people personal tips. Jellies, jams, preserves, conserves and marmalades are made by cooking fruit juice with sugar and each have their own unique methods and amazing flavors to choose from. This method of food preservation shouldn’t be taken lightly or overlooked, there are actually a lot of different fruits to preserve!
Pickling and Fermenting
Fermentation is the controlled decay of material using special bacteria which results in a more desirable product. Technically, fermentation is the biochemical conversion of sugars, starches, or carbohydrates, into alcohol, and organic acids, by bacteria and enzymes. We have symbiotic relations with some forms of bacteria, we give them what they need (carbohydrates), they give us what we need (preserving acids). The bacteria change foods into more digestible and nutritional material.
– How Fermentation Techniques Preserve Food
Lacto-fermentation and pickling are the two methods of fermentation. Lots of foods can be pickled and surprisingly enough Wikipedia has a good list of food types that are normally fermented. Though it seems rather difficult to find a list of fermentation methods on the internet, I’m determined to provide the information you need! The next qoutes come from 2 pdf guides that will help you to begin learning lacto-fermentation.
Lactobacilli are present on the surface of all living things. You can easily learn the techniques of growing and using them to convert starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits into lactic acid, a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria.
– Making and Eating Fermented Foods: Why and How
A 1-gallon container is needed for each 5 pounds of fresh vegetables. Therefore, a 5-gallon stone crock is of ideal size for fermenting about 25 pounds of fresh cabbage or cucumbers. Food-grade plastic and glass containers are excellent substitutes for stone crocks.
– Let’s Preserve: Fermented and Pickled Foods
Curing and Smoking Food
When it comes to meat and fish, curing and smoking are some of the oldest food preservation methods still in practice today. The applications of salt, sugar, nitrite and/or nitrate are the methods for curing meat and fish, another term for this is charcuterie. I was surprised to find a website about curing olives! It isn’t difficult to find a plethura of recipes for curing as well as recipes for smoking meats.
Here’s a final link concerning safety and preservation before going into the possible health concerns of modern day man made preservatives.
Home canning is an excellent way to preserve garden produce and share it with family and friends, but it can be risky or even deadly if not done correctly and safely.
– CDC: Home Canning and Botulism
Dangers of Modern Preservatives
There are many reasons why a lot of man made food additives pose a threat to health, some of which destroys beneficial bacteria within us that we rely on. Though some of these additives are beneficial, there are other preservatives that are a hinderance to our bodies, some even encouraging bad bacterial growth rather than beneficial.
In response to consumer demand for more natural food, the food industry has reduced the amount of preservatives in food over recent years. A common preservative is acetic acid, which is used to stop bacterial growth in dressings, sauces, cheese and pickles.
However, new research shows that a small amount of acetic acid does not have the intended effect, but rather the opposite — it increases the amount of toxin from the harmful bacteria in the food.
– Science Daily
Food additives find their way into our foods to help ease processing, packaging and storage. But how do we know what food additives is in that box of macaroni and cheese and why does it have such a long shelf life?
A typical American household spends about 90 percent of their food budget on processed foods, and are in doing so exposed to a plethora of artificial food additives, many of which can cause dire consequences to your health.
– Foodmatters: Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid
The last link we’ll leave you with on the matter is a gigantic list of food additives which will point out which additives are actually safe, which to cut back on, some to be cautious about, additives to completely avoid and others which may be dangerous to a select few.
Center For Science In The Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine, Learn about Food Additives