5 ways to preserve food without refrigeration

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homemade dill pickles
credit: K Martinko

1. Canning

In the past, the arrival of fall meant a scramble to harvest and preserve as much food as possible before the cold weather set in. Most families would spend many long hours working on this enormous task because their year-round access to food depended on it. Only in recent decades have we become reliant on the convenience of refrigerators, which are wonderful for keeping food fresh -- until the power goes out. Then a mad scramble of another sort ensues – trying to eat as much of the food before it goes bad within a day or two.

Since outages happen all the time and increasingly violent storms keep the power out for longer, we could do well to relearn the food preservation techniques of our ancestors that do not rely on electricity. There are several great and effective alternatives to refrigeration that are easy to learn.

Canning is a traditional method of preservation that partially cooks food to kill bacteria and seals it up until you’re ready to eat it. The food can be eaten right away, unless you make pickles, which usually require a couple weeks for flavour to develop properly.

There are multiple stages of work required for canning, i.e. preparing the food and any additives such as brine or sugar syrup, sterilizing glass jars and lids, filling and processing, wiping down and storing the filled jars. It can take a long time, but it’s a skill that becomes quicker the more you do.

While the upfront cost of jars can be expensive, they have an extremely long life span. (My grandmother has been using the same jars for decades.) All you have to replace is the snap lids that seal in the food, and those don’t cost much.

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