Food is perishable by nature, but with our intervention, we can stop bacteria, yeast, and fungus from degrading our food. When food is spoiled, it is not only unappetizing, but can also cause foodborne diseases – sometimes, even death. To prolong the freshness as well as the safety of food, we have various methods that have been used for thousands of years. Here are different ways to preserve food that can help stabilize our food supply:
1. Chilling and/or Freezing
Yeast and bacteria have favorite temperatures for them to start multiplying. It is typically between 40 and 140 F, so by lowering the temperature (below 40F), their actions are stalled. Note though that chilling food will not kill bacteria or yeast, but spoilage process is definitely slower.
This is a very popular method of preserving food in which oxygen is removed, so that microorganisms stop multiplying. Canning is typically with another factor to stop microbial growth, such as salt or acid.
Many microorganisms need moisture, so dehydrating food is an effective way to stop spoilage. The key here is to finish the process fast, while evaporation is quickened using moderate heat or even natural sunlight. Modern dehydration methods utilize heated circulating air for fast dehydration without the need to “cook” food. This preservation technique is often used in dried fruit, herbs, and meat jerky.
An ancient method, fermenting is quite popular even today mainly because it brings unique flavor to the food. In truth, fermentation is actually a form of spoilage, but the microorganisms are strictly controlled. This therefore results to desirable effects and even provides safety against harmful organisms. Yeast or bacteria in the fermentation process generate a byproduct in the form of acid to prevent other harmful bacteria from growing. Sauerkraut and kimchi are great examples of fermentation used to preserve cabbage.
This method removes moisture and creates an environment where microbes cannot grow. There are only very few types of bacteria that can thrive in solutions with high salt content, so simply adding lots of salt can effective preserve food.
Another way to preserve food is to simply refrigerate it, since low temperatures can retard bacterial growth. Additionally, some foods can be preserved using sugar instead of salt. You will need to cook food first to create a very high osmotic pressure to kill microbes. Use these methods to give your food longer shelf life and enjoy seasonal food anytime you want.