Increase Your Food Security with Food Preservation
Extend Shelf Life
Effective food preservation delays the deterioration of food by changing the raw ingredients of foods into more stable forms that can be stored for longer periods of time. Although today we have access to fruit and vegetables all year round as well as an extensive variety of foods in supermarkets, preserving foods is a great way of extending the shelf life of foods bought from a supermarket as well as extending the shelf life of foods that you have grown/produced yourself. As an example, raw meat should be kept at room temperature for a maximum of two hours (as beyond this it is subject to microbial contamination) or in a refrigerator for 3-5 days. If the same meat is stored in a jar and processed in a pressure canner, it can last for several years. In regard to home grown/produced products, if excess produce is turned into jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces, pickles, and bottled fruit, it will last through the winter months when less fresh produce becomes available.
Food preservation allows foods to be available anywhere and at any time of the year. Preserving foods also allows foods to be available when you need them, preventing the need for last minute dashes to a local supermarket. Foods may also be prepared in a more convenient ready to use form.
Eating a balanced diet provides us with all the vitamins and minerals we require as well as the right amount of the macronutrients - carbohydrate, fat and protein. While foods may be a plentiful source of nutrients, in many instances the nutrients in a food begin to decline as soon as it has been produced. In respect of fruit and vegetables, the nutritional value begins to decline as soon as a particular fruit and vegetable has been picked, so the less time taken to eat them, the more nutrients will be retained.
The water soluble vitamins in fruit and vegetables such as vitamin C, thiamine and folic acid are particularly likely to be destroyed during incorrect/lengthy storage. These vitamins are lost through factors such as exposure to heat, light, air, alkalinity and water. Freezing fruits and vegetables is a great way of preserving nutrients, and in fact, if these foods are frozen soon after harvest, they may be more nutritious than the same foods bought fresh from a supermarket/grocer/market. Tips to freeze fruits and vegetables are highlighted in chapter 4. Remember also that some fruits and vegetables should be blanched before freezing to stop enzymatic changes that destroy vitamins.
Another important aspect of nutrition is that some preservation techniques and recipes provide you with opportunities to decide on how much salt, sugar and other additives you want to add to food (compared to buying the same product from the supermarket which already has salt, sugar and additives added to it). This can help where you are trying to cater for different dietary requirements such as diabetes.
Make Food Taste Better
Preserving foods can introduce new flavours and textures to foods improving palatability e.g. through your food preservation efforts you may develop a new taste for smoked food or for chutneys and preserves, even where you are less keen on eating the fresh ingredients. Preserving fresh seasonable and locally produced food can also allow you to enjoy the improved taste of these foods at any time of the year.
To reduce food waste and allow portion control: Preserving foods that you have harvested/produced that are in excess of your/your family’s needs is an important way of preventing food wastage. Also, preserving left over food is a good way of exercising portion control preventing the temptation to overeat when foods are in front of you.
Produce Homemade Gifts for Friends and Family
The recent interest in all things “homemade” is bringing about a (welcome) resurgence of appreciation for making things yourself – the good news – you can make the preserves you buy from the supermarket. The even better news, they won’t include preservatives or nasty “numbers”, you will be able to make them for a fraction of the price, you can reuse old jars and bottles, they will taste better, you’ll probably have enough left over to share with friends, plus you get the added satisfaction that you have made them yourself. There is nothing like the fun and rewards of harvesting fresh, juicy fruit from your own garden. If you garden organically you can be certain your produce is nutritious and chemical free.
How Important Is Food Security? (An Example of What Can Go Wrong)
The eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland (in 2010) temporarily crippled global air travel should set off alarm bells for many other industries - namely food production, warns ACS Distance Education principal John Mason.
Mr Mason says there are a range of courses that people can study to help them on their journey to self-sufficiency, from basic hobby courses only 100 hours long, to advanced learning courses and certificates in Permaculture and Self Sufficiency that are recognised by the International Accreditation and Recognition Council.
“While many people think it may be impossible to fit study into their busy lives, the beauty of online and correspondence study means anyone can learn at their own pace, from their own home,” he explains.
ACS Distance Education and its global network of affiliated colleges, are proud to be helping people make a difference to their dependency on mass food production, offering courses that mix the perfect balance of practicality and knowledge.
“Some of our most popular courses at the moment are meeting that demand, including permaculture, self sufficiency, alternative farming, organic farming, home propagation, home fruit and vegetable growing, culinary herbs, home hydroponics, pigs, poultry, sheep and cattle, irrigation and sustainable agriculture.”
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