When you come to choose a method of food preservation your choice will depend on a number of factors from the type of food you are preserving, the equipment you have access to or costs of equipment you would need to buy, the recipes you have accumulated from this book and other resources, the anticipated quality of the product after preserving it and how long you would like to store a preserved product.
Type of food
Different foods lend themselves to different methods of food preservation and storage. Some foods are suited to storage at room temperature such as dry pasta, cereal, bread and flour, while other foods are most suited to cold storage such as milk and dairy products, eggs, meat and cooked foods.
When choosing any food preservation technique it is important to consider the end product. Some foods are best eaten fresh and do not tolerate food preservation techniques at all or the end product is compromised.
When selecting food to preserve, always aim to select high quality products. For example, when choosing fruit and vegetables, pick products that are at the best stage of maturity i.e. do not pick under-ripe fruit or immature vegetables and discard fruit and vegetables that show any sign of disease.
The equipment required for some methods of food preservation can be a major financial investment. Equipment you may consider purchasing could range from jars and containers of various sizes, to expensive pressure canners and dehydrators.
Also added to the costs of the equipment are the costs of utilities such as electricity, gas and water as well as the added cost of labour - that is your own time as well as the time of any other people involved.
The amount of workspace available to you will also impact upon your choice of food preservation. For example if you live in a large house with lots of storage space or out buildings you will have more space to store bottles/ jars/ other equipment than if you live in a small apartment.
Aim initially to follow recipes as they have been written. Recipes should have been tested to ensure a food is safe and does not spoil during storage. Although some recipes may be amenable to small changes such as changing the levels of sugar and salt, bigger changes may have food safety consequences e.g. changing the amount of vinegar in a recipe reduces its acidity and increases the risk of microbial contamination.
Follow food safety guidelines
An ability to follow strict health and safety guidelines is essential to the health of anyone who consumes your preserved foods. Some foods have stricter hygiene and safety requirements than others e.g. the requirements around canning foods are particularly strict to prevent diseases such as Botulism (described in the next chapter and later in this book). Be honest with yourself regarding your ability to follow hygiene and safety guidelines, if you feel unable to meet the guidelines of a particular preservation method choose another safer way of preserving foods.
Length of anticipated storage
This is another key consideration in your choice of food preservation. For example, if you are wishing to store foods for extended periods of time, you may consider a technique such as canning as some canned foods can be stored safely for several years. In contrast frozen foods may be stored for between 6-9 months and refrigerated foods for under a week.
The remaining chapters of this book will give much more guidance regarding the different methods of food preservation which will help you to choose specific preservation techniques. Overall your choice will depend on weighing up the relative advantages and disadvantages of each technique as well as reflecting your own preferences and sense of enjoyment.
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