Preservation of food can done in many ways other than using a refrigerator and here we will look at some of these options. First let’s ask ourselves a question. Why do need to preserve food? Well simply put food is essentially biological and was at one point alive and just like us when we die we start to degrade or rot. Some foodstuffs are seasonal so if we did not preserve them the majority of food would be wasted as most of it would become ripe to eat at the same time resulting in too much food at this point and none at others. Preservation processes must be non damaging to the food and non toxic to us so this narrows down the options.
Drying works on the principle that bacteria needs water to grow so by removing the water the growth of bacteria which rots the food is slowed or even stopped. This is a long established method of preservation involving drying out the food using the sun, wind or possibly smoking. An added benefit of drying is that it hardens the surface or skin of the food which stops dirt and other bacteria from contaminating the food. Dried or smoked fish has been a popular preserved food for hundreds of years and still regarded by many today as tastier than fresh fish. Meat is another product that can be dried although in many cases it is salted first, all red meats are able to be preserved in this manner. Fruits are also dried but undergo changes in texture and taste during this process some examples are drying a plum produces a prune and drying a grape produces a raisin. Vegetables are rarely dried as it takes all the flavor and vitamins out of them.
Pickling is a method of preserving food by creating a chemical reaction which is safe to us but which bacteria are unable to survive in. There are various ways in which this can be done with the most common ones being the use of vinegar or brine. Brine is produced when fermentation of salted water produces an acid solution. As this is more a chemical system the method tends to change between different foods as foods with more moisture can produce brine much easier than dryer foods. Food can last for many months using this process which doesn’t require a heat source like the sun or fire unlike the drying method of preservation.
Sugaring is a method used to preserve fruit where the fruit is placed into a sugar based syrup this is popular with apples, pears, apricots and many other fruits. Sometimes the fruit is cooked in this syrup and then dried and stored and in some instances the fruit skins are used as dried fruit skins are popular as a delicacy in some countries.
Freezing is the method that most of us use as most people have home freezers that are cheap to run. An advantage of frozen food is that many products can now be bought ready frozen to go straight into your freezer. Even foods that are unsuitable for freezing can be cooked and then frozen and many are prepared so that that defrosting before cooking is also not required.
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