This is the first year that I’ve really gotten into preserving food. I’ve frozen some things in the past, but with the combination of expanding our garden and subscribing to the CSA, I just simply have so much more to work with this summer. I don’t have a favorite method yet; I think each one has its pros and cons depending on your situation.
Freezing: Pick produce. Throw in freezer-safe ziploc bag or jar. Freeze. Or make huge amounts of sauces (like tomato sauces) and freeze in smaller portions. Last summer for some reason I planted tons of basil, so I made pesto and froze it in 3/4 c. portions. We ate pesto all winter. So much that Adam refuses to eat it now. So I’m skipping that one this year.
Pros: super easy, and nutritional value of most things is well-preserved
Cons: you need to have the freezer space available. Works better on small scale unless you have a huge chest freezer. Even then, you’re susceptible to freezer burn or power outtages ruining your food.
Canning: This is one area where I am very inexperienced, but soon to be more experienced. Later this week, in fact, I’m going to can tomatoes for the first time ever.
Pros: even in a nuclear winter, you would still have food to eat. Before reading the Road I would have scoffed at this.
Cons: much of the nutritional value of most foods is lost, and the process involves special equipment and know-how so you don’t unwittingly give your family botulism.
Fermenting: This is my personal favorite of the moment.
Pros: easy to do, especially on a small scale. Enhances nutrition of food that is preserved. Requires little to no special equipment. Here’s a great “getting started” video from Sandor Elliz Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation.
Cons: some foods might require a slight re-adjustment of your palate. Scale can be a problem, too, as we are finding out. Pretty soon you start to run out of refrigerator space. Also, some ferments can be putzy for the person who’s not an enthusiast (like cheese, beverages, and cured meats).
We are seriously considering making a “root cellar” type of area for storing some of our fermented and canned foods. Ideally it would stay very cool, like 50 degrees. We have a closet in the basement that stays very cool in winter, and I think with a little work we could make it into a proper cold storage area. I need to make fall projects list one of these days; my mental list is getting really long.
Update 8/25/09: Good grief, I completely forgot one entire category of food preservation: drying. I’ve never tried drying anything, but I would love to try making sun-dried tomatoes one of these years.
Any other methods I’m forgetting?