How to eat clean on a budget - Part 4
Up to this point in this series we have been discussing just modifying existing behavior. Instead of buying the same food year round you would buy food seasonally. To get in-tune with mother nature and time your purchases to the seasons when food would be at its ripest, most flavorful and most nutrient dense. So buying food is something we all do we were just modifying WHEN you do it. Then last week we not only modified WHEN you buy but also HOW you buy. Purchasing food in bulk is still just buying food, you have just modified the amounts. You are well on your way to eating a nutrient dense, clean diet and you are still in your comfort zone.
Today, we are going to take our first step outside some of your comfort zones, we are going to talk about food preservation. That's right I am going to talk about canning, freezing and drying foods. How to take the foods that you have grown (I will get to that next week) or purchased and preserve it at the height of its freshness to be used the whole year round. You will do all of that without adding toxic chemicals.
I only have experience in 3 methods of food preservation: canning, freezing and drying. Each of these methods uses science to either retard aging or to remove oxygen or moisture to prevent bacterial growth. I am a lay person on these subjects and am just sharing my experience. There is a wealth of professional information out these on these topics. I will share some of that with you today, but what I want to share with you first is DON'T BE AFRAID. This is way easier than it sounds, anyone can do it. Most importantly, in most cases it is not only very safe, God put a device in the middle of your face to help you detect any errors that might occur (your nose).
One of the simplest ways to preserve food is to freeze it. Outside the freezer itself it needs very little equipment or specific knowledge to do it safely. There are skills you can develop to make food taste better after thawing or to make food survive better in your freezer. Food can last in the freezer for about a year without degrading in quality. Typically the biggest mistake folks make with freezing food is not evacuating all the oxygen which contributes to freezer burn which is a quality issue not a safety one. You can buy vacuum packers to evacuate oxygen or use the old straw in the ziplock method if you choose not to invest in more gadgets. My mother and grandmother froze foods their whole lives without a vacuum packer. I have one and use it sparingly to keep costs down. Its great for meats and some veggies but otherwise you can do without. We can go round and round on opinions on types of freezers and I have and do own them all. For long term storage of food, you cannot beat a deep chest freezer for size(capacity), cost to operate and cost to buy. No, it is typically not an attractive appliance but it is a very useful one. I will give you a resource at the end of this article to provide you with specific knowledge of how to freeze. I just want to cover highlights here. The point is freezing food retards the decay of foods, it is a simple and safe way to preserve foods without a lot of specific knowledge. You can start today.
Number two of food preservation methods is typically scary for first timers but is really simple after your first season. Don't let your initial unease stop you from trying. It is the way to preserve those great Ohio tomatoes for all year round. Canning, particularly fruits and veggies can be canned safely with a minimum of equipment and knowledge. There are so many websites and you tube videos that cover canning you can find them yourself. I might suggest that you check out the Ball site. Ball makes the canning jars that everyone knows about. I believe in the near future those jars will be worth a lot of money again but right now you can find old ones for cheap and new ones are pretty inexpensive as well. From an equipment point of view you need a large pot, jars, lids and a specific jar holder to get your hot jars out of the pot is about all you need. Certainly less than $30 and you're off and canning. The science behind canning is to create a low oxygen environment. With out oxygen food cannot decay. That's how it is preserved.
Food dehydration is something that Connie and I are just now exploring so I don't have a lot to share from an expertise point of view. I would like to say we are starting simple. We started with dog snacks, which we sell as well to get used to the process. We also are starting to try to dry herbs this season so we can have basil, mint, chives and some of the other herbs we grow. I would really like to branch out if this experiment goes well. We also developed some recipes for jerky that I hinted about in my news letter and hope to have jerky for sale by June 1, if everything goes as planned. The science behind dehydration is to remove the moisture that causes decay to prevent food from going bad. If you vacuum pack dehydrated food you have removed moisture and oxygen for a great preservation method.
So as I begin to wrap up this week I really want y'all to give one or more of these methods a try. If you have questions ask. Shoot me an email or stop and ask at farm markets. Connie and I really do all these, we practice what we preach. I still have enough peaches and apples in my freezer to have pie every week until Labor Day. Actually this time of year we need to go through the cabinet and freezer to determine what we need to preserve this year and what we should be eating to make room from more stuff for next year. That a good problem to have when the government is warning about food shortages soon.
If you made it this far I am going to give you a gift that is definitely worth the price of admission. You read this far, I will now share with the you one of the best websites I have ever visited. This website has 1) calendar for Ohio of what is ripe when, 2) Farms where you can actually pick your own to save money, 3) how to can anything with beginner and expert instruction with picture for each specific fruit or vegetable, 4) How to freeze everything with the specificity. Even how to pressure can meats. When I first found this website I printed parts of it out because they were too valuable to leave just on internet. I wanted hard copy. Anyway without further ado: PICKYOUROWN.ORG. Seriously, leave yourself a few hours to explore this site. It is rare you find this much information in one place.
I hope you found this interesting. As times continue to get tough we need to remember we are a resilient people and we do not descend from a scared people. So in honor of all the Grandma's out there that taught us we could do anything.