Hello and welcome back to the Gubba podcast! I’m Gubba, a first time homesteader following in the footsteps of my homesteading forbears. In this podcast I discuss prepping, homesteading, and everything in between.

Today I am going to be sharing the secrets to food preservation. We will discuss the ins and outs of different food preservation methods like dehydrating, mylar bags, canning, and freeze-drying with the hope that you can become familiar with them and decide what methods you would like to use for your homestead.

This is a reminder as well that I have a food storage guide that will help you understand and organize your food storage along with a food storage course that will walk you through how to build a food storage for you and your family. They will be in the show notes.

What is a homestead?

When I mention your homestead, I am referring to wherever you are at in your homesteading journey. I began homesteading in a house in the city and now I have a few acres that I refer to as my homestead. You can homestead from anywhere, and the best place to start is right in your kitchen.

You don’t need land to homestead and I wish the world could hear this message. If we all started homesteading in a sense of preserving food, sourcing local, cooking and baking from scratch, I think we would be a lot better off.

What is food storage?

One aspect of homesteading to me is having a food storage. That may not be the case for everyone because different families have different priorities but I think it is vital for everyone to have a food storage.

A part of building a food storage is learning how to preserve food. You don’t necessarily have to know how to preserve food to have a food storage because you could just buy cans of food from the store and have that be your food storage.

You simply are taking something from the store and storing it on your shelf. If that is what works for you, I think that’s great do what works. Having a well-rounded food storage will mean incorporating different food preservation methods so you don’t rely on just one method of preservation like canned food from the store.

Yes, the canned food is convenient to buy, but it can be bulky to store plus if you ever have to leave in a pinch, you don’t want to be hauling canned food in your bug-out-bag. It is way too heavy. So it is convenient to buy but it is a pain to haul around.

What is dehydrating?

If I was going to start dabbling in food preservation today, I would start with something simple. Dehydrating is a super easy method of food preservation and the machines to start dehydrating are relatively cheap.

You can get a simple dehydrating machine for $35 on Amazon right now. It will do everything you need to do. Essentially, a dehydrator circulates warm air through food to remove moisture from the food. This is the perfect way to make homemade jerkies and fruit leathers.

The food that you dehydrate will still be pliable whereas for example, if you freeze dry food, it will crumble because ALL of the moisture has been removed.

What food can you dehydrate?

You can dehydrate most foods except foods with high fat content or moisture content. For example, avocados you wouldn’t want to dehydrate because they are high fat and fat doesn’t dry out like water so you would end up with a rancid food overtime.

You also wouldn’t want to dehydrate foods like lettuce or cucumbers because they aren’t mainly just water and will become limp. On the other hand, you could freeze dry greens and then blend them up to make your own green powders. But you can dehydrate meats, fruits, herbs, and dairy products like yogurt, butter, and cheese.

Seriously, dehydrators are such a great way to enter into building a food storage outside of just stocking up cans from the grocery store. You will be able to see that food storage can be fun by making homemade fruit leathers or jerkies.

Last summer, I took an abundance of apples from here on the homestead and dehydrated them. I sliced them up, coated in cinnamon, a little sugar, and lemon juice and put them in the dehydrator for the day. They were so delicious Dehydrator cycles can range from a few hours to 20 plus hours just depending on what you are dehydrating, so plan accordingly.

How long does dehydrated food last?

Like mentioned, dehydrating food can be a good way to build a food storage, but not for long-term. When thinking of food storage I like to have different terms: short-term, mid-term, and long-term. I go over this system more detailed in my food storage course but I would put dehydrated foods in your mid-term storage.

Meaning they will only last a few months to a couple of years depending on what you are storing. Fruits and vegetables typically last 6 months to 1 year. Meats can last 1 to 2 months at room temperature or longer when stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Herbs can last 1 to 3 years when stored in a cool, dark place. And dairy products can last 6 months to 1 year. This is if you are properly storing them of course.

How do you store dehydrated goods? What is a vacuum sealer?

You can store in airtight containers in the fridge or your pantry. You can store in jars. My favorite method of food storage for dehydrated food would be to vacuum seal. Whether you are vacuum sealing in a mason jar or in the plastic that the vacuum sealer comes with.

A vacuum sealer removes air from whatever you are vacuum sealing. It isn’t suitable for long term food storage because the bags that generally come with the vacuum sealer aren’t thick and will get poked and let air in or just slowly over time allow air in. They are plastic and plastic is porous. Think midterm storage so you’re only storing for a few months to a few years.

What foods can you vacuum seal?

I vacuum seal most everything that goes into my fridge. For example, if I happened to get berries at the store, I would wash those, put into a jar then vacuum seal the jar until I am ready to eat them. This extends the shelf-life pretty well.

Your strawberries will no longer go bad in a few days, instead they will last for a few weeks. If I open a package of bacon and don’t use all of the bacon, I will vacuum seal the remaining amount. I love vacuum sealing for food storage as well.

You can vacuum seal flours, rice, beans, and so much more. I vacuum seal everything in my freezer because it creates so much space and organization in the freezer. It is a handy tool to have around.

How do you pickle foods?

Are you ready for another easy way to preserve food AND make it delicious? Let’s discuss pickling. I absolutely love to pickle foods. Pickling involves creating a brine out of vinegar, sugar, salt, and a variety of spices.

Pickling is able to extend shelf life through the acidity of the vinegar, the salt content, and the lack of oxygen. All of these things help inhibit microbial growth. I have been eating pickled peppers from my last year’s garden lately and they are delicious.

The pickles you get from the store are just cucumber submerged in a brine. Pickling is so easy, takes little time, and creates delicious shelf staple food. I harvested those peppers 8-9 months ago, and they are still edible in my fridge, thanks to pickling.

They obviously have a vinegar flavor like pickles from the store but you can pickle different kinds of vegetables like radishes, asparagus, and you can even pickle eggs.

Seriously, pickled foods are so delicious and you most likely have the ingredients just lying around your pantry. Pickled foods can last for a few months to a year, depending on how they are stored. I store my pickled foods in the fridge, and like I said I am still enjoying pickled vegetables from last summer’s garden.

What is freeze-drying? How long do freeze-dried foods last?

Another favorite method of food storage of mine is freeze-drying. Freeze-drying is removing all of the moisture from a food. In contrast to dehydrating where 80-90% of the moisture is removed so the food isn’t suitable for long term food storage (up to 30 years) freeze-drying removes 99% of the moisture from the food making it suitable for long-term food storage.

Because there is no moisture, you can pack into mylar bags without the risk of mold, and you can store long term without the food spoiling. When I say long-term, some freeze dried foods can be store for up to 30 years. How cool is that? They will just need to be stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers which we will get to.

I recently shared my experience of freeze-drying some chives and storing them in mylar and I got asked if you can just store in plastic baggies. My answer to that is no.

That is because your freeze-dried food just went through a process to get its water removed, and if you let your freeze-dried food sit out or sit in a container that doesn’t have an oxygen absorber, moisture will come back into the food. You actually want to be relatively quick when you get your food out of the freeze dryer and are putting it into mylar. The longer it sits out, the more moisture it absorbs. You could put it into plastic bags if you were going to use it right away.

How expensive are freeze dryers?

Freeze-drying is a more spendy method of food preservation because the machines run a hefty price tag of two-thousand dollars and up. I have a medium-sized freeze-dryer that can freeze-dry 10-15lbs of food per batch and it runs around $2900.

Right now at the time of this podcast, they are around $2700. I have an entire podcast episode breaking down freeze dryers, the pros and cons, and how to make your money back from purchasing one

I will put it in the show notes. For this episode, I will be sharing how they are beneficial to your food storage. If you want to build a long term food storage or you even enjoy camping or hunting, freeze-drying is the way to go.

Freeze-dried foods from the store are expensive and don’t taste that great. You can literally take your leftover spaghetti from dinner and put them in the freeze dryer and you will have freeze-dried home cooked spaghetti that will last for 30 years.

All you have to do to eat freeze-dried foods again is rehydrate with hot water. What is great about freeze-drying is that freeze-dried food maintain a majority of the nutrients because of the process of freeze-drying isn’t as harsh as for example, the process of canning. 

What is canning?

To get into canning, canning is the method of preserving food where you seal food in jars and then heat them to destroy microorganisms that cause food spoilage.

I love canning because it makes me feel like my great-grandma out on the prairie who preserved her own food and had a pantry of canned food. This is definitely a time tested method, and I think people have been veered away from it by scaring people with botulism.

What are the benefits of canning?

Canning extends the shelf life of the food, making it safe to store for long periods without refrigeration. Think your great-grandparents who didn’t have power on their homesteads, they had to eat somehow.

Canning was how they preserved their harvests and stored food through the winter. Canning can be used for fruits, vegetables, meats, and even soups and sauces. I love it so much because you can make ready-to-eat meals with canning. Chilis, stews, breakfast hash, and more.

What are the different canning methods?

There are two methods of canning: water bath canning, which is suitable for high-acid foods like fruits and pickles, and pressure canning, which is necessary for low-acid foods like meats and vegetables.

Each of these serve a different purpose to reach temperatures necessary to make sure the food is safe.

Although, I see old-timer canners who just use water baths instead of pressure canners for their meats and vegetables. I guess there is a way to do that like great-grandma, but I haven’t.

How long does canned food last?

Canned food actually lasts indefinitely as long as it is canned properly. Keep in mind, overtime the food will degrade and texture will change. So that chili that you canned last week may not be the same chili in 30 years although it would be technically safe to eat if there is no damage to the jar or growth activity on the food like mold.

If there is any damage to the lid, jar, or there is bubbling and activity inside of the jar, it is not safe to eat and you will want to throw it away. Canning is like mylar bags and oxygen absorbers in a way because they both give you the ability to store foods indefinitely.

What are mylar bags?

Mylar bags are thick light-proof metallic-like bags that you can use to store food in for long term. The way that you get the food to store long term like 30 years is by adding in the appropriate size oxygen absorber for whatever you are storing. 

These bags are known for their strength and durability, puncture resistance, and ability to provide a barrier against moisture, oxygen, light, and odors. All of these things will kill your food storage, so mylar bags are impeccable at keeping your food storage strong. 

The only thing I have learned that they are not resistant to is pests like mice, they can chew through the mylar and ruin the food you have stored. If you have the chance of mice, store your mylar bags in 5 gallon buckets with gamma lids—these will keep the mice out!

All of my freeze-dried foods, I store in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. You can also store things like wheat berries and noodles in mylar bags to extend their shelf life as well. They are pretty versatile in what kinds of foods you can store in them and how long they keep.

What food can you store in mylar bags? How long do foods last in mylar bags?

With mylar bags, you can’t store foods that are filled with moisture directly in the mylar like fruit or vegetables or just pouring milk in there. Like you definitely couldn’t just put a cucumber in there with an oxygen absorber and let it be.

Your food will go bad no matter the amount of oxygen absorbers. Foods with high fat content also cannot be stored in mylar, similar to how they are more difficult to dehydrate and freeze-dry. The fat will go rancid overtime in store.

Any foods that require refrigeration are not suitable for your mylar bags. You want to store foods that are dry like pasta or rice or that have had their moisture removed like foods that have been freeze-dried.

Mylar bags seem intimidating because you need to know the appropriate size and amount of oxygen absorbers that you need to add based on the size of the bag and what you are storing. 

What size of oxygen absorber do I use for mylar bags?

For example, pasta would require more oxygen absorbers than something like pancake mix. Pasta would have more oxygen due to the pockets in the pasta whereas the pancake mix is packed together.

I promise once you start working with the bags, you will discover what size of bags you like and what works for you and your family. I do 5 gallon-sized mylar bags for my 5 gallon buckets and 2000cc-2500cc of oxygen absorbers for most things. Then I do a typical gallon sized bag and do about 400cc. Again, you will have to adjust based on your food. 

With all of these food preservation methods, you simple just have to start! There are some methods that are easier to start with and some others that might come later on down the road in your food storage journey due to the price to get started.

You can listen to all of the podcasts, read all of the blogs, and watch all of the videos, but you won’t know what works best for you and your family until you start! Yes, there will be failures along the way but that is how you learn. 

I hope that you enjoyed this podcast and you found it informative. I appreciate you spending your time with me. Have a beautiful day! Bye!

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