Updated: Oct 18
I recently wrote a blog about freeze-dried foods, and their suitability for your food storage preparedness plan. I want to continue along with this topic, and compare them to the benefits of canning your own food. Regardless of your reason(s) for being prepared, food is a critical aspect of preparedness.
Freeze-dried food supplies are convenient, as most people simply purchase them. Harvest Right has a machine for doing this at home, but it is rather costly. That being said, if you can make it work financially, I highly recommend getting one. Since I originally published this blog, I have acquired one and love it. I will be writing more about it soon, but I have included an affiliate link if you decide to buy one.
Before you get started, make sure you have the proper equipment. Here are some affiliate links for the hot water bath method. These accessories are by no means mandatory, but really make the job easier for both canning methods. My go-to is the All American 21 Quart pressure canner which has, unfortunately become much more expensive than when I purchased mine 10 years ago. Still, if you can make it work, I highly recommend it. Another very popular brand is the Presto canner; it is more reasonably priced, but does use a gasket to seal the steam in. It is less expensive, but I do suggest buying extra gaskets in case you lose or wear the one it comes with out. Remember, in preparedness, one is "none." Quick aside, I misplaced the weight on my AA canner once, and had to order a new one. If you use that model, get an extra weight ( I can't find any on Amazon right now!) as well. I did find the original, so I now have two.
If you buy your own freeze-dried foods, they are easy to store as well as transport, and you can take a few meals at a time for hikes, camping trips, etc. The envelopes are not, however, rodent proof, so care must be taken in their storage. Yes, I am speaking from experience.
As I mentioned previously, there are some health considerations to take into account as these foods, being processed, are very high in sodium, and may not live up to the marketing promises of the manufacturers. Take them for what they are, as they can be a valuable part of your food storage strategy.
One of my favorite means of food storage and preservation is home canning, which can be done by two methods, hot water bath and pressure canning; this article will focus on the latter. One of the main reasons I decided to learn how to pressure can is the fact that I will have ready-to-eat meals, as you don't need water to reconstitute them, nor must they be heated up, even though it is preferable, it is not mandatory. Further, you avoid the issues I discussed regarding store-bought freeze-dried foods – I add very little, if any sodium, and I also know there are no harmful preservatives, additives or chemicals in them.
When I lived in California, I started to learn about canning when I needed to find a means to preserve harvests from my garden. Low-acid foods, like tomatoes, must either have citric acid added to them (if you are using the hot water bath method), or they must be processed in a pressure cooker. I experimented with canning other foods as well, such as ready-to-eat soups, stews, chili, etc. The benefits, as stated, are you KNOW what is in your food, and once you follow the safety guidelines (I will share some resource links), you can open food years later (opinions vary regarding how long they can be stored safely, just know that they may lose nutritional value over time) and it will (if the seal has not been compromised) smell as fresh as the day you processed it.
The canning jars should be stored in a dark and cool area. The are also rodent-proof, and can be left right on the shelf. (Pro tip: I installed the shelves upside-down, so there is a lip to keep them from falling off – if you live where there are earthquakes, plan accordingly.) The only negative I can think of with regards to the jars is they are not convenient to take on hikes or camping trips, but I do travel with some in my RV. You must be sure to not stack them on each other and be careful not to break the seal. If the lid is bulging or you see bubbles, do not eat it. The biggest inconvenience I had was transporting them when I moved to Utah, but I am still enjoying the foods I processed in my old home – especially the corn I still have from my old garden. Note: since I originally published this article, the canning jars have gone up in price significantly. For convenience, I have placed an affiliate link at the top of this paragraph, but if you can find them cheaper, do so!
While home-canned goods may not have the longevity of the freeze-dried options, you can take special pride in knowing you and your family are enjoying the wholesome fruits of your labor. If you experience a situation where you can't or simply don't feel like running to the store, you can combine several of your products to make an amazing meal, like I did today, as it has been snowing...all...day...long and I decided to stay home.
I took a can of pre-cooked ground and seasoned elk meat, a quart of elk stock and added that to fresh sautéed onions, tossed in some tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and seasonings and have been enjoying a Keto-friendly elk chili all day.
I will be sharing more information on food storage options, but for now, consider this method as part of an overall comprehensive preparedness strategy.
Here is a great video I used to learn how to pressure can – I found the process very intimidating, and this adorable gal got me through my fears! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-fFAlldDKM&t=44s I hope you find this information useful. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to share your results. For more on preparedness please check out our podcast and book.If you would like to support our work, please consider making a donation; you can do so on the homepage of this website, or on the link to Red Hot Chilly Prepper podcast.