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The Benefits of Home Food Canning

food canningAnyone with a backyard garden or a fruit tree is blessed every year with an abundance of produce. It gets ripe all at once, and very few families can manage to use it all. Some people give it away, others throw it away. However, the best use for excess produce is to preserve it by home canning and eat it later, when the fresh foods are in short supply.

Nutrition

Fruits and vegetables preserved at home when they are at the peak of ripeness are much more nutritious than the produce offered in the store. The store produce was picked while unripe and will never reach its peak of flavor or nutritional value. Canning preserves the nutrition so you can enjoy good health and your diet all year round.

No additives

An astonishing number of commercial salsas, relishes and sauces have been loaded up with sugar, salt and preservatives. Instead of consuming these unwanted and unneeded ingredients, home produce can easily be converted into sauces and relishes- without the unhealthy additives- and canned for year-round use.

You may seek out the produce labeled as ‘organic’ in the store, but unless you grow your own, you’re never really sure if it is actually pesticide-free. Shopping at the farmer’s market can give you more confidence in how your produce is grown, but farmer’s markets close during the winter. Eugenia Bone says “Preserving in an extension of the values that made you shop in the farmer’s market in the first place.”

Self reliance

Being able to can and store your own produce might be an important skill in case of a natural disaster. Home-canned foods can last for years if the power goes out. If there is some sort of disruption in the current food supply, you can grow food to eat, and continue to eat it in canned form throughout the winter. Even if there is no natural disaster, canning your own produce is so much more economical than buying commercial produce and canned goods.

Environmental impact

Home canning has very little environmental impact. You grow the food at home in your composted kitchen waste, can it in your kitchen, and eat it at home. You re-use the cans. Compare that to produce grown commercially using artificial fertilizers, trucked for thousands of miles, canned in a factory in a non-reusable container, and then trucked to the store.

Easy

Many home gardeners work hard to generate vast amounts of produce, and then are afraid to try canning to preserve the fruits of their labors. It is, however, quite easy to learn how to can, pickle and make jams and jellies. Practically anyone can obtain the necessary equipment and learn how to do it safely and easily. The United States Department of Agriculture offers free on-line instructional booklet.

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Benefits of Food Drying

food dryingNo-one really knows when preserving foods by drying them began. That’s how old the practice is. The fact that it continues up to the present is testament to its usefulness. Many common foods are the result of this practice with raisins and rice being among the most familiar. Originally, this process was performed relying only on sunlight but has shifted to more reliable techniques starting with the invention of the food dehydrator in France in 1795. The practice has continued up to the present for the simple reason that it has a few advantages over other methods such as the following.

  • Low Energy Consumption
  • Compactness
  • Less Weight
  • Easy Storage

Using Less Fuel

Although some dehydrating approaches like using an oven can actually consume more energy than when canning or freezing, using a dehydrator that desiccates fruits and vegetables slowly with low warmth is very affordable. Using the sun to perform this task is only practical where several clear days are available and the humidity levels are very low. Dried foods consume less energy afterwards, though, since they don’t require a special storage environment like a refrigerator.

Less Room

Fruits and vegetables are mostly water with levels between 80 and 95%. When this moisture is removed, the food items will shrink considerably. For instance, tomatoes will contract to just 1/16th their normal size when dehydrated. This translates into less storage space and more concentrated nutrition in the food items. While drying eliminates more nutrients and water-soluble vitamins like A and C compared to canning or freezing, other vitamins and especially minerals like selenium, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium remain in full.

Light-weight

Along with less volume, dried foods aren’t as heavy. This provides an advantage in two ways. Carrying them on hikes, to sporting events, or other such situations is easier than with other types of foods so more of them can be carried. The lighter weight of dehydrated foods also means they don’t require the stronger shelves needed for heavy cans or jars of canned foods.

Simple Storage

Dried foods not only don’t need heavy-duty shelving or a freezer, they can be kept in simple packaging that keeps dirt and dust off of them. This can consist of anything from paper bags to plastic containers. It’s important to note, though, that dried foods preserve longer when temperatures and moisture are kept low. Air-tight plastic bags and storage-ware and a cool basement or root cellar work best. As Rachel Inniss, a consultant with the University of Missouri Agriculture Extension, described it, “Foods stored at temperatures under 60 degrees F will keep approximately one year, at 80 degrees F to 90 degrees F the food begins to deteriorate within several months.”

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Benefits of High Hydrostatic Pressurized Juice

HHP juiceHigh Hydrostatic Pressure processing (HHP) is an innovative method used for pasteurization that eliminates pathogens without the harmful effects of heat. The practice is being widely utilized to pasteurize many varieties of juice of either high or low acidity, and HPP has many benefits that include longer shelf life and preservation of nutrients.

How it Works

HHP pasteurizes juice by subjecting it to an extremely high pressure for a period ranging from 1 to 5 minutes. During the prescribed time, a host of harmful pathogens in the product are destroyed by effectively damaging the bacteria’s cell components.

Harmful bacteria that are eliminated in the process include:

  • E. Coli
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria Monocytogenes

Nutrition

One of the most valuable benefits of HHP is the retention of the nutritional value of many types of juice. Unlike heat pasteurization which can damage vital nutrients, HHP is performed in a cold environment that acts to preserve essential vitamins found in juice. By improving the nutritional content, HHP juice can better support diet programs.

Longer Shelf Life

Since the pasteurization process used in HHP is performed in cold conditions, it enables the processed juice to retain a much longer shelf life that can be up to 10 times the average shelf life of the same product processed under a different method. The capacity for longer storage makes HHP processing a more frugal method for both consumers and retailers alike, because the potential for spoilage and subsequent waste is much lower.

Better Quality

Juices that are pasteurized with HHP rather than heat have an overall much higher quality. According to a study performed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Browning degree decreased with increase in pressure and treatment time.” Juices treated with HHP retain more of their natural color, texture and flavor.

Used in a Variety of Juices

When HHP was first being tested and used, it was thought that its application was only useful in juices with a high acidity, because pathogen spores in citric juices are very susceptible to high temperatures. After years of testing, it has been discovered that HHP can be safely used in a wide variety of juice products.

Many juices that are being treated with HHP include:

  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Apple
  • Grapefruit
  • Banana
  • Strawberry
  • Pear
  • Tomato
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli

The use of HHP technology in pasteurizing juice has helped products retain a higher nutritional value with a longer shelf life. Consumers can enjoy greater benefits from juices that are processed by HHP rather than by conventional heat pasteurization.