Do you have those days in your life when you want to eat mangoes in winters? Or do you want to figure out a way of eating seasonal fruits and vegetables all year round? Well, preservation is the answer, a term that is often considered as infamous, because of its chemical ways that probably deprive the food of its nutritional value. But there are a number of natural and DIY preservation techniques which don’t make use of a single chemical agent !! Preservation is necessary for storing food items for a long time. You might think the ways i am talking about are just refrigerating the food, but, actually, there is much more to do than just refrigerating, when it comes down to preservation of food. That is why, for example, beans develop fungi even after keeping inside a fridge.
All foods don’t have a common preservation method, and they range from salting, dehydrating, to storing in air-tight containers etc. But the main key to preservation is – cleanliness. This means we should have clean hands, use clean utensils, surfaces and bottles. Also the food item should be fresh when you start preserving it, instead of being on the verge of deterioration.
Every food has a unique and rather frustrating(for us!) Characteristic of getting spoilt. If it shows signs like molding(growth of fungus), lumping(curdling), smelling(rotting), it means that the food is spoilt. There are, basically, two ways by which food can be spoilt – one, by action and growth of bacteria and fungi and two, by chemical reactions of various enzymes within the food item, which makes it rotten and lose its flavor and texture. Preservation not only retards the spoiling process but also maintains the aroma and flavor. The only thing you have to keep in mind is to choose the correct method of preservation for a particular food article. For this, here is a list of some common methods of preservation for commonly preserved food items :
The easiest and simplest way of preserving food is to refrigerate it, as the temperature of the fridge is much below than that of surroundings and this helps to prevent activity and growth of micro-organisms. The colder a food is, the slower is its deterioration. While refrigerating reduces microbial activity, freezing stops it altogether.
Vegetables should be balanced in boiling water first to destroy germs. To blanch, bring a pot of water to boil, dunk food for a brief time, then pat it dry and freeze it in the freezer inside freeze-proof containers. Herbs can be frozen too, in ice cube trays.
This method is perfect for fruits and vegetables that have a high acidic content. The food is heated to a high temperature, which kills the bacteria. Foods like apples, tomatoes, raspberries, cherries and citrus fruits can be preserved by this method. While canning is safe and simple if proper instructions are followed, improper canning can result in a serious health hazard for us.
Addition of natural preservatives :
Vinegar is the most common pickling liquid. It hardens food to such an extent that it becomes resistant to bacterial action. Foods like apples, beans, cucumbers etc. Can be preserved by adding vinegar.
Adding salt or sugar is another way of preservation, as such high concentration dries up the moisture and prevents growth of microbes, thus making the food safe. Foods that can be preserved by this method are tamarind, raw mango, amla, fish etc.
Adding oils and spices can also be used to preserve food. While oil forms a layer on food, cutting its exposure to air, spices add flavor to the pickled food.
Dehydrating or drying:
Dehydrating food makes it less attractive to moisture-loving bacteria and dehydrating can be done either naturally using the sun or can be dried with the help of an oven. Some foods like plums, tomatoes are halfway dried and then stored in oil.
Dried food takes up the least space in the refrigerator. Foods that can be preserved by drying or dehydrating are apples, peaches, grapes, apricots, potatoes, fried fish etc.
You can control spoilage with this comparatively new, and fascinating science called fermentation. Foods which are fermented will technically still spoil, but they will do so by the growth of beneficial and friendly microbes rather than the bad ones. Fermented foods are created by allowing one type of microbes to grow and act on a food substance and convert its contents to alcohol or acids. Cheeses, wines, yogurt, all are fermented foods, apart from chocolate, coffee, pickles etc.
Sterilization by heating:
Food is preserved by application of high temperature to prevent growth of micro- organisms. If the boiling temperature is maintained for a long period of time, all bacteria in the food get killed and this will result in good preservation.
Thus, foods can be preserved in healthy and hygienic ways which not only help to control spoilage, but also maintain the nutritional value of the foods. If not preserved properly, these foods can be houses of potential pathogens and can cause severe diseases if you consume them. So it is better to be safe than sorry and to preserve foods in a correct manner and enjoy them whenever you want all the year round.