Food Preservation: What, Why & How (Part I)

Because food is so important to survival, food preservation is one of the oldest technologies used by human beings. Many of us remember watching our mothers and grandmothers on a hot summer day in front of a stove canning items grown in the home garden. Or we remember visiting the farmer’s market to bring home fresh peaches, cranberries and blueberries to bag and place in a chest freezer.  But these two commonly-known methods of food preservation are not the only ways to preserve food. As I prepare to give a food preservation lesson next month for my local women’s group, I will share with you the lessons I myself have learned, and have come to love.

As explained above, their are many ways to preserve food. The different preservation techniques commonly used today are:

  • Refrigeration and freezing
  • Canning
  • Irradiation
  • Dehydration
  • Freeze-drying
  • Salting
  • Pickling
  • Pasteurizing
  • Fermentation
  • Carbonation
  • Cheese-making
  • Chemical preservation

The basic idea behind all forms of food preservation is either:

  • To slow down the activity of disease-causing bacteria
  • To kill the bacteria altogether

I­n certain cases, a preservation technique may also destroy enzymes naturally found in a food that cause it to spoil or discolor quickly. An enzyme is a special protein that acts as a catalyst for a chemical reaction, and enzymes are fairly fragile. By increasing the temperature of food to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees Celsius), enzymes are destroyed. This process also occurs in the pasteurization process of all beverages including milk, fruit & vegetable juices and sports drinks. The only known exception to this is company called Yoli that uses freeze-drying to preserve their beverages which allows enzymes and vitamins to stay intact.

A food that is sterile contains no bacteria. Unless sterilized and sealed, all food contains bacteria. For example, bacteria naturally living in milk will spoil the milk in two or three hours if the milk is left out on the kitchen counter at room temperature. By putting the milk in the refrigerator you don’t eliminate the bacteria already there, but you do slow down the bacteria enough that the milk will stay fresh for a week or two.

For many of us living (or wanting to!) a healthier lifestyle, home food preservation is a wonderful idea to control the amount of sodium and sugar in your diet. The Utah State University Cooperative Extension has 48 FREE pdf How-To documents for the beginner and intermediate home food preserver, including salsa and jam recipes.

What a great way to be healthier and more financially responsible! 🙂


To see Part Two: Dehydration… go here:


2 thoughts on “Food Preservation: What, Why & How (Part I)

    • Wonderful resource, yes! Early this spring I planted lettuce, beans, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, mint and strawberries… the lettuce, beans and tomatoes have been great! I must say, though, my mint is out of control… it is spreading EVERYWHERE. 🙂 Want some?

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