Using Canning and Dehydrating Methods to Preserve Food for the Urban Homesteader

There are many advantages to learning how to can and dehydrate your own food. Canning and dehydrating are both processes that allow you to preserve foods and store it in a way that does not require refrigeration or freezing. Canning and dehydrating food also allows you to take advantage of things like farmer’s markets where you can buy fresh, local food picked right when it is ripe and store that food for consumption in the winter. You will also know exactly what ingredients are being put into your food, and be able to avoid any allergens as well.

Canning and dehydrating can both be accomplished in a suburban home or urban apartment. Remember that you will need to have some space for both equipment and storage of preserved foods. Even in small apartments, there is usually a closet available for storage. You can build your own shelves to maximize space.

While both processes are quite simple, there is some learning you will have to do at first. In addition, there might be a period of trial and error as you tweak your recipes so they are at their best.

Dehydration of food means removing most of the moisture content which allows you to store the food since this inhibits growth of bacteria. Many delicious snacks can be created at home via dehydration – such as various types of meat jerky, dried fruits, and even fruit leathers. There are many different methods to dehydrate foods indoors and very little equipment is needed beyond your oven, trays to dry the food on, and bags or containers to store your dried food. The racks need to be made of mesh or slats to allow air to circulate, and it is best if you have an oven thermometer to ensure that the temperature stays steady. If you only wish to dry four to six pounds of food, using your kitchen oven is actually the fastest method and requires no special equipment. A food dehydrator, a special kitchen appliance used only to dry foods, can also be purchased though remember that this piece of equipment can be rather large and unless you have the counter and closet space, it might not be practical for an urban or suburban home.

Canning of food is an old method that was once common and has now fallen into disuse. Although it seems complicated, it is actually quite a simple process. In order to begin canning at home you will need a water bath canner, jars, and lids. The lids are the only thing you will need to purchase new, as they must be clean and free from rust in order to use. Often, if you let people know that you would like to make canned goods, you will find that they will have a bunch of old jars and maybe even a canner sitting in their basement which they might be willing to give to you, or maybe you could barter some canned goods for the use of their equipment. The internet is full of recipes for canned goods. Remember that you do need to use specially adopted canning recipes as acid content is important to prevent spoilage. Also, if you live at a higher altitude you will need to read up on how the higher altitude will require you to boil your canned goods for a longer period of time than those who live at sea level. Canning involves cleaning your jars and equipment, making your food, putting the foods into the jars and ensuring that there are no air bubbles, putting the lids on, boiling the jars in the water bath canner, and finally cooling the jars until the lids make a “pop” indicating that a seal has been created that will ensure the food is preserved. Home made canned goods – such as pasta sauce, fruits, or pickles also make excellent and unique gifts.