Preserving food: a beginner’s guide

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Preserving food: a beginner's guide

Our goal is to eat from our garden through winter. But how do we preserve this food so it will still be edible a year from now? I have looked into different methods for preserving food and when to use each one.

Please remember we are dealing with food here, so proper hygiene is to be taken into account. If preserving is not done right you and your family can get very sick. If you feel like you need help, please ask, there are many people willing to share their knowledge and help you. There are also classes on the matter, if there is nobody in your direct circle who can help and teach you.

I am by no way an expert in preserving food, I am just looking into the different ways of preserving food. This blogpost is meant for people like me, who are just getting started preserving food and want to know more about the different ways of preservation.

Hot water bath canning

This is the best way to get started canning for beginners, it is fairly simple and little specialized equipment is necessary. Hot water bath canning can be done in a large pot (one that you would use for cooking soup). The equipment needed for hot water canning is:

The required boiling time for each product depends on the recipe. Many great water bath canning recipes can be found on the internet. Make sure you trust the source, because not everything on the internet is true. As with everything, use common sense, if it doesn’t seem right to you don’t do it.

This method of canning is only to be used when canning high acidic foods, the presence of acids in the foods prevents the growth of toxic bacteria after canning. Some examples of high acidic foods are tomatoes, salsas, jams, and pickles. DO NOT use this method for low acidic foods, as the toxic bacteria may not die and may cause Botulism.

More information about hot water bath canning:

Pressure canning

Pressure canning requires a little more skill and specialized equipment than hot water bath canning. Equipment needed for pressure canning is:

Pressure canning produces a higher temperature than hot water bath canning, therefore suitable for low-acidic foods. Some examples of low-acidic food are red meats, stocks, stews, and vegetables.

Pressure canning sounds scary, and has been given quite a bad reputation by stories of exploding canner in the kitchen. However, with new pressure canners (post 1970s) if you follow proper instruction and you make sure your pressure canner is in good shape, it is fine to use and should not be scary at all.

More information about pressure canning:

Oven canning

Oven canning is used to preserve dry foods for long storage. Some examples of dry foods that can be over canned are: flour, oatmeal, beans, rice, and pastas. Oven canning kills any insects that may be in the food and seals jars to keep moisture out. Because the jars are sealed you can keep them in storage for a very long time!

Equipment necessary for oven canning:

  • Jars, tops and bands
  • A canning funnel
  • Cookie sheet or baking pan (so your jars don’t fall)
  • Pot holders

Oven canning is suitable for dry goods only, it is not an alternative to hot water bath canning or pressure canning!

Please note that the National Center for Food Preservation states that oven canning is not a safe way to can due to temperature fluctuations in the oven and the risk of jars breaking.  Once again I must advise on using common sense and deciding for yourself, if you fell hesitant about it, don’t do it!

More information on oven canning:

Oven Canning for long term storage – The Prepper Project.


Many foods can be frozen for storage, which is a great alternative to canning. All you need are containers suitable for freezing and a freezer. Most foods that you would can in jars can also be frozen. The downside to freezing is that you do need electricity, if the electricity goes out all food is lost. Freezing also tends to take up a lot of room, and storing a year’s worth of food may mean you need multiple freezers. You can of course combine multiple preservation methods, can some foods and freeze others.

Freezing is a very quick way to store food, fruit can be cut up and frozen raw. Vegetables do need to be blanched before freezing. Of course freezing is a great way to preserve meat. Please note that meat should be chilled and aged when it is freshly slaughtered to prevent souring or spoiling.

The National Center of Food Preservation has a great list on freezing foods.


Dehydrating food removes moisture from the food. Dehydrating can be done in an oven, but if you are planning on dehydrating a lot of food, a proper dehydrator is a must. A dehydrator uses less electricity than an oven and dehydrating can take quite a lot of time, so having a dehydrator will free up your oven for other things.

You can use dehydrating to preserve fruits, vegetables, herbs, meat (jerky anyone?) and even other foods (see link to recipes below). After dehydrating the food should be stored in an airtight container or frozen. Dehydrating foods can save you a lot of room in storage and you can rehydrate the food again if you want to.

More information on dehydrating:


Smoking is another way of preserving food, mostly used for preserving meat or fish, but vegetables can also be smoked. Smoke is antibacterial and antimicrobial and enhances the flavor of the food. There are two types of smoking: hot smoking and cold smoking. Cold smoking only works as a flavor enhancer and is not suitable for food preservation as it does not cook the food.

Different sorts of wood result in different tastes, some stronger than others. Not every type of wood is suitable for smoking, and treated wood should not be used for smoking as it releases harmful chemicals.

More information on smoking:



I hope this post helped you distinguish between the different types of food preservation. What is your preferred method of preserving food?

This post was linked up at The Modern Homesteading Blog Hop, the Family Joy Blog Link party, the Mommy Moments Link Up, the Homesteader Hop, the Homestead Blog Hop, the Simple Homestead Blog Hop and the Clever Chicks Blog Hop.

I was featured on the Homestead Blog Hop!



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  1. Charlotte Burkholder

    I use three of these methods, water bath, pressure canning, and dehydrating. It’s good to have food you made yourself. Join us again at Family Joy Blog linkup.

  2. Faithful Farmwife

    I have gotten way off my homesteading/self-sufficiency wagon this year. I had my 3rd child and my world has been crazy! I am so excited to get back in the swing of things though! My garden this year is being planting with the sole purpose of preserving by hot water bath canning, freezing, and dehydrating! I had never heard of oven canning, but after reading this I might give it a try as well! Thanks for sharing on the Homesteader Hop!

    • Christianne

      Congratulations! Children do tend to turn your world upside down. Let me know how the oven canning turns out! Thank you for hosting the Homestead Hop! Have a great day!
      Love, Christianne

  3. HI Christianne,
    I do more freezing than any thing else. Mostly because it is easier to do and convenient. Thanks for sharing your tips – they were very helpful. Happy Spring!

    • Hi Marla,
      Thank you for stopping by! I have been freezing all my produce up until now, but I really want to try canning!
      Thank you for stopping by and happy spring to you as well!
      Love, Christianne

  4. What a great primer! There is lots of good information in your article. Thanks, so much for sharing!

  5. Great article and thank you for the link!

  6. Thank you Christianne for the article,

    Most people now prefer to dehydrate their own food rather than buy it from stores.

    It is safer, as there are no preservatives added, and cheaper. Thankfully, food dehydrators for beginners have become very affordable today. After some research, you can easily purchase one that suits your needs.

    • Hi Charlo,
      Thank you very much for stopping by! A dehydrator is on my (long) wish list!
      Thank you for your input!
      Love, Christianne

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