Can-Do Attitude: How to Preserve Food at Home

Make the fruits of your labor last all year long with these food preservation tips from a local expert.
Photo of canning equipment, a peach and a jar of peach preserves on a teal counter. Yellow tiles in the background.
Photo by Rebecca Simonov

Have more cabbage, apples, corn, pears, and peaches than you know what to do with?

There are different ways to preserve foods at home, including freezing, canning, or drying to extend their shelf life, says Ghaida Havern, a food safety educator covering metro Detroit at Michigan State University Extension.

Freezing is the easiest and most convenient preservation method, Havern says. She recommends using moisture-vapor-resistant freezer containers and materials such as plastic freezer wrap, freezer paper, and heavyweight aluminum foil when storing in the freezer. To freeze food properly, place food in the coldest parts of freezer and leave space around packages so cold air can circulate.

Drying foods is one of the oldest methods of preservation, Havern says. In the past, the process has depended on the sun, but today it can be done with electric food dryers, which combine gentle heat with air circulation to remove moisture without compromising flavor and texture.

Canning will depend on the type of food you want to preserve. “The water bath, electric water bath, and atmospheric steam canner are all designed to safely process high-acid foods such as fruits, tomatoes, pickles, jams, jellies, and other fruit preserves,” Havern says.

When it comes to preserving low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood, pressure canning is the only way to go, she says. The process entails placing jars of food in 2 to 3 inches of water in a pressure canner and heated to a temperature of at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

One of the most common mistakes Havern sees people make is “using
a random recipe they found online. We only recommend using research-tested recipes.”

This story is from the September 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition