Hamilton Sustainable Living Group
Meetup #1 Food Preserving
September 10th, 2009
Why food preserving is a sustainable living act:
1. You decide what is going into your food, or better yet, what’s not going into
your food. Pesticides, preservatives, chemicals, colors, artificial flavors, sugar,
salt, bisphenol A, etc. are omitted or controlled by you.
2. There is no toxic packaging. You know what your food is packaged in. No bpa
lined cans, which most canned foods are lined with, and no plastic in general.
These create toxic off gassing, or the toxins come in direct contact with food. Bpa
is a known hormone disrupter in males and females, a neurotoxin and a
carcinogen. Plastics have different levels of toxicity.
3. Cut down on waste. Plastics, cellophanes, labels, non recyclable packaging,
bags, cans, jars etc. are a large source of waste, pollution and toxins.
4. It cuts down on carbon monoxide emissions. Cut down on transport from farm,
to processing plant, to grocery store, to home, which reduces carbon monoxide
emissions. Also, you don’t lose any nutrients during transport, waiting in a factory
for processing, or sitting on the shelves in the grocery store.
5. It’s better for health. See all of the above!
Create a preserving club. Create a way to make what might be a chore into
sustainable fun and community. Get friends together for food preserving parties and share
the costs and the bounty. Sharing equipment in itself is sustainable because less is
consumed. You are adding to your own well-being as well as helping the environment by
preserving food. You will also save money in the long run. Making a social event out of
food preserving creates community. A preserving club or other community events help
you participate less in non sustainable, consumer based activities that are often
destructive to us and the environment.
Types of food preservation:
1. Natural Storing. Extend shelf life without electricity by storing in a dark, cool place,
usually dry, but sometimes a certain level of humidity is needed for certain foods. The
temperature should be between 2 to 10 degrees Celsius or 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Good examples are potatoes and apples, which can be stored for months in the right
2. Drying. Drying is the process of preserving by removing moisture through different
methods. Air drying, sun drying, oven and even microwave drying. Drying removes
approximately 75% of food’s water content. The end product remains soft and pliable,
and, under proper conditions, will store well for 12 to 18 months.
3. Dehydrating. Drying and dehydrating are often used synonymously, but they
shouldn’t be. Dehydrated fruits and vegetables, as opposed to dried, will have their
moisture content reduced to 2 to 3%. Often you need special equipment, such as a
dehydrator. The product becomes shriveled and very brittle, but the shelf life is also
extended considerably (for example, banana chips in granola).
4. Smoking. Smoking is an extreme drying process created when smoke fills a small
space for a period of time. This process can also add flavor and color depending on what
you burn to create the smoke. Think of hickory smoked bacon.
5. Canning. Canning is a form of preserving fruits and some vegetables (with added acid
such as in pickling) in a boiling water bath that creates an airtight vacuum seal in a jar.
Only high acid fruits can be canned with the water bath method. More will be explained
later. Otherwise, low acid fruits and vegetables should be canned in a pressure canner.
6. Pickling. Pickling, also known as brining or corning, is the process of preserving food
by anaerobic fermentation in brine (a solution of salt in water) to produce lactic acid, or
marinating and storing it in an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid). The resulting
food is called a pickle.
7. Freezing. I think it might be safe to say most everyone is familiar with freezing as a
method of food preserving, so we won’t go into it. However there will be some links
given later that help you with the ins and outs of freezing.
8. Wines, liqueurs, spirit preserved foods. This is a type of food preservation through
fermentation that also changes the qualities of the fruit or vegetable into alcohol.
9. Cheeses. In the process of cheese-making, most of the protein, fat and some minerals
and vitamins are concentrated and separated as a solid. The remaining liquid, called
'whey', contains most of the sugar and water and some protein, minerals and vitamins.
Whey is utilized in foods and feeds or disposed of as waste. There are two principal
agents which bring about the concentration and separation of protein and fat to make
cheese, namely, bacterial culture and coagulating enzyme.
Home Canning - How to Avoid Botulism
What is Botulism?
Botulism is a serious and often deadly form of food poisoning. The bacteria
Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) is found throughout the environment and
ingesting the bacteria on fresh foods is not harmful. The bacteria can not grow in
the presence of air. However, the bacteria, under the right conditions, such as the
one created by an improperly canned low acid food, can produce a powerful
toxin. When the contaminated food is eaten, it is not the bacteria but the toxin that
makes people sick. This type of food poisoning is known as food intoxication.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms can range from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headache,
double vision, dryness in the throat and nose, to respiratory failure. The onset of
symptoms is from 12-36 hours after ingestion.
What causes botulism?
Under stressful conditions, the Botulinum bacteria are able to produce spores, a
dormant state. The spores allow the bacteria to survive until conditions become more
favourable for growth. Although the bacteria can be killed by heat, the spores are able
to withstand the heat of a boiling water bath. During canning, air is forced from the
can during heating. The vacuum seal created during the cooling prevents the reentry
of air. Improper canning creates the perfect moist, air free environment that allows
the spores to germinate and continue their lifecycle. Toxin is produced as a by-
product of the bacteria's lifecycle. The biggest problem is that botulism-intoxicated
food tends to look and smell fine. People eat the food unaware that there is a problem.
How do I can safely to avoid botulism?
Since C. botulinum prefers a low acid environment, high acid foods (pH of 4.6 or
lower) can be safely canned using a boiling water bath canner. High acid foods
include fruits and fruit juices, pickles and pickled products, jams, jellies and
preserves. Tomatoes are no longer considered a high acid food and additional
acidification is now recommended.
Low acid foods (pH above 4.6) must be canned using a pressure canner. Low acid
foods include vegetables, red meat, poultry, fish and seafood, and wild game. High
acid foods can also be canned using a pressure canner.
Water bath canner
Lids and screw tops
Clean cloths or paper towel
Low Sugar Peach Jam
4 cups crushed peaches
1 cup unsweetened apple or white grape juice
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package No Sugar Needed Pectin
Sweetener optional (we will use one cup of sugar)
Place 7 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars
with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat SNAP
LID® sealing discs in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and sealing
discs hot until ready to use.
Peel, pit and finely chop or crush peaches, one layer at a time. Measure 4 cups
Measure sugar; set aside.
Prepare canner, jars and lids.
In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine prepared fruit and fruit juice. Stir in
lemon juice and No Sugar Needed Pectin until dissolved. Over high heat bring
mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently. If using, add sweetener. Stirring
constantly, return to a full boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard for 3
minutes. Remove from heat; skim off foam if necessary.
Quickly ladle hot jam into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch (.5 cm) of top of jar
(headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace,
if required, by adding more jam. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre
hot sealng disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then
increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining
When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm)
of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count
processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process – boil filled jars – 10
When processing time is complete, turn stove off, remove canner lid, wait 5
minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected
work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw
After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move
when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw
bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a
cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.
Makes about 7 X 250 ml jars.