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A traditional method with modern-day benefits
Contrary to popular belief, the practice of preserving food has its advantages even today. We take a look at how you can extend the shelf life of your food.
These days, every kitchen has a fridge and the nearest supermarket is never more than a few minutes away. So preserving food is no longer a necessity, and only for people who fear that the world is about to end – right? Wrong. Preserving food has plenty of benefits even today. You can decide which foods to process, how to process them and which methods for stocking up on supplies suit you best. To help make sure that preserving is a success, here is an overview of the most common methods.
The simplest method for preserving food is canning. Canning is especially well suited to fresh fruit and vegetables and, when done correctly, can preserve them for several years. The concept behind it is as follows: first, the food is placed into a sterile glass jar. The lid is then closed with a rubber band and the jar heated in a water bath, which produces pressure. When cooling down, the air escapes through the rubber band, creating a vacuum. When preserving at temperatures between 60 and 90°C, vitamins and nutrients are retained whilst bacteria are killed off. At temperatures exceeding 100°C, all microorganisms are killed and the fruit and vegetables will keep for even longer. However, some of the vitamins and nutrients are lost this way. The exact temperature and duration varies from food to food. More information can be found in our article on canning.
Granny’s homemade jam is always a hit at breakfast, and you too can easily make impressive jams by conserving fruit and vegetables. First, the food needs to be washed, peeled, deseeded and chopped into small pieces. It is then cooked in a saucepan together with preserving sugar, which combats any bacteria in the food. As a rule, use 1kg of preserving sugar per 1kg of fruit. If you like it a bit fruitier, you can also opt for a 2:1 ratio, but the marmalade won’t keep as long. Once cooked, the mixture is placed into a sterile glass jar with a screw-on lid and sealed tight.
As an alternative to classic fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and peaches, you can also conserve different vegetables to make exotic chutneys. At the same time, why not experiment with different herbs and spices or a dash of wine or liqueur to develop your own unique delicacies. Read our article on conserving for more ideas.
Pickling is when food is preserved in vinegar, oil, alcohol or brine. Firm vegetables such as beans, carrots, onion, beets or chilli are especially suited to pickling in vinegar. For 1kg of vegetables, you need half a litre of 5% vinegar and between a quarter and half a litre of water with seasoning (e.g. bay leaves, juniper berries or mustard seeds). Boil the vegetables in the liquid in order to create a stock, then remove the vegetables and place in a clean glass jar. Finally, bring the stock to the boil once again and pour it into the jar of vegetables, completely immersing them to within about two centimetres of the rim.
The vegetables need to soak for four to six weeks before eating. If stored in a cool, dark place, they will keep for several months. For a boozy option, try out a “Rumtopf”, a German/Danish dessert involving preserved fruit in rum. The fruit is candied (using 500g of sugar per 1kg of fruit) and, finally, infused with rum (at least 54% vol.) After six weeks, the rum stew is ready for consumption.
One of the oldest methods for preserving food is to dry it out – or dehydrate it. With dehydrating, the moisture is drawn out of the food – be it fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, herbs or nuts – in order to significantly slow down the decaying process. The food is laid out on a grill and covered with a thin layer of fabric in order to protect it from dust and insects. Alternatively, you can thread the food on a string and hang it up. The dehydration method is only recommended if you have a warm, dry, well-ventilated space in which to keep the food. The duration of the drying out process varies from food to food. More information can be found in our article on dehydration.
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