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Despite the negative image preservatives have gained over the last decades due to the media concerns over their effects on health, not everything that falls into this category is bad. In truth, preservatives are important for keeping food safe to eat, and not all of them are synthetic. Nature has left us many preservatives, and if you know how to use them you can preserve food for a very long time in harsh conditions.
- Bain-marie boiling
The Bain-marie is a method of preservation by double boiling food to certain temperatures. It is mostly used for tomato sauce to store it over winter. After you mince the tomatoes you boil them for one hour, then add salt and oil until everything is homogenous.
The second step is to put it into glass recipients (jars or bottles) as glass is the best material to store food because it preserves its consistency, as opposed to plastic and wood, which always retain the smell and flavor of stored materials. The recipients are then put into another larger recipient filled with water and are boiled like that for about half an hour more. Before putting the lids, seal off the bottles with cellophane. The heat pushes the hot air outside, and the oil should reach the mouth of the bottle, so that when you seal it off there is no air in it. Stored in the basement, they can last for years. Of course, this method can be used for mostly anything: fruit juice, guacamole, coconut milk, mashed vegetables, you name it.
To make matters simpler, you can just buy a bain-marie equipment.
- Oxygen deprivation
Oxygen is the source and sustainer of life, but also its unmaking. Everything on the planet deteriorates and dies because of oxygen. Oxygen alters tissues in time (we call it aging), and the same effect happens with food as well. This is why void packed foods don’t go bad, and a void packing machine is vital for food storage. It’s only 100 dollars and you can make big provisions with it, from dried fruit to meat and dairy products.
Before refrigerators existed, and especially in the Middle Ages, meat was preserved using salt. You may have heard of the term corned beef or salt fish; this means treating the meat with sufficient salt up to the point where mold and bacteria can no longer develop. Salt dehydrates the meat, and bacteria need water to grow. You can try this at home: salt a slice of meat and leave it out of the fridge for several days. You will notice the absence of foul smell and it will still be good to eat. This method can also preserve food for years on end if done properly.
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is one of the most powerful antioxidants, and it also draws water from other surfaces. Though not as powerful to last for years, lemon juice can preserve food out of the fridge for several days. You can test it most easily with avocado, one of the fastest oxidizing fruits: after squeezing a lemon over it, it won’t blacken within the hour.
Acetic acid is a good natural preservative that is used for many non-artificially preserved products, such as mustard and other sauces, but only use wine vinegar. Other types of vinegar contain artificial acetic acid. This is one of the best preservatives, provided you can stand the smell and flavor.
- Horseradish, Ginger and Wasabi
Horseradish, along with its Asian relatives, ginger and wasabi, contain the same active ingredient (Allyl isothiocyanate), which is a great preservative against alteration and bacteria. You need 2 ounces of any of them (minced) in a quart of water to have a natural preservative for your food.
- Hot Peppers
Red Peppers, Jalapeno, or any other species of hot peppers all share a common compound, which makes them hot: capsaicin. Given its heat for human tongue, it’s not hard to imagine what it does for bacteria. It’s no coincidence that all the cultures who live in tropical and equatorial climates all share an abundance of capsaicin in their cuisine: it’s not merely a traditional whim, but it comes from old methods of preserving food in warm and dirty environment.
Honey products and propolis has many antiseptic uses since ancient times, and not only by humans. If bees – some of the cleanest organisms on the planet – use it against fungi and bacteria, so should you. These substances are extremely stable against bacteria because of the low water percentage, low PH, and hundreds of anti-bacteria natural compounds secreted by bees.
When it comes to dried food, the same principle applies as with salted meat. You can find dried fruit, meat and vegetables at the supermarket, but you can also make your own. Use your oven to dry tomatoes, fruits and sausages, then store them in the pantry vacuum sealed.
As for other natural preservatives you could include in your bug-out bag, you should take into consideration grapefruit juice (also a great antiseptic and antibiotic), rosemary extract, sugar, Neem oil, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, mint, eucalyptus, and rose oil.
Last but not least, do not forget the oldest method of preservation and probably the best there is: freezing. If you find yourself in the wild during a Wyoming winter, food preservation will be the last of your problems.
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