Preserving food is essential to keep food from spoiling and to prevent food waste, but most people use appliances such as refrigerators and freezers to preserve food. However, what if you do not have electricity or if the electricity goes out? How can you preserve food safely and effectively without electricity?
Several effective methods to preserve food without electricity include brining, drying, curing, and pickling. All foods can be preserved without electricity, even meats if the correct methods are used. Properly preserved foods can be shelf-stable indefinitely with the right methods.
The good news is that preserving food without electricity is more straightforward than you may imagine. Many effective food preservation techniques exist that are far older than using electricity. You can preserve food without electricity. All you need is to understand the methods.
Can You Preserve Food Without Electricity?
Preserving food is crucial for maintaining a good food supply. Most people preserve food for themselves and their families by simply putting it in the fridge or freezing it. This can keep food fresh for a long time.
However, without electricity, preserving food is more involved and requires specialized techniques to do safely.
With that said, you can preserve food without electricity. Preserving food is much older than electricity and far older than appliances such as freezers.
Preserving food is as ancient as humans are. The techniques used to preserve without electricity are still used in many countries where access to electricity is limited or non-existent or where frequent power failures force people to use preserving techniques.
There are multiple methods and techniques to preserve food without electricity. The duration that the food can be preserved depends on the preservation process and the food item that is preserved.
Some foods can be preserved indefinitely without electricity if the correct techniques are used. Some food items will never last longer than a few months without electricity, regardless of the techniques that you use for preservation.
This means that understanding the best methods for preserving food without electricity is crucial to the success of the preservation, and knowing how long specific food items will keep without being frozen is essential.
Several factors determine how well food can be preserved without electricity, including where it is stored, how it is preserved, and what type of food it is.
Let’s explore this subject deeper to determine how to preserve food without electricity successfully and what methods are best for which food types.
How To Preserve Food Without Electricity
We have established that you can preserve food without electricity, but the methods used are critical and should be based on the type of food that is preserved and the environment in which the food will be kept.
Here are ten of the best methods for preserving food without using electricity and which food types they are best used with.
Curing is a good way to preserve meat, fish, and even some vegetables.
The process of curing is essentially saturating the food with salt. The high salt concentration in the food item prevents bacterial growth and slows decay. If food is cured well enough, it can remain shelf-stable in the right conditions for decades.
There are several methods for curing, including storing the food completely covered on all sides in salt, brining, and combinations of drying and curing.
Drying is a highly effective method for preserving food without electricity. All types of food can be dried, including meats, fruits, vegetables, and fish.
Food can be dried by hanging it above a good heat source such as a fire or a wood-burning stove, or the food can simply be hung outside in the wind and sun if the climate is hot and dry. Small cuts are made in the food to maximize surface area, decreasing drying time and increasing effectiveness.
Drying food is an ancient technique that has been used in many countries for centuries and is a very reliable method of preserving food without electricity.
Smoking is a good method of preserving meats and vegetables and is thought to be one of the most ancient forms of food preservation.
Smoking food removes all moisture and slowly heats the food to preserve it. The smoke also adds flavor to the food and can be used to improve its overall flavor.
This method can be done in several ways. Some include using very modern appliances. The most ancient and basic forms require nothing but fire, fuel for the fire, and a means to hang the food that is to be preserved near the fire.
Smoking food is simple but highly effective and significantly increases the lifespan of various food items. Smoking is effective for meat and fish but can be used for other foods.
Canning food is among the most shelf-stable methods of preserving any food item. All food can be canned and preserved without electricity effectively, and some food can last in a well-sealed can forever without spoiling.
Canning can be done without electricity. It only requires salt, water, a canning press, and a heat source. The method can be challenging, and the process can be tedious, but it is very effective.
Buying canning equipment can be expensive, but it can be used to successfully preserve any type of food for very long periods of time if it is used well.
Pickling is another ancient form of food preservation and can work with all types of food. Pickling is most effective with vegetables, but it can be used with meats and is a common form of preserving meats that spoil very quickly, like pork and fish.
Pickling food is the process of preserving food in a high-acidity environment. Acid prevents the growth of spoilers and preserves food very well.
This process can also be done by adding salt to the food and allowing it to draw out the natural moisture, creating a natural brine that preserves the food.
Pickling in jars and using a liquid such as vinegar to cover the food prevents exposure to the air, which also prolongs the lifespan of the food item. Pickling can keep certain foods, such as vegetables, safe to eat for decades.
This method can also use spices and other flavors to improve the flavor of the food that is pickled, making it not only an effective method of preserving food without electricity but also a delicious way to eat it.
Brining is a form of pickling, but it can be done in multiple ways. A brine is a concentrated solution of salt and water.
Food can be brined by soaking it in this salt and water solution, submerging it and storing it in the solution, or by using a combination of the two methods.
Making preserves such as jam and marmalade are another excellent way to preserve foods.
Fruits and vegetables can be preserved almost indefinitely by using these methods, so long as they are kept in the right conditions after preservation.
You do need some way to cook the foods that are preserved, but this can be easily done without electricity by using a fire or a gas cooker.
Once the fruits or vegetables are cooked, simmer them with sugar, add spices if you so choose, and seal them tightly in glass jars. Store the jars in a cool environment away from sunlight. Preserves can last almost forever without spoiling.
Submerging In Oil
A quick and basic way to preserve food without electricity is to submerge it in oil and store it in an air-tight container. Oil such as olive oil is especially good for this purpose, as it has anti-bacterial properties that keep food preserved for longer.
Submerging food in oil eliminates exposure to the air and starves mold and some forms of oxygen bacteria, which helps preserve the food. Keeping the submerged food in an air-tight container in a cool and dark place will significantly extend the shelf life of food items such as vegetables.
This method does not work as well as other techniques, and it does not keep food for as long as other methods, but it does work and can extend the lifespan of certain food items by a few weeks.
Cooking and Proper Storage
A good way to preserve food short-term without electricity is simply to cook it. Cooked food lasts much longer than raw food. If stored well, it can last days without spoiling.
Cook food thoroughly to remove all moisture and kill any bacteria present in the food. Store it in a cool area away from sunlight, and almost all food items will keep for a few days without going bad.
Evaporative Cooling Chambers
Evaporative cooling chambers such as charcoal coolers and Zeer pots work by surrounding food with damp sand or charcoal in an external chamber. As moisture evaporates from the sand or charcoal, it causes an air current around it, drastically lowering the air temperature around the food.
A cooler like this can keep fresh vegetables and fruits safe to eat and crisp for almost a month. These are not ideal for meats but work very well for fruits and vegetables.
Preserving food can keep it good to eat for years, or in some cases, indefinitely, depending on the methods and the food, despite the lack of electricity. Several food preservation techniques are much older than electricity and work exceptionally well.
Take the time to understand the food you are preserving and determine the best method for it. Most food is best preserved by bringing, pickling, or drying and can be stored for several years without electricity when these methods are used well.