Canned, Frozen or Freeze-dried?

Growing up on a farm, it was routine to raise, freeze and can our own foods.  When I was about 9 years old, we moved to Addie Granger’s place.  It was a glorious farmstead that was owned by a very old widow lady.  Immediately my brother and I began to explore the old house.  In the basement we found her store of home canned tomatoes.   The best guess is that those jars had been there for five or so years.  All the jars looked good.  Not one seal was broken.  There was no discoloration of product.  The tomatoes looked good, enticing even.  We expected our mother to use them.  We were kids.  What did we know?

As it would happen, we decided to make gun powder out of the coal.  (We were pretending to be some kind of pioneer.)  My little sister was grinding the coal with one of the jars.  It shattered!  Imagine that!  Instantly the room filled with the stench of rotted tomatoes.  It didn’t take long and the stench reached the upstairs and my mother came running down the stairs to make my brother clean up the mess.    He put a clothes pin on his nose to help him avoid vomiting.  This experience has effected the way I look at prepping.

As with everything else, being prepared is a matter of lifestyle and planning rather than falling off the deep end in some frantic spending frenzy in the new niche markets that prey on the emotions of preppers.  My heart aches when I see families canning and dehydrating more food stores than they can use in a reasonable amount of time because I know their efforts are going to be wasted when the foods go bad.

Just because a jar looks good does not mean that it is good.  “They” say not all bacteria cause visible deterioration of products in jars.  Add to that the additional hours and energy home canning takes up, I’m not sure it’s worth it when I can buy reasonably priced commercially canned products for less money.   The same considerations apply to the alternatives to canning,  dehydrating and freezing.

Freezing home produce is a good alternative if you believe you will not have an issue with electricity during an event.  Sub-zero freezers can keep food safe indefinitely.  The trick is to properly package it to prevent freezer burn.  Remember the woolly mammoth the scientists ate?

Dehydrating foods can keep foods safe for a long period as well.  The same conditions apply here as canning.  How well the product is processed is of vital importance.   Commercially dried foods have a much cleaner environment than home dehydration methods, certainly better than dehydrators used outdoors.  That is not to say the home environment is dirty.  Commercial processors have a liability responsibility and take every measure to reduce the possibility of contamination by molds and other nasty things that like to fly in the air.  If done properly at home, the foods can last some months, but should be used by the next season.

For this reason, I process foods to use within the year.  I do not can or dehydrate products for a prepared lifestyle.  Canning, freezing and dehydrating are all great choices for a food supply that will be used within the recommended amount of time.  I do not consider those part of our long term prepared plan.

Commercially prepared freeze-dried foods will keep up to 25 years, so say the producers.  I believe them.  For that reason, it seems more reasonable to purchase freeze-dried foods for long term planning.  Many foods available in the grocery store are freeze-dried and reasonably priced.  These items will be stocked up before purchasing the expensive “prepper” freeze-dried meal packs.  If an event should happen, the grocery store items will be used before the freeze-dried meal packs.  Let’s hope we don’t ever have to break out the meal packs and camping gear.

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