boiling water canner on a stovetop

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How can you safely preserve your food? We are going to discuss 7 scientific and evidence based methods to safely preserve your food at home.

Why is it important to use a scientific and evidence based preservation method? It is important because we need to be able to keep our families safe and maximize the freshness of our food.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

We are going to briefly discuss the following preservation methods: freeze drying, dehydrating, boiling water canning, pressure canning, pickling, fermenting, and freezing. I invite you to ask questions in the comments.

Lets dive in!

Freeze Drying

A brief explanation of freeze drying is dehydrating in a frozen state. Freeze Drying extracts the water while maintaining the shape and nutrient value of foods. Freeze drying creates a shelf stable food.

When we store our freeze dried food, we store it in one of our three layers for the pantry: short term (less than one year sealed mason jar), medium (1 year to 5 years sealed in a mason jar with oxygen absorber), and long term (5+ years, sealed in mylar bag and oxygen absorbers).

You can find all links and discount codes to the products we use at the end of this post.

freeze dryer on a table


Whats the difference between freeze drying and dehydrating? Dehydrating uses HEAT to extract water from your food. Dehydration will cause your food to wrinkle and if not treated before hand, your product can oxidize or turn brown.

Dehydrated food is also shelf stable but does not have the longevity like freeze drying has.

Dehydrated foods will be hard or leather like, depending upon the food. Whereas freeze dried foods are all crunchy and can powder easily if needed (like freeze drying mashed potatoes to blend into an instant mashed potato).

Boiling Water Canning

Boiling Water Canning, formerly known as water bath canning, is your method of juice for high acid, acidified, salsa, jams, jellies, conserves, fruit butters, syrups, and fruit honey.

Unless its pickled (read below), low acid foods (like green beans, corn, carrots, or soup), should NEVER be processed in a boiling water canner, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR INTERNET RECIPE SAYS.

Let me be clear, you will find rebel canning practices and recipes on the internet (like the time I saw a lady boiling water can avocado or the homemade milk based creamers). I will NEVER recommend these recipes.

A very brief explanation to boiling water canner is that you have a filled jar, with the appropriate filling and recipe, where you are submerging under the boiling water. Your recipe will tell you how many inches your jars need to be submerged. Additionally, it will provide you with a processing time.

A common error I see is not adding time to your processing to adjust for elevation. For example, if I am boiling water canning apple butter, the recipe states process for 10 minutes. But due to my elevation, water here boils at a lower temperature (at sea level it is 212 degrees), so to adjust for elevation and the lower boiling water temperature, I need to add 10 extra minutes. Once 20 minutes has passed, I turn off the burner and remove the lid. I allow the canner to sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars.

Pressure Canning

Pressure canning seems so scary! I get it!! I was scared until I did it for the first time, too. Botulism is a scary toxin that we can respect by using appropriate canning methods. Watch an interview from a botulism survivor

Pressure Canning uses pressure to build heat to go above normal boiling water canning to achieve a safe shelf stable item of low acid foods. Pressure Canners use either a weight or dial gauge.

TWO common problems with pressure canning is failing to vent your canner for 10 minutes before starting the weighted component of canning AND failing to adjust for your elevation with the appropriate weight of pressure or the amount of pressure on your dial gauge.

Did you know that a pressure canner can double as a boiling water canner? Verify with your owners manual! But this is one way for you to preserve multiple ways (pickling, boiling water can, and pressure can) with just one piece of equipment.


Freezing food should be the one method most of us have done. We freeze in jars, ziplocs/freezer safe bags and butcher paper. When in doubt and you cannot find a safe way to preserve your food, freezing is the safest preservation method.

Best habits for freezing food, remove as much of the air as possible. Not every food can be frozen (looking at you lettuce), but quite a few can.

Also, if you have a jam recipe from cousin Nancy that you love but you don’t have processing times, turn it into freezer jam! Just be sure that your jars are freezer safe. Straight walled wide mouth jars usually are. They should tell you on the jar/packaging. Never fill to the top. Allow for headspace and liquids to expand when frozen.

wrapped meat in butcher paper in the freezer
harvested elk meat wrapped in butcher paper for our freezer


When fermenting, we usually use salt or sugar to ferment. The most common ferments are sauerkraut, pickles, wine, cheese, sourdough, and also milk kefir or water kefir (utilizes kefir grains for your “starter”, kefir grains are specific to the type of fermenting you want to do) or Kombucha (SCOBY).

The QUEEN of fermentation, in my opinion, is Cultured Guru. Kaitlynn is incredibly knowledgeable in the area of fermentation. I love her approach and creativity in the kitchen. Her fermentation videos, blogs, and pictures are absolutely gorgeous and inspiring.

If you’re wanting to ferment at home, I have personally enjoyed the fermentation kits from Cultures for Health. (PS you can save extra with discount code SHARI15X) Culture for Health Kits make it EASY and SIMPLE to preserve at home.

A special note on salt: I am hugely passionate about using real salt mined from Utah. I think it is the absolute best because of the trace minerals. However, the minerals in this salt can cause cloudiness in your canning (either in pickling or ferments) and if/when this happens it mimics spoilage. SO this is probably the only time I will ever suggest using a different salt. For this, I would opt for this brand.

dried kombucha starter with sugar and recipe sitting on a counter
kombucha starter kit


Pickling differs from fermenting for two reasons. One is because you heat the jars and contents with a low pasturization method as part of the preservation method. The second reason is that you utilize vinegar as the pickler.

Pickling is also a GREAT option for preserving foods that would otherwise need to be pressure canned, like green beans and asparagus. Just be sure you are following a recipe, like this pickled asparagus recipe.

Be sure your vinegar is at least 5%!

canning jars in water waiting to be processed
for jars lids in a boiling water canner

Selecting the Appropriate Recipe

You have your food you want to preserve, now what? Where do you go to find a safe and research backed recipe? Google! Ok but theres a little more to it.

Google your food + extension office.

Ill explain the extension office momentarily. for now, just go with me. The extension office will have done research on acidification, processing times, and ingredients to give you the most up to date information for safe canning practices.

Great Grandma Kitty’s canned sweet potatoes or your neighbor Karen’s pickle recipe may not past the muster on safety.

NEVER EVER should you can dairy

NEVER EVER should you add pasta, rice or flour to your canned items.

NEVER EVER should you dry can (no water used in your jar)

NEVER EVER should you increase the measurements of ingredients. For example in salsa, you can SWAP tomato varieties but you should never add more tomatoes. You can decrease the spices or garlic, but never increase more than what the recipe says. You can add those at the time of serving but not when preserving.

NEVER EVER should you reuse canning lids.

NEVER EVER should you guess. guess on a recipe. guess on a processing time or method.

NEVER EVER should you use the boiling water method on a food that MUST be pressure canned.


Extension offices are set up via a land grant act through your states agricultural department and are nationwide. Now, within each state the extension offices are ALMOST in every county. If you click on the extension office, I have linked to a website where you can find out more information for your state. In the pacific northwest, the agricultural colleges are through the University of Idaho, Oregon State University and Washington State University. The State of Idaho has extension offices in 44/46 counties, Shoshone and Boise County do not have an extension office. The extension office link also helps to explain the offerings the counties MAY provide.

Through my neighboring county, I took a course on food preservation and safety. It was the Master Food Safety Advisor Program. Some states/counties, may refer to it as a Master Food Preserver course. Other states have online canning courses, like THIS ONE through Utah State.

Preserving Tools and Equipment

So what do you need to start? Read this blog post and check out the following links

Canning Lids, Rings, Pressure Canner, Hand Vacuum Sealer: FORJARS has not only been a dream to work with but they are a Christian small business who is excelling in their field. Use code FLOUR10 to save.

Freeze Dryer:we have a harvest right medium freeze dryer

Dehydrator: While the dehydrator we have is old and out of stock, if I were to upgrade, I would choose the excalibur dehydrator

Fermenting Salt: Mortons Canning & Pickling Salt

Fermenting Crock: You can just use a clear glass jar and weigh it down with your salt brine

Fermentation Kits: Cultures for Health Kits are truly amazing! They are everything you need to get going. Save with code SHARI15X

Ball Blue Book evidence based and safe canning recipes for you to enjoy!

5 Gallon Bucket, mylar bags and oxygen absorbers: Wallaby Goods is my brand of choice. Their mylar bags and buckets are by far the best and superior products we have use. CODE: SOW5

My absolute favorite salt, Redmond Real Salt, discount code FLOURING

Additional Resources

Other resources you might like to have access to:

USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning

National Center for Home Food Preservation

Where to source your food: azure standard, local gleaning groups on facebook, check craigslist, farmers markets and fruit stands.

I truly hope that this post has helped to clear up any questions you had about the various food preservation methods, gave you some useful tools and resources and encourages you to preserve your food at home.

If you have any questions or comments, please ask away and share.

Happy Preserving!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

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