10 Easy Techniques to Preserve Foods on your Boat

Food preservation is to prevent the growth of microorganisms, or other microorganisms, as well as slowing the oxidation of fats that cause rancidity. You can preserve foods inexpensively by using canning, freezing, vacuum sealing or drying techniques. Modern-day food preservation methods, such as water-bath canning, help you can and preserve with ease. 

We use a number of different techniques on Our Dreamtime. You will find as I that some techniques work better than others depending on your situation at the time. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean I wouldn't use the dehydrator as we don't have the power source but i might can or make a jam out of the amazing chilli i just picked up at the markets.

These are 10 easy ways you can preserve food on your boat 

1. Canning. There are two ways to can your food. The first is a water bath method, which is used for acidic fruits, jams, jellies, syrups, and pickling. Water bath canning is immersing canning jars with food in a bath of boiling water. This is a great way to get your feet wet with canning. 

Canning of Jams and Jellies is cost effective when fruit is in season.

The second canning method is a pressure canner and the only safe way to can non-acidic food, vegetables, salsas, meat, soups, and sauces. The pressure canner allows the jars to reach a higher temperature than just boiling water. It also takes a lot less energy and time to pressure can food than it does heating up the water bath canner. This is our main and preferred way to can. 

2. Dehydrating. Dehydrated food takes very little storage space. It’s light weight enough to take with you on the go. To prolong its shelf life, it should be stored in a cool, dark, dry area. We dehydrate our herbs the old fashioned way, by hanging them in a warm dark area, but we use an electric dehydrator for our fruits and vegetables. The drawback to this is power and time. Unless our have reliable power for long periods of time you really can only do this prior to leaving port. However it is a great way to store fruit and vegetables for long periods. You can dehydrate meat as well, using a meat rub you can have amazing beef jerky.

Its always handy to have dehydrated produce onboard. It extends your times between provisioning.

3. Cold storage or bilge storage. This simply requires a cool, damp, and dark area for root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, cabbage, and apples. Winter squash and pumpkins prefer it a bit warmer and drier. Extra sharp cheese in black wax, and hard cheeses like parmesan kept very well in dry bilges, without refrigeration. I think this is my favorite way of preserving food because it honestly requires very little work on my part. 

Biges are made for cold storage. Just make sure you rotate produce often

4. Freezing. Freezing food allows it to keep for many months and sometimes years if packaged properly. We use a deep freezer for our beef, chicken, and some fruits and vegetables. Many foods can be frozen that people don’t typically think of. You can freeze butter, milk, cheese, and even eggs. Yep, you read that right. When eggs are hard to come by on the high seas you can provision early and put some of the eggs into the freezer to use later. 

It is amazing what you can freeze.

5. Salt Curing. Before refrigeration and the invention of the Mason jar in 1858, salt was used to cure meat. Salt draws the moisture out of the food. This is excellent for pork and fish, but can be done with beef as well. You’ll need quite a bit of salt, some glass jars, and/or crocks. 

You will need lots of salt and heavy crocks or glass jars for this technique

6. Immersion in Alcohol. Many foods can be immersed in alcohol to preserve them. Herbs and fruits are immersed in alcohol to create extracts. We make our own mint, vanilla, and lemon extracts this way. Your summer fruit can also be preserved in alcohol for summer baking.

Preserved fruits also make lovely gifts.

7. Preserving foods in oil is nothing new. Mediterranean people have a love of storing cheeses in olive oil which is handy way of keeping food fresh in a warm climate. This is a simple technique for storing cheese on a boat. 

8. Smoking. Smoking is another older way of preserving food. But it works and works well because we still use it in our modern times. So when you catch an abundance of fish, this would be a good skill to have so you could create your own smoke flavored fish.

With the knowledge on smoking, cryovac sealing and freezing
we had many options on preserving this fish for many months.

9. Pickling I love pickle foods. It is when you add sugar and vinegar to a pot of boiling water and simmer it all together. Then you pack whatever you are pickling into a jar and cover it with the liquid. The liquid mixture helps prolong the life of the food that you are pickling.  However, my personal favorites to pickle are jalapenos, banana peppers, cucumbers, and radishes. You’ll have to try a few recipes to find your favorites too. 

Pickling foods is so satisfying and they have so many uses in the galley

10. Vacuum sealing your food is a great way to preserve it. It is super easy as well. You’ll need a cryovac machine, then you just place the food in the bags and seal. The vacuum sealer method does help to avoid freezer burn on frozen items. It's an ideal method for storing dehydrated food. We also use it for dry storage goods, like flour oats etc... we vacuum seal so that they stay fresh and insects don't breed. Soft cheeses like Edam and Gouda were okay in unbroken waxed rounds then cryovaced. When at all possible we cryovac the cheeses. Once open place into the fridge. 

When provisioning for long haul sailing we cryovac everything that goes
into the freezer it stops freezer burn and produce lasts longer

Each method works better for certain crops and foods better than others. Learning which works best for you and situation is key in creating your own real food pantry. 

Here are a couple of recipes for you to try:

For some great canning recipes www.geniuskitchen.com/tropic/canning

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