10+ Ways to Preserve Your Harvest Without Canning!

10+ Ways to Preserve Your Harvest Without Canning!

On our farm, we preserve a lot of food without canning – and often, it’s easier, faster, and better to leave the canning jars on the shelf.


Particularly if you’re not familiar with pressure canning, or if you’re unsure about starting, you might be wondering how you can preserve meat, fruit, or dairy.


(You might have heard about some ways to can things like dairy – but we debunk those myths in this article).


In this article, I’m going to show you some ancient ways our ancestors used to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and eggs – and you can use these same tactics in your own home!

How to preserve food without canning


Preserving Fruit

Preserving fruit without canning includes the obvious choices of fermenting and drying, but had you thought of preserving fresh fruit in honey or sugar? 



To preserve the flavor of apples, people would wrap the fruit in paper, straw, or cloth soaked with grease such as oil or fat. Apples were then stacked in a wooden crate and placed in cool area such as a root cellar.


A favorite of colonial Americans was cider molasses, which is boiled from fresh apple cider, and used to flavor desserts or breakfasts. You can learn to make it here.


The leftover peels from making cider were then fermented to make apple cider vinegar – nothing went to waste!


You CAN preserve food without canning - here's 10+ ways to do it!



Like apples, berries were preserved by fermenting them into wine or vinegars. During winter, wine could keep for months – even years, and was safer to drink than water.


Berries were dried and used in desserts and main courses, either by reconstituting them in water or used as dried fruit, or eaten plain like we do nowadays.


Fruit could also be preserved in honey by dropping the fruit into a jar filled with honey. Since honey is naturally antiseptic, the fruit wouldn’t rot, and would even impart their flavor on honey.  


The fruit would then be pulled from the honey as needed and used in desserts or flavored mead would be made from the honey.



Preserving Vegetables & Legumes

Vegetables traditionally have been preserved by fermenting, drying, keeping in a cool place by packing them with wet leaves or sand, or keeping them in the ground before hard frosts hit.



Onions were pulled from the ground when the stalks browned, and were ripened by laying them on their sides to dry. To store them, the green stalks were intact and braided to store onions easily-circulating air.




Cabbage was dried and often used in soups and stews, but the most traditional way to preserve cabbage was by fermenting it in crocks like this one. Nowadays, you can also use kits that make it easy like this one. To learn how to ferment veggies, click here.




Beans were dried on the bush or vines and then strung up to continue drying and to store them. Families then strung them in their homes where they would be in easy reach. The dried beans then were soaked overnight to soften before being cooked and eaten.




To preserve it, corn kernels were dried then soaked and added to stews and soups or ground into meal, but more interestingly, our ancestors also dried corn into hominy, which was then turned into grits.


To harvest hominy, after corn on the cob was eaten, the remaining kernels and bits were cut from the cob and dried. To make grits, the dried hominy was soaked in water until soft.


You CAN preserve food without canning - here's 10+ ways to do it!

Salted vegetables

Fresh vegetables were also sometimes preserved in dry salt (as opposed to brine) in a crock, although this depended on your access to salt (during medieval times, only the very wealthy had access to a lot of salt).


Nowadays, we have easy access to salt, so you can preserve your veggies in a salt concentration between 20 to 25 percent of the weight of your harvest (so 20 to 25 pounds salt per 100 pounds of food).


While this definitely prevents microbial growth, it also makes your vegetables very salty – if you preserve your harvest this way, be sure to soak the food in water before eating and adjust your recipe to make up for the extra salt in your vegetables.


To save their taste buds and make salt (which could be very expensive) last longer, people would instead preserve food in brine. The traditional ratio of salt to water to make a brine is 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water.


But the strength of this ratio depends on which salt you use – kosher is not equal to table salt in this case, and our ancestors didn’t have iodized salt to confuse the ratio.


It’s better to go with a strict weight – 10 ounces of salt per gallon of water.


Preserving Meat


Salt pork

Salting pork and other meats is an old fashioned method that’s not used today – and that’s a shame, because it works well to preserve AND season meat.


Using sugar, salt, and spices, pork could be submerged in the mixture and kept in a cool area for months – keeping the family fed while other sources of nutrition were scarce.


Cold Smoke

Cold smoking meat is a way of curing and preserving that we still use today – we’ve smoked many a slab of beef on our farm, and it’s delicious.


We’ve found that smoked meats take a lot longer to turn rancid or grow mold – but you need to COLD smoke (under 150 degrees, preferably around 100).


This is much easier achieved during the cool days of winter – which is why meat is traditionally harvested during fall and early winter.


Meat also should be first submerged in brine to help preserve it, help get moisture out of the cuts, and inhibit bacterial growth.


You can smoke meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, pretty much anything you can think of.


Using Fat to Store Meat

This process is called a confit, and has been used since ancient times to preserve fatty cuts of meat. When salted meat was cooked slowly in a large pot and at a low temperature for a long time, the meat would eventually give out the fat.


The meat/fat mixture was allowed to cool in a crock – the fat would rise to the top, creating a barrier between the meat and the outside world. Stored in a cool area, the food could be preserved for months during the winter.


Dry Salting Meat

Like vegetables, meat can be preserved simply by surrounding it in salt. Our ancestors would slice meat into strips, then stack them between layers of salt, like lasagna.


The crock or barrel was then kept in a cool area, and meat removed as the family needed it. The salt kept moisture, bacteria, and bugs away.  


Preserving Dairy

Dairy was (and is) most commonly preserved by fermenting into cheeses or yogurt. Yogurt would be consumed fairly quickly, while cheeses could be wrapped or preserved in wax, and kept in a cool area.


When making cheese, salt is added to the curds to reduce moisture and then the curds pressed. After waxing, cheese could be stored for years.


Soft cheeses such as feta could be stored and preserved in oil for months – as long as the cheese was submerged, bacterial growth is slowed down.


Preserving Eggs

Eggs would be preserved by waterglassing or by putting fats or mineral oils on the eggshells. In this article, we show you how to preserve eggs!

Why Honey’s Antibacterial Properties Should Always Be In Your Chickens’ Emergency Kit

Why Honey’s Antibacterial Properties Should Always Be In Your Chickens’ Emergency Kit

Humans have known about honey’s antibacterial properties for centuries, and it’s something I turn to on the homestead to treat wounds on our chickens.


For generations, our ancestors relied on honey’s antibacterial properties to treat their chickens as well as themselves, and our medical communities are rediscovering the power of honey as antibiotic resistant bacteria becomes more of an issue.


I’ve often found that topical antibacterial ointments that you buy at the store just don’t perform like honey to treat traumatic injuries on chickens, such as large wounds.


Of course if your chicken has an upper respiratory infection, then providing them internal antibiotics after consulting with a veterinarian is the way to go.


But for external injuries, I’ve found that honey’s antibacterial properties are far superior than other topical antibacterial ointments.


Why I use honey


Well, for starters, honey doesn’t spoil; it has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, still edible after 3,000 or more years.


That’s pretty strong evidence that honey’s antibacterial properties are superior. Bacteria just has a hard time growing in it.


Believe it or not, honey is an accepted form of wound treatment in the medical community. As an “old-timey” approach, it fell out of style as drug companies produced topical antibacterial ointment that better fit our society’s idea of progress.


But as bacteria has become increasingly resistant, researchers are returning to some ancient methods to treat common traumatic injuries. 


In our neck of the woods, there are no avian vets, and I’ve seen enough of the veterinary skills in my area to be concerned about bringing any animal to them.


So, on our homestead, we must be self-reliant when treating our flock of chickens, and I’ve learned that knowledge is the best protection.


Secondly, in addition to honey’s antibacterial properties, it also is less viscous than over the counter treatments and is stickier.


Why is this important?


Imagine you’re a chicken that has a large wound on your head from a pecking order dispute. This wound goes through several layers of skin.


But, since you’re a chicken, you still want to dust bathe, peck for food, etc. All sorts of normal activities that will expose your wound to bacteria.


I’ve found that because honey is stickier, when it comes to wet injuries, honey adheres to the wound better than other antibacterial medications. I’ve found that triple antibiotic ointment, silver sulfide, and other topical medications simply don’t offer the same level of wound coverage that honey does.


And in my opinion, when it comes to chickens, this can mean the difference between life and death from infection.


Honey is also able to spread its antibacterial properties where a more viscous ointment cannot, namely, under folds of skin or into crevices that we as humans can’t see well, but where bacteria like to lurk.

When it comes to chickens, honey's antibacterial properties might save their lives. In this article, you'll learn how to use honey to treat traumatic injury in chickens and why it's so important to keep in your emergency kit.

Examples of using honey’s antibacterial properties on our homestead


I’ve successfully used honey’s antibacterial properties to treat both quail and chickens on our farm. 


Recently, one of our quail was involved in a pecking order dispute, and lost literally half the skin on his head.


Although the injury was quite extensive, I wanted to give the quail 48 hours before I put him to sleep. He didn’t seem in pain (although he had to be), so I applied antibacterial ointment to his wound.


I applied silver sulfide, which is commonly used to treat horse wounds, but I couldn’t get it to cover the wound because of the blood and plasma.


So, I gently washed off the silver sulfide, and applied honey three times each day to prevent infection, wearing surgical gloves so I didn’t introduce more bacteria into his wound.


I’ve been very pleased with how honey’s antibacterial qualities helped this quail heal. Although he still has a long way to go, the flesh is healthy, pink, and slowly recuperating.


After I applied the honey, the following day the wound was fresh, but definitely not red or inflamed.


Thanks to honey’s antibacterial qualities, the wound was actually starting to scab over with a hard cover!


Another advantage of using honey’s antibacterial properties is it reduces inflammation (hence why the medical community uses it on burns).


With my quail, I was concerned that he might go into shock from the pain of his traumatic injury. The honey reduced any inflammation, and kept the wound mois.


That way my quail didn’t experience even more pain as his wound dried (which could have caused the skin to tighten).


In a second example, I used honey to treat a pullet that, like the quail, was involved in a pecking order dispute.


The pullet had a deep, dime-sized wound on her head that went through several layers of skin.


In this situation, the wound was smaller, but since it went through several layers of skin, there was a larger possibility that bacteria could grow under the skin, unseen, until the pullet had a full-blown systemic infection.


I used honey to treat the wound, after washing the effected area. Similar to the quail, the honey caused the wound to scab over quickly, and reduced the inflammation.


Another benefit of honey


When it comes to honey, another advantage is it doesn’t have any withdrawal times. 


Other topical antibiotic ointments, such as triple antibiotic cream, have withdrawal time, so while the animal is healing, you can’t eat the eggs or the meat.


With honey, there’s no such withdrawal times, and you can continue to enjoy your chickens eggs.


Sourcing honey to use on your homestead


If you want to use honey’s antibacterial properties on your homestead, you’ll need to pay attention to what you’re buying.


I only recommend using organic honey from a company like Thrive Market which ethically sources all of its products.


In order to be considered honey, according to USDA standards, bee pollen must be in honey sold in the US. Typically, though, to please consumers who demand clarity in the final product, most suppliers ultra filter the honey, taking out all the particulates and the pollen.


In the US, honey you find at the grocery store isn’t usually honey, but a mixture of very processed honey and corn syrup. A lot of the antibacterial properties have been lost.



In the US, as well, most of the honey sold comes from international sources, usually China, and contains more corn syrup than honey. Antibacterial qualities are sub par in these products.


Organic honey, however, has pollen in it because typically it has not been ultra-filtered, and you can be sure you’re getting a product that is 100% honey.


You can also buy honey from a bee keeper in your area, but if you don’t have access to any near you, then purchasing organic honey will do the trick.


I’d like to hear from you!

Have you harnessed the power of honey’s antibacterial properties on your homestead? Would you try it? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!