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? 

 

Apples

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!

 

Berries

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

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

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

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.

 

 

Corn

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!

8 Genius Uses For Leftover Lemons

8 Genius Uses For Leftover Lemons

Nothing is worse than throwing out perfectly good food, or worse, watching it rot.

 

You spent effort growing the fruit, or good money buying it, so you probably want to use it, right?

 

Not sure how?

 

Well, we’ve done the thinking for you! Here’s 8 ways you can use leftover lemons (or any citrus, really) to brighten your life, your table, and your kitchen!

 

Print this article out, and keep it handy – so the next time you’re looking at a bag full of lemons and don’t have time to get creative, you have a list of ways to repurpose them!

 

8 Genius Uses For Leftover Lemons

 

Uplifting Salad Dressing

A few drops of lemon juice is a simple way to perk up a bland salad without adding calories. Simply squeeze about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice straight into salad leaves.

Want to make a zesty dressing? Mix lemon juice with an equal amount of olive oil, a chopped or crushed garlic clove, and a bit of honey to sweeten. Play with it until it’s seasoned to your personal taste.

 

Zesty Marinade For Chicken or Fish

Make a healthy and uplifting marinade for fish and chicken by combining olive oil, dried lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and black pepper in a freezer bag.

Add chicken to the bag, and shake the bag a few times to coat the chicken with the marinade. Let sit for up to 2 hours before cooking.

For a whole chicken, use 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, juice from 1 lemon (squeeze out juice), 1 clove chopped or grated garlic, 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, black pepper to taste.

 

Lemony Ice Cubes

Slice leftover lemons and arrange them on a baking sheet. Place in freezer until thoroughly frozen, and then transfer lemon to a freezer bag. Perfect for ice cold drinks on a hot day!

 

Dried Slices

Arrange lemon peel slices on a cooling rack, not touching, over a baking sheet so they dry evenly. Dry rinds at 150 degrees for 1-2 hours. Grind in a blender if desired. Flavor desserts, tea, marinades, or soups with the dried peels.

 

Lemon Mayonnaise

Brighten up a midday sandwich by adding both lemon zest and juice to mayonnaise. Grate dried zest and/or squeeze lemon juice into your mayo. Stir to combine, then use normally.

 

Want to take it to the next level with probiotic mayo? Here’s how!

 

Citrus Water Infusion

Trying to add more water to your diet but struggling? Use leftover lemons to flavor water!

 

Simply place lemon slices and/or the peel into a bottle of water and leave it overnight to infuse. Drink in the morning to start your day right!

 

Lemon Juice Cubes

Add fresh lemon juice an ice tray, and freeze. Once frozen solid, transfer cubes to a freezer bag. Use whenever a recipe calls for fresh lemon juice – one cube equals about 1 tablespoon of juice.

 

Don’t have enough lemon juice to fill an ice tray? Mix with water, and add frozen cubes to sodas and other drinks for an uplifting taste!

 

Household cleaner

Add lemon peel or slices to a mason jar filled with white vinegar. Allow to infuse over 7-14 days. Strain out lemons, and use the infused vinegar to clean dishes, countertops, and toilets.

 

Want to know uses for leftover eggs?

5 Minute Hack to Dry More Herbs Faster!

5 Minute Hack to Dry More Herbs Faster!

Do you grow organic herbs so your chickens have them all year long? Or maybe you like making herbal teas?

 

As you know, there’s a short window of time to harvest herbs while they’re at their peak. In a few months, they’ll all be buried under snow and frost!

 

Right now, we have so many herbs growing, we can hardly harvest them all. It seems as soon as we harvest one raised bed, the other ones ripen!

 

In fact, our lemon balm (which is so good for so many health purposes!) is practically taking over one of our raised beds – so I’m trimming it back constantly.

 

Because we have curious kids, and chickens, and rabbits, we’re a little short on space where the herbs can dry but also be kept clean.

 

While you CAN use a microwave to quickly dry herbs, some readers have pointed out that they’re not comfortable with the process. (You can also use a dehydrator like this one here, but they can cost quite a bit).

 

Some readers also want to use vintage, traditional, or solar methods on their farms, so we figured out a 100% natural way that lets us dry large bunches of herbs in a smaller space.

 

We also noticed that it dries the herbs faster than just hanging them up in your kitchen (ours sometimes mold in the kitchen if we just randomly hang them around), and you might even have all the necessary parts in your house already!

 

Here’s our 5 minute hack to drying more herbs in a smaller space!

 

5 minute hack to preserve herbs faster

What You’ll Need

Herbs (the longer the stem, the better)

String

Shower curtain rings

Shower rod, insect-free branch, rope, or something similar for hanging

 

Long stem herbs are best to use because they’re easier to hang (if you have lots of herbs without long stems, you can use a mesh bag, but don’t fill it too full or the herbs will mold).

 

Grab your bunches of herbs and tie one bunch at a time together with the string.

 

To hang the herbs upside down, tie the strings to the shower curtain rings, and then hang from the shower rod (or whatever you’re using to hang the herbs).

 

5 minute hack to preserve herbs faster

 

The shower rings allow for air circulation – and they let you put as many herbs as possible in a more compact space.

 

For the first 24 hours, we hang them outside (as long as it’s not raining) so we can take advantage of air flow to kick start the drying. After 24 hours, we move them to a dry location that’s sunny but out of direct sun.

 

If you’re worried about leaves falling of the herb stems, you can either place a paper bag over the stems or place something under the drying rack to catch the falling leaves (the problem with this method is you then have to sort through all the leaves to figure out what herb they are!).

5 minute hack to preserve herbs faster

 

We usually only process 1 type of herb at a time, collecting them on specific days. Before using this strategy, the herbs could be a little difficult at times to distinguish after they were completely dried.

 

It’s a simple but effective 5 minute hack to make drying herbs easier and faster!

6 Genius Hacks To Preserve Fresh Herbs

6 Genius Hacks To Preserve Fresh Herbs

Got a ton of herbs growing in your garden? Then you’ll probably want to preserve them.

 

I’ve been harvesting 5 gallon buckets of herbs for the past couple months, and drying them just isn’t doing it for me anymore.

 

There’s only so many dry herbs one person needs!

 

Drying them is great – but it doesn’t always preserve the taste (and some dry herbs just don’t hold a candle to fresh herbs!)

 

Herbs also have more than just culinary use, and there’s MANY more ways you can preserve them than just hanging them upside down and wait for them to turn crispy and dry.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you 6 different ways you can preserve fresh herbs so they still taste fresh and so you can use them for more than just cooking.

 

Freeze in Oil

Preserving herbs in oil and then freezing them isn’t a new idea, but it works really, really well to preserve the taste.

 

In an ice tray, pour oil (usually olive oil, but you can also use coconut or avocado oil) into each compartment and then add chopped, fresh herbs.

 

Slip into your freezer and leave them there until needed for cooking.

 

Preserve in Oil

Did you know that you can preserve fresh herbs in oil and that it will be shelf-stable for much longer?

 

Humans have been using oil for centuries to preserve herbs, and the oil takes on the scent, taste, and medicinal properties of the herbs.

 

If you like the taste of basil on your pasta, but don’t really like pesto, add basil to olive oil (making sure to completely cover the herbs, otherwise they’ll mold). In a couple weeks, you’ll notice the oil start to smell like the herbs.

 

If you like making your own salves, lotions, and lip balms, and want to use herbs to make them even better, you can use herb-infused oils.

 

For example, if you want to use the skin-soothing properties of calendula or dandelion, soak the herbs in oil for 2-4 weeks. Then use the oil as you normally would in your favorite recipes.

 

Dry in Your Microwave

If you want to dry your herbs but don’t want to wait weeks (and possibly have dust collect on the plants or lose leaves if they fall off during the drying process), you can dry them in your microwave.

 

Place herbs in a single layer without their stems on a on a paper towel, and place on a microwave-safe plate. The paper towel will help absorb extra moisture.

 

Dry in 30 second intervals until completely dry. Store on your shelf in a mason jar and use as needed.

 

Dry herbs CAN be used to infuse oils as well.


If you don’t want to use a microwave, but don’t want to wait weeks, you can use a dehydrator like this one.

 

Preserve Fresh Herbs Longer in a Mason Jar

If you want to hold on to fresh herbs for cooking or medicinal use but don’t need to preserve them for long-term storage, try this trick.

 

Fill a mason jar halfway with water, and place your herbs, stem down, in the mason jar.

 

Cover with a plastic bag, and secure the bag to the mason jar with twine or a rubber band. (Don’t seal with the jar lid and ring – leave them off).

 

Store inside your fridge – the herbs will stay good for a couple weeks. This works because the herbs aren’t as exposed to air, and aren’t kept in an overly moist environment (like if you just kept them in a plastic bag and susceptible to condensation).

 

Make Herbed Salt

Another genius hack to preserve herbs is to preserve them in salt. Like oil, humans have been using salt for generations to preserve food.

 

Over time, the salt will take on the taste of the herbs.

 

What you’ll need:

 

  • Salt, such as kosher, sea, or other large-grain salt. (Not table salt)
  • A mason jar
  • ½ – 1 cup of fresh herbs, chopped

 

Place a layer of salt at the bottom of your mason jar. Then, layer a small amount of herbs. Alternate until the jar is full or you’re out of herbs.

 

Store on a shelf until needed, but use within 1 year.

 

Craft Herbal Vinegars

Finally, you can preserve your herbs in vinegar (apple, white, wine, etc). Pretty much the sky’s the limit.

 

Like oil and salt, humans have used vinegar for centuries to preserve food (and sometimes human bodies – yuck).

 

To make your own herbal vinegars, grab a mason jar and fill it with your favorite vinegar (white is mine – good for salad dressings).

 

You can add either whole or chopped herbs, but fresh herbs are best in order to impart as much flavor to the vinegar as possible.

 

Remove any wilted, yellow, or funky-looking herbs before preserving the rest.

 

You can use herbal vinegars in cooking or as a hair rinse (rosemary vinegar is great for your hair). Herbal vinegars also make a great gift.