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Food preservation is a way to extend the life of fruits, vegetables, and herbs at their peak of freshness and vibrancy with the goal to use them during the colder months of the year when fresh produce can be more expensive and not as nutritious.

We covered canning techniques on this article, however, there are many other food preservations techniques, like fermentation, drying / dehydrating, and vinegar pickling that can help you diversify your preservation practice.

Basic guidelines for preserving food

  • Use fresh, seasonal produce. The idea behind preserving food is taking advantage of the abundance during the harvest season and the high concentration of nutrients and flavor of seasonal foods. 
  • Make sure the product is fresh: avoid moldy or heavily damaged produce, as it won’t preserve as well. 
  • Maintain a clean working environment.
  • Wash hands with soap and water, and clean/sanitize your area to avoid cross-contamination. 
  • When canning or fermenting you’ll use glass jars [or crocks, if you’d like for fermentation], all which need to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized/sterilized before using them.
  • Do not skip this step, especially when canning.
  • Follow recipes closely to ensure consistency, especially when canning as it is meant to be a shelf-stable product left at room temperature. 
  • Label all your preserves with name and date.
  • Store preserves and dried products in a cool, dry environment. 
  • Freeze or refrigerate items that are not shelf stable.

There are many fermentation techniques that involve different types of beneficial bacteria and molds. We’ll focus on lacto-fermentation – a technique that relies on lactobacillus bacteria to create lactic acid to help preserve the food. To ensure success we will always use salt as a medium to allow lactobacillus to colonize the foods while keeping other microorganisms out. 

Fermented foods provide a higher nutritional value than canned foods due to the live cultures (think yogurt) which are high in probiotics beneficial to our health. Incorporating fermented foods into our diet is considered a good way to improve our gut health, which improves over health.

There are two ways to use salt to preserve food:

  • Dry Salting: As the name suggests, for this method add the salt directly to the vegetables [or fruits] and allow it to draw liquid from them to create their own brine and kick start fermentation. This is how we make sauerkraut, for example. 
  • Brine: A brine is a salt-water solution that is added to vegetables or fruits to kick start fermentation. This is how we make sour pickles, for example. 
Lacto-fermentation is done at room temperature – preferably between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the product and temperature the fermentation can take anywhere between 3-10 days. In cooler temperatures the fermentation takes longer and in hotter temperatures the fermentation is much faster. 
Once your ferments (sauerkraut, pickles, hot pepper sauce, etc.) have achieved the desired sourness you can place them in the refrigerator where they can stay for many months. Overtime things like sour pickles can get soft, otherwise the lactic acid and salt will preserve them well while refrigerated. Below are two sample recipes.


  • Cabbage (of any kind)
  • About 2 tsp of salt per pound of shredded cabbage
  • Spices about 1 tsp per pound
  • Glass jars – preferably wide-mouth
  • Time and patience!

Steps: (here is a quick video of the process)

  • Wash the cabbage and peel off the outer leaves
  • Save one leaf to use as a topper
  • Shred the cabbage
  • Toss the salt with the cabbage and let it stand for 10 minutes
  • Massage the cabbage crushing it with your fingers to release liquid
  • Pack the soft cabbage into the jar and make sure to cover it with the liquid
  • Leave to ferment at room temperature for 5-7 days (depending on temperature, fermentation happens quicker with the summer heat)
  • Release the gasses a few times a day by gently unscrewing the lid
  • Refrigerate once the kraut is sour enough to your taste

Sour Pickles

  • 1.5 lb pickling cucumbers 
  • 2 cups water (non-chlorinated) 
  • 1.5 tbsp salt 
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp dill seed
  • 1 small handful dill 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 qt glass jar


  • Cut the ends of the cucumbers and then slice them in half lengthwise 
  • Add the spices, herbs, and garlic to the jar 
  • Arrange the cucumber in the jar to just below the lid line
  • Dissolve the salt in the water and pour it in the jar and close it
  • Leave to ferment at room temperature for 5-7 days (depending on temperature, fermentation happens quicker with the summer heat)
  • Release the gasses a few times a day by gently unscrewing the lid
  • Refrigerate once the pickles are sour enough to your taste

Vinegar Pickling
Vinegar pickling, also known as quick pickles or refrigerator pickles, is a simple way to preserve vegetables for a few weeks in the refrigerator. 

The basic recipe for vinegar pickles includes water and vinegar (apple cider or white preferably) plus sugar, salt and spices in various amounts to form a vinegar brine. You can also preserve foods like peppers in vinegar, or infuse light vinegars with herbs and flowers. Below is one sample recipe.

Vinegar Pickled Beets

  • 6 medium beets (about 2lbs) cooked, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced 
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar + 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt + any spices you’d like (ex. black peppercorns, fennel seeds, etc)

Place the cooked beet slices and onions in a pint jar. Bring the other ingredients to a quick boil in a non-aluminum pot and pour them into the jar. Close the lid and allow it to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to three months.

Drying / Dehydrating

Drying or dehydrating is an excellent way to preserve herbs, fruits, and vegetables. The best herbs to easily dry are those with woody stems like rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, marjoram, mint and lavender. You can place them on a cooling rack or drying rack, or hang them in small bundles, and allow them to air dry for a few weeks.

Herbs like cilantro, parsley or basil take a little more care as their flavor can dissipate as they dry, thus a dehydrator can be a faster, more reliable way to dehydrate them. These are great for freezing in ice cubes alone or as part of sauces like pesto, chimichurri, or salsa verde. 

Fruits and vegetables
A dehydrator is the fastest and easiest way to dry fruits or vegetables. Thinly slice the fruit or vegetable and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Keep all dried fruits and vegetables in a cool, dry place, labeled with name and date. You can use your dried fruits and vegetables as part of dishes, simply rehydrate them before using.

Freezing fruits and vegetables at their peak also preserves their nutritional value, plus saves you money. Think of summer corn, which sometimes can be as affordable as 10 ears of corn for $1, in comparison to the price out of season.

To freeze fruits:

  • Clean and dry them well
  • For berries freeze whole. Cut all other fruits into slices or chunks and lay them flat on a sheet pan and place in the freezer. Once frozen, place them in bags and return to the freezer. 

To freeze vegetables:

  • Blanch vegetables before freezing them. Blanching reduces their water content and sets their vibrant color by releasing gas trapped within the cell walls. 
    • Cut them in the desired size, then add to boiling water and boil for 1-2 min
    • Strain and plunge in ice water to stop the cooking process
    • Dry well and lay them down on a sheet pan and place in the freezer. Once frozen, place them in bags and freeze. 
    • For greens like spinach or kale, after blanching, squeeze them using a clean towel to remove as much water as possible.

Freezing herb and other sauces:

  • Soft stem herbs like cilantro, parsley or basil are great for sauces like pesto, chimichurri or salsa verde. Pesto, due to the cheese and nuts, is not recommended for canning but is great for freezing. 
  • Make the sauce recipe of your choice and freeze it in small containers to use throughout the cold months to brighten up dishes. 
  • Alternatively, you can puree the herbs with a bit of water and freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, place them in bags.