The Basics of Food Preservation: Techniques and Tips

In a world where the global food supply chain is ever-expanding, and the value of homemade, sustainable living is being rediscovered, the art of food preservation has gained renewed importance. Food preservation not only allows us to extend the shelf life of fresh produce and other food items but also helps reduce food waste, save money, and enjoy seasonal flavors all year round. This guide from our functional medicine Los Angeles specialists will walk you through the basics of food preservation, covering various techniques and offering tips to ensure safety and quality.

Why Preserve Food?
The primary goal of food preservation is to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeasts, or fungi and to slow down the oxidation of fats that cause rancidity. By doing so, preserved foods can be safely consumed for a longer period. Additionally, preserving food at home allows you to control the ingredients, reducing the intake of added sugars, salts, and preservatives. 

Common Food Preservation Techniques

1. Canning

Canning involves processing food in closed glass canning jars at high temperatures. The heat eliminates microorganisms that cause food to spoil, and the sealing process prevents any new ones from entering and proliferating. Canning is divided into two categories: water bath canning for acidic foods like fruits, tomatoes, and pickles and pressure canning for low-acid foods like vegetables, meats, and poultry.

Here are some canning tips from our functional medicine Burbank doctors:

  • Always use jars and lids designed for canning.
  • Follow recommended processing times closely to ensure safety.

2. Freezing

Freezing is one of the easiest methods of preserving food. By freezing, you slow down the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant state. This method best preserves the taste and nutritional value of most foods.


  • Blanch vegetables before freezing to preserve color, texture, and nutritional content.
  • Use airtight, freezer-safe containers to prevent freezer burn.

3. Drying

Drying, one of the oldest food preservation methods, involves removing moisture from food, which inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Sun drying, air drying, oven drying, and using a food dehydrator are all common methods.

Here are some drying tips from our functional medicine Studio City doctors:

  • Ensure foods are dried at the correct temperature; too hot can cook the food, and too low can allow bacteria to grow.
  • Store dried foods in a cool, dark place in airtight containers.

4. Fermentation

Fermentation is the process of preserving food through the action of microorganisms. It not only extends the shelf life of foods but also enhances their nutritional value and can lead to the development of unique flavors and textures.


  • Use clean, sterilized equipment to avoid contamination.
  • Follow recipes and keep fermenting foods at the recommended temperatures.

5. Pickling

Pickling involves preserving foods in an acidic solution, usually vinegar, or fermenting them in a salty brine. This high-acid environment prevents microbial growth.

Here are pickling tips from our homeopathic medicine experts at Functional Medicine Los Angeles:

  • Use high-quality vinegar of 5% acidity or more for vinegar pickles
  • Keep brined pickles submerged under the brine to prevent mold growth.

Safety First
When preserving food, safety should always be the top priority. Use proper canning techniques to prevent botulism, a potentially fatal illness caused by improperly canned foods. Always follow up-to-date, tested recipes from reliable sources and pay close attention to recommended storage methods and shelf lives.

The Joy of Preserving Food
Beyond the practical benefits, food preservation is a rewarding activity that connects us to our food and its origins. It can be a creative outlet, allowing for the customization of flavors and the creation of homemade gifts. Whether you’re making jam from summer berries, pickling vegetables from your garden, or fermenting sauerkraut, the possibilities are endless.

In summary, understanding the basics of food preservation opens up a world of opportunities for enjoying nutritious, homemade food year-round, reducing waste, and connecting with traditional culinary practices. With patience and practice, anyone can master the art of food preservation.

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