If one is nervous or uncertain about the future, it’s good to know about the old ways of preserving the food as we might put our faith in them someday, just to survive. The American diet is packed with foods that are altered by science and our shelves are filled with products that keep seemingly forever, canned or frozen food, devitalized flour, ultra-pasteurized dairy products and many others. Irradiated food no lurks on the horizon and it seems we are putting our health at risk every single day. Most of us prefer to live in a different reality and chose to go organic and grow their own food.
The question still remains after each new yield, how we go further on preserving and extending the life of our food? Currently there are two techniques: the modern scientific technique and the more natural and humane one, used by our ancestors to maintain and enhance the life in food. In this article I will describe the method of preserving food in oil.
Oil is an amazing preservative and it has been used in ancient times by the Greeks and the Romans due to its proprieties. The romans used oil during their conquering campaigns, to transport specific foods back to Rome as a spoil of war. Once immersed in oil many foods will keep almost indefinitely and you can be sure you can still enjoy them after many years.
Preserving food in oil has two disadvantages worth mentioning:
- The foods will become saturated with oil and it will not be possible to totally remove it when eaten. This will lead to a high risk of consuming too much fat, if we eat too many foods preserved this way. However in harsh weather conditions (like the winter season) or during intense labor conditions (activities that burn a lot of energy), additional fat intake shouldn’t be a problem.
- This method of preservation can prove quite costly, because oil and especially olive oil (which is the one recommended and the most suitable for this method) are not so cheap. The method involving olive oil is highly used in the Mediterranean countries where oil is plentiful and inexpensive.
Although some preppers seem to prefer canola oil for food preservation due to its price, being cheaper than olive oil, I for one choose olive oil for the simple fact that its process does not involve chemicals like hexane and it contains much more nutrients than canola oil.
It is well known that olive oil is a natural preservative, preventing air from coming into contact with the food and thus destroying it however, by excluding air from the surface of the foods, one is establishing anaerobic conditions which actually favor the growth of some types of bacteria. Therefore some of the foods stored at room temperature require cooking beforehand (boiling in salted water or vinegar solutions) to preserve the food safely.
Safety tips for preserving in olive oil:
- Cook the foods in stainless steel (or non-reactive pans), since often vinegar is used in the preparation.
- Make sure your tools and containers are clean and dry.
- Use glass containers for storage with lids that close tightly.
- Place your food in the containers until full and then completely cover with extra virgin olive oil.
- Make sure none of the food is protruding above the oil.
- Add olive oil to form a seal.
- Cover tightly and store.
Here are just a few of my recipes of choice for preserving foods in oil:
How to: Wash the artichokes well, and cook them in a large pot of salted water for twenty minutes. Remove the leaves and the thistles, keeping only the hearts. Put the hearts in a jar, together with the bay leaves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds. Add olive oil to cover, and close the jar. Marinate for about one month before using the artichoke hearts as appetizers or garnish; they can be kept indefinitely.
How to: Cook the tomatoes in very little water. Drain and pass them through a strainer. Heat the resulting puree, adding the salt. Reduce it until very thick (about thirty minutes), stirring constantly over low to medium heat. Let the puree cool. Shape it into balls about the size of a walnut, and put them in a jar filled with good-quality olive oil and aromatic herbs. The balls must be totally submerged.
Drained Cottage Cheese
How to: Preferably use an unsalted cottage cheese, which takes longer to ferment. Pack the cheese tightly into ajar with a rubber seal, leaving as little air as possible. Fill to one to one and a half inches from rim. Pat down the surface of cheese, and pour three-eighths of an inch of oil over it. Wet the seal, close the jar and store in a cellar. The cheese will keep for up to a year.
Tuna in oil
How to: cut the tuna in big chunks, about 2 inches thick, although you can use 1½ inch-thick steaks if you can’t find a big piece of tuna. Boil the tuna pieces in water with salt. For 2 pounds of tuna, add 2/3 cup of salt to 3 quarts of water. Return the water to a boil and turn the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Cook it for two hours at a low simmer. Check that the internal temperature reads at least 165 degrees F. Remove the tuna from the water, let it drain and place it in a sealed container. Refrigerate it overnight to firm and dry the meat. The next day, cut the meat into pieces that will fit into your jars. Fill the clean jars with the tuna pieces and top it with olive oil. Cover the jars with new lids and rings and then cook them in a pressure cooker, usually 100 minutes at 10 psi. The tuna can last for long periods of time.
Oil is also used for preserving other types of meat, like pork or beef as long as the meat has been processed between 240-250ᵒF for 30 minutes. You can check on the internet as it provides other type of preservation recipes.
Food preservation using oil is not a new method and it has been used for centuries. You should practice this method with every chance you’ve got since it will improve the food quality of your pantry.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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