When it comes to food, I like to think we do pretty well.
We have a large garden for fruit, veggies and herbs, I can a bunch of stuff when it comes in season, as well as freeze it too. 3 years ago I bought an electric smoker (best thing I ever bought!) so we can make our own bacon, smoked meats and (hopefully soon) some cold smoked cheese. (Another thing I'd love to learn how to do is make cheese).
Last year I bought a dehydrator when it went on sale, a great Excalibur one with 5 trays. I really love this thing, the heater and fan is at the back so there's no rotating of trays and an even heat with temperature control depending on what you're dehydrating. I keep the little silicate packages that come in vitamin bottles and when I buy new shoes (which is almost never) to put in with the dehydrated stuff to keep it dry. (I am dehydrating beef jerky as we speak).
For my birthday my parents bought me a 5 gallon pickling crock! My Mom asked me what I wanted and I told her a pickling crock; she said that wasn't for me, that was for the house. Nope, it's for me! After my first unsuccessful attempt at making kimchi (it got moldy because I put the crock in the cold cellar which was way too cold and stopped any fermentation), I talked to my Dad who makes sauerkraut every year. He told me that you just want to put it somewhere cooler, not cold, so the basement is fine, not the cold cellar. I never could stand sauerkraut but I do like kimchi, which I like to call sauerkraut with flavour. The second batch I followed my Dad's advice and after about a month, put it into mason jars (I got about 3 1 liter jars). Pretty yummy! I'm excited about making other fermented foods now.
My hubby and I were talking about what else we could do to preserve food like meat, soup, etc. My Mom, even though she's been canning for over 50 years, still follows some old school ways of doing things, like putting jars of meaty soup in the oven to seal then putting them in the fridge or cold cellar. From what I've been reading, this isn't exactly safe anymore. Here are some sites with more information:
Canning Food Safety
National Center for Home Preservation
After cleaning out my freezers recently, we've come to the conclusion that when we make big batches of things like soup, spaghetti sauce, etc., although our intentions are good when we freeze some, it gets buried in there, we forget about it (and often forget to label it), then find it months or years later thinking, "What is this stuff? Is it still good?" I hate throwing food out but if I don't know what it is or when it was made I err on the side of caution and chuck it.
So, for canning meat, soup, and whatever, I'm seriously considering buying a pressure canner. I've never used one before, but my Dad volunteers once a year through the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) where they do a day of canning meat for those in need. Check it out:
They use actual cans, whereas I'll be using big mason jars for my home use. This way, we can go into the cold cellar and grab a jar of soup or whatever for that nights meal, easy peasy, for those nights where we're too tired to cook or completely uninspired. Yes, it will be a lot of work, but if we do it it will mean less buying of cook from frozen meals from the grocery store which is usually over salted, sweetened and full of junk.
Has anyone done this themselves? What are you results? Let me know!
After that, the only big purchase I can think of for home preservation is a vacuum sealer.
Stay warm and enjoy the sun!