Recipes Winter

25+ Great Preserved Food Ideas

These preserved food ideas will keep you full and healthy – and last for ages!

By Lora O’Brien

In case you’ve been living under a rock and managed to miss the hysteria surrounding the coronavirus, the world is kind of going nuts. People are stockpiling everything from pasta to baked beans, and there’s a worldwide shortage of toilet paper, apparently. I queued for TWO HOURS in a virtual line up to buy food online – because my local supermarket had nothing but tumbleweed rolling about at the time.

But you know what? Many of us – myself included – would be much more chill if we just did as our ancestors did and preserved food.

Think about it – how many times have you had to throw out bananas or other fruit because you just couldn’t eat it before it went off? Have you ever tossed out veggies because you thought: “I just don’t know how I’m going to use these before they go bad’. This is nuts, people! We’ve become so used to a steady supply of food that we’ve taken the stuff for granted. And it’s time to change that.

For starters, if you already don’t know how to, it’s time to learn to cook. It’s really not rocket science; all you need are a few tools, like a hand mixer or blender, knives and some decent pots, and a recipe that’s easy to follow. So many of us today rely not only on supermarkets and ready made foods, but worse yet – services like Deliveroo to bring us hot, freshly made food. It’s such a waste of resources (packaging, petrol) when you can easily make the same dishes yourself!

Secondly, we all need to learn how to use up whatever leftover foods we have. That’s easy when you have a few good recipes for leftovers on hand, but creativity is also key.

And finally, we need to learn how to preserve foods like our great grandparents did. That means canning, pickling, dehydrating and freezing foods that are abundant now, but may not be later.

Preparation is key

It’s always wise to buy loads of dried food that lasts for ages, like rice, lentils, chickpeas, beans, popcorn, pasta and so on. If you’re making any of the preserve recipes below, of course you’ll need some jars, and for freezing, you’ll need some plastic or glass containers. For dry goods, store them in airtight jars – it’s the easiest and most eco-friendly option. But if you’re low on space, Ziplock bags will do.

Store Food Right

If you’re buying up a lot of food to use later, it’s not much use if you don’t store it properly and it all goes bad. Here are some tips to follow:

Potatoes: should be stored in a cool, dark place in a cloth or paper bag

Tomatoes: keep green tomatoes stem side down in a paper bag or in a cardboard box. Place in a cool area until they turn red. Perfectly ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature on the counter away from sunlight

Apples: The ideal storage temperature is 30 to 35 degrees F. with 90 to 95 percent relative humidity. If you don’t have a lot of apples, the refrigerator is a good option. For more than the fridge can handle, look for a cool, dark place that’s relatively humid, such as a cellar or garage. It’s best if the temperature stays close to freezing – but not below! Wrap each apple — preferably with the stem on — in a piece of newspaper to keep the apples separate. Use larger apples first, as these tend to be the first to soften

Onions: Whole onions and shallots should be stored in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated room like a pantry or cellar. Peeled onions can be stored in the fridge for 10–14 days, while sliced or cut onions can be refrigerated for 7–10 days

Drying

Drying is probably the oldest method when it comes to preserving food. Of course, it’s a lot easier today with the invention of dehydrators! The process of dehydrating involves exposing fruits, vegetables and herbs to a temperature that is high enough to remove moisture from the food, but low enough so that they don’t actually cook.

You can either buy a dehydrator, like this one, or you can use a toaster oven on a very, very low setting to get the same effect. Learn more about dehydrating food here. Most dried fruits can be kept for up to a year at 60 degrees F, while dehydrated veggies last about six months.

Freezing

I think it’s crazy that so many people empty out the frozen food section when you can easily freeze your own grub – even fresh fruits and veggies can be popped into the freezer, no problem! .Just make sure they’re super fresh when they go into the freezer and keep them frozen at 0 degrees F.

If it’s veggies that you’re freezing, then blanch and then submerge them in ice water beforehand. Afterwards, dry thoroughly with paper towels or a tea-towel. The blanching process helps the veggies to retain their colour, flavour and nutrients before freezing. Fruit will last around a year, veggies 18 months.

But you can also fill your freezer with flavourful dishes you make yourself, like soups and stews! Cook them in huge batches and freeze them in glass containers. Simply defrost the night before and reheat the next day.

Preserving/Canning

If you frequently buy tinned food – stop! It’s super cheap and easy to make your own with a few items.

First, you’ll need some jars. Sterilise your jars and lids in simmering water for a few minutes. Then, they’ll ready to be filled with things such as jam, salsa and sauces. Once your jars are loaded, pop the lid on firmly but not too tightly.

Lower the jars into a large pot of water, cover it and bring it to a boil, letting the jars process for about 10 minutes. Once done, remove the jars from the water and allow them to cool. They will have automatically vacuum sealed, as their internal temperature drops.

Enjoy canned goods within a year for maximum quality. After this time period, the quality of flavour may deplete a little bit. Need more canning tips? Click here.

Now that you’ve got the basic staples from the supermarket and the basic skills you need, let’s get on with our 25+ preserved food ideas!

25+ Ideas for Preserved Foods

1. Healthy 5 Ingredient Granola Bars

Sure, you can buy commercial granola bars that will keep for ages at home. But personally. I tend to down those whenever I’m bored. And if I’m stuck at home for whatever reason, I’m bored a lot, believe me! When you put the time and effort into making your own food, you tend to appreciate every little bite a bit more, and that’s why I love making this granola bar recipe.

With only 5 ingredients – dates, oats, nuts, maple syrup and nut butter – they’re really easy to make. If you seal these in an airtight container, they’ll last for weeks and weeks, too.

Get the recipe here.

2. Homemade Applesauce

Apples store for quite awhile, and there’s plenty you can do with them: dry them, or make an apple jam, for example. But if you have a good store of applesauce on hand, it’s a wonderful supplement to many foods: enjoy a dollop on granola, in vegan yogurt, on banana bread, or just enjoy it on its own! It’s an especially important recipe if you have little kids at home.

Get the recipe here.

preserved food ideas

2. High Raw Beet and Hemp Granola

Got some beets and not sure what to do with them before they spoil? Turn them into this beautifully hued granola. This recipe is delicious, and more importantly, it’s packed with nutrition. Tip: Dehydrating it will make it last even longer! Serve with almond milk, or just munch it as a snack.

Get the recipe here.

3. Preserved Lemons

This is pretty much one of the must-have preserved food ideas for anyone who loves adding tangy flavour to dishes. Preserved lemons can be used in stews, Moroccan style tagines, salad dressings, sauces and can also be stirred into soups – and even grain dishes like risotto!

Get the recipe here.

4. Spicy Tomato Dehydrated Kale Chips

I love eating kale, but frankly, I always tend to find it wilted in the back of the fridge before I get to use it. If, like me, you have some hanging around you need to use up, then turn it into kale chips ASAP! They’re dehydrated to preserve all of their enzymes and nutrients, and you an make these in an oven or a dehydrator.

Get the recipe here.

preserved food ideas

5. Easy Vegan Jerky

Jerky isn’t just for meat! Nope, not at all. Here, soy curls (which you can find here) are marinated before being dried into a tasty snack. These can also be thrown into a salad, or into soups for some extra crunch.

Get the recipe here.

6. Dehydrated Vegetable Crisps

Struggling to get hold of your favourite fried snacks? Honestly, make these vegetable crisps and you’ll never look back. I am OBSESSED with dried veggie crisps! With just a little added sea salt, they’re oh-so-easy to make – and are a bit addictive, too! This recipe uses zucchini, squash, yams and carrots but I also love using beetroot, parsnip and sweet potato. Keep them in Ziplock bags to keep them fresh for weeks.

Get the recipe here.

7. Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce

Forget sugar-filled, store bought pasta sauces – make your own healthier version instead! This sweet, savoury and tart basil and garlic tomato sauce is seasoned to perfection. This sauce will easily last 18 months if you can it correctly in a dark, cool area. Once opened, it will keep in your fridge for up to 7 days. Perfect for a weeknight pasta dish!

Get the recipe here.

8. Cilantro-Lime Enchilada Sauce

This sauce is such a fabulous recipe to make for Mexican food lovers! Once canned, it can last up to a year in your pantry and is great to add some flavour to your favourite dishes, like tacos, enchiladas, or burritos.

Get the recipe here.

9. Pickled Red Onions

I love anything that’s pickled! Onions, cucumbers, gherkins…there’s something about the tanginess that has me salivating and going back for more. I always keep a jar of pickled red onions in my fridge and throw them on everything: salads, sandwiches even pasta! Onions are also a great way to stave off colds.

Get the recipe here.

10. Fermented Pickles with Garlic and Dill

If you’re a fellow crunchy pickle lover like me, then you’re going to want to make this recipe right now! These New York-style pickles are crispy, crunchy and full of flavour. They are fermented in salt brine and get their tanginess from light fermentation rather than vinegar. Full of healthy, gut-healing, immunity-boosting probiotics, they’re incredibly good for us.

Get the recipe here.

11. Dehydrated Hummus

What to do when you go to the shops and your beloved hummus is all out of stock? HOW WOULD WE VEGANS SURVIVE?! Ha ha. For real though, have this dehydrated hummus in your back pocket and you’ll never fear a shortage. It can be made with a few basic ingredients and then dehydrated. To bring it to life, take it out of its storage jar, mix with water and you’re good to go. It’s practically a miracle!

Get the recipe here.

12. Canned Tomato Salsa

I literally add some spicy salsa onto anything I can. I love dipping chips in it, I love smearing it on crackers and I even use it as a topping for a jacket potatoes. This canned salsa will last up to a year, and is made with essential pantry ingredients that most of us have on hand anyway.

Get the recipe here.

13. Dehydrated Cauliflower Popcorn

Cauliflower is severely underrated. My favourite way to use it is, of course, by making cauliflower BBQ wings, but a VERY close second is by dehydrating it into ‘popcorn’. Once you make this addictive snack, it will be a family favourite forever – yes, it’s that good! It stores super easily in disinfected jars, or just in a Ziplock bag.

Get the recipe here.

14. Cheezy Kale Crackers

Don’t let the snack attack strike and have nothing in your cupboards to satisfy your cravings! The flavour of these cheezy kale crackers is enhanced when you dehydrate them, and it’s another great recipe to make and store in jars or Ziplock bags. Perfect with a big dollop of hummus, too!

Get the recipe here.

15. Dehydrated Eggplant ‘Bacon’

It’s essential that you make and store food that you’re going to enjoy snacking on, and this dehydrated eggplant bacon is superb. You can eat it by itself as a snack, or use it in meals; break up and sprinkle in a salad or use it in sandwiches. It has a great smoky flavour and is a perfect meat-free alternative.

Get the recipe here.

16. Dehydrated Risotto

This recipe will allow you to tuck into a bowl of homemade risotto any time, any place. You can choose to preserve it by dehydrating it, but frankly, it’s also super easy to simply freeze. It’s the perfect meal on a rainy day or a chilly night! Simply rehydrate in boiling water or allow it to thaw for 24 hours before heating it up and tucking in.

Get the recipe here.

17. Turmeric Jalapeño Sauerkraut

Sure, making your own fermented sauerkraut may seem daunting, but it’s actually pretty foolproof. All you’ll need to do is ‘massage’ the cabbage with clean hands to work out the juices for about 5 minutes, before stirring in the other ingredients. Pour in a mix of 1 cup filtered water to 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band and you’re good to ferment this for at least 10 – 14 days to allow the good bacteria to grow. It’s a great immunity booster, too!

Get the recipe here.

18. Pink Lentil Soup

With food shortages here in the UK, there are lots of vulnerable people in need of assistance in getting meals. I added this jar recipe because I thought it was such a wonderful way to spread the love and help someone out during this time.

We all have old jars hanging about, so make these and gift them to people in need. All they have to do is cook the lentils in a bit of water, and add the dehydrated sachet, and they have a healthy meal ready to go.

Get the recipe here.

19. Bread and Butter Pickles

Are you a bit of a sandwich fanatic? Then in all honesty, you need this recipe! Bread and butter pickles are sweet, tangy, and go oh-so-well with just about any kind of sandwich combo you can imagine.

Get the recipe here.

20. Vegetable Preserves

Speaking of sandwiches, how would you like a steady supply of veggie preserves that taste amazing between two toasted slices? Whether you choose red peppers, eggplant, tomatoes or mushrooms, when they’re soaked in a herb and garlic-infused olive oil bath, they’ll be tasty as heck! Add them to pasta or rice dishes, or just eat them out of the jar. Yum!

Get the recipe here.

21. Homemade Strawberry Jam

A staple in many homes – strawberry jam! Make yours from organic strawberries for sure though – did you know these berries are by far one of the most heavily sprayed with pesticides?

There are many uses for strawberry jam; use it as a topping for both pancakes and French toast, or as a scrummy filling for crepes, doughnuts and thumbprint cookies. This jam stores for up to 18 months in a dark, cool place.

Get the recipe here.

22. Activated Apple Coconut Cacao Cookies

Who doesn’t love an all natural sweet from time to time? These raw cookies are naturally sweetened with apples and dates for a healthy snack that will satisfy both those chocolate and sweet tooth cravings! They’re also made with walnuts and almonds that have been soaked and activated instead of using flour. You can either freeze these for up to 12 months, or store in the fridge for a few weeks.

Get the recipe here.

23. Peanut Butter Banana Fruit Roll Ups

This is a fun way to make fruit roll-ups that will appeal to both the adults and the kids! These taste super sweet, almost like a banana chip, but with the added benefit of some protein from the peanut butter. Quick, easy, and super tasty – just make these in the dehydrator and store in some plastic containers for up to 12 months.

Get the recipe here.

24. Banana Chips

Bananas are a staple food for many of us, but they can ripen super quick and there are only so many smoothies you can stomach, am I right? This recipe is easy to make, and is heaps more affordable than the price of store-bought banana chips.

Keep them plain, or add some cinnamon or nutmeg. You can snack on these as are, or add them to some granola or trail mix, or even bake them into cookies!

Get the recipe here.

preserved food ideas

25. Fruit Roll-Ups

This is one of the most essential preserved food ideas if you have kids! The best thing about making fruit rolls ups is that you can pretty much use any fruit combination you like. Strawberries, raspberries, mango, peaches, apricots, apples…and you can even use frozen fruit if that’s all you have on hand.

Get the recipe here.

26. Homemade Nut Butters

One of the best things you can make to fill your belly and keep you healthy is a good nut butter. Choose any nut you like, but you can bet there will be loads of protein, vitamin E and fibre in this treat. Smear it on crackers, fruit roll ups, toast, or even on some banana bread for a delish boost of vegan protein! This recipe below, for almond butter, will keep for years when properly canned.

Get the recipe here.

Main image credit here.

Lora O'Brien

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