We know that food doesn’t last forever, and the main cause of food spoilage is microorganisms. Those living beings contaminate our food, being harmful to our health. Others are not harmful, but still decompose the food and make it undesirable to consume.
To preserve food, we need to inhibit or stop the growth of microorganisms that will shorten the shelf life of the food.. In this article we are going to see what are the ten of the most outstanding human preservation techniques.
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Top 10 ways to preserve food
Beyond the use of the refrigerator or freezer, there are other very important techniques for preserving foods that have been decisive in our evolutionary history. Not everything is the cold of these appliances when it comes to food preservation.
Below we are going to present different food preservation techniques that we have developed to preserve our food.
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Dehydration is a strategy to reduce the proportion of water in a food.. The less water there is in a food, the more problems microbes have to survive and multiply in it.
The sun and low-temperature wood-fired ovens have been the most traditional methods, although today more modern machines that emit air and heat are used.
Raisins, dates and dried apricots are examples of dehydrated fruits. In addition, if we remove water, the proportion of natural sugars in the food is higher. The high sugar content of a food also inhibits microbial growth and subsequent spoilage.
2. Jams and jellies
If in the case of dried fruit water is removed in order to have less water, the opposite is true in this case. In the case of jams and jellies, sugar is added to the fruit to increase the concentration of sugars..
Sugar has a high affinity with water and its high concentration prevents microorganisms from growing, so jams and jellies can last for months or even years.
Oil is an effective preservative agent because it reduces the availability of oxygen to aerobic bacteria, i.e. bacteria that use oxygen to survive and replicate.that is, those that use oxygen to survive and replicate. Its ability to isolate the surrounding environment limits the possible contamination of volatile foods.
Unfortunately, it does not have the capacity to have an effect on anaerobic bacteria, so this technique is always associated with other techniques such as cooking.
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Vacuum packaging is a technique based on drastically reducing the exposure of food to oxygen in the air.. Thanks to low permeability plastic films, the product is isolated and the air inside the packaging is removed.
It is generally applied to fresh or treated meats and extends the shelf life. However, microorganisms that develop in anaerobic conditions (without oxygen) can remain and act. Combining it with the cold of the refrigerator is the best option.
Foods exposed to smoke achieve a longer shelf life and a tasty flavor.. This technique was discovered at the time when humans began to master fire.
The smoke creates a dry current that causes the food to lose water. In addition, smoked products acquire their characteristic flavor thanks to certain substances that come from the wood.
6. Vinegar or marinade
Vinegar is very useful for preserving food because it is an acid that inhibits the growth of many organisms.. Although it does not prevent all bacteria, acidic environments prevent many microorganisms from surviving.
Soaking foods in an acidic environment such as vinegar makes it safe to eat certain types of foods for very long periods of time, up to months or years.
It is often combined with the use of salt or brine to make foods more dehydrated and can facilitate the vinegar preservation process. Pickles, beets, olives, mushrooms and carrots are some examples.
In fermentation, microorganisms that are beneficial to us are allowed to grow in a food, preventing others from growing.. For example, if we enhance the action of certain lactobacilli and streptococci in fresh milk, we will transform something so nutritious but perishable into yogurt, which lasts much longer.
So vinegar is not the only acid used to preserve food. In lactic fermentation the pH also drops and the food gains shelf life, since other microorganisms cannot compete with those already present under these conditions.
In alcoholic fermentation, instead of having a pH drop, the final product contains alcohol. Saccharomyces Cerevisiae is a yeast that produces alcohol in its metabolism. It can survive in environments containing moderate concentrations of the generated alcohol itself, but most microorganisms have a much more difficult time.
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Pasteurization is a thermal process applied to liquid foods, since many microbes die at high temperatures. The aim of pasteurization is to drastically reduce the presence of germs without them disappearing. Sterilization, on the other hand, does kill all heat-sensitive organisms.
The pasteurization procedure is based on subjecting the liquid food to an injection of steam under pressure for less than one second, which reaches 150ºC. The food is then rapidly cooled and sealed under food safety conditions. This makes very sensitive products such as milk or juices last much longer.
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Salting is the action of salting a food to make it suitable for future consumption.. The main effect of salting is the partial dehydration of the food, the reinforcement of the taste and the inhibition of some bacteria.
Flavoring elements, such as cinnamon or dill, are often used during the later stages of the process and may be accompanied by fermentation processes. This method can be done by applying the salt or brine dry directly to the product surface or by injecting brine into the tissues.
Meat and fish are the products to which this technique is most commonly applied, although it could also be used on fruits and vegetables.
10. Herbs or plants
Certain plants are used as a resource for preserving food. Cinnamon, pepper, cloves, cloves, lemon, garlic, onion, rosemary, green anise, sage, turmeric, ginger or oregano are examples of this.
Each plant has its own specific compounds that help to fight certain microorganisms.. For example, in garlic and onions we find different flavonoids or sulfur compounds, which slow down the oxidation of many foods and prevent many pathogens from growing.
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