Nowadays, everyone is trying to lose weight. A common complaint is that it is too expensive to keep fruits and vegetables at your house. The shelf life is so short that the product often goes bad before you get a chance to eat it. Then you have to throw it away and buy new stuff, but it’s discouraging and can often feel like throwing away money. Most people just head to the junk food aisle and settle on unhealthy snacks that promote weight gain and heart problems instead of learning ways to preserve the healthy, fresh food.
So how can you preserve those ‘farmers market’ foods so that you can keep them on hand for a healthy lifestyle? One popular method is ‘canning’. Canning food is a great way to keep your products for a long time, neatly organized in your food cabinet. There are two ways to can: The boiling water method and the pressure canning method. Both are safe, and the method used will depend on what food you’re canning. Low acid foods can be preserved by pressure cooking because of their pH levels (under 4.6). Higher acid foods (about 4.6), need to be preserved using the boiling water method. Here’s where it gets tricky. If you have a food that is close to a 4.6 pH level, you will need to add acid to it. The reason high acid foods can be preserved simply by using the boiling water method, is because they have enough acid so that Clostridium botulinum spores can not grow their harmful, often deadly, toxin. Foods like tomato and figs need extra acid so that the shelf life can sustain an environment without harmful growth on the food.
I’ve found citric acid to be the best additive to prevent bacteria growth, both in canning and simple preservation of fruits, vegetables and other foods. Whether or not you prefer to can is irrelevant. That is just one of the ways to keep your food fresher, for longer. If you are just looking to add days to the shelf life of your fruits or vegetables, you can add the citric acid directly, not needing any special type of processing or cans to keep the food fresh.
Many stores and websites sell citric acid to the average consumer. Oftentimes it is packaged under the name ‘sour salt’. It can come packaged looking like a spice in a shake container, or by the bag. Some companies sell it by the pound, so you can get the biggest bang for your buck. Buying by the pound will save you money and allow you to use it for various things. Do your research and you will find citric acid has multiple benefits, far beyond food preservation.