Methods of food storage have been practised for centuries. From the first methods of drying and curing, to canning and finally the modern luxury of freezing, humans have a history of packing and saving food items for storage. The best method of storage depends on the item being stored and the length of storage time needed.
Freezing is the most universally effective method for food storage. Most foods, outside of delicate items such as whipping cream, eggs, leafy vegetables and cheeses, can be stored in the freezer for extended periods of time. Meat, baked goods, fruits, certain vegetables and fish can all be stored in the freezer for multiple months as long as the items are properly packaged to prevent dry out and freezer burn. Freezer ziplock bags and freezer-safe locking containers are best for freezer storage.
Canning, along with curing and drying, is a traditional method of food storage and preservation dating to the periods before the advent of refrigeration. Canning was originally used for the storage of fruits and vegetables during the winter months when fresh items were not available. Most canned items include jams, jellies, preserved fruits, pickled cucumbers, asparagus, beets, green beans, onions and garlic. Canning is done using pressure or boiling to remove air from the inside of the jar and seal the lid.
Though it is possible to can meat and fish, for home storage purposes it is more common to dry or cure meat and fish in order to store for extended periods of time. Drying meat into jerky is the usual product of drying game meat. Fish has also been dry preserved for centuries by dry packing the meat in salt. Dried salted fish can last for months without any refrigeration. Many vegetables and fruits are dried for storage as well including chilli peppers and tomatoes. Drying is done either using the traditional sun-drying method or by using a dehydrator machine.
Curing is a process that allows meat to be stored at room temperature. Meats such as salami, pepperoni, cured ham and prosciutto are all air-cured meats. Cured meats are generally preserved with salts, nitrates and nitrites and then cured for a period of time in a dry, climate-controlled area.
Airtight sealing is the shortest term storage for the majority of foods. Some foods, like marshmallows, dry noodles, rice and chocolate chips, can stay fresh for many months if sealed in an airtight container or bag. However, the majority of fresh foods including vegetables, fruits, breads, meats, crackers, cookies and cheeses cannot stay fresh in a sealed bag for long. Plastic ziplock bags, locking containers and screw-top jars are great short-term storage devices for items consumed within one to two weeks.