A jar of pickled onions on a wooden board with some flowers in the background

Top Tips for Preserving Foods


It is fall season here in Northern Europe with us heading into winter only all too quickly. One of my favorite things to do this time of the year is preserving food. Preserving, really, is an age-old tradition that allowed many generations of humans to survive whilst there was little to no crop during the winter months. In today’s world – with rising produce costs and a heightened awareness of food waste, I believe it becomes ever more important to know how to properly preserve. So, here are my top tips for preserving foods. I have added some pickling and fermenting ideas if you want to try it out.

Top Tips for Preserving Foods

Homemade Sauerkraut in glass jar on a white background
Homemade Sauerkraut

Clean, Clean, Clean

My first tip might be an obvious one, but perhaps then not so. Clean, clean clean. Ensure that you have a clean workbench, clean glasses, clean knives, clean everything. The reason why you want it as clean as possible is because else bacteria can get into and onto the food that you are trying to preserve and spoil it.

Easy Fig Jam in a glass with a small wooden spoon inside surrounded by cheese and crackers
Easy Fig Jam

Sanitize Your Glasses

After you have washed your glasses with hot water and soap, be sure to sanitize them. There are two main ways how you can do this. (1) Fill them with boiling water or cover in a pot where you are having boiling water. This needs to be done carefully, because I am all to aware this can be dangerous and you do not want to spill hot water on yourself. I tend to work with my long, stainless steel BBQ tongs when I am handling the glasses with hot water. (2) You can add them to your oven and heat the glasses to 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) for ca. 20 minutes. Be careful with lids, should those contain plastic. I would only pour hot water on them.

Delicious Vegan Kimchi photographed up close
Delicious Vegan Kimchi

For Fermented or Pickled Foods

Be sure to submerge the foods in enough water from the pickling or fermenting process. If you are fermenting (for example sauerkraut or kimchi or pickled onions or cucumbers, be sure to have everything under water. With Sauerkraut or kimchi, you can also fold one of the cabbage leaves and press the kraut down before closing the lid.

Homemade pickled onions being taken out with a fork, photographed up close
Homemade Pickled Onions

For Foods that Need Cooking

If you are making juices, chutneys, or sauces (e.g. apple sauce, fig jam, or tomato sauce), be sure to cook the filled, closed glasses in a water bath with – preferably – a closed lid. This will ensure that the air and steam build pressure inside the glass. Once the glass is cold again, both will draw out and build a vacuum which essentially holds the goods inside airtight 😉. The time kind of depends with regards to the cooking process, I usually cook them for ca. 30 minutes.

Korean-style Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchi Jeon) photographed as a close-up from the side
Korean-style Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchi Jeon)

For Foods That Are Filled In Hot

If you are cooking jams for example, you will likely fill them into glasses piping hot. Add to your sterilized glass jars, close the lids and immediately turn them onto their lid. Leave there until cold. This will create the same effect as the water bath, it will create a vacuum and seal in the goods airtight.

Korean-inspired Quince Tea (MoGua)

How Long To Store?

Once your goods are fully cooled through, you can easily store them in a cool, dark, and dry place for up to a year. Pickled goods usually last ca. 3 – 4 months and need to be kept in the fridge. Your glasses should still “pop” when opening this means that they continued to be sealed airtight. If you are unsure whether your food is still preserved – do a sniff test or try a very small amount. As always, when in doubt, do not eat.

I hope these tips have helped you with preserving your favorite foods and ensuring that they are ready to be used for many months to come!! Enjoy the cooking and preserving season and process 🥰. Beautiful cover photo by Prchi Palwe on Unsplash.

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