Canning vs. Fermenting Food - Which Is Better?

by Holistic_Health

Both canning and fermenting evolved before refrigeration. They were used to prolong the life of food and allowed people to store food for times when it was hard to come by.

With the economy still in rough shape, many people are interested in saving money. There’s no better way than preserving food, and the traditional methods of canning and fermenting food are generating a lot of interest. While you may have heard the terms, you most likely don’t know what the two practices involve. So, let’s take a look at these two ways of preserving food.

Both canning and fermenting evolved before refrigeration. They were used to prolong the life of food and allowed people to store food for times when it was hard to come by, as well as eat food out of season. Both processes store food in jars, but the equipment list is where the similarities end.

Harsch crock with ceramic weights

By Bdubay (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Canning Food

When canning vegetables, the emphasis is on sterilization. The ingredients are placed within the jar with the lids on, and then they are processed with high heat to cook the food and seal it in the jar.

In some recipes, jars are canned by submerging them in boiling water and allowing them to cook for a certain period of time. Other recipes require a pressure cooker, which combines the use of heat and pressure to cook and seal the jars.

These foods can be kept for several years, because there is little to no bacterial activity. When the ingredients are cooked at such high temperatures, any living organisms in the food are also killed.

While this makes the food safe to eat months in the future, it can be argued that the same process kills off beneficial organisms that the body can make use of. In other words, the nutritional value is diminished.

TSM Products Fermentation Crock

What Is Fermentation?

With fermentation, the ingredients are also placed within a jar, but instead of cooking the food, the jars sit at room temperature and the natural sugar in the vegetables is encouraged to start of process of ‘lacto fermentation’.

The vegetables are cut or sliced to release the water and natural sugars inside, then placed at the bottom of the jar. Salt and spices are added. Once everything is completely submerged in liquid, salt, and spices, the container is covered and kept away from sunlight.

The advantage to fermenting food is that the nutrient levels of the foods stay high. In fact, many times the nutrients are increased during the fermentation process. Additionally, the live cultures within the fermented foods are good for your health. They promote a healthy gut and strengthen the immune system.

Of course there is more to learn about each process, but this is a quick primer on the two methods. Now that you know the difference between the two types of food preservation, you can make an informed decision.

Updated: 06/15/2014, Holistic_Health
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Do you eat fermented foods?

Holistic_Health on 07/19/2014

@cazort I adore Korean food. They make fermentation an art form. Thanks for commenting.

cazort on 07/19/2014

I've gotten really into Korean cuisine lately, and they have a huge array of fermented foods, from the tremendous variety of kimchi, to Doenjang, the fermented soybean paste that is often used as a base for stews. I've never made any fermented food at home, but my parents make yogurt regularly, several of my friends have also brewed their own beer, and a few of my friends have made their own kimchi. I tend to like fermented foods quite a lot, and I've come to like them even more since becoming familiar with Korean food, which uses them so centrally.

Holistic_Health on 06/04/2014

@ologsinquito Yes, I've loved fermented food since childhood. I'm addicted to anything pickled. Thanks for the pin!

Holistic_Health on 06/04/2014

@Mira Yes, I haven't done much with fermenting grains, but I want to.

Mira on 06/03/2014

I liked this article and Violette's idea of fermenting grains.

ologsinquito on 06/03/2014

I really like that fermentation pot. I've been hearing a lot about the benefits of fermented food. Pinned to my Natural Remedies and Health Lifestyle board.

Holistic_Health on 06/03/2014

@VioletteRose Very true! If you have digestive problems fermented foods are ideal.

VioletteRose on 06/02/2014

Thanks for writing this, I didn't know much about the canning process. I really believe the fermentation of foods is good for health, especially the fermentation of grains. The traditional recipes from fermented grains are much popular in India as they are great for digestive health.

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