AUGUSTA — In Maine, freezing and hot water bath canning are the two most economical means of preserving the harvest at home, according to a new study by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, just in time for this year’s growing season.
The study, “The Cost of Preserving in Maine,” by UMaine Extension Associate Professor and Registered Dietitian Kathy Savoie and Kate McCarty, Community Education Assistant, found freezing fruits and vegetables was most cost-efficient at an average 38 cents per pound including 16 cents in energy per pound, compared to 73 cents per pound including 01 cents in energy per pound using the hot water bath canning method.
The most costly preservation method at triple times the expense: pressure canning, at an estimated $1.14 per pound including 03 cents of energy cost per pound. Drying was the third most costly preservation method at an average 99 cents per pound including 32 cents in energy cost per pound.
The costs were determined using average energy and preservation equipment prices in Maine, which may vary by location. The formulas for kilowatt-hour use during freezing and blanching, cost of repairs of equipment, and appliance energy use come from USDA research.
“Home food preservation has rebounded as the approach to extend year-round access to local foods. Home food preservers play an important role in supporting Maine agriculture and a sustainable local food system.” says Savoie, who has been providing educational programming related to nutrition, food safety, and food preservation since 1996. The cost of energy used in the preservation methods, as well as packaging materials/equipment required, should be considered. There are also noneconomic factors to take into account: taste, preferences, storage space and price of equipment. A diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables each contain important nutrients and contribute to a healthy diet.
Indeed, a survey of 2,606 participants in UMaine Extension food preservation workshops found only 40 percent cited saving money as a reason for preserving. The top three reasons: increasing year-round consumption of locally grown foods, personal satisfaction and desire to preserve homegrown produce.
Among the study’s other cost-related facts to take into consideration when preserving the harvest:
- The cost of a freezer is the greatest expense associated with using freezing as a method of food preservation. However, the longer a freezer lasts, the less the cost per year to preserve.
- Despite the higher cost to pressure-can a pound of food, there are reasons one would chose it over freezing, including the frequency of power outages in your area.
- While hot water bath canning is a less expensive method of preserving than pressure canning, food safety recommendations limit the products that can be preserved using the hot water bath canning method. Only high-acid foods such as jams, jellies, salsa, tomato products, and pickles can be preserved using a boiling water bath canner. Low-acid products such as vegetables and meat must be pressure canned or frozen.
- Maine’s high humidity and low nighttime temperatures prevent successful outdoor or solar dehydrating, which means an electric dehydrator or oven must be used. And while the cost for this preservation method are highest, it is best for creating lightweight snacks essential for outdoor recreational activities.
- Cold storage or root cellaring is a low-cost way to store fruit and vegetables in Maine. Apples, root vegetables (potatoes, beets, rutabagas), carrots, garlic and onions are best suited for cold storage and can last several months longer if stored in the right conditions.
A copy of the full report can be online at https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4032e/
For more information on UMaine Extension Home Food Preservation resources including hands-on workshops and publications https://extension.umaine.edu/food-health/food-preservation/
—University of Maine Cooperative Extension
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