According to an Australian author and physician, you do not have to be a great cook or expert to preserve food and conserve leftovers without a refrigerator.

Pietro Demaio, a Melbourne GP and author of Preserving the Italian Way, said that people have known for a long time how to preserve food by using various methods, including pickling, fermenting, canning and drying.

“Historically they had sun, they had salt, they had vinegar… and they had oil and with those four ingredients, you can literally preserve anything,” Demaio said to Every Day.

In this way, food can last for weeks, months or even years. Jam, pickled vegetables, salami and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) are all popular preserves made at home.

Demaio believes that adequate hygiene, high-quality ingredients, suitable salt, acid, and in the correct proportion are essential for practical food preservation.

“But stick to the basic principle… of salt, vinegar (acid), time, and keeping the air away [by putting] the olive oil on the top,” he added.

The salt-to-acid ratio is highly significant because salt and acid are preservatives in salty foods.

“What the salt does, it actually ‘cooks’ the meat or the protein,” Dr Demaio said. “You have acid because acid is a great preservative and antibacterial.”

According to Demaio, you must be sure that the salt does not include iodine.

“Because the iodine is an antibacterial, and the bacteria in the food is most often a friendly one … which [you want to keep because it] lowers the pH and acts as a preservative,” he explained.

It is essential to ensure that hands, tools, and storage containers are all clean in terms of hygiene, Demaio added.

Meanwhile, food writer Dani Valent suggests starting with lemons if you are new at preserving. They are in supply right now, and they could be created in time for Christmas gifts.

“I tell you there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more exciting and satisfying than saying ‘I grew these eggplants or green tomatoes, and I would I’d like to share it with you’,” Valent went on to say.

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