Fridge-less Living: Our Favorite Food Preservation Methods and Tips

Our favorite old-time food preservation methods include canning and storing food in a root cellar, drying fruits and vegetables and pickling.

| August/September 1998

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    Building an outdoor root cellar: 1) Dig pit in a hillside.
    ILLUSTRATION: VINCENT BABAK
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    The ideal basement root cellar is convenient and maintains the correct temperature all year.
    VINCENT BABAK
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    2) Dig drainage and lay foundation.
    VINCENT BABAK
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    3) Building log crib.
    VINCENT BABAK
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    4) Soil and sod over roof; add drain pipe. Fill floor with gravel.
    VINCENT BABAK
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    Grinding mill for corn, wheat, seeds, coffee or anything dry or oily.
    JEAN GARDNER
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    Natural refrigeration saves energy and money.
    VINCENT BABAK
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    Building an outdoor root cellar: 1) Dig pit in a hillside.
    JEAN GARDNER
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    An electricity-free hanging food dryer.
    JEAN GARDNER
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    A chamomile rake can be used for harvesting other blossoms and seedpods as well.
    JEAN GARDNER
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    "Leather britches"
    JEAN GARDNER

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What our great-grandparents called "common storage" — simple, commonsensical, hand-done, low-or-no-energy ways of putting up home-garden and orchard crops — is far from common any more. Now, most of us are content fed by the SooperDooper and fueled by Exxon.

Who hills soil over rutabagas — or even grows them? — or mulches winter-keeping cabbage under straw for harvest over the winter holidays?

Why bother steaming up the kitchen to make dandelion jelly when the Keebler elves or Mr. Smucker's grandchildren will do it for us?

So many of our old-time food preservation methods have been discarded. Hardly anyone remembers how to sun-dry food anymore either. Dried apricots are shipped in from California all bagged in plastic and soaked in sulfur "to retain color," while little electrical food dryers are pitched in TV advertorials to make salt-and-sugar-soaked snacks.



Few of us remember how to put up winter vegetables the old ways anymore either — by air-drying green beans into "leather britches," braiding up garden-cured onions and packing potatoes in hay and carrots in moist sand down in the root cellar.

MOTHER remembers...remembers both the good old ways of "common," low-energy storage and the crises of weather and worse that made these techniques of hand-powered self-reliance the difference between dearth and plenty, health and illness, in times past.






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