Grow It! Preserving Food for Winter

Richard Langer explains how to preserve your harvest for winter by drying fruits, fermenting sauerkraut, building root cellars and churning homemade butter.

| January/February 1974

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    You can construct a simple outdoor fruit drying rack from scrap lumber and layers of wire screen.
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    Make the root crop storage mound half as high as it is wide. When the temperature falls below 25 degrees, close off ends of trenches with packed soil and put a bigger can on top so that half an inch of screening is left uncovered.
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    Use this fruit storage barrel to preserve only fruit that is not bruised and has no worm holes or other flaws. When temperature falls below 25 degrees, replace inner screen cover with a solid wood one.

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At last! For the first time since the Have-More Plan was published way back in the 1940's, a fellow named Richard W. Langer has come up with a 365-page book that really introduces a beginner to small-scale farming. Want to raise your own fruit, nuts, berries, vegetables, grain, chickens, pigs, ducks, geese and honeybees? GROW IT! tells you how to get started. We like it, so check out this chapter about techniques for drying fruits, the process of fermenting sauerkraut, tips for storing your harvest for winter and how to make homemade butter from goat's milk.  

SPECIAL NOTE: All material here printed from GROW IT! Copyright ©1972 by Richard W. Langer. 

Chapter Excerpt: The Larder

Let them make sausage of me and serve me up to the students.—ARISTOPHANES 

One of my fondest memories of childhood was sneaking into the ice shed and chipping off a sawdust-flavored "popsicle" in the heat of midsummer. The ice shed wasn't a house where an ice machine was kept, our ice machine was a pond in winter. The ice was cut into large blocks from the center of the lake by timber saw and then hauled by sled to the ice shed, where it was covered with layers of insulating sawdust. Come summer, the frozen pond still fed the icebox. A real icebox.

In winter the memories were made from the earthy smell of the root cellar, from the salted meat and fish, the onions and the dried rose hips in the pantry, and from the kitchen wood box. Often I wonder how the world has been able to so thoroughly obliterate these glorious aromas. And then I find, in the country again, that it hasn't.

Drying Fruit

Many fruits—peaches, plums, or cherries, for instance—do not store well in the cold cellar for more than a few weeks because they are soft and easily bruised. This, however, doesn't mean they can't be kept, only that the method of preservation is different.

Dried fruit has been an important dietary staple for centuries. But the commercially dried fruit available today is riddled with sulfur. The function of sulfur is essentially that of a cosmetic: it keeps the fruit from darkening in color. In some cases, it also tenderizes it. Sulfur in small quantities may be of some use as a trace element in the diet. The quantities consumed when dried fruits are made a steady dietary supplement, however, certainly can't be beneficial. Fruit does not have to be sulfured for storage. Naturally dried fruits will be darker and a little chewier, but they'll be all fruit.

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