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Eric S.

Historic Food Storage Techniques

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Good afternoon!

I have recently joined this forum and already have a few questions in mind. Historically humans didn't always have the advantages of refrigerators and other more more modern food preservation aids, what recipes and foods did they use to maximize the shelf life of their food? Doing some preliminary research revealed several recipes such as various sugar preserves or conserves, Joe froggers, pemmican, hard tack, hermit cookies, portable soup and salt pork. The most widespread food storage seems to rely on salt or sugar to reduce the moisture of a recipe and provide anti-microbial properties. 

Here is a great article on Joe Froggers: https://blog.library.si.edu/blog/2016/11/01/joe-froggers-weight-past-cookie/#.XcskjVdKgZ0

And I would also recommend checking out the YouTube channel Townsend, they have great historical recipes for pemmican, hard tack, portable soup and other dishes. https://www.youtube.com/user/jastownsendandson

Thank you for your time!

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I think it's worth remembering the vast majority of humanity still doesn't have refrigeration and other "modern" preservation aids.

 

That said, preserving foods has gone on since pre-history. Salting, fermenting, drying, smoking, curing, canning, pickling and more  were all used as a means of preservation centuries ago. Many food preservation techniques still used today in the developed world were invented or accidentally discovered, then used to preserve food, but we still eat them today - because we like them. Not because we need still to preserve them. Bacon, smoked salmon, kippers, cheese, yoghurt, pickles. All around the world, people are preserving food just as they have for millenia.

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One of the things I appreciate about Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown is that historic methods of food preservation pop up from time to time. For instance, the seafaring Basque didn't salt their cod, they just dried it.

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Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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2 hours ago, liuzhou said:

I think it's worth remembering the vast majority of humanity still doesn't have refrigeration and other "modern" preservation aids.

 

That said, preserving foods has gone on since pre-history. Salting, fermenting, drying, smoking, curing, canning, pickling and more  were all used as a means of preservation centuries ago. Many food preservation techniques still used today in the developed world were invented or accidentally discovered, then used to preserve food, but we still eat them today - because we like them. Not because we need still to preserve them. Bacon, smoked salmon, kippers, cheese, yoghurt, pickles. All around the world, people are preserving food just as they have for millenia.

 

Yes  we have a deep history in the US in such classics as Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. The ice house was a luxury. Canning of course as well as fermentation. We tend to have a "set it and forget it mindset" and do not remember our legacy.  Many of our younger chefs in LA are preserving in classic ways. Certainly NOMA in Denmark has been an influence. . I like it.  https://www.amazon.com/Noma-Guide-Fermentation-lacto-ferments-Foundations/dp/1579657184

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See the book Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation

Also research any technique via Google Books and/or Archive.org.

Search for the term(s) in Google Books then select "Any Books", and then "Free Google eBooks" that will give you sources of information that are old and out of copyright.

There are other options to refine your search, date, etc.

HTH

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~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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Prior to refrigeration, meat was primarily preserved by drying, smoking or salt-curing. All are still practiced today, with modern assistance. 

 

Vegetables, particularly corn and legumes, were left on the plant until dried, and then harvested, to be saved and used over winter months. Fruits were dried. As a child, I helped my grandmother, whose young adulthood was in the rural South pre-electricity, lay apple and peach slices, berries and cherries out on sheets on the roof to dry; they'd be taken in at night, put back out in the morning, Potatoes were dug, layered in wooden boxes with straw, and stored in the cellar. Softer vegetables were canned or pickled, at least in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when glass jars were readily available. Before that, I expect they were simply eaten in the summer and not the winter.

 

Large meals were cooked at noon for the folks working in the fields, and dishes of food were left on the table, covered with a cloth, until supper, when they were finished off at room temperature.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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...and then, if we want to talk *seriously* old-school food storage techniques, there's this:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/10/the-worlds-oldest-leftovers-left-in-pleistocene-storage-containers/

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“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Thank you guys for your awesome feedback, I will definitely have to check out those cool books about various salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, curing, canning, pickling, drying and other preservation aids. I'm glad it was pointed out that  humans have kept some food preservation techniques simply for taste and I will definitely have to check out Anthony Bourdain's show and see if I can find any Pleistocene storage containers laying around. I'll probably post some more recipes here soon once I find more :)

Thank you guys!

Eric S.

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I'm 80 and was born and raised on my grandparents farm, which during the 1940s, the war years, was pretty much self-sufficient.  It was a very large farm and my grandfather also owned a grist mill, a sawmill, a sorghum processor, smokehouse and an ice plant.

 

There were fruit orchards and drying sheds - galvanized metal roofs with screened in sides that got really hot on sunny days.

There was a lot of canning, meats were turned into sausage and smoked.  Hams, bacon, geese, ducks, fish, etc were also smoked. 

Pickles, several varieties and pickled vegetables, three varieties of sauerkraut and something made with crabapples, which I never liked.

A couple of kinds of cheeses that were preserved in brine.

And my grandfather's cook had a "secret" process for drying crawdads from which she made a Gullah stew from the lowcountry. 

 

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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14 minutes ago, andiesenji said:

 

And my grandfather's cook had a "secret" process for drying crawdads from which she made a Gullah stew from the lowcountry. 

 

 

Wow that is interesting. I grew up with crawdads at the local lakes but never heard that!

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5 hours ago, heidih said:

 

Wow that is interesting. I grew up with crawdads at the local lakes but never heard that!

She never made it for us. It was one of the dishes she made for her family and the few other Gullah people who had come to Kentucky to work for my grandfather and his brothers because they paid so much better than employers in So. Carolina. 

She cooked crawdads for us in other ways but this was a stew cooked outside in a big iron pot and like gumbo, included okra, corn on the cob broken into pieces, beans and greens which she never cooked for the big house.  

She used a hand-cranked wire tumbler  set over a low fire to dry the crawdads, had one of her sons or a grandson turning it.  All I can remember was that it smelled odd.  

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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15 hours ago, andiesenji said:

And my grandfather's cook had a "secret" process for drying crawdads from which she made a Gullah stew from the lowcountry. 

 

 

Fascinating. I never heard of it, either. They were, I presume, roasted in the shell? I'd be tempted to try that if I could figure out how to do it.


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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