|The Thomas Garden 2015|
Maybe things were treated just as we treat them today. Potatoes, onions, carrots, rutabagas, and turnips were dug and stored. Root cellars were common, but without one, these crops could still be stored under the floorboards of a cabin or even in baskets along the wall away from the heat source.
Fruits could be sugared and cooked into preserves to be stored in crocks or jars. The tops of the crocks were sealed with wax or lard to prevent spoilage.
Certain vegetables could be salted and kept for most of the winter, like cabbages (sauerkraut), cucumbers (pickles), and green beans. These were combined with a salty brine and kept submerged in the brine in large crocks. Meats could also be brined for storage, salt pork being the most common, but also corned (pickled) beef or venison.
Drying fruits and vegetables was a common method for preservation. It required no crocks, brine, or sugar. One way was to string the fruits and vegetables on a thin twine with a sharp needle attached. Long strings of these foods could be hung in the attic or from the rafters and plucked off as needed. Depending on heat and humidity, they may take a month to fully dry out. Another method was to lay them out between two layers of cloth stretched in the full sun. The top cloth kept insects from getting in.
Naturally dried foods like beans and peas were gathered and kept in baskets or bags. Today we harvest our peas while they are tender and green, but in colonial times, they were allowed to dry in the shell. These would be shelled when they were needed and the husks fed to the livestock.
Herbs were generally harvested at their peak of freshness and tied into bundles then hung upside-down to dry. Herbs were used to flavor food, but many also served for medicinal purposes.
Next time you're tempted to complain about the price of food in the supermarket check-out line, take a minute and appreciate what your ancestors had to go through to collect that much food for their families.
~ Pegg Thomas