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By Jacquie Foote Its time to consider canning again not…
October 3, 2013 | No Comments

By Jacquie Foote Its time to consider canning again not only because its that time of year again but also because the pundits have some…

By Jacquie Foote

Its time to consider canning again not only because its that time of year again but also because the pundits have some new suggestions for us.

As you know, early Geaugans used many age-old methods, namely storing in cold cellars, salting, drying, smoking (often combined with salting), pickling (preserving in brine) and that newcomer, canning. Different methods were favored for preserving different foods.

Salting, smoking and potting were most often used for meats. Pigs (pork was one of the principal meats of the settlers) were slaughtered in autumn when the pig was fatter and there would be enough time to salt it down well and smoke it to preserve it. Further insuring preservation, the smoked meat was usually stored in a cool place. Think root cellar.

Pickling (salting as in making bacon), drying (as in making pemmican) and, in time, canning (as in corned beef) and potting (as in pate) were all methods used for preserving both meats and fish.

Cold storage (basement or root cellar) was preferred for beverages such as beer, ale, wine and cider, as well as for eggs, vegetables and fruits. Straw was even then recognized as a good insulator and was frequently used to protect delicate foods from extreme temperatures. Apples and potatoes were often stored in the root cellar in barrels between layers of straw.

Root cellars were also used to store dairy products, pickles, barrels of salted meats and, in winter, fresh meat, which could only be kept for a short time. Some households stored food that were to be used soon in a spring or well, in containers set right into the cold water or in the cooled air near it. Some built and maintained icehouses or dedicated large sections of their cellars to cold storage. If only enough for family use was required, a room on the north side of a house or in a cellar or small springhouse would suffice.

Pickling … or coating with salt … was used for some foods wed think unusual for this treatment. Take butter, for example. Milk could be converted into cheese and preserved by applying a thick coat of wax. (For safety, the cheeses were then placed in the root cellar.) But butter would have to be well coated with salt for preservation. (It would have to be soaked to remove the salt coat before being used as food.)

Foods to be dried were usually sliced thin and strung up by fireplaces or laid out in racks in the sun on dry, sunny days.

Potted meat came into its own after canning became available and popular. It is a food made using a method that includes packing into crocks and, later, jars or cans a cooked meat product that had been seasoned, creamed, minced or ground. Various meats such as beef, pork, chicken and turkey are used. Potted meats have a long shelf life. However, the high content of fat, salt and, nowadays, preservatives may make it unsuitable for frequent consumption. The final product typically is spreadable.

As for canning itself, it began its illustrious history with Nicolas Appert of France who, in 1795, discovered that food sealed in glass bottles under heat was effectively preserved. Then, in 1810, Englishman Peter Durand patented the tin can packaging process. Getting into those cans was quite a chore until Edward J. Warner of Connecticut patented the first can-opener in 1848. That was 38 years of opening cans with hacksaws and the like.

For information on the events at the Geauga County Historical Society’s Burton Century Village Museum, call 440-834-1492 or visit our website at www.geaugahistorical.org

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