Keeping it Fresh like it’s 1621

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pickles in clear jars

It’s inconceivable for most of us today to imagine life without our handy domestic iceboxes. But like so much in our modern world, they’ve been in existence for scarce over a century.  The first domestic refrigerator was invented in 1913, but it wouldn’t be until after World War II that mass production would scale up enough for the machines to become an essential feature in Kitchens everywhere in the United States. It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that over half of British households had fridges.

Naturally, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower left for America three centuries before the fridge came to be, meaning they had to rely on other methods of food preservation when looking to start their colony. They weren’t alone – securing supplies of food to last through the year has been the challenge facing every civilization since the first time a hominid thought that having to chase down their dinner when they were hungry was hugely inconvenient. 

cured ham on a wooden board

To this end, a huge number of methods were invented over the centuries to create and preserve foodstuffs to last through lean times.  One of the most universal methods is that of pickling – essentially preserving foods in an acidic solution (typically vinegar).  The high acid content kills off microorganisms, keeping the food edible longer. Jams and marmalades follow a similar principle, using high levels of sugar instead of vinegar.

Salting and smoking foods is also a long-practiced technique that was used to ensure access to meat during cold winter months.  Families could ill afford to let any part of a slaughtered animal go to waste and had to be creative in ensuring they could make as much use of an animal that was slaughtered as possible.

root cellar in newfoundland

In order to preserve any fruits or vegetables beyond their season, early colonists were big users of a type root cellar to keep their crops going longer. Root cellars continue to be a popular way to preserve food on homesteads and personal farms.

Many of these methods of preserving food can be used today and can help you avoid food wastage. Can you keep it fresh like 1621?

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