TEMPERATURE DANGER ZONE:
Note that there is what is considered a "Temperature Danger Zone" for food that ranges between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when temperatures stay below 40 degrees there is a slowing
down of some bacterial growth responsible for spoilage, or inversly, when food cooking is done on low heat and holding temperatures remain above 140 degrees, this prevents some bacterial growth, but
allows some bacteria to live.
Since the advent of home coolers and freezers, most methods of natural food preservation have gone by the waste side. However, believe it or not, it is possible to preserve food without
refrigeration by using a Root Cellar, Drying and Canning of foods.
Root Cellar built above ground:
Root Cellar built into the side of a hill:
Root Cellar built underground:
The most common methods for constructing a Root Cellar consist of digging down into the ground and erecting a shed or house over the cellar with access by a trap
door in the shed. When the dirt is pliable, another way is by digging into the side of a hill. However, when the terrain is rocky, there is yet another way by building a structure from
ground level by piling rocks and sod above them.
Optimal Conditions for Root Cellars:
Most root crops and a few fruits can be stored indoors in a deep cellar or in a specially constructed root cellar. Under optimal conditions, some of these roots can be stored for up to a
year or longer. Optimally, it is important that the temperature of the root cellar be cool and humid in the summer months and also keep from freezing but yet remaining humid in the winter
Vegetables that can be kept in a root cellar include all types of potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, beets, turnips, parsnips, horseradishes, radishes, rutabagas, salsify, carrots, leeks, onions,
kohlrabi and almost any other root crop you can think of.
Many fruits and vegetables that cannot be stored may be readily preserved by drying. When this method can be used, it is one of the most effective means of preserving food. As long as
it is kept dry, it can remain almost indefinately. The range of edibles that may be dried consist of tuberous and bulbous root vegetables, pod beans, shelled beans, cereal and bread grains,
celery, herbs, peas, peppers and fruits with high sugar and low moisture content. The drying of fruits and vegetables is no more difficult than simple storage, but the end result is well woth
the extra effort.
How to Dry Food:
For this method of food preparation, food is first properly prepared either by smashing into a pulp, by cutting them into small pieces or having them strung on a string and then dried in one of
three ways. Apricots, peaches, wild persimmons and other like fruits are preserved as "leather" by smashing the fruit into a pulp, spreading it in a 1/4 inch layer across almost any flat clean
surface and letting it air and sun dry.
Many fruits and some vegetables may be chopped, cubed or cut in half and spread one layer deep on spreading a sheetcloth stretched over a frame made of wooden splints. Cover with additional
screening or cheesecloth and place in the sun until dry (actually any warm dry place will do as well as the sun, but the process may take a few days longer) Occasionally stirring or turning
will speed up the operation considerably.
Dried foods retain more nutritional value than foods preserved for long-term storage by any other natural method. The technique is a good one for making produce available off-seasons.
One point though: Fruits and vegetables that have been dried must be kept dry or they will deteriorate rapidly. Dried fruits are best stored when packed into air-tight containers such as
jars, cans or crocks. Sprinkle each layer with sugar and add another layer until the container is full. Some people have been able to keep fruit up to six years without spoilage.
Vegetables should merely be placed in air-tight containers after drying.
Home canning is not difficult but, to insure success, every step of the operation must be carried out correctly at the proper time. The home canner must be able to distinguish between
various processing methods and must know which procedure to use with a particular food. The beginner will find it easiest to begin with fruit and work into vegetables after a little experience
Countless long and heated argements have been raged over the containers used for home canning. Two of the most popular containers are tin and glass jars. Glass jars are easy to use
and do not require the added expense of a crimper and the jar tops can be used indefinately, whereas, tin cans can be recycled a few times.
Common sizes for glass jars are pint, quart, 1/2 gallon and gallon and ther standard mouth size is 2 1/2 inches.