Pictured Debra Friedman, OSV, and Claire Carlson, Education Program Coordinator, Historic Deerfield
I spent a delightful afternoon listening to Debra Friedman at Historical Deerfield. Debra’s talk was about preservation in the 1800s. Debra is the Director of Public Programs for Old Sturbridge Village and a director on the Board of ALHFAM. Of course, I’m very much stuck in the 1600s and 1700s, however, I was curious to see what preservation techniques carried over from the earlier centuries. One thing I was surprised at was that canning, (you know the Ball jars) really did not become popular until the last quarter of the 1800s. This means they were still using the root cellars, garret or attic for preserving their foods. In the cellar, vegetables were put in sand and some hung from rafters, in the attic were peas and beans and other things dangling from the ceiling, vines and all. As I tell my students at the museum, the cellar was their refrigerator and the attic their freezer.
Things did not change much in the preservation of meat either; it was brined, smoked and turned into sausages. Milk was saved by making butter, and rennet was still in use for making cheese. Pickling vegetables was an ongoing process as the different vegetables ripened. Pumpkin was turned into pumpkin leather, for later use, and both savory and sweet pies made after the first frost were placed in a box to keep frozen for later use. Seems like the 1600s and 1700s procedure for preservation of food to me.
So what did change was the type of cookbooks that were printed. They were now focused on how to instruct your maids and the most economical way to run your household. A far cry from the earlier ones that mainly had receipts. One such cookbook was written by Catharine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy; she was the sister of Harriet Beecher of Uncle Tom fame.
The listeners ranged from hearth cook to local historians and friends of Historic Deerfield. Many questions were asked afterwards and I was sorry it had to end. Debra is a wealth of knowledge and an entertaining speaker.
Don’t miss next month when John Forti, curator of Historic Gardens and Landscapes at Strawbery Banke in New Hampshire talks on “Slow Food/Sustainable Gardens” on February 26th. See you there.
Down here in Alabama we used our springhouses to keep things cool and preserved some things under hog fat! Whatever works.