One of the questions that’s been bothering me was how did our ancestors preserve their food? Our nice stainless steel refrigerators were not an option so what was the secret? I’m finding there are many secrets to food preservation, but the one that surprised me the most was just simply burying food to preserve it.
Burying food helps to protect it from light and oxygen. The soil should be dry and salty and you should dig deep enough to be below the frostline. The hole should preferably be in a dry, sheltered area. Fruits and root vegetables were the most common food products to be stored using this method. Cabbage (Rio Verde or Danish Ballhead buried upside down with roots intact) was also traditionally preserved this way during the Fall in northern climates and it can be dug up at anytime until the Spring.
The basic premise is to make a hole in the ground that is well drained and insulated. This prevents water from spoiling the food and/or the food becoming frozen. A common insulation technique was for straw to be placed within the hole around the food that you wish to preserve. A layer of dirt, leaves or straw was added on top to keep the food from freezing. The trick was to remember where you buried the food. We’ve all seen that determined squirrel in our yard digging endlessly.
Meat and fish (gravlax) can also be buried for preservation purposes, but I’ll leave that for another entry.