What do you usually do when you have leftovers? I’m guessing the answer is to throw them in the fridge, but there was a time when refrigerators did not exist in every family home, and our grandparents and great-grandparents had to get creative with the way they preserved their edible treats. It’s not like everyone just let food go to waste before the home fridge came into existence in 1913: Food preservation has basically been around since the beginning of mankind. However, you wouldn’t know that today because it’s rare that anyone uses these traditional methods.
A well-known method that is still sometimes used today, pickling is the act of soaking foods in a boiled vinegar mix, whether it’s for a few hours or for several days. The chemical reactions between the food and the liquid help extend its life expectancy. And when it comes to our grandma’s preserving veggies this way, there was no limit on which garden greens to use.
This is the proper way to preserve jellies and jams, hence it being in the name. The boiled substance goes right into clean jars, which are then sealed shut. Using this method consistently, Grandma would have enough jams and jellies to last a lifetime.
What is jugging, you ask? It’s the process of preserving meat in a stew form inside a jug (hence the name), with some gravy and red wine for additional flavor! This traditional way of preserving meat was used even well before grandma’s time in the early 19th century.
4. Dry Salting
This way of keeping food fresh is very similar to traditional pickling, but instead of using a vinegar base, salt is used. Grandmas all around used this as a great way to ferment those garden-grown fruits and vegetables.
This is often associated with preserving all sorts of meat — basically lathering the raw goods with a salt mixture, cooling it for a week or so, then rolling it up with a tight cheesecloth. Not only does this make the meat last longer, but it also enhances the flavor and color!
Instead of wrapping up the cured meat right away, you can smoke it for extra flavor and life — then wrap it up accordingly. This is the way grandmas would preserve ribs, briskets, and other meats.
Also known as the “dehydrating” process, drying basically removes enough moisture so that mold, bacteria, and yeast do not grow on food, according to the University of Minnesota. Grandma did this through two natural means: drying and sun drying.