Preserving food on the farm as told by my farther


Lorna’s post on “Wood stove cooking” got me daydreaming about life on the farm. And I thought that what my father told me about food preservation might be of interest to some of you. It is not about the specifics of preservation but it is about what was preserved for a family of 12 including grandparents and 14 on Sundays (the preacher and his wife ate dinner every Sunday with my grandparents).

My grandfather had a building the size of a one car garage. It was divided into two equal size rooms. One room had a potbelly stove in the center and deep shelves on the outside walls. The shelves were hinged to the walls and supported with chains. They were used for drying fruits and vegetables. When the harvest was complete and the weather cooled, it was time for butchering. My grandfather would take the flue off of the stove and fold the shelves against the walls. First came the hogs, my grandmother would cold pack some of the meat and store it in the pantry. The rest of the hog would be smoked. The bacon, hams and link sausages were hung on hooks in the ceiling. Some of the sausages were made into patties and partially cooked. Then a layer was put in a five gallon crock and covered with lard then another layer of sausages and lard until the crock was filled. These sausages were stored in the springhouse. Then came the beef and some was cold packed and some was dried.

On the onset of winter the other room would be filled with hams, bacon, sausages, dried beef and feed sacks filled with dried apples, peaches, pears and plumbs and I can not remember what vegetables were dried, all hanging from the ceiling . There would be several “hogs head barrels” (60 gallon wooden barrel) along the outside walls. One would be filled with pickles another with sauer kraut and one with apple cider vinegar. I can not remember what if anything else that was stored there. But I can remember that building still being used when I was a kid and the aroma when you entered it.

The pantry was off the kitchen and almost the size of the outside building. It was lined on three walls with shelves from floor to ceiling. The shelves would be filled with cold packed meats, canned vegetables, canned fruits and sacks of wheat flower, buckwheat flower, sugar and salt. I don’t know what herbs and spiced they used.

There was a spring fed stone trough directly below the kitchen which fed a hand pump at the kitchen sink. Butter and milk was stored in that trough. The spring in the house also fed a stone trough outside in a stone springhouse which was primarily used for a root cellar. The springhouse was about 8’ X 12’ and the only part above ground was the roof. You could stand up without hitting your head. Both sides were filled with all sorts of root crops some winter apples and some winter pears and onions. The trough held the five gallon crock of sausages and lard and another five gallon crock of just lard.

That sounds like an awfully lot of food but I know what teenage boys can eat and I know how I ate when I was helping my other grandfather farm. The farm raised food was always supplemented with squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, turkey and deer. John

Categories: Life on the farm | Tags: , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Preserving food on the farm as told by my farther

  1. John, you wrote some time ago about saving all of your memories on this blog for your family in hopes they’ll remember. You’re doing a fantastic job.

    You hear so much about canning as preserving, but never about how seriously things were stored in springhouses and such. I only wish Icould have experienced it as well.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. jbest123

    Thanks ribbit it was great being there. Ont thing I forgot to mention was that my grand father was a vegetarian. He would leave the house anytime my grandmother was cooking meat, he couldn’t stand the smell. The only thing I can figure is that house fires were common in those days and he may have had to help recover bodies. They say that is common among firefighters today. John


  3. Wish I had one of those stone springhouses, the modern systems are great until the power goes out. It would have been quite a sight to see all those preserved foods, good memories to have for sure.


  4. John, I’m teaching a lesson on food preservation at my school on Monday. May I share your blog entry with them?


  5. jbest123

    Thanks Dan, ribbit I would be honored, don’t worry about any credit or copyrights, that is what its for. 🙂 Let me know how it goes. John


  6. Posted about it today, John. Thank you for sharing your experiences!


  7. Brenda


    Kunselmann or Best? Which pap was it?



  8. jbest123

    This was pap Best’s farm. An older post was on pap Kunselman’s farm. Dad


  9. SwinerBock

    That was a very entertaining entry. I can remember my step-father (who grew up on a farm in southern Arkansas) telling me about how his mother would make sausage patties, cook them up a bit, then stick them in a large mason jar, pour hot grease over them, and then seal the jar. Here I am thinking to myself “surely not”, but have since learned that that indeed was one of the ways pork was preserved way back when.


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