The memories of how my grandparents canned and stored food was sparked when I posted that I’d made three pies and a cranberry Jell-o salad. Someone asked, “How would I keep them fresh?” I explained that I have them stored on an unheated, closed in back porch. I recall that unheated parts of the older generations often used parts of their houses as refrigerators during the winter months: an unused stair well landing could be closed off, a back porch, or a room in the basement. Cold cellars and root cellars would keep things from spoiling for months.
Smoking meats was another way of storing meats. Sometimes salt and pepper was applied to the outside of hams, bacon, or ribs and hung in the smokehouse to be infused with the rich down-to-earth flavors of cherry or hickory smoke. The fumes of a smoldering fire were directed into a shack filled with the curing meats.
Bits and pieces of the butchered hogs were cut from the bones or collected orts of flesh too small to be part of a meal by themselves were processed through a meat grinder. The ground up pork was seasoned, mixed, then stuffed into the animal’s casing to make link sausage. Grandma would cut and fill mason jars with sausage links, then can them. She didn’t use canning lids like we do today, but topped the jars with zinc lids and a thick layer of lard. I can still remember seeing the pale grease about an inch thick covering the juicy sausage inside.
Later, when Grandma bought a freezer, everything changed. The farm’s harvested pork, beef and chickens were wrapped and frozen until they were needed. The smokehouse was repurposed for storage and the glass jars were used to can fruits and vegetables. The meat grinder was still kept busy making hamburger and sausage. The ground beef and sausage were made into patties and frozen.
The memories and flavors as well as the texture and richness of the canned sausage were lost. But that was the trade off for modern conveniences. Much of the cutting and saving the meat was hard work. Even as a youth, I can recall helping where I could. It was necessary for all to help to have food available for the family, only buying things that were an absolute necessity.