Throughout history, man has looked for and developed ways of preserving and storing food so there was enough to eat during, often harsh, winters and the following ‘hungry gap’ of spring.
Bottling, pickling and drying were the traditional ways of keeping food throughout the winter before freezers became common. What could be more satisfying than a cupboard (or two) filled with bottles of fruit and vegetables, jars of jams and jellies, jars of pickles and chutneys, and a wonderful, colourful range of dried beans.
Many other ancient methods are still successfully in use such as drying, salting, smoking and pickling. In fact, many of the old methods are coming back into popularity as people become more aware of how our food is produced and want the best quality where they can afford it. e.g dry-cured bacon and ham, although more expensive, does not contain many of the chemicals and liquid used in the more common super market varieties and is probably much better value as it doesn’t shrivel up to a quarter of its volume when grilled.
Smoke houses or even home smoking kits are available for small holders to produce their own smoked meat and fish. The increasing popularity of Farmers’ Markets, where you can buy a wide range of excellent quality food products from our own local farms and growers or first class imported produce are a reflection of people’s desire to shake off our dependence on supermarkets’ cheaper produce and factory farming.
These days, of course, we have freezers to help preserve our food and freezing is an easy and successful method of preserving much (though not all) of our crops.