The Most Common Methods of Food Preservation Like The Native Americans

Food Preservation

In the world where refrigeration is widely available, many of us don’t really think about preserving food much, because quite frankly the refrigerator does it for us. Survivalists however are aware of the fact that when the grid goes down, some if not all of the food we have in the fridge will spoil.

Throughout the ages, people have had to energetically search for food to stay nourished; that task has always been much more difficult in winter. Like most other peoples, Native Americans worked hard to find and preserve enough food for their winter needs. Some game and fish might remain available during the cold months, but not usually in plentiful enough quantities to feed a whole population.

Convenient as these methods are to many of us today, freezing and canning are recent innovations. Napoleon Bonaparte offered a reward in 1795 to anyone who could discover a safe and reliable method to preserve food for his traveling army, and by 1810, both glass “bottling” and true tin “canning” had been invented. Neither of these methods were used by the masses, however, until John Mason invented his glass container with a molded screw-on thread at the top. Until that time and well after, drying, salting, and fermenting foods were the best methods of food preservation for many people.That’s why storage and preservation are necessary steps in survival preparation. We can learn a lot about food preservation from the Native Americans. Let’s see how to preserve food from a people who lived off of the land.
The most common methods of food preservation were drying, often combined with smoke, and salt. Some birds and mammals were buried, and eaten in a state of fermentation that Europeans found to be unpalatable. These are in current practice.

Food preservation may seem like a thing of the past, a method used ‘back in the day’ when fresh produce was scarce in the cooler months, but it certainly has its place in the modern world and we use several methods every day without even thinking about it.

While our ancestors dried food for long journeys or fermented food for better nutritional value, food preservation can be used today to not only keep food for longer but also to reduce waste, save money, and enjoy local and seasonal produce year round.

Native American
Gathering involves obtaining food that is naturally available in the environment.
Many American Indian tribes relied, to some degree, on gathering for food. For example the Iroquois grew most of their food but would supplement this with gathering food.
Indians gathered such foods as berries, roots, fruits, mushrooms, nuts, and eggs.
The Indians who inhabited California were given the derogatory nickname “diggers” by early settlers. This nickname derived from the fact that they obtained a lot of their food from gathering; including digging for roots.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles were not common among Native Americans, though they did eat some fermented foods. A type of Cherokee bread consisted of maize wrapped in corn leaves that then fermented for a couple of weeks; however, it was not a long-term storage item. Fish and meat items might also be allowed to ferment, but again, were eaten fairly quickly after fermentation.

RELATED : Native American Gardening Techniques – Learn How Foods Were Grown in the Past

Native American Indian Hunting for Food

Many American Indian tribes relied heavily on hunting for food. They hunted many different types of animals including buffalo, deer, rabbits, and ducks.
The Buffalo (also called Bison) was an important food source for Native Americans who lived in the Great Plains region of America. Buffalo were not only a food source but the Indians also used their hides for blankets, clothes, and for their tepees. They used many parts of the buffalo for various purposes including the buffalo’s hair for rope.
Horses, which were brought to America by the early European explorers and settlers, drastically improved the American Indian’s ability to hunt. An Indian on horseback could chase down prey as opposed to having to trap prey or sneak up on an animal.
American Indians mainly used spears and bows and arrows to hunt.

Native American

Meats are very tricky. The Native Americans learned over time how best to prepare and dry meats. What they learned was that the thinner the meat the easier it is to preserve. Then the idea of slicing the meat into thin pieces and drying across a rock became widely popular. Doing it this way gave them the ability to dry the meat in a quicker amount of time. It was also easy to pack away, carry with them, and store. Jerky meats are the product of this idea.

In order to use this method, it is very important that you have a clean place to lay out the meat that you want to dry. Then once you’ve selected a sunny clean place, proceed to slice the meats into very thin strips. Longer strips are favored over short thick strips. Thick strip will not work. Aim for thin bacon like strips of the meat. Here are a few types of meat that you can sun dry:

When you cut these thinly and lay them out to sun dry, after they have dried you can eat on these for a long time. You can pack the jerky in day packs, fanny packs for quick access to protein and you can also think about long term storage and vacuum sealing jerky strips in packs to access later.

Smoked Meats
The process of smoking meats has been used for several centuries. People still smoke meats now to preserve the freshness. Native Americans in particular smoked the fish that they caught. Fish such as salmon and trout, does not last very so some type of preservation method was in order. No doubt they sun dried it, but dehydrating it robs it of its flavor. So the idea of smoking the fish was born.
The key to smoking meat is to expose it to a low indirect heat for a long period of time while smoking it. This is achieved by building a small fire and placing the meats on a rack above the heat source. Once the meat has been placed on the smoking rack, then it’s time to start placing kindling wood underneath it so that the smoke will infuse the meat.

The best smoking method that you can use virtually anywhere is a small grill. Layer the grill bottom with hot coals, add your grate, and place the meats on a section of the grill grate that is not in the line of direct heat. The key to properly smoking your meats so you can preserve them is to make sure the smoke is infused into your meat by means of indirect heat. Once your meats have been smoked you can continue to eat off of it for a few days.

Smoking meats is a favorite, with smoking fish like salmon comes in at a close second. You may choose to simply season it with salt and pepper before smoking or you can come up with your own flavorings and rubs to apply or infuse before the smoking process begins. It’s totally up to you.

In this video, Christopher Humphrey shared how he smoked a pork butt on a charcoal grill and infused it with deep rich smoked flavor.

In areas that freeze in winter local peoples bury meat and fish, or wrap them in skins or other materials.

Plants are dried.

Pemmican is a mixture of berries, meat, and fat. It is a concentrated, nutritious food.

A root cellar is the classic winter storage cellar and existed when houses had unfinished basements with dirt floors. This (lack of) construction made the cellar cool, drafty, and relatively humid. The open, non-insulated root cellar had adequate airflow that despite high humidity, discouraged condensation on the walls. In contrast, a cold room is a finished, but unheated room in some modern homes.

A cold room, unlike the root cellar, is a finished but unheated room in an otherwise warm, dry basement. The basic difference between a root cellar and a basement cold room is the construction. If you have a cold room, or a basement that is partly below ground, you may be able to create a usable cold room. The trick is to design the room as if it is actually an exterior space. The key element of the construction is to insulate the ceiling and interior walls, leave the exterior walls uninsulated, add a vapor barrier on the warm side of the house, and install an insulated exterior door with weather stripping to the cold room. Most importantly, add two screened, adjustable vents that provide a (high) warm-air outlet and (low) cool-air intake. Ensure the floor is a porous material (dirt, cement, or composite deck material are better than wood or linoleum). Finally, build shelving away from the walls to promote air circulation within the room.

Any type of indoor cellar requires a method to control air temperature and relative humidity. Depending on the type of food to be stored, a root cellar or a cold room needs cool temperatures, ranging from 32°F to 60°F, and higher than average humidity—between 60 to 90 percent relative humidity (RH).

Buried containers make a convenient root cellar or cold space for winter food storage, especially root crops. The container should be new or clean, and should not have previously held nonfood items. Suitable containers include new metal or plastic garbage cans and plastic storage bins. Drill holes in the bottom of the container for drainage. Locate the container in an area convenient to your house, but away from garages and car fumes. Dig a hole just large enough to hold the container, with at least 2 inches sticking out above ground level. Load the container with layers of vegetables, separated by straw. Cover the top of the container with 1 to 2 feet of insulating material.

Makeshift cellars are other simple, easy ways to provide additional storage of seasonal crops through winter:

Basement utility rooms, especially those with a furnace, tend to be warm and dry. This type of room is suitable for some types of vegetables such as winter squashes and onions, as well as dried and canned foods.
Attic rooms, if they are warm and dry, are well suited to onions, dried vegetables, and dried herbs. If the attic becomes very cold in severe weather, you will need to rotate food to another location. By summertime, if the weather turns hot and humid, winter stored food should be used up.
An extra energy-efficient refrigerator, while requiring the use of electricity, can also provide a method for long-term storage of locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Regardless of the type of food storage method used, be sure to monitor the storage environment using a thermometer, as well as a hygrometer that measures relative humidity. Check the produce at least once a month for possible signs of wilting or decay. At least once a year, thoroughly clean and sanitize any type of root cellar or food storage area.

Info about building and managing your root cellar, plus printable plans. The book on building and using root cellars – The Complete Root Cellar Book.

Old refrigerator. Another idea is to bury an old refrigerator to use as a root cellar. First, remove the motor and the shelves and drawers. Also, disable the latch to prevent anyone from being trapped inside.

Dig a hole that is one foot larger on all sides than the appliance is. Line the hole with gravel or rocks. The depth of the hole should allow the refrigerator to rest on its back so that it will open as it if were a chest.

Run a small pipe into the refrigerator to allow for ventilation. Cover the top with straw and a secured tarp and then with more straw to insulate the makeshift cellar.

Proper temperature and humidity, and annual cleaning are crucial to reliable long-term storage, and regular monitoring will help you maintain the quality of your food for an entire season of delicious eating.

The Native Americans were a people known for their ability to live off of the land, and make use of it without having a great impact on it. Their methods have withstood the test of time and is still being used today. They were experts with a lot of things that pertained to the land and nature. They adapted and changed their methods over time in order to make sure that their people survived. And that’s the goal of any survivalist. To preserve and extend the lives of his own. Taking these tips and incorporating them into your survival food preparation will help you to extend the shelf life of your foods and increase your life expectancy as a result.

Books can be your best pre-collapse investment.

Old Time Wisdom ( Timeless Bits of Wisdom on How to Grow Everything Organically, from the Good Old Days When Everyone Did  you can prepare yourself for war by moving to the countryside and building a farm, but you must take guns with you, as the hordes of starving will be roaming. Also, even though the elite will have their safe havens and specialist shelters, they must be just as careful during the war as the ordinary civilians, because their shelters can still be compromised.”)

The Lost Ways (Learn the long forgotten secrets that helped our forefathers survive famines,wars,economic crisis and anything else life threw at them)

LOST WAYS 2 ( Word of the day: Prepare! And do it the old fashion way, like our fore-fathers did it and succeed long before us, because what lies ahead of us will require all the help we can get. Watch this video and learn the 3 skills that ensured our ancestors survival in hard times of famine and war.)

Speak Your Mind