Friday, December 13, 2013

The Larder

Did you know that larders were a common feature of large homes before the refrigerator came into wide spread use. The essential features of a larder are as follows:
  • as cool as possible
  • close to the kitchen
  • exclude insects and rodents
  • easy to clean
  • shelving and containers adapted to the food to be stored
  • good air circulation
In North America larders were typically on the north side of the house, where they received the least amount of sun.

Farm families only 50 years ago were intimately familiar with the larder (ask your grand parents). The larder is the precursor to the modern day pantry, which is making a comeback in modern architecture.

The larder brought a sense of security to the farm. The harvest was preserved and stored in the larder. It was:
  • protection against lean times, it was survival
  • an investment and provision for the future 
  • health and vitality
  • shared intergenerational knowledge
Let's explore these themes from the larder.

Protection Against Lean Times and Survival

A well stocked larder would see the farm and its dependents through the winter. A cornicopia of canned, dried and preserved foods would see farmers of yesteryear through the winter. The modern equivalent is our pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Also, a sufficient financial emergency fund of 3-6 months. The larder didn't get well stocked all by itself which leads us to the next theme.

Investment and Provision for the Future

The larder represented a portion of the farms investment for the future (albeit the near term future). But consider how these food stocks got there. Each farm family would spend summer and fall canning our vegetables and fruits. For each 3 minute bowl of salsa we spend 30 minutes planting, harvesting and preserving the contents. This is a significant investment in time. This is not negative but it represents a real investment in the health and nutrition of the farm. 

Health and Vitality

The contents of the larder were stored using traditional methods of food preservation. Pickles were made through fermentation. Cheeses used traditional milk cultures. Sourdoughs starters were kept. Meats were dried and smoked. Jellys and jams were made. Vegetables, cutneys, salsas, and meats were all canned.

Shared Intergenerational Knowledge

All of these preservation methods represent knowledge passed down from generation to generation. We have lost most of this knowledge. Even cooking real foods is becoming a lost art. One of our roles at the farmers market is to teach and educate young people about the art of cooking. We also share about herbs and vegetables with our customers.

Even this blog is a source of education and knowledge.

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