What do lard and honey have to do with food preservation? What is a larder if it’s not a pantry? How much salt do you really need to dry out meat? Where could you store livestock feed? Find out on this episode! 

Welcome to Writing Rural with Alley, the fiction writer’s inspiration station for rural life and lifestyles, from historical to post-apocalyptic, helping you bring your rural stories to life! I’m Alley, and this is episode (#) (title). Stick around to the end to find out all the ways things could possibly go wrong. Now, let’s get into this.

Whether your characters have a garden, forage for food, or have meat, there are many methods that are used, have been used, and might be used in an apocalypse. Today, we will cover five more of them. 

6) Honey

Honey has been used as a food preservation for centuries. The earliest record I can find is from the Great Pyramids. When they opened the tombs, they found jars with honey that was still good. There are clay tablets from roughly the same era talking about using honey as a food preservative and in about 30% of all medicine at the time. 

The basics of preserving with honey are fairly simple. Honey preserves fruits. I have heard of other things, but I can’t say I trust or recommend them. Besides, I’m not sure honey makes okra taste better.

After your character picks the fruit they will use, they will prepare it, getting rid of any bad ones, chopping them up to fit as much as they can into a glass jar without wasting space. The reason this is important is that it takes a lot of honey to preserve with, and honey can be expensive or even hard to find. Not every society in history has had beekeepers. 

Then, it is time for your character to make honey syrup. In modern times, this is made of honey, sugar, and water with equal parts of honey and sugar, while the water amount depends on how sweet they want their fruit. For a light syrup, it would be one part sugar, one part honey, and eight parts water. For a very heavy syrup, it would be one part honey, one part sugar, and one part water. Historically, most people did not add sugar to the syrup, as it wasn’t until the 1700s that sugar as we know it became popular. 

Next, the fruit can be heated or cooked a little, then added to the clean, preferably sanitized jars, and the syrup is poured over the fruit. This is called hot packing. If your character puts the freshly chopped fruit in and pours the honey syrup over it without heating it, that is called cold packing. Either way, they will next de-bubble the jars, and then they will be canned in a hot water bath. Basically, it requires cooking them until they reach a temperature to kill off any microorganisms that could make the food go bad or hurt your 

character when they eat it. 

Preserving with honey in modern times is slightly different from that in history. The Mason jar (what we call a canning jar today) was invented in 1858. That means before then, this had to be done in different types of jars. Clay jars are the main ones I see for this. Whatever they are done in, remember that the most important part of the entire process is to make sure the seal on the jar is good. If sealed correctly, honey itself can be stored almost indefinitely. It is believed that fruit stored in honey will last for years. I have never tried this method, so I do not know how long the food would stay good. 

7) Salted (AKA Brining)

Salting food for preservation has been around since at least 2,000 BC in Egypt, although no one is sure where or how it originated. Salt preserves food by pulling out the moisture at the cellular level. It also inhibits the growth of microorganisms that decay and spoil food. 

There are two types of salting. There is a dry rub, where you basically bury meat in salt, and there is brining. Brining is a saltwater solution used for things like cucumbers when they are turned into pickles. I see this often with lemons, too. 

For dry rubs, your character will need roughly 1 1/2 cups of salt for every one pound of meat. It will take about five days to dry out for every inch of meat. If there is bone, such as a ham, two days will be added. This means that for meat without the bone, it takes five days to dry out per inch, and with the bone, it takes seven days per inch to dry out. I imagine caution to not pull the meat out too early was used if people were learning, and they likely gave them a few extra days just to be safe. 

After the dry rub has sufficient time to dry out the meat, the meat was then hung in a cool, dry area, such as a root cellar or basement. However, not everyone in history had one, and many times, they would be hung from the rafters of the home or kitchen. Others in cooler climates had a cache, meat barn, or whatever the area called it. Basically, it was a building built on stilts that was for meat and other dry ingredients. The idea behind the stilts was to keep wolves and, hopefully, bears from breaking in and eating the food. 

As for brining, the general consensus is two-part vinegar to one-part salt. There really is no right or wrong answer for when brining is done. A minimum of 12 days is needed, but many people prefer to leave them in longer. It really comes down to preference on this one. 

8) Dehydrating

Dehydrating is the method of removing the water from food to store for later. Likely, the most well-known modern one is raisins. Yes, those little things that were originally grapes. 

Dehydrating has been used since ancient times and is one of the oldest food preservation methods. However, it was originally in dryer climates, such as the Middle East, that people first started drying foods. The modern method of hot air dehydration that we know today was not invented until 1795 in France. 

The list of foods that can be dehydrated is long. This includes, but is not limited to, apples, grapes, strawberries, bread, corn, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, beef, chicken, fish, basil, rosemary, mint, and more. 

This is one we use in our home, and when my kids were young, they loved banana chips. Did you know you can take fruit blended in the blender to make a puree, dehydrate it, and make a healthy fruit roll-up called fruit leather? My kids say it is better than candy. 

All that said, each type of food will take a different amount of time to dry, depending on the water content of the food. Also, sun drying (DIY solar drying) and modern electric dehydrators all take different amounts of time. Keep that in mind when you look up the time it will take to dehydrate any specific foods you would like, as I do not have enough time to cover them all on this podcast. 

9) Larder

Today, the larder is known as the British word for pantry, or according to Google, the slang for pantry. However, in history, larders were a place that stored meat in lard. This is where larder gets its name. Larders were originally a barrel that cooked meat was placed into. Lard would be poured in a layer on the bottom of a crock, barrel, or other storage container. Then a layer of cooked meat was added, then a layer of lard, then meat, then lard, until the container was about 3/4ths full. After it cooled and the lard set up, wax paper was placed over the top of the lard, although not everyone used the wax paper. 

I have also heard of adding wood ash or sawdust instead of the wax paper, but I do not recommend this. It could contaminate the lard and possibly cause bacteria to grow or cause the whole thing to turn rancid. 

After the wax paper, the lid is added. It will then be moved to a cool, dry place for storage, such as a basement or root cellar. Uncontaminated meat can be good for 3 to 4 months. After 3 to 4 months, the lard would no longer be good, causing the meat to go bad. 

10) Underground Storage 

Underground storage comes in many different types. There is the well-known root cellar. This is one of the earliest forms of storage, and archaeologists believe it originated in Australia. The Library of Congress (here in the United States) has interesting documentation of the Office of War Information and the Farm Security Administration teaching about storing food in piles under layers of straw and dirt during the great depression and WW2. And let’s not forget humans have saved food in caves since, well, caveman time. 

Root cellars are a very well-known storage method that most people no longer use. The average temperature of a root cellar is 32º to 40ºF (0° to 4.5°C). It’s basically a refrigerator in the ground. Root cellars come in many different types. They can be dug into the ground. This type will need to be well supported on the ceiling as you don’t want it to collapse on your character. There have been rock or brick buildings built and then covered with dirt. Four feet of dirt is the recommended level, but that varies depending on where they live. 

They will need to be built to not only store the food for the entire family, which could be a large amount depending on the size of the family, but it will likely be needed to store animal feed, too. Granted, hay usually goes somewhere else, but grains, corn, and these types of things will likely stay in the root cellar, too, so don’t let your character skimp on space. Most also have shelves built into them, and some even have 

hangers in the back for meat. 

Some cultures in the desert used jars in the sand to keep foods, just as they did jars of water. Today, many off-the-grid homes have learned how to use barred garbage cans to store food. The danger with that one is that animals can get into it easier. Some place them inside their barn under loose hay to try to keep vermin out, and I hear that works well. 

Fun fact: In 2018, there were 1,218,200 metric tons of raisins produced and sold. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Likely to go wrong: Your character is dehydrating food in the sun, and an animal steals some of the food. 

Likely to go wrong: Your character uses a cave to store food, and when they come back, they find it is gone. Perhaps it was stolen, or perhaps a wild animal ate it. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character used a larder, and they forget how many pieces of meat were stored in the lard. They might have to go fishing with their bare hands to check for more. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character didn’t leave the meat in the salt long enough to let the meat properly dry out before they hung it for the winter. When they return to get the meat, they find it has turned rancid. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your character uses honey alone to persevere their fruit in and find it is far sweeter than they meant for it to be, and now they find it too sweet. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your character didn’t do a good job setting up the ceiling supports for their root cellar, and it collapses on them. This could be deadly. 

Improbable but still technically in the realm of possibilities: Your character uses honey to preserve their fruit but was not paying enough attention when they poured the honey. When they go to open the fruit to eat, they find bee bodies in their food. 

Improbable but still technically in the realm of possibilities: Your character stored food in a cave. When they go to retrieve some, they come face to face with a bear and get mauled. 

Helpful Links To Learn More:






Salted (Also called brining):


htm https://www.iamcountryside.com/canning-kitchen/a-guide-to-salting-food-preservation/










Root Cellar: