Country living typically revolves around the kitchen, and country cooking and canning. Family and friends around the table, fresh food from the hearth, food cooked the old-fashioned way, simple recipes like grandma used to make.
It’s a lifestyle that conjures up a lot of memories for people in the country, and even city dwellers who grew up on the farm (or wished they had). With today’s hectic urban lifestyle most people are on the run from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed, and meals are where you can find them – too often at a fast food restaurant, or a quick processed meal in front of the television at home.
It’s no wonder so many folks long for a less complicated, less hectic life in the rural heartland. Food raised on the same property where you live, cooked in the afternoon in a warm sunlit kitchen, and eaten slowly around a table, each bite savored in a way that store-bought meals never can be.
Country cooking involves simple, hearty foods like fresh organic vegetables, beef, pork and poultry, stews, soups, pies and desserts cooked from scratch. It’s about simple, no-fuss recipes that are easy to prepare and wonderful to eat.
Whether you’re preparing food for a large Victorian garden party or summer cookout, or you’re just whipping up a quick lunch for the kids, there are hundreds of great recipes available for every budget. And if you’re cooking fresh food that you pulled out of your own organic garden, you’ll enjoy the health and cost benefits as well.
Canning and food preservation
If you’re into small-scale farming and sustainable living, or you just have a small organic garden, you’re probably interested in canning and food preservation. Having a root cellar doesn’t do much good if there’s nothing in it, and all that work in the garden will go to waste if you can’t preserve some of that great food for the winter.
Canning is a great way of storing food without refrigeration, but it needs to be done properly or you could end up with spoiled food – or worse. Botulism poisoning has been known to occur from improperly-canned tomatoes, for example, from canned tomato products. And steam canning is not recommended by most experts, so stick with water canning for convenience and food safety.
Also make sure you always use a heat process that involves either pressure canning or water bath canning, for any canned item that’s going to be stored on the shelf in your root cellar or pantry. Ignore recipes that tell you that you can get away with simply sealing hot-filled jars – this type of “open kettle” canning can result in unsafe products, and even food poisoning.
A Country Root Cellar
If you’ve ever lived in the country, or visited relatives who did, you’ve probably been exposed to a root cellar at one point or another. Root cellar’s are nature’s refrigerators, only better because they work without electricity, and they can hold a lot more food than any store-bought appliance. A root cellar is usually not as convenient as a refrigerator in your kitchen, but they make up for it in many other ways.
In case you’re new to this concept, a root cellar dug into the ground keeps foods (usually vegetables) and beverages at relatively low temperatures and constant humidity. A well-constructed cellar keeps the food from freezing during the winter, while at the same time keeping things cool enough during the hot summer months to prevent spoilage. Normally the owner of a root celler will stock the shelves with a variety of vegetables, normally canned for preservation, and typically in the Fall after the harvest.
Although vegetables such as turnips, carrots, and potatoes are primarily stored in these cellars, there are also a wide varity of other foods including smoked or salted meats, onions, jams and preserves, beets, cabbage, squash, and more. Some people also use root cellers as wine cellars as well, and also as a place to store beer and other homemade beverages.