Food, by its nature is perishable. Without preserving, food falls victim to the forces of nature, namely bacteria, yeast, and fungus and quickly degrades.
The effects of food spoilage are not only unappetizing, but can also cause foodborne illnesses or even death, something to be avoided!
For thousands of years, humans have been using various methods to prolong the freshness and safety of their food to stabilize their food supply. While some of these methods are relatively new, many of them date back to ancient times. We may have refined the processes and come to better understand the mechanisms, but the basic concepts remain the same today.
Lets take a look at the common methods, and apply them to us for our emergency preparedness goals.
Chilling and Freezing
Bacteria grow best at specific temperatures, usually between 40 F to 140 F. By lowering the temperature below 40 F their metabolic and reproductive action is significantly slowed. While this may not kill the bacteria and yeast, it does slow the spoilage process. Although freezing food has been used in colder climates for hundreds of years, the expansion of electricity and home appliances in the early and mid-20th century greatly expanded the use of freezing as a food preservation method.
This makes refrigerators very convenient – until you lose power.
So, what happens when the grid shuts down and there is no electricity?
A closed freezer will keep the temperature for around 24 hours but the door must be kept shut, a fridge will keep cool for at least 4 or so hours with the door closed in a power blackout.
There is another tried and tested method for storing food that goes back 100s of years, we call it the earth cellar in England and a root cellar in America.
Earth cellars ALL have one thing in common. They take advantage of stable underground temperatures!
Why underground? It all has to do with the seasonal variation in temperatures. As you dig down into the earth, the layers of soil between you and the surface act as an insulator from the surface.
For example, in the summer, underground temps are much cooler than the surface, and in the winter, a few feet underground is much warmer than a howling blizzard outside. There are food cellars like this scattered across homes and farms in eastern Europe, its not common in the uk, as over reliance is placed on our electricity not failing.
And you don’t need to dig far to get the benefits…
There are some good videos online to research this further and how to easily create an earth cellar for storing food.