This is another great article from John Daleske. John always provides top quality information and I am very grateful to have him as a contributor to this project. – Nick LaDieu
Meat Storage “pre-refridgeration” by John Daleske
My great Aunt Gladys published her memoir recently, sending a copy to my Mom. In it, she details a curious method for storing meat which I had not heard: packing meat into a crock with layers of lard above each layer of meat.
Here’s what she wrote:
We butchered beef and pork in the fall. We kids had to cut up the fat in small pieces so it could be rendered for lard. We cut our fingers sometimes, but oh, how good the meat was. Canned the pork chops in gallon crocks, put lard over each layer, then sat the crock on cement to keep it. When we wanted to use it, we dug them out of the lard, which was hard by then. We just heated them up in the skillet or oven.”
Now, great Aunt Gladys was born in 1915 in Iowa to parents both with ancestry from Kreis Schlawe in eastern Germany. This is the Kreis (county) east of the Oder river and south of the Baltic; a northern climate with a fair amount of cold. Iowa can also prove cold from October until March (and sometimes May).
She does not detail whether the meat was cooked prior to layering in the crock, but a possible hint is her use of “heated them up”. I would guess the meat was cooked, then layered in lard.
My food preservation guides don’t mention this approach to food preservation; it seems to have been mostly a lost skill when ice box and later refrigeration became available. One can understand why they would rapidly shift away from such a packing method with botulism and other possible nasties. Still, though, it seems important to at least document the process, step-by-step, especially including the rules for testing and use later. All of the preservation processes I’ve seen include a dose of salt, which does help control some of the nasties. Aunt Gladys does not mention salt.
If the pressure canner is available, I would highly recommend meat be canned using appropriate canning technique.
One interesting similar method for storage is the “confit”, a French term for “preserved”. The Ochef site documents a recipe from “The New Making of a Cook” by Madeleine Kamman. Still, even after all of the processing to make the confit, they recommend storing it in a refrigerator.
Donna from the SaveOurSkills.com facebook page added this useful tidbit.
Larding is when you cook pork and cover it with melted lard and allow it to harden, this was done in both jars and crocks and it was used for steaks and chops as well as bulk sausage. The crocks had a cloth tied over the end to keep it clean. The lard sealed the air from the meat. This was most often kept in the cool cellar. http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php?topic=34099.0