Dana sent me an email that contained a link and a cryptic one-line description:
Large ceramic pot with lid – the kind used to preserve meat for winter. $20.
Sounded like a fermenting (crock) pot to me. And it was less than a kilometer from home. I confirmed there were no chips, and the pot was in tact. It was being sold as an antique. A pot like this, in our neighborhood, would easily grab $80 and possibly much more.
The description mentioned nothing about pickling, fermenting or that it was a ‘crock’ pot. Just that you could preserve meat in it. I figured that’s why it was still available – I don’t even know how she stumbled upon it. And, while I know of communities who salt can meat, I know of no one who has ever tried to preserve it using a fermenting pot. I rationalized that the owner didn’t know what it was.
On picking the pot up, I asked about the claims of preserving meat with an open mind. I was certain I was going to get a generic answer that may or may not have been accurate – instead I was treated to a delightful account of Canadian Farm life from 60 years ago. This exact pot was indeed used to preserve meat.
The owner recalled fall hunts where his family harvested deer and moose (I got the impression that it was mostly deer). Fat was trimmed from the animal and layers of salt and meat were packed into the crock and the salted meat would last through the winter in the cold cellar. Any leftover meat would be kept cold in the cellar via large blocks of ice which were covered in sawdust and would stay in tact all winter long.
It was fascinating insight. Even as a hunter and a preserver I found myself in awe – I’d never heard stories of this before.
It was a great encounter – one that was sweetened when I shared my plans for the crock (to actually use it). My host was surprised that anyone was preserving at all and encouraged by it. He simply didn’t want to throw out his pot and was hoping someone would use it as an antique. He was excited to hear that it would be put to use.
The Canadian Government still states that the only ways to safely preserve meat at home are freezing and curing (even jerky is recommended to be stored in freezer). The US Government does advocate pressure canning. It’s amazing to think how much we’ve forgotten – it makes one wonder if, at times, we’re overly cautious in the modern kitchen.
For now, it was fascinating to have a peak into our past – and to be able to use a piece of history in our somewhat modern kitchen.