Cool, airy, frost proof and fairly dry

I shared some helpful hints yesterday from my 1944 recipe and household management book, Cookery for To-day and To-morrow bu Nell Heaton. It really interested me to see how people – mostly ‘housewives’ in 1944 managed without freezers and the processed foods we now have, let alone best before and sell-by dates! After fish – Fish should be washed thoroughly and dried before placing in the refrigerator or larder. If a fish is to be kept for a few days in hot weather it is wise to wash it in vinegar and water – Nell talks about individual fruit:

  • Fruit should be stored in a room which is cool, airy, frost proof and fairly dry.
  • Soft fruits should be picked over: currants, raspberries and strawberries should be covered with sugar and will then keep overnight without going mouldy
  • Apples and pears should be spread on shelves or racks or stored in barrels or boxes, with straw between the layers. Pears should be brought into a warm place a few weeks before they are needed to allow them to ripen.
  • Peaches, apricots and nectarines should be wrapped separately in paper and they should not be allowed to touch each other.
  • Plums should be gathered dry and wrapped separately in paper, then storied in a dry airy place.
  • Oranges should be stored in fine sand. The sand should be dried and when cold the fruit should be buried init, stalk downwards and covered with the sand.
  • Lemons may be stored also in an airtight glass jar or in a refrigerator
  • Quinces should be stored on shelves in a cool room, away from other fruit.
  • Medlars should be laid out on shelves. If required to keep longer, their stalks may be dipped in brine.

Imagine the care people took with their food, making sure it wasn’t wasted by going bad or mouldy! Barrels of apples packed in straw (where would we get straw from these days?) wrapping in paper, burying in sand, dipping stalks in brine.. we just put things in a fruit bowl or in the fridge – and of course some of the things we buy in the shops have been treated in some way to give them longer shelf lives. I was remined of Treasure Island with the instruction on apples, I thought of the scene where Jim Hawkins climbed into the apple barrel and hidden from view, overheard the mutineers plotting to take over the ship, the Hispaniola!

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