How do you suppose great grandmother preserved foods so they would
be edible at some future time? They didn't believe in wasting food
in those days any more than many people do now. Meat was quite plentiful
in the earliest times but as the years rolled along, it became scarce.
Hunters had a harder time finding buffalo, grouse, prairie chickens
and deer. Yes, we had all of these in these early days but with
the growth of population, they moved on west or were over killed.
When meat was found it was preserved by salting and smoking it,
then wrapping it in a cloth and hanging it in the attic or tightly
made building so it did not get damp and mold and to keep insects
off of it. It was years before anyone knew any other way to preserve
meats. Canning of any kind had not been "invented."
Wild fruits were plentiful in the timber along the streams - two
varieties of wild plums, one much sweeter than the other has long
gone out of existence, we still have the other type I the patches
of bushes along roadsides and fence corners, now usually badly infested
with worms. Wild blackberries and raspberries grew in the timber
also, as did gooseberries and currants. We still can find small
patches of the raspberries and gooseberries if brush spray or the
bulldozer has not destroyed them.
The prairie yielded wild straw berries that grew in big patches
if the prairie fires had missed them in those early days. Roadsides
sometimes have them now. It was always a thrill to find these fruits
unexpectedly and gather a hat-full or apron-full, depending on the
discoverer, and the whole family enjoyed a change of fare. Wild
grapevines grew in the timber too and still does if allowed to grow
at will. Wild cherries and chokecherries grew in the timber and
chokecherries can still be found if you look on the side roads and
if the brush sprayer or the axe has not been there first. They all
make wonderful jell or butters now days - but what did great grandmother
do - she dried them in the sun, carefully covered with thin cloth
and beside the fireplace or, is she had a cooking range, in the
oven or on top the stove rack if she was fortunate enough to have
one. Then when she wanted the fruit in the winter, she soaked them
over night and cooked them next day or made pie or tarts with them.
If a "bee tree" was discovered in the timber it was
robbed of it's sweetness, either by cutting down the tree or climbing
it after dark so the bees did not cause trouble. Wild bees were
more "hot tempered" and smaller in size than those known
today. This honey was a sweet taste much favored by the pioneers.
Molasses made from the juice of sorghum cane was a great help as
a substitute for sugar in baking. It was as much a necessity for
early settlers as anything raised for food.