I dream of one day having a real root cellar. Not just for the romantic notion of a simpler time, but for practical reasons. It just makes sense. Storing a winter’s worth of fresh, homegrown food without using any electricity would give us an extra leg up towards self-reliance, and keep our costs down at the same time.
We already do quite a bit of impromptu root cellaring. Our storage method for apples works really well, and we’ve kept apples fresh for over a year without refrigeration. Apples are the exception and we’re had much less success with other types of produce.
I’ve decided that this winter I’m going to start planning ours, reading up on building plans and practices. I already did the research and found ways to preserve a whole pig without refrigeration, now I just need to plan a place to put that tasty pile of charcuterie.
While I’m doing my research, it only makes sense to gather it all in one place and share it with you all.
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables
Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel is one of the most comprehensive books on root cellaring, with specific instructions on how to root cellar just about every type of vegetable. This is my “go-to” book when I’m looking for the specifics of how to keep things fresh in our current basement root cellar. The book also includes ideas on how to root cellar in apartments and suburban areas.
While this is the perfect go-to handbook with for modifying spaces in your current home, the one thing it really lacks is detailed instructions for building a traditional old-style underground root cellar. That’s where the next resource comes in.
Building a Homestead Root Cellar
Written by a fellow homestead blogger, Building a Homestead Root Cellar is a detailed guide that takes you through every step of actually building your own root cellar. Written by people who have actually done it, this book has the benefit of Teri and Brian’s hands-on experience. The couple built a beautiful root cellar on their homestead in Missouri and documented the entire process into an easy to follow e-book. (With stunning pictures of their work!)
Their book is 50 pages and covers:
- The basics of how root cellars work and how to safely store produce as well as dry-cured meats.
- How to plan your own root cellar from start to finish.
- Step by step instructions on building a root cellar into a hillside, with dozens of photos, covering every step of the process.
The Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar
Though The Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar won’t tell you how to build one, it will tell you how to stock it with just about every type of preserved food under the sun. The book covers the specifics of:
- Root cellaring different types of fruits and vegetables
- drying foods for the root cellar
- preservation by pickling and natural fermentation
- preserving dairy and eggs
This is a great resource to learn how to keep foods beyond basic produce in your root cellar. Long before you actually build a root cellar, you can begin practicing preservation techniques so you’ll know how to fill a cellar when you have one.
Recipes from the Root Cellar
If you’re used to popping into town to buy a pineapple in January, a long winter on stored produce can get monotonous unless you know how to make the most of it. Recipes from the Root Cellar has 270 different ways to use up every last potato, beet, cabbage, and turnip in unique and inventive ways. Knowing how to cook from the root cellar is just as important as knowing how to stock one. What’s the use in keeping all those things fresh if you cant make the most of them on your table?
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
Intimidated by preserving your own meats? Think you’ll just stick to root cellared veggies?
I’d challenge you to broaden your horizons. Preserving your own meats can be just as simple (and sometimes easier) than keeping produce fresh. If you’ve never made your own duck breast prosciutto, you’re seriously missing out. You cant even buy that in the store.
I learned how to make duck breast prosciutto from Michael Ruhlman’s book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.
Starting with a whole duck breast, cover it in completely with salt for 24 hours. Dust it off, wrap in cheesecloth, and hang for a few weeks in the root cellar. Done!
Curing your own meats really boosts your ability to provide for your family and adds excitement and depth of flavor to winter meals. There’s a reason that the art of charcuterie has survived into the modern age, even after the advent of modern refrigeration. Cured meats just taste better.