Learn about Life in the 1920s

How to Preserve and Store Food

In addition to the electric powered refrigerator there were various other methods used for storing and preserving food as per this article from 1923.

ADEQUATE refrigerator space is an economy. It is also an essential to setting a good table in the summer season, and in many cases, especially where there are young children dependent on milk as a chief article of diet, it is a necessary health safeguard.

If there is no ice chest or equivalent cooling place in the home, the waste of large quantities of food cannot be prevented in the hot season. Milk delivered in the morning will be sour before the evening meal, and even meat delivered in good condition is apt to be unfit to eat within a short time if it is not cooked at once. This is due to the fact that most meat now sold has been kept frozen in storage, and after being thawed out decomposes rapidly.

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Most city and suburban families are able to have frequent ice delivery and consider an icebox or refrigerator an essential part of their equipment. Plans for even a small home should provide for a refrigerator, and in making such plans two things should be kept in mind: convenience in icing and care of the waste water.

When a house is being constructed an ice chest can be built into the wall with an outside door on a rear or side porch with little extra expense. This avoids the annoyance and dirt of having cakes of ice carried into the kitchen and perhaps clear across it to a pantry. Equally annoying is the necessity, where no drainage provision has been made, of having a drip pan under the refrigerator. Such a pan often overflows, flooding pantry or kitchen, unless the housewife has an exceptional memory for such details of her work. A small drip basin under the refrigerator, with a length of iron pipe leading through the wall to the outside, is all that is necessary to take care of this. If desired, the pipe can be connected with the drain pipe from the kitchen sink instead of extending outdoors. Self-cooling refrigerators of various types are on the market. Some of them manufacture their own ice, while others cool the air of the interior air chambers to the desired point without using ice. A motor using a small amount of electric current is used in most types to operate the cooling system. The cost of operation of most of these is not expensive, but the first cost is considerably higher than the refrigerator which is dependent on the regular calls of the ice man.

Several cooling devices for between season use or as an auxiliary to the ice chest are found of value by many housewives. One of these is the window cooling box. This consists of an oblong box with a screen at the back to admit outside air. The box is fitted into an oblong sheet of metal at the back that can be adjusted to the width of the window. The window is raised to admit this metal sheet and is then pushed tightly against it. Such a box is available for keeping food during many months of the year. The opening at the rear of the box may be partly closed in winter to avoid freezing. It then solves the problem of keeping food in cold weather when it is in danger of freezing outdoors and the rooms inside are too warm to prevent its spoiling.

The Iceless Refrigerator

Photos of a Californian Type Fridge
Californian Type Refrigerator

ANOTHER iceless refrigeration device, known as the California type, is shown in the illustration in the righthand column of this page. This is a cooling box built on the principle of a dumb-waiter and is available where there is a cool cellar beneath the kitchen or pantry. It is raised to have the food placed in it and then drops to the level of the floor. The top is of the same material as the floor, so that its existence is not suspected except when it is raised.

There are numerous designs of cooling jars which may be placed in the basement and used to keep food cool. Most of these are made of porous earthenware, and if kept moist maintain a temperature lower than that of the surrounding air through evaporation. As most basements are considerably cooler than the outside air in hot weather, the jars are a practical auxiliary for the ice chest, if not a complete substitute.

In all devices for cooling and keeping food fresh special emphasis must be placed at all times on cleanliness. The type of refrigerator which is easiest to keep clean should be given preference, and care should be taken to remove any fruit or other articles in danger of decaying. Frequent scouring of the food chambers, and periodic cleaning of the ice receptacles to remove the slime and dirt likely to accumulate from the melting ice are necessary if the hot weather food supply is to be kept sweet and untainted.

In addition to the various methods of cooling food in the home, a number of processes of canning and drying are economical means of preserving it. Most of the drying methods heretofore in use have left a product greatly inferior in taste to the fresh vegetable. A new process known as dehydration is a great improvement over the older methods. It evaporates the moisture from the vegetable by a slow heat that leaves the flavor almost unimpaired. To restore it to a close resemblance to its fresh state it is only necessary to soak the dehydrated vegetable in water.

The dehydrator is a metal box much resembling an oven. It has a number of sliding shelves on which the vegetables are spread for drying. It is then placed over the stove with the burners turned low and left there until the vegetables are shriveled and dry.

Source: Womans Weekly Supplement, 1923




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