• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • Beau Davidson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Leigh Tate
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • Nancy Reading
  • Jay Angler
gardeners:
  • Jules Silverlock
  • Jordan Holland
  • Paul Fookes

Going fridge-less in the tropics

 
Posts: 203
Location: Florida - Zone 10A
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well, the fridge/freezer went overnight... Lost a lot of good things in there, and it made me realize the reliance I have upon it. I always knew I was reliant on it, but losing everything puts it all into perspective.

Unfortunately, I live in one of the hottest places in the US. Root cellar, spring houses, all of these are out of the question.

So I ask, do you think you could make it without a fridge in a hot location? Would you be willing to alter your entire diet and lifestyle around preservation methods such as dehydrating, smoking/curing, fermenting, pressure canning, and of course make a switch to cooking daily with little to no leftovers?

Lastly, do you have any tips or recommendations? I saw that clay evaporative fridge from India, it looks quite useful for vegetables, and of course there's the solar dehydrator which I still don't have. Perhaps the solar oven as well.
 
gardener
Posts: 2588
Location: Cascades of Oregon
523
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Earlier post on hot climate root https://permies.com/t/42559/Root-cellars-hot-climatescellars:
One of the problems with dehydrating I had in S,C, was the humidty. An evaporative cooler either with clay(ZEER) or some of the other: https://d-lab.mit.edu/research/evaporative-cooling-vegetable-preservation  are excellent alternatives to electric options. A solar oven is something that I personally use for some cooking throughout the summer.
 
master steward
Posts: 11192
Location: USDA Zone 8a
3329
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I feel that folks in the tropic where there might not be options for refrigerators grew up knowing how to live without a Refridgerator.

So I feel that going fridge-less in the tropics is possible and it is also possible to learn to live without one.

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, learning to live without meats, etc.

I also feel those cultures also depended on the local bread which also does not need to be refrigerated.
 
Posts: 46
Location: La Bretagne
11
homeschooling solar rocket stoves
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My family and I have lived without a fridge for well over ten years now and it's really not a big deal. People express regularly their dismay of being fridge-less to me often, but it really isn't a big deal. We only eat meat on days that one of us can stop by the butcher's shop, we cook the amount of food we will eat unless the weather is chill enough for us to prepare two meals, we don't have a freezer with ice cream or sorbet in it and just enjoy it when we get a pack of six cones and then race to get them eaten before they melt. Okay, knowing how much we will eat takes a bit of knowledge of our consumption and I have to know in advance if we'll have a guest and more food needs to be prepared. But it seems kind of normal to know that. In preserving food, freezing is not an option, but that's easily manageable. Really, a fridge is not the necessity everyone thinks it is.
 
Jeff Steez
Posts: 203
Location: Florida - Zone 10A
6
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think Jamaican Ital cuisine which revolves around freshly picked foods is the key to succeed where I am specifically. Plenty of roots I can leave in the ground until I need them, plenty of annual herbs and spices, and plenty of fruit trees.
 
pollinator
Posts: 92
36
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well, for most people, refrigeration is a major convenience, but to some, it is life or death.  One of the most important needs for cool storage is medical such as insulin.  Blood products also require cooling.  Now, I realize this was primarily a food preservation discussion, but wanted to ensure a more complete conversation.

As Robert noted, an area with high average temperatures and high humidity is more difficult to cool with evaporative systems.  I used to live in Denver,CO, and evaporative air conditioning was very efficient.  I expect the clay evaporation system works best if local average humidity is lower.  

In some areas, if ground water temperatures are lower, it is good to remember that ground temperatures are virtually reversed from air temperatures.  The ground at ten feet down is warmest in mid-winter and coolest in mid-summer.  A small pump will allow the root cellar to be cooled during the summer.  If temperatures are too low in the cellar during winter months, then a bit of heat prevents freezing and cools the ground better for summer use.

It is possible to create inexpensive heat pipes for a root cellar.  Construct pipes into the walls of the root cellar and use water under low pressure. Alcohol in small amounts prevents freezing in the system and also transmits heat well. Heat in the cellar will boil the low pressure water and the vapor will carry the heat up to a higher location. If cloth is kept wet in an area subject to wind or air circulation, it will remove the heat from the upper part of the pipe and allow the water to condense and fall back down to the cellar to pick up more heat. Of course, if air temperatures go below freezing, it will not be necessary to dampen the radiator section. The same process can also warm a floor or sidewalk in some areas by pulling ground heat into a cooler area.
 
Posts: 1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I see a number of options here and as several have pointed out, a large percentage of the world's population lives without refrigeration, so the issue is not whether one can live without a refrigerator, so it boils down to resources and choices. If you want refrigeration, I assume the issue is how much money and/or effort you want to spend. There are obviously off-grid refrigerators, but if you don't have (or don't choose) to spend the money for one of these options, then one can also spend a lot less money and still have some refrigeration/ice. For instance, if one has PVs, one can super-insulate a cooler and use an inexpensive ice maker when there is sun. Ice can simply be seen as a type of battery that stores the cool for night (or longer depending on insulation and amount of ice made, etc)  
 
gardener
Posts: 2982
Location: South of Capricorn
1427
dog rabbit urban cooking writing homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Welcome, Yashi.

I spend a good amount of time with elders in my family who spent most of their lives without refrigeration in hot areas and generally keep the 'old ways'. As mentioned, it all focuses around 3 things: buying smaller quantities, leaving things on the plant/hoof/etc until you're ready to eat them, and also significant amounts of labor (making bread or milking animals every day, for example).
Long-term storage of meat generally involved "potting" pork in a giant tin covered with lard (i couldn't get over the smell, didn't eat it, figured it wasn't worth it) or making some kind of salami type sausage that could be dried. With milk, it was cheese, but because there are rats/monkeys/other insistent critters they really didn't do much with these things. Storage outside of a locked, solid cabinet or storeroom (for beans, rice, flour, sugar, etc) means stuff wasn't safe.
I find that in our semitropical environment, drying is not an option (too humid).
Pickling is good for some stuff, but usually is faster (kombucha and sourdough for me vary wildly depending on the current temp).

Edited to add: there is some just cultural stuff. Typical I think Americans have a fridge half full of condiments. My mother in law has no condiments. None. Want ketchup? sprinkle some sugar if you want sweet. Want olives? Go buy them. At first it was kind of odd to me, now I get it.
 
pollinator
Posts: 675
Location: Western MA, zone 6b
364
cat dog forest garden foraging urban food preservation
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Interesting question.
"
Tropics aside, it made me think about what I REALLY "need my fridge for.    Honestly, the two most "important" things to me;  freezer storage for bulk meat for my dogs.   And heavy cream for my coffee.    I'm pretty sure those two things could have adequate solutions.   Nothing else that I can think of in my fridge is really super important.   I now pressure can most of my own meat for non-electricity storage.  

Plenty of things I might MISS, like cold mayo-based salads that taste better after a day of refrigeration,  but not that I really feel like I "need" on a daily basis.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 964
Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
290
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The first refrigerator was invented in 1834. Isn't it amazing that the human race has been living for eons without one but now, we wonder how we could ever live without?
So, yes, if you have to, you can. It just depends on the amount of 'inconvenience' you are willing to take on to save yourself the money or be good to the Earth.
Open your refrigerator and you will see many items that really do not *need* to be chilled. But as long as we have it, we pack in there bread, butter, condiments, eggs, pickles, relishes, jams. All things that do not need to be kept cold.
Butter will actually keep better in a crock and covered. Start small and remove some of those items from the fridge until you get used to the 'inconvenience'.
Eggs: they stay quite warm under a hen for 21 days without spoiling but we just put them in there out of habit. We certainly could do so much better and for less money. The problem is that once they have been chilled by the supermarket, they will not last as long.   Raise your own laying chickens and you save yourself that hassle. Some breeds now lay throughout the winter months so you can always have fresh eggs.
Sometimes, I feel that we've been trained to be wasteful, like with those eggs. Chickens tend to lay a lot less or even not at all when the days get very short, so how could you have fresh, uncooked eggs in the winter? My great grandma kept them for months in cornstarch or in fine flour. That was the tradition. They would keep until Candlemass, and that was one of the reason that pancakes were cooked as part of the celebration: It was just about the limit for those fresh eggs! She would always float the eggs automatically to see if any were not right and she would discard those.
She crocked cooked duck in its own fat in the basement. Duck fat is delicious to fry with,  and is prized for duck confit. You just pick what you want out of the crock to reheat and you add new duck fat to totally cover the meat. The lack of air and the coolness of the basement is enough to keep it safe.
Meats were cured with saltpeter
and also kept in a crock, or made into sausages that would hang from the rafters. They still do that in Spain.
All the wonderful cheeses that we have in France and all over the world bear witness to the attempts at keeping dairy products edible for a long time. Yogurt, sour cream, white cheese kept on salted straw in a basement attest to the ingenuity of our ancestors.
If you have traveled to Southern Europe, you may have noticed that houses are made of bricks or cement and the floors are often tiled. That is because this creates a cooler environment, with zero need for air conditioning. They often still have some shutters over the outside of their windows, especially on the East, South and West. Real ones, not these ugly plastic panels kept for decoration on either side but that won't even swing to cover the windows! Think of all the plywood panels that get wasted every time Florida has a hurricane! The shutters cover the windows completely and can be closed at night for security from burglars.
I'm lucky to live in Wisconsin, so we really should not even bother with a refrigerator, but we do, for convenience and out of habit..
Here is an article from Food Storage Moms that might inspire some of us who can to make a few beneficial changes for our wallet and the sake of the Earth:
https://www.foodstoragemoms.com/how-to-live-without-a-refrigerator/
Using a Zeer Pot:
https://www.instructables.com/A-Practical-Zeer-Pot-evaporative-cooler-non-electr/
And if money is no object:
https://www.amazon.com/solar-refrigerator/s?k=solar+refrigerator

 
Posts: 20
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a question about living without refrigeration. Before I ask it, I admit that I do have a refrigerator and chest freezer. Grew up with the convenience of electricity.

Here's my question (it is something that I have wondered about for years and years). How did the pioneers, the people who settled this country, and especially those moving away from the east coast where there might have been ice boxes or some way to "keep" food, live without refrigerators? I know they used candles and some type of fuel for lanterns and wood stoves and fireplaces, but what about storing food? Did they rely on drying garden produce and meat/fish?
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 964
Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
290
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Catherine Guzovich wrote:I have a question about living without refrigeration. Before I ask it, I admit that I do have a refrigerator and chest freezer. Grew up with the convenience of electricity.

Here's my question (it is something that I have wondered about for years and years). How did the pioneers, the people who settled this country, and especially those moving away from the east coast where there might have been ice boxes or some way to "keep" food, live without refrigerators? I know they used candles and some type of fuel for lanterns and wood stoves and fireplaces, but what about storing food? Did they rely on drying garden produce and meat/fish?



Even canning is not that old: canning, method of preserving food from spoilage by storing it in containers that are hermetically sealed and then sterilized by heat. The process was invented after prolonged research by Nicolas Appert of France in 1809, in response to a call by his government for a means of preserving food for army and navy use, says the Brittanica:
https://www.britannica.com/topic/canning-food-processing
Before Refrigeration as we know it, Europeans' diet was heavy on bread and salted meats, and the story of the advent of refrigeration is fascinating:
https://www.history-magazine.com/refrig.html#:~:text=Before%201830%2C%20food%20preservation%20used,diet%20as%20they%20do%20today.
This article enumerates a few ways outside of pickling, salting, smoking. Folks have been ingenious, using cold streams, ice on the river with sawdust/ chips.
By harvesting large blocks of ice pulled out of lakes and rivers with sleds and horses, then placed in large buildings with straw, soil, sawdust, Louis XIV of France was able to have ice cream in July. [Yeah, you had to be really rich and powerful. This was not available to most folks].
In the great migration westward, pioneers ate very simply. the need to pack enough food for the trip restricted even more what would be available:
"The mainstays of a pioneer diet were simple fare like potatoes, beans and rice, hardtack (which is simply flour, water, 1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar, then baked), soda biscuits (flour, milk, one t. each of carbonate of soda and salt), Johnny cakes, cornbread, cornmeal mush, and bread".
https://www.notesfromthefrontier.com/post/what-pioneers-ate#:~:text=The%20mainstays%20of%20a%20pioneer,%2C%20cornmeal%20mush%2C%20and%20bread.
Added to this might be the occasional game killed on the trail, or fish harvested but not much: when moving, hunting/ fishing becomes quite limited. I imagine that bartering would have been more important than it is now  too, perhaps with friendly bands of natives.
While we are talking food and survival, you might be interested in the Templars, that monastic military order going to the Holy Land. They surprised everyone by having an incredible longevity:  at a time when most folks would die between 25 and 40 years, they would live into their 60s. See what they ate:
https://www.seeker.com/knights-templar-secret-of-longevity-revealed-1771180618.html
While this is a bit off topic, the foods they ate didn't require refrigeration, so I thought it still fit here.

 
Anne Miller
master steward
Posts: 11192
Location: USDA Zone 8a
3329
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Catherine Guzovich wrote: but what about storing food? Did they rely on drying garden produce and meat/fish?



I am sure that was one of the methods used by pioneers.

You might find this interesting:

Kate said, "For meat, we go to the butcher once every week, get enough meat for a big pot of stew/curry/soup, and reheat every day until we've eaten it all. This works fine even in summer, as long as I'm strict about bringing it to the boil every day.



https://permies.com/t/56871/kitchen/Recipes-tips-fridge-cook#937696

And yes, this is my understanding of how the pioneers handled not having a refrigerator.

You might also enjoy her book:

https://permies.com/wiki/152738/Year-Grid-Kitchen-Kate-Downham
 
Anne Miller
master steward
Posts: 11192
Location: USDA Zone 8a
3329
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another method that probably has been around for centuries, is fermentation.

https://permies.com/t/54640/kitchen/Fridge-Free-Solutions#451454

 
Richard Henry
pollinator
Posts: 92
36
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If one is interested in food usage prior to general refrigeration, there were several workarounds.  As noted above, salting of pork, fish and other meat preserved it well.  Eggs could also be submerged in a preservation solution.  This process is called waterglassing.  Originally, a solution of sodium silicate was used which became a gel when the powder was mixed with water.  Many people also use pickling lime in water to waterglass.  This method provides protection for 12 to 18 months and was used to cover those times of year in northern and very southern areas with low solar periods.

It should be noted that many people lived on really poor diets as well.  The introduction of polenta into Italy allowed farm workers to maintain a full stomach but led to severe malnutrition and associated disorders.  

Many here might remember that spices were highly prized in Europe and that trade drove much of the early expansionism.  A major reason spices were so sought after was the fact that spices helped to cover the scent of meat as it started to degrade.  That fact could explain why such spicy dishes are found in warmer climes - the stronger the spice, the less one could smell deteriorating food.  The fact that hot spices tend to make the body release endorphins and thus enhance the taste probably encouraged use of spice as well.

Louis XIV was no piker, but eating ices was a Greek, Chinese and Egyptian delicacy well into BC times.  A shallow dish could often be left out at night in the desert with a thin piece of ice remaining in the morning.  Mountain glaciers also provided snow as a basis for ices. Ingenuity is a hallmark of permies, so I expect many potential innovative solutions have been developed.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 569
Location: East of England
219
3
cat forest garden trees tiny house books writing
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Going completely without a fridge would not be easy, but I also think it's easy to overuse the fridge. I don't understand why people keep condiments in the fridge. Mayo, sure, if would spoil. But things like ketchups that are loaded with sugar, salt, and vinegar really shouldn't need refrigeration, even in hot climates. I grew up in Australia, where it gets HOT, and was surprised to find that Brits and Americans keep so many things in the fridge that we kept in the pantry!

Also, though most permies won't routinely be doing this, I don't think precooked meals bought at the store and kept in the home fridge for a few days before eating are at all healthy and could be a factor in the correlation between the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease and home refrigerators.

The issue with corn consumption in Europe causing malnutrition had less to do with the lack of refrigeration, and more to do with the fact that the corn seed was brought from the Americas, but not the traditional knowledge of nixtamalization to free up the nutrients.
 
Catherine Guzovich
Posts: 20
4
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I thank everyone who replied to my questions. The article about the Templars was very interesting and I plan to learn more about them and other methods of preserving food.

I am 82 years old and for years I did a lot of canning, especially tomatoes. However, a few years ago I began experiencing pain in both legs to the point where I could barely stand for more than 5 minutes without having to sit and rest.

Through researching the internet and hearing an interview of Dr. Don Colbert on Kenneth Copeland Ministries, I learned that perhaps I was experiencing inflammation in my legs. If anyone thinks that inflammation is not serious let me share this information - according to Dr. Colbert and others, inflammation is at the root of 37 major diseases and those diseases incubate in the colon. Some of those diseases are heart trouble, hypertension, high blood pressure, Alzheimer, dementia, arthritis, and cancer. Inflammation is serious. I purchased Dr. Colbert's book," Let food by  your medicine and let medicine by your food".

For some people, and I am one of them, inflammation is caused by the plants in the Nightshade family, which are potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, sweet and hot, eggplant and goji berries.

I stay away from those plants. Do I miss eating these vegetables, yes. However, I do not miss the pain. Every time I am tempted to eat them, I remember the pain.

People, do your own research. Do not simply believe what others, including me, tell you.
 
Richard Henry
pollinator
Posts: 92
36
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As I was cleaning out some of the cellar, I remembered an older method used by some communities and thought I would throw it into the conversation.  I am old enough to remember there was a freezer plant in the village where those who did not have a freezer or refrigerator could rent a cabinet or drawer and keep food for the future.  It went out of business once family freezers became affordable, but think of how a community could leverage spotty utility power by any family with sufficient power renting out (barter or otherwise) room in their freezer for neighbors.  That would work for refrigeration as well, especially for those who need it for medicines.

One of my favorite dishes that requires refrigeration is meatballs in sauce.  It takes at least overnight for the meatballs to incorporate the sauce properly.  
 
There will be plenty of time to discuss your objections when and if you return. The cargo is this tiny ad:
Explore the possibilities: Permies.com where you can work from home, on the road and on the farm
https://permies.com/wiki/209054/Explore-possibilities-Permies-work-home
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic