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Drying meat and other foods without a dehydrator (around 1940)

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I was a small boy growing up in what was called Garden Home and later
Westwood Colorado which was all annexed to Denver in later years. I was born

We did not have electricity and running water. We burned coal and wood.
(Don't let anyone tell you coal is clean).
We used coal oil lamps (kerosene) and pumped water from a well in the
backyard. Milk and butter were kept cool in a metal bucket which was lowered
into the cool water of the well. And of course we had an outhouse like
everyone else.

We had goats and chickens. So we had goat meat to eat fresh and dry for
later use and goat milk to drink and cook with. I never tasted cows milk
until my first day in school and they gave us each a small glass bottle of
cows milk. To me it tasted awful. To this day I am not a milk drinker and
only use a little for cooking. We had chickens for eggs and meat. We had a
large garden which was watered with well water pumped by hand into a tank
which fed a hose which was moved from row to row in the garden. Pumping
water for the garden was not my favorite chore as it took
away valuable time that I thought was better spent fishing but now I am glad
I had the experience.

We had an attic in the house but it could only be accessed from outside the
house with a ladder. I had to climb up on the kitchen roof and then open the
small door into the attic. Then I would hang thin strips of meat over a
clothes line (carne seca in Spanish, jerky in English) where it would dry.
Later when it was needed I again climbed back up the ladder and
retrieved however much meat my mom wanted. Me being small was the only one
in the family who could climb the ladder and get through the small attic
My mom canned a lot of the garden stuff but also dried many things such as
hot chiles both red and green and fruits apricots, apples, peaches etc which
were later made into pies, cobblers or whatever she could dream up.

I do not remember her ever drying tomatoes or sweet frying peppers but that
is one thing I do. Here's how I do it.
I use some nice clean old window screens and simply quarter inch slice ripe
tomatoes or sliced lengthwise sweet frying Nardello peppers and lay them on
there to dry. I do cover them with cheese cloth. I elevate the screen about
4 feet so I can place a fan underneath it to blow up from below. This can be
done with sawhorses
When dry they are about as thin as an onion skin but they puff up again when
you put them in a stew or whatever.
I store them in wide mouth jars and and I use the jar lids and rings but not
tight enough to seal them. Be sure they are thoroughly dry before you put
them in jars. Drying foods in this manner eliminates the purchase of a
dehydrator and of course this is the way it was done before dehydrators were
invented. If you can set this screen near a south facing window the sun will
help to dry things.

Drying foods is about as simple and foolproof as you can get. If the power
goes out you still have food you can eat that has not spoiled in the freezer
or refrigerator.

My mom had a part of an old monkey wrench (the hammer looking part)and
a chunk of steel about 6 X 6 inches square that she used to shred the dried meat
on. She would add that to a roux and cook it and use it as a gravy over mashed
potatoes or anything else. She was a very creative lady in the kitchen and
everywhere else.

Oh, and we had a rain barrel to catch rain water from the roof for washing
our hair.
But now a person can't collect rainwater legally in Colorado. How dumb is that?
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Great stories thanks!

With the meat hanging to dry, is there an issue with flies? How thin does it have to be?
LeRoy Martinez
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The thinner you cut the slices the quicker they will dry. And if you hang the meat over a wooden clothes drying rack
or a clothes line then you can drape some cheese cloth over it to keep flies and wasps etc away.

We had some neighbors close by and I'll never forget that they had a screen box on the north side of their house
and every year they had quarters of elk and/or deer hanging in that box and when they needed meat they just went out
and cut some off. There was no refrigeration but the nights through the winter were cold and the meat was always in the
shade during the day. By spring the meat was used up one way or another.

The hanging meat shrinks considerably over the course of a winter so the cuts of meat just keep getting smaller and smaller.
But the meat is well aged and tastes good.
Posts: 224
Location: east and dfw texas
forest garden hunting trees chicken bee woodworking
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I don't know I wasn't there but it stands to reason that the people that lived in America before we forced them out and killed the rest surely had came up with a way to preserve meat and other stuff it just wasn't documented good.
Rose Pinder
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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thanks LeRoy, I'm inspired to give this a go now.

I've also known people that in the past hung carcasses and just cut meat off over long periods of time.
LeRoy Martinez
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An interesting book is called "Hopi Cookery" by Juanita Tiger Kavena 1980- The University Of Arizona Press
Has recipes, drying meat, peaches, melons etc. All stuff that's good to know.
You might find a copy on Amazon or eBay
Wait, I just looked and there are 16 copies on eBay from $3.77 up.
You would be much easier to understand if you took that bucket off of your head. And that goes for the tiny ad too!
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