Friday, June 11, 2010

Pondering the Big Woods

Photo courtesy of Lori Watson

What follows is an excerpt of food preservation information from "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I do not claim any rights to this information, I just compiled this as a courtesy for people who may be interested in how the Ingalls family prepared for winter and what they ate in the Big Woods.

Venison Jerky - salted, smoked with green hickory chips, wrapped in paper and stored in the attic
Salted fish - salted and placed in barrels in the pantry
Potatoes - root cellar
Carrots - root cellar
Beets - root cellar
Turnips - root cellar
Cabbages - root cellar
Onions - braided and hung in the attic
Red Peppers - dried, made into wreaths and hung in the attic
Pumpkins, Winter squashes - piled in the attic
Hard Yellow Cheeses - made from calf stomach rennet, placed in buttered muslin sewn shut and stored in the pantry
Herbs - dried and hung in bunches in the attic (culinary and medicinal)
Maple Syrup (if any left from prior year)
Maple Sugar cakes (if any left from prior year)
Sugar (light brown for company)
Pickles - sour
Hickory Nuts
Dried Apples
Dried Berries

Pig Butchering Day:

Hams and shoulders - brined then smoked, wrapped in paper and hung in the attic
Other meat cuts - salted, smoked, wrapped in paper and stored in the attic
Cracklings from lard making - stored in jar or barrel in the pantry, used in making Johnny Cakes
Sausage - finely minced meat and fat mixed with salt, pepper and garden fresh sage then formed into balls and stored in the shed (to freeze)
Lard - jars stored in the shed
Salt pork - stored in a keg in the shed

Butter - grate 1 fresh carrot and soak in milk for a few hours before making butter so winter butter is not pale


Salt rising bread
- this recipe has shortening, but I assume you can use butter instead
Rye 'n' Injun bread
Swedish crackers
Baked beans with salt pork and molasses - disregard the mustard if you want to be really authentic
Vinegar Pies
Dried apple pies
Molasses & sugar snow candy
Red & White striped peppermint sticks
Cold venison sandwiches and milk
Hasty pudding
Pumpkin Pies
Dried berry pies
Cold boiled pork
Bread and butter
Hardboiled eggs
Stewed pumpkin with bread - pumpkin slow cooked all day with spices until reduced and very thick
Hubbard squash - baked in hunks for dinner
Hulled corn and milk
Hulled corn and milk with maple syrup
Hulled corn fried in pork drippings
Boiled potatoes, cabbage and meat
Johnny Cake
Pitchers of milk

What I find interesting is how the Ingalls family doesn't eat much meat through the summer months because Pa doesn't believe in killing animals that may have babies.
They eat ultra seasonally (obviously) and naturally limit themselves to what is available or what they can afford if Pa went to town.

I've read this book 3 times since last fall and my main takeaways are the simplicity and seasonality of their diet.

I think as Americans who are used to having whatever we want whenever we want this type of thinking may be a tad extreme, but it's good information to ponder as we go through the fruitful months of summer.

What do we really need in order to survive?


  1. I enjoy these books too. We always try to eat whats in season. I can onlt imagine what farm life and little money would be like back then. Thanks for sharing. I think Its time to read these books again.

  2. I just re-read this book! Your list is great--one of my children was in a co-op (we homeschool) where "Farmer Boy" was the theme for the year. They made recipes from the LIW cookbook (the homemade eggnog was the best, but the flapjacks/pancakes [made of buckwheat, if I recall correctly] were...not so tasty, lol!).

    I found your blog through twitter--I am "livingandloving".
    Have a great weekend!

  3. Wow - I really appreciate this idea of the LH books. We have them all, and I think I will be rereading these shortly. I wish I lived near you to patronize your farm, it sounds awesome. I am in the hot Midwest, and have been giving a lot of thought to revamping our diet to get rid of all or most all of the processed foods and the idea of seasonal eating sounds like a really good one. Thanks!