Monthly Archives: March 2019

Seasonality and Preservation

Understanding seasonality and preserving food could be the one of the most important topics within an early modern household. Seasonality determines what household tasks you do, and when you do them, especially if the household was to be productive and efficient. Preservation refers to the storage of food, and a process of keeping food throughout the winter. It can also include how the preserved food items are used throughout the year. Without knowledge of either seasonality or preservation the household and the members within would have an even harder time surviving.

The Gard’ners Kalendar by John Reid lays out monthly tasks to ensure that the garden is fruitful. It suggests how to prepare the garden, what vegetables or fruit to plant and even which pests to eliminate. When reading Reid’s directions, I noticed how the North American Farmer’s Almanac is very similar to it. This suggests that seasonality is still an important concept today, but now on a larger scale. Farmers may use an almanac to help them when planting crops to ensure they make enough of a profit to keep their business afloat. The Farmers’ Almanac sometimes also has natural health remedies and recipes which mirrors the texts read by women in the early modern period. Weather predictions are also made in each type of calendar which confirms the ideas that weather is the most important factor relating to the production of food.

Texts such as the Gard’ners Kalendar were likely directed towards women since they were the ones who did most of the gardening and preparation of food. However, The Farmers’ Almanac seems to be aimed more towards men, at least in the first decades of its publication. It is interesting to note who oversaw the gardening in the different time periods and countries.

Recipes for preserving food were probably added to a women’s own personalized cookbook. As she used a recipe, new steps or ingredients were added while other sections of the recipe could be taken out entirely. I fond it interesting that people still do this to recipes today. It shows that no recipe is guaranteed to be perfect, nor will everyone agree with the measurements and types of ingredients. However, what might work for someone, may for whatever reason, not work for someone else. I think it is important to not be completely reliant on the instructions of recipes because sometimes they just don’t work out. But following the recipes when preserving food is more important since the food needs to be stored safely for an extended period of time. Once the fruits and vegetables had been grown at the right time and nurtured with the correct supplements, the produce could be preserved. It’s important to think of the preservation process as a science since it requires careful amounts of chemicals and other ingredients to ensure the food is safe to eat later. It amazes me how well early modern households were able to preserve their food. Preservation is still an important way of storing and selling food today. I have made jam before, so I know it is quite the process to get all the measurements and timing right. Reading about seasonality and preservation has made me realize and appreciate how much time and effort goes into growing, harvesting, and preparing all sorts of food.