One of the biggest changes in moving out here has been living without a fridge. They just suck up way to much power, not to mention I wouldn’t even know where to begin in getting it out here until winter!
So how have we been living without a fridge? We’ve done a lot of research and spoken to other cabin owners out here to figure out what to do with food that spoils quickly. It turns out things like mayonnaise have enough preservatives in them that they don’t actually need refrigerated after opening. It seems really counter intuitive to leave mayo out, but so far we’ve had no issues with it. Jam and jelly are another big one that we get out here often. We usually go on PB&J binges when we receive homemade jam in care packages, otherwise it would go bad just a few days after opening. Store bought jam has never gone bad so far, even after being open for a week. A lot of what we buy is stuff that doesn’t need refrigerated. Dehydrated foods and fruit, and canned goods. We were a little late moving to have a garden this year so we are really missing fresh fruits and vegetables. I have a water bath canner that I’ve canned blueberries with here, hopefully next year we’ll have lots of garden produce to can.
Meat has definitely been the most important issue out here. We usually purchase small amounts, just a pound or two, and cook it as soon as we get home. Then we put it in Tupperware and stick it under the house. Keeping food under the house keeps it surprisingly well. Especially if it’s dug down a few inches into the ground. It seems to keep roughly the same temperature as a fridge that way, and we’ve kept meat up to three days in this manner.
This has all worked great until friends of ours gifted us a large amount of salmon. I don’t have a pressure canner (and boy are they expensive) so we couldn’t can the salmon. Smoking salmon is not something we’ve perfected yet so we needed another way to save the salmon for the winter. I wasn’t sure what other options there were to preserve the fish without a fridge or freezer. Our friends that gave us the salmon suggested we salt it. I read everything I could get on salting fish, which wasn’t much oddly enough. I also spoke to my grandpa and asked his advise on it. We did end up salting the fish so I thought I’d share the process we finally decided on.
First Kyle cleaned all the fish. Then we put some salt on them and stuck them in 5 gallon buckets over night. We did end up using table salt because that’s what was easily available. Kosher salt or sea salt are recommended because they have more edges and soak up more water. The main concern for table salt is that it usually has iodine in it. Iodine can cause darker meat and an off flavor in the fish. Luckily we found 25 lb sacks locally with no iodine in it.
The next morning I pulled the fish out, salted them again and hung them to drip dry. I wanted to try and get as much moisture out of them before I stacked them in salt again. Just leaving them overnight in salt left an inch and a half of salt brine in the bottom of the buckets.
After air drying for a day we took them down and salted them again. Then we loaded them into 5 gallon buckets and filled all the gaps with salt. I plan on checking on them throughout the next 10 days and pouring out any brine that accumulates. I’ll also add more salt as needed. After 10 or so days we’ll check and see how dry they are, we may need to leave them longer or air dry them again.
In order to use them we’ll need to reconstitute the salmon by soaking it in water. The water will need to be changed several times in order to remove all of the salt. We can also do pork and beef in the same way if we were so inclined.
I’m actually looking forward to winter here so we can have things like real milk around. Kyle has been working on our addition (a post for another day), and he’s included a trap door under the floor to keep a cooler dug into the ground. We’ll be able to keep ice around longer and have more perishable foods then!