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Pioneer Gardens title image

1912 Will Seed Catalog back cover
1912 Will Seed Company Catalog Back Cover
SHSND# 10190
North Dakota Extension Homemakers Council published a series of books in which the memories of women who were members of Homemakers Clubs recalled life on ND farms in the early twentieth century. Though some of the Homemakers recalled raising garden vegetables, they were fairly consistent in recalling that there were few vegetables to can after the summer’s meals and feeding threshers. Canning jars and equipment were rare in the early days (dates are not specific), and most housekeepers knew that canning in the oven was dangerous, though some did it successfully. However, pickles were important for winter meals. Mary Miler recalled canning pickles in half-gallon jars because quarts did not hold enough pickles for one meal for her family. Many families put vegetables such as cabbage and potatoes in a root cellar. Some pioneers without means to can foods used salt as a preservative. Sauerkraut was salted cabbage, pickles were salted and canned or preserved in a crock. And a few women noted that even corn was salted. It had to be soaked and washed later when the family wanted to eat it. A few families also made hominy (from corn) with lye. (Minnie Ness, Burke County. Courtin, p. 79)

Other preservation processes included pickling whole watermelons in crocks which was relatively common. (Anna Sorenson, Burke County). One woman described a process for preparing potatoes for winter in a way that is not commonly found elsewhere. Potatoes were dug and piled in a field. They were then covered with straw and dirt. After a few days or weeks (the timing is not clear), the potatoes were moved to the cellar. The process made potato skins strong for winter storage. (Ruth Stromberg, Cass County, Courtin’, p. 82)