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Preserving Meat Without Refrigeration

If you haven’t considered what would happen without power, start by looking in your kitchen. Your refrigerator would no longer work. Meats and perishables would spoil quickly. While we all want to think we won’t ever be without electricity, no one can predict when the next major world war or other catastrophe will occur.

A major catastrophe that shuts down power plants would be devastating—that is, unless you are prepared and know how to survive. You should learn how to preserve meat without refrigeration. Salting and brining are two efficient, simple means of preserving meat for your family’s sustenance.

Before You Start

You are going to need a source of fresh meat. Beef and pork are both good options. If you have gotten into homesteading, you may have your own pigs and cows; however, you can also purchase fresh meat from a butcher or a co-op that sells beef and pork fresh off the hoof.

Next, you should examine your house thoroughly using a thermometer. As you go from one area to the next, record the temperature. Make sure you check the attic, any unheated areas of your house, your storage shed, and any other shelters on your property. You are looking for the coldest areas; this is where you will store your meat.

Salting Pork for Preservation

Many people have forgotten this old method of preserving pork. It is one of the easiest methods available and doesn’t take much time.  You will need fresh pork, pickling salt, brown sugar, and crocks or jars for storage.

First, cut the pork into slabs. Generally, four- to six-inch slabs work best. Mix 1/2 pound of pickling salt with 1/4 cup of brown sugar. This is enough to cover twelve pounds of pork. Liberally cover the pork with this mixture. Next, pack the meat into sterilized crocks or jars. You should make sure it is tightly packed. Cover the meat with cheesecloth.

Using the temperature chart of your house, determine where to store your crocks. You need to keep the meat in an area that is about 36°F – no higher than 38°F. You also do not want an area that could see freezing temperatures. Leave the meat in this cool storage for at least one month. After that time, you can wrap the meat in plastic or moisture-proof paper and leave it stored all winter. You now have salt-cured pork for any occasion.

Many older people remember having a smokehouse on their land when they were young. Meat would be salted and hung to cure in these cool, dry areas. You could build a storage room for handing meat without too much work. The room should have excellent air circulation and stay cool without freezing.

Brining Pork

Brining is a reliable method of preserving pork, although it takes a little more time than salt preserving. Start out the same way you do for salt preserving by cutting the fresh pork into slabs. Next, you need to pack the pork into a sterilized container like a crock or jar.

Dissolve 1 pound of pickling salt and 1/2 cup of brown sugar in 3 quarts of water. Pour this brine over the pork and ensure that the meat is completely covered in liquid. If you have a problem covering the meat completely in brine, add a weight to the meat to keep it submerged. A plate with something heavy on top will work nicely. Store the covered pork in one of your rooms that will stay an average temperature of 36°F.

Time-tested advice on how to cure the meat by smoking or salting helps you preserve your harvest.

After the first week, remove the pork from the brine. Stir the brine well and repack the meat. Leave in the cool room and repeat this process for the next four weeks. If the brine is thick or stringy on any of the weeks you open it, remove the meat. Empty the brine and sterilize the crocks. Wash each piece of pork well before repacking. Mix a fresh batch of brine for the meat, and put back into storage. At the end of four weeks, your meat is ready to be cooked.

Canned Meat

If you are familiar with canning fruits and vegetables, you should know that you can also can meat. You have to make sure you get the temperature of the meat high enough to kill bacteria before it seals. Chicken and beef are good options for canning, as are fish. You can cook the meat before you can and seal it. For example, you could make beef stew and preserve it in cans. Stewed chicken also cans and preserves well. Raw packing is another option you can try as well.

Dehydration

While most of us tend to think of jerky as a snack food, dried meat is another viable option for preserving meat without using refrigeration. Although you’d probably have trouble rehydrating enough meat to prepare a Sunday roast dinner, you could definitely use jerky that has been broken into small pieces as a welcome addition to soups, stews, and chilis. Beef, pork, venison, and turkey all make excellent jerkies.

Live Animals

If you are trying to get back to the basics of homesteading and want to be prepared for any emergency situation, you may want to consider having some live sources of protein. You can easily raise rabbits and chickens. A small pond can be stocked with fish. If you have room, you can add a dairy cow for milk and a bull to slaughter. However, once you slaughter the bull, you will need to cure some of the meat so that it doesn’t all go bad.

Part of getting back to the basics involves knowing how to hunt animals for food. Venison is an excellent meat, and deer can be found that are small enough to provide you with plenty of meat without the need to preserve large amounts of meat for long periods of time.

No one wants to think about losing electricity and all the luxuries that it brings. However, nothing is promised, and it wouldn’t take much to shut down electricity. You don’t want to be one of the people who are not prepared for basic survival.

Preparing your family for catastrophe doesn’t mean you have to stop living with your refrigerator. However, it does mean knowing what to do in the event you don’t have a refrigerator. Additionally, knowing how to preserve meat can save you money by raising and preserving some of your own meat.  Put the tips here to use and ensure you know how to keep meat from spoiling.

©2012 Off the Grid News

© 2008-2014 Off The Grid News

37 comments

  1. I like most of your articles this one does no good. First of all it does not go far enough with info. Second , I don’t know of any place in anyone’s home that stays between 36 and 38 degrees, not even in the fridge. Thirdly, if it only keeps thru the winter you don’t need to go to the trouble of preserving it in order to keep it. People should learn to salt or sugar cure meat for long term. When I was small my family always had hams hanging in the smoke house as well as salt cured meat in a wooden chest put in by layers and covered with salt until needed. We used an old porcelain bathtub for soaking. Info can be gotten from meat co. Or the internet.

    • Yeah I know right! I came here to find out how to preserve meat WITHOUT* refrigeration, I am in Florida. What kind of advice is “to preserve meat without out your refrigerator which is in the 40s, instead put your meat in a part of your house that is consistently in the high 30s” ???? What???

  2. Obviously from my user name, I live in Florida. How in the world would I ever preserve or store meat as the temperature never goes to 35 degrees or below except for a few nights in the winter. Is dehydration my only choice?

    • I’m with you, Floridaisabust, in that we live in souther Arizona. We are the only ones with a basement here, which (the basement) tries to assume whatever the ground temperature is; normally 80ºF.
      I guess for us in the warmer parts of the country, we’ll have to forego that option, and go for whatever works for us.
      I’ve got a freezer in the basement, but we’re talking power outage, so that point is moot.
      Dehydrated and canned may be better choices.

      • Arizona residents and others from hot and arid regions, especially, can make jerky in their attics where it’s plenty hot and dry. Especially in summer. Just make sure rats and mice can’t get to it.

      • arizona is so sunny you should be able to have solar energy to keep your electricity going year round.

  3. So, where to start? Here in East Texas prolonged cold weather is known as “hog killing weather.” I have raised hogs, killed and butchered hogs and preserved pork, so here comes a little information learned from experience. Let’s skip to preserving, after the butchering the hog is cut into various cuts. For preserving I use two different products, Morton’s Sugar Cure and Morton’s Tenderquick. Sugar Cure is sold at Brookshire Bros. stores here and Tenderquick is sold at Krogers. The meat is rubbed with Sugar cure and the big pieces, like hams, are injected with Tenderquick, and stacked, The meat is re-rubbed, turned over and restacked until the meat is cured, which depends on temperature and the size of cuts .The meat is then hung in the smokehouse and smoked, as much as you like it. Morton products are available from Amazon and others. There’s nothing like home cured and smoked bacon, ham and sausage. Any detailed information needed is certainly in the world’s filing cabinet, online.

  4. read somewhere that some westward-ho settlers died of starvation, as they thought they could live off the plentiful jackrabbits; there supposedly just isn’t enuf protein, or whatever, to sustain human health in rabbits

    • The issue with surviving on eating rabbits is … they don’t have enough FAT they are very lean. Plenty of protein but the body need a certain amount of FAT to survive over a prolong period of time … that is… if you were only eating rabbit.

      A good couple of books that have been around for year and years… all about mountain and pioneer living is called FOXFIRE and FOXFIRE 2
      Make your own tools, build a cabin, dress a hog.. etc.

      By Eliot Wigginton. – ANCHOR BOOK, press, AO36
      Title: The FOXFIRE book ( mine was 1972):
      Hog dressing, log cabin building, mountain crafts and foods, planting by the sins snake lore, hunting tails, faith healing, moonshining, and other affairs of plain living.

    • sounds like you’ve froze your butt off, especially hands,f before too these young uns watch video games couldn’t find the creek til they fell in it

    • We raised rabbits and chicken, meat is meat and meat is protein, how does rabbit not have enough in protein? They are lean but the issue isn’t the protein, rabbits(wild) contain a parasite during the months with no “R” so May through Aug. you don’t eat wild rabbit, only after the frost!

  5. Just a comment on your suggested livestock. You suggest raising a cow and a bull. The cow is good but unless you plan on doing some breeding don’t raise a bull; raise a steer instead (and perhaps that is what you meant). Having grown up on a dairy farm I know from personal experience that bulls are cranky, mean and usually dangerous when they’re in a good mood. And when there is a cow in heat, be very careful around them! Lastly, bulls are just downright tough when you try to eat them.
    Instead, raise a steer (a neutered male). Steers gain weight more efficiently and are much easier to work with in a pen or enclosure. That’s my two cents worth for the day. Enjoy!

    • Long term, you WILL need a bull. And if you raise that bull from a calf, they are NOT necessarily mean! I have raised several bulls from calves, and they are just a sweet as can be, but I’m sure some could be mean if they are not inter-acted with regularly. For consistent and ongoing meat, you will need a bull to reproduce, and also they could be used to barter with the extra meat you will have. cows that are kept pregnant will also have milk, something that is also able to be bartered with if you can’t use it all yourself.
      A steer is great if you only need one. Once killed for food….gone. Now what? You will have to get another one, and so on..

  6. If you are going to raise something for protein, I would raise chickens for eggs and goats for milk. Off course, you could also eat them and they are small enough to man handle if you have too. Another off the wall choice might be raising ground hogs or woodchucks since you could catch them in the wild but I don’t know how well they would work. As far as preserving, canning is extremely easy but you need a pressure cooker to reach the temperature needed.

    • On the subject of raising Ground hogs, also known as Wood chucks, I wouldn’t advise it. Rabbits are of the same family but much friendlier. My grandma had two groundhogs as pets at different times. they tend to get mean as they grow into maturity and I wouldn’t suggest them as a domestic food source. best idea? just go shoot them as needed.

  7. Last Fall I finally got around to putting up hams the old country way (virginia style). My grandafather let me try some once as a young boy and I never forgot the flavor.
    I bought a case of fresh hams from a meat packing plant close by. After trimming them up a bit to get rid of excess fat areas I salted them really well on a wooden board . I used a combo of brownsugar and salt. covered them well and let them sit on the slightly tilted board for several weeks (5wks) .I checked them regularly as they oozed their natural liquids out onto a towel on the floor of my garage. I did this during the fall – nice and cool / cold in the garage.
    after the 5 weeks I washed them with warm water. then cooked up some molasses with cayenne pepper & black pepper ,coated them and left in garage for another 2 weeks. Then took a small smoker (outside of course) and connected it to a large cardboard box via a piece of pvc. I smoked them with cool smoke(indirect smoking technique) for a week. I keept a small coal fire going and added applewood and shag bark hickory when I was around the house and not at work. when the weather was iffy i put a tarp over the box.
    I pulled the hams after a week or so , when they turned a dark brown / yellow color.
    I puth them back into the garage for a couple of weeks to lose some of the intense smoke smell -then wrapped them in cheese cloth and grocerystore paper bags and have them on a shelf for future use. I’ll be eating one this winter as I will be making another batch this fall.This old and proven method will preserve hams for years. The flavor is awesome and the power I feel from knowing how to do it is priceless.
    Hope this was of interest to someone.

    • I totally understand your feeling of accomplishment! When I can do something for my family that is anywhere near as marvelous as your learning to preserve ham, well I’ll feel mighty proud myself. Congratulations!

    • thank you so much for your post about curing ham, finally I can actually understand what was written in simple easy instructions. the length of time to cure time needed to smoke and method, and storage. great job and thanks a bunch!

  8. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Was taught that fresh meat could be sealed in a crock with melted lard and then kept as cool as possible. The point I think, was to seal the meat from the outside air. Dad said to butcher the meat, render all fat and then pour it over the fresh meat that was laided in a crockery pot. Claimed it sealed the meat and kept it usable. If it’s right, one could do this and need almost no cooling capability.

    • my father-in-law describes a similar process from his family in the old country – buried barrels filled with hog cuts and rendered lard. They would open on holidays, take what meat they wanted and re-pour the lard to seal the meats again.

  9. I remember my Grandma used to preserve/store pork in her root cellar in crocks,with lard poured to cover the meat. She lived in rural Iowa. As I remember it was yummy!

  10. I can a lot of meat and love to eat it. It’s easier than most people think.

  11. I also can meat in my pressure canner — no refrigeration needed. Been doing this for years.

    Also, I am planning to make some lactic-acid fermented sauerkraut this fall. May be a challenge as the instructions say it should be kept at a temperature of 72 degrees for a few days. That I can manage. Then after fermentation starts, it should be in a cool place around 59 degrees. No where in my home or outdoors will the temperature be this low. So it will be an experiment. Wondering if I put some ice packs around the crock and a fan in my pantry with the door closed if I could get the temperature this low. I am anxious to try this as the book I have says that canned commercial sauerkraut has been pasteurized and that kills off the healthy lactic acid bacteria.

    Any one have any ideas on how to accomplish this? Could it be placed in a refrigerator?

    • don’t know if you did this yet or not, but wanted to share. i’ve done some lacto fermenting too. When i do sauerkraut, i just leave on the counter for about three days. you will know it’s working because there will be a lot of gas bubbles produced and you will have to “burp” the containers if you put lids on them so they don’t burst. i have never worried about a specific temperature. once i know it’s working and the good bacteria has overtaken the bad, then i refrigerate. really easy.

    • For the sauerkraut chop the cabbage, place a layer in a clean crock or glass gallon jar. Put plain salt 1 tsp. on the cabbage, continue layers until the jar or crock is full. Pour boiling water over it until the cabbage is covered. Place a small plate or something else to weight the cabbage, place in a plastic basin in case it boils over. Put in a cool place, check every day, skim off any foam that forms, do not use metal it will turn the kraut, add hot saltwater to keep cabbage covered. Kraut is done when it quits bubbling, in 4 or 5 days, can it or eat fresh. this is the basic recipe my great aunt used to make kraut.

  12. I would think a refrigerator would work fine as long as the temp were right. Another thought would be to bury it. i know Laotians bury a concoction that ferments and is a lot like cabbage.

    But back to canning meat…We started doing it a couple years ago when we would have another steer butchered and had the last one left over in the freezer. It is about the best meat you ever get to eat. And the wife loves it because it makes the meals so much easier to make. We add garlic powder, onion powder salt and pepper to the top of the pints before canning and have no freezer burn taste after the meat has been in the freezer for 6 months. Ive given quite a few jars to friends and they almost all told me that they opened the jar to try it and ended up eating the whole thing. A couple of people even started doing it them selves.

    Do you add anything to yours

  13. Goats are a great choice for those who don’t have room or need smaller amounts of meat/milk for one or two persons. I have one registered Nubian for milk (she gives me approx. a quarts a day – delicious!) I also have a boar goat – for breeding – kids will be meat. ( ready to eat in late Fall if kidded in early spring) Goat meat is most like venison except without the wild taste. A Cow would overwhelm me with WAY too much milk AND meat. Not to mention, you have to winter them and they eat twice as much as goats. Some of the goat milk I freeze for those months when my Nubian is pregnant and nursing. I have 5 layers. It keeps me on my feet trying to use 5 eggs EVERY day! I also raised 50 meat chicks this spring. I also have three breeding rabbits. They are SOOOO easy and the meat is delicious. Lots of meat there in a short period of time! lol This type of farming is totally suitable for someone with only a few acres and manageable for one small ole lady!

    • I’ve been told that if eggs are packed in cornmeal they will keep for up to a year. You might do some research on it but that could be a source for year around eggs!

      • Actually, as long as you do not WASH your yard eggs, they will keep at room temp for weeks. If you wash the laid wax off, then you have to refrigerate.

  14. Good thoughts in the article, though I agree, it wouldn’t be useful to me here in South Tx. I prefer canning, smoking or dehydrating.

  15. slightly off topice but how long did it take you to make this blog, i have been wanting to make my won for awhile but i have never got around to it, do you think you could hit me up with en email with some advice or tips thanks. Features http://www.aquajoyashtead.co.uk/pond-cleaning/

  16. its one thing to say if you live in warmer places, just dry, jerk, or can your meat. We can’t dry it since we get about 200 inches of rain a year. We can jerk it for the same reason, jerky molds in under a month, even heavily smoked.

    This is lost knowledge, but it IS out there. I’ve read references about tripling the strength of the brine solution for warmer climates. There are famous sausages, like linguisa, chorizo, summer sausage, etc, that are made in pure tropical places, without refrigeration. The soil temp here is above 65 degrees year round, even 3 feet down.

    the amazing book “the art of fermentation” has some good guidance about fermenting meat and fish. It is all about the right starters, proportions, and matching those with your specific temperature and humidity. you can’t make chorizo everywhere, you can’t make summer sausuage everywhere, you have to find the right recipes that are for your climate time. I’m currently searching, and this is as far as I’ve got.

    I did take a workshop on sausage making, and brought up this questions, to which the teacher replied “some of the best sausuages in the world are made in the hot tropics” and referred me to sausagemaker.com and the books written by marianski brothers. hope this helps, let me know if you find anything!

  17. This article is okay as food for thought, but the information on livestock is way off the mark. I doubt the author has any first hand experience in dairy or beef cattle. You would never raise a bull for slaughter. However you do need a bull for milk production, since a cow won’t produce milk until after calving. You could then raise the calf to sell, slaughter. or to increase your herd. Keep in mind if the calf is a heifer (female) you don’t want to breed it back to it’s sire (father). It is common for small farms or homesteads to trade bulls to eliminate inbreeding (incest) in the herds.

    • I agree! I have a large pond on my acreage: Tried the fish route, but birds are hungry, too, and lost them all to the birds. If you want to raise fish, you will need some form of water circulation, and the government frowns upon damming ponds in many states. You will also need to feed them, because ponds are a closed system, and eventually the food runs out. You will, to discourage birds from getting your hard earned fish, need to provide many areas that the fish can hide to avoid being predated. so, not such a “simple” idea, but will take work and other sources like money for the food…
      I totally agree that the writer has no knowledge of cattle, as you mentioned.

  18. Normally I love these but this one…
    Okies first.. If this is going to be long term .. You can’t Order cure from Amazon…
    So you better figure out a way of either having a lot of cure, salt, and sugar on hand, or acquiring them..
    Second prob..
    Most people don’t know how to eat salt pork anymore..
    you can’t just take long term salt pork cook and eat it.. It will be horrible.. Or maybe that is how you make it more then just over winter.. turn it into a salt lick.. I remember growing up and mum had to soak the pork for a day changing the water often and it still tasted salty.. but that was pork that lasted a long time in heat..

  19. Wouldn’t live animals be the ultimate meat preservation plan?

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