While creating the menu for this coming Saturday’s hearth
cooking class at the Israel Crane House, I came across
the following in Mrs. Gardiner’s Family Receipts* (1763).
Note the specific instructions on storage:
Beets to pickle
Boil Spring Water, and when it boils
put in your Beets and let them boil
untill [sic] they are tender; then
peel them with a Cloth, and lay
them in a Stone Jar. To three
quarts of Vinegar put two quarts
of Spring Water, and so mix untill
you have as much as you think you
shall want. Put your watered Vinegar
in a Pan and add Salt to your taste;
stir it well together untill all the Salt
is melted when you must pour it upon
your Beets. Cover your Jar with a Bladder.
Of course, if you’d just completed your hog butchering, you’d
use a fresh bladder. But if not, the bladders could be dried
and used later.
One dried hog’s bladder:
After soaking in water overnight, the bladder is stretched
across the mouth of a jar and securely tied:
And in a few days, it dries again, creating an air-tight seal:
TA-DA! The equivalent of today’s Tuperware! Or, as one
visitor to the Crane House kitchen described it, “colonial
Saran wrap.” It also makes a great drum! HUZZAH!
Of course, it’d be MUCH better to use a stoneware crock
(as it states here in Mrs. Gardiner’s receipt) for storing
any pickled items (or liquids). Stoneware is less porous
and far more durable than this redware jar, which is likely
to leak. No leaching of lead from the pot’s glaze, as well
(and yes, they were aware of those dangers; not the
specifics so much as knowing “we’ll become ill”).
NOTE: Oops! Forgot to mention initially that the above jar is empty.
The bladder was secured soley for the purpose of demonstrating food
* Mrs. Gardiner’s Family Receipts, the published personal manuscript
cookbook of Anne Gibbons (Mrs. Sylvester) Gardiner of Boston, MA,
was begun in 1763.