How Was Meat Preserved in the 1800s? [The Complete Guide]

How was meat preserved in the 1800s? There were many ways from salting to smoking. In this article, you’ll learn how they preserved meat and how you can too.

Long-term food storage was important in an 18th and 19th century household. Autumn meant more than just turning leaves and colder temperatures during the colonial era: it was also time to store the food.
Colonists used a range of methods depending on the form of meat.
Find out all about them here!

Salted pork is common preservation meat, but almost any raw meat can work too. This method was popularized by the Ancient Egyptian people. 

Salting meat is an ancient form of storage that is still used nowadays to extend the shelf life of meat. It takes time and dedication, but it is how popular favorites like bacon and pastrami were kept. It’s also a low-cost and simple method to learn, making it ideal for the modern homesteader.

You need a cool area and a location where meat can be hung out of the way. For taste, some salting recipes are combined with smoking.

Here is the difference between curing salt and regular salt.

2. Dry Aging

Meat may have been dry-aged in a root cellar or a cold spot. It is the method of allowing molds and yeasts to settle on your meat and proceed to alter the flavor and texture. This method of food preservation was used in the civil war.

Changes occur inside the muscle fiber itself, making dry-aged beef more tender as well. Since you should be striving for a low temperature that mimics that of a refrigerator, you’d have to keep this meat in a cold location.

We’re talking about temperatures ranging from 34 to 38 degrees for the bulk of the operation – much lower, and you risk killing off the bacteria and molds that give the meat its flavor.

If it is any warmer, then the fat in the meat will sour, causing the rest of the meat to go bad.

3. Confit

Fat is sometimes used to conserve meat in this French technique. This was the confit method, which is still used in several restaurants today. Confit is made by gently salting meat and leaving them in a cool spot overnight.

They are then put in oven-safe dishes with enough fat to cover the meat completely. You should “confit” these legs in a 200-degree oven for 4-6 hours.

After removing them, simply allow the meat to cool, sink, and become encapsulated in the hard fat. Storing this in a cold spot ensures that no air can get into the fat and keeps the meat fresh for about three months!

This is commonly done with ducks, but almost any meat can work.

4. Potting

Traditionally, potted fresh meat may have been supplemented with a huge amount of meat and then topped with beef fat or tallow. 

Cooking at a moderate temperature, the first move is to cook one pound of meat until it is really tender. When the mixture has cooled, stir in about 1/4 cup of butter (or equivalent ratio for your meat weight). You’ll need to pound this to make it very fine.

Then, use pots or jars as a storage method for the pounded meat. After that, cook the pot(s) and include 1/2-1 inch of clarified butter on top of it. 

Then, tie a cloth around the pot if you want longer storage. Then, of course, store it somewhere cooler. A cellar is a good option for most people. This can extend the meat’s duration to about two months.

Can you eat squirrel? Learn about it in this article.

5. Smoking

Smoking is one of the earliest means of meat preservation, practiced by the Native American people. It was most widely used in places where the temperature was too high to air dry or dehydrate beef (without the aid of a modern dehydrator, of course).

It has the potential to be very tasty. However, due to the presence of carcinogens in smoke, it is now recommended that smoked meat be consumed in moderation.

Having said that, it could still be a viable option for a portion of your harvest or in an emergency situation. Smokers are available for purchase or can be made at home. This technique is a bushcraft method as well if done right.

You have to encapsulate it in a smoker, manmade, or one from a store and smoke it for several hours. Check up on it every hour or so and when it is black and looks ready, take it out and leave it out to dry for half a day or so. This can last for a little over a month.

Again, traditionally, this is done with meats like Bison in America, but almost any meat will work.

6. Biltong

Biltong is made by marinating meat that about 1 inch thick in 1 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of water per pound of meat (roughly) for many hours for maximum preservation time. This food preservation method is underutilized, but very effective.

The meat is then seasoned with a blend of black peppercorns, whole coriander, brown sugar, cloves, and rock salt. Apply as much as possible to both sides. 

The meat should then be allowed to rest for several hours before being hanged to dry. After that, hang it dry for several days. If you want to take it one step further, you can cut it up into small pieces and dry those on a sheet pan for a couple of days. Then, please put them in a bag (airtight is best) in a cool area.

The biltong strategy is perfect if you need to bug out of an SHTF condition and carry meat with you.

Final Comment

Knowing how to preserve meat is an essential skill that you will you should probably do to prepare.

These 6 methods on preserving food I discussed above are all important, and you should know how to do them. In this article, you learned 1800s meat preservation methods for off-grid prepping.

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1 thought on “How Was Meat Preserved in the 1800s? [The Complete Guide]”

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