Colonial Food Preparation and Preservation Quick Tips

Quest Post by Adam (elt2jv)

Inspired by recent posts about food preservation, I contacted Frank Clark, Director of Food Preparation at Colonial Williamsburg, a historic preservation museum where traditional Colonial era skills and traditions are preserved and demonstrated.

The following paraphrases and condenses our correspondence:

  • Colonial era food preservation included salt curing and smoking, pickling, and potting.
  • Potting is described as a process of slow cooking meats in crocks and sealing with melted fats or butter.
  • Vegetables were either pickled or dried.
  • Fruits were made into jellies or jams, dried or soaked in alcohol.

He had specific advice with regards to foods to be preserved: do not use meats from the grocery, as they are likely months old and will not preserve as reliably or well as fresh meat will. Colonial Williamsburg has hog-butchering every December (just missed it) including the processing of all meat and the making of traditional Virginia hams.

Books recommended for further research:

I hope some of this is useful. I know that we’re definitely taking a trip there once my kids are old enough to understand how important places like that are.

Best Regards and Merry Christmas,

Adam (elt2jv)

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. I too saw the Foodnetwork progam. I found it very interesting and want to visit Williamsburg to see it up close and personel. I also found the PBS series The Frontier House to be very good and even bought the companion book. In the book it has lists of items used that could be helpful. I went so far as to try to collect or recreate the items used which could also be used in a survival situation.

  2. OhioPrepper says:

    Thanks for the effort. I have the Foxfire series but will most likely be checking out the other books. I normally like to get them from my local library before I purchase, but the library doesn’t seem to have any of them available, so I guess it’s time for some more research. I visited Colonial Williamsburg about 30 years ago, and it’s on my list to go back, hopefully some day. For anyone in Western PA, Ohio, or Michigan, there’s a somewhat similar venue in Dearborn Michigan, called Greenfield Village. I’ve been there quite a few times (it’s a lot closer) and it’s always a fun and educational trip.

  3. Rhonda Sue says:

    Thanks for the list of books.This is knowledge we all need.Merry Christmas to all here!

  4. Teenageprepper says:

    Isn’t Christmas great?:) But thanks for the advice, i didn’t know that grocery meats would be less likely to store/preserve, so thanks again.

  5. Herbalpagan says:

    I have several of those books and they are all helpful. We went to Williamsburg and the kitchen there is a prepper’s dream! You have to go at the right time to see the kitchens really at work or to talk to anyone. The kitchen gardens are pretty cool, but the one’s at Jefferson’s estate are a bit better.
    Great info!

  6. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Adam, thanks for the useful information and the book list. My own personal opinion is that if we truly face TEOTWAWKI, then the old ways will become the new ways. If we merely face a short term or localized disaster, then all the solar, wind, and battery equipment will serve us well. Frankly, I think learning the old ways, whether we have to use them or not, is valuable since it teaches us alternative methods that may be more healthful or more practical in remote locations.

    Merry Christmas everybody.

  7. otter ridge says:

    canning sausage balls works good will hold for several months

    • MamaBear in the Mitten says:

      Can you share your recipe on canning sausage balls? Thank you.

      MaMaBear in the Mitten

    • Is this the same as canning any other meat?

      I use:
      10 psi (adjust for elevation) for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts, 1/2″ headspace, jars filled with broth or salted water.

      So far I’ve only canned leftover Thanksgiving turkey, but it went well. Planning on putting up leftovers for shelf-stable storage a little at a time, just haven’t made the opportunity yet.

      • Times and pressure levels for canning is based, not only on WHAT you’re canning, but WHERE you are. I’m high in the Rocky Mountains, and times and pressure levels are much different than at sea level.

        BE SURE you check your caner directions or go online to the Ball Canning site, where you can get all the info you need for free. They have an altitude chart to tell you what you need.

        Nearly anything can be canned. (though some things, like broccoli don’t do it well.) I can sausages as patties ( lightly browned and stacked in the jar) or as pre-browned crumbles. Just be sure to allow the caner to cool to barely warm before removing your jars. This helps prevent ‘siphoning’ (all, or most of the broth burbling or steaming out of the jar), a frequent complaint in canning meats.

  8. MamaBear in the Mitten says:

    THIS is why this is one of THE best sites on the web. Informational, educational, and relevant for our preps, our future and our self-reliance! These are exactly the types of skills we will need in the future and I appreciate having the resource list as well. I’ve already got some of these on the way!

    MaMaBear in the Mitten

  9. I’m glad so many found this useful. It would have been better if there were more “meat” to it, but this is what I got from Mr. Clark. I didn’t want to embellish on a couple of short emails.

    I’ve done some calling around, and other recommended resources to watch out for include “Fur-Fish-Game” and “The Backwoodsman” magazines. I’m sure there’s a lot more. As I dig more bits of info up, I’ll forward them to MD or post them in relevant comment sections.

    Incidentally, I really enjoy researching stuff like this. If there’s anything you’d like me to look for, please email me via the address available on the meetup page. Again, Merry Christmas.

  10. otter ridge says:

    my grandmother would cook the sausage put it in the jar fill with cooking grease turn upside down.when the grease gets cold it will seal the jar.she said it would keep for several months

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!