Cold Cellars

Pickles being prepped for preserving.

Although we are still in summer mode, it won’t be long before fall is upon us.

Along with fall comes harvest and canning season. The art of canning or preserving, known better to the older audience as “putting down”, is not a lost art but one that fewer people do.  But there are still many who love to preserve their fruits, vegetables, make pickles, salsas etc. and many who want to learn how.

You don’t necessarily need a cold cellar for storing these products, but, if you engage in any kind of sausage making and curing as I do, you will need a cold cellar.

Many cold cellars are constructed under a concrete front porch, and for the most part that works well. However, there are some important things to know when doing so. A front porch that is south facing or even south east facing is not ideal. The sun tends to warm the concrete and subsequently the room below, creating a less than desirable condition for a cold cellar. Not only does it warm the room beyond desirable conditions for hanging or curing meat, but can cause condensation and dripping of water from the condensation.

Let’s talk about the ideal cold cellar. A perfect cellar faces north, has good ventilation by the use of 2, 4-inch vents, both penetrating the room, one above exterior grade and one of them being plumbed to the floor level so as to have a high and a low. This helps circulation. The walls should not be insulated. The door between your cold cellar and your basement should be an insulated exterior style door.

Some cold cellars under front porches are formed with plywood and some are formed with corrugated metal. If yours is plywood, the plywood should be removed as it can grow mould. If yours is constructed with the metal, I recommend spray foaming the metal ceiling and covering that with mould resistant drywall. The metal tends to rust over time from condensation and creating a less than desirable situation.

If you are having a house built with the intention of having a cold cellar built under your front entrance, have your builder remove the plywood forms, install an insulated door and ideally install a floor drain in the room. This allows you to not only wash the room but when making dried sausage or other meats, you may need to add humidity to the room and a drain will allow you to splash water liberally without worry.

Ok, now we have talked about cold cellars under concrete porches.

Do you have to have a porch to create a cold cellar?  No?  As a matter of fact, my house doesn’t have a concrete front porch, so I built a room on a north facing wall to create my “meat museum.” It was simple. I framed the walls, insulated and boarded them. I removed the insulation from the exterior walls of the cellar. I spray foamed the ceiling and boarded it. I used an exterior insulated door. I drilled the vents through and plumbed as previously discussed.

I have had 10 successful years of making hung sausage and cured meats and have shelves full of delicious dill pickles, pickled beets and other preserves.

All the work to construct your cold cellar, prepare your preserves and cure the sausage is in my mind, is well worth it. We really enjoy not just eating it all, but sharing the fruits of our labour with friends and family. The recipes for all the goodness we create will have to be another blog.

So, if you are thinking about creating your own cold cellar where you can create some good eating, do it, it is well worth the small cost and time.

Happy preserving!

James Bazely, President, Gregor Homes Ltd.

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