Simply Balisha

Simply Balisha

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Fruit Cellar

When I was a girl living in the 1940's, there weren't any processed foods. The TV dinner hadn't been invented yet. The grocery stores didn't carry the produce that they do today. A fresh pineapple was unheard of. We ate things that were in season....and that's why an orange in the Christmas stocking was started. We didn't have oranges very often in the winter. The freezers were small little compartments that hung down in the middle of a small refrigerator. No ice makers in those days. We seldom had ice water, tea, or even Kool Aid back then.

My mother was a canner. She "put up" quite a few of the fruits and vegetables that we ate during the winter. Late summer found her in our un air conditioned kitchen... peering over a kettle of tomatoes to put in jars, seal and put into the canner. She had two canners going at a  time. I remember a hot kitchen in the summer....not from the weather but from the stove with canners boiling. The familiar "ping" to say that the jars had sealed was a sound that she asked me to keep track of.

We were recipients of bushels of apples....the person giving them to us would say...."This were under the can just cut away the brown spots." Mom was thrilled with anything she could get. Those apples meant that we would have applesauce throughout the winter. Mom would ration out the applesauce so that it lasted for a couple months. I never had jarred applesauce until I was a teenager.

I remember getting bushels of peaches and pears. I loved having a peach with cottage cheese salad for lunch. Mom and Grandma used to make blushing pears. They would be cooked with a few cinnamon red hot candies. I love these to this day. The last thing that she canned each year would be chili sauce. I can still smell it in my memory. We would have that with beef and pork roasts.

Then there were the tins with Mom's fruitcakes inside. She made these for everyone... for gifts at Christmas. They were her treasures.

Where did we keep all of these canned things? We had a house with a basement that wasn't heated. Part of it had a dirt floor. There was a monster furnace. It looked like a big octopus in the middle of the room. There was a coal bin on one side......and across from that was an old stairway coming down from the outside. Much like the one in the photo. Remember the old song....Playmate come out and play with me...and bring your dollies three....climb up my apple tree. Look down my rain barrel...slide down my cellar door and we'll be jolly friends forever more.
Well, we had that cellar door and the stairs led down to our basement. There was a little room, partitioned off from the rest of the basement, that Mom called her fruit cellar. I've heard it called a root cellar, but ours was a fruit cellar. She decorated the shelves with fresh shelf paper each fall and put her jars on those shelves. All lined up like jars of jewels. The window to this little room was always that the sun could come in and shine on her jars. She would have a gunny sack of potatoes, carrots in sand, and onions hanging. I loved going into the fruit cellar. It was my job to bring up the jars as she needed them.

We were healthy in those days...I think because of the fact that we got good nutrition (no processed foods yet) plenty of sleep, (no tv) and we played outside in all kinds of weather. 
Those were the days of my youth....I'll never forget.


  1. I love reading your memories, I really do. I sat and absorbed stories my mother and mother in law told me about their younger lives, although they were raised in the city and they were totally different stories! Ha!

    I started to wonder when you wrote that your mother would be slaving away at the stove in an un-air conditioned kitchen. I thought...boy, if I were hot I'd like to be doing something fun, and canning would be fun to me! Do you think her satisfaction in it made it bearable? Or perhaps, on the other hand, women like me just don't know what it's like to not have the convenience of dishwashers and vacuums and grocery stores filled with everything under the sun, and we are spoiled...canning in the heat would be unbearable! Truthfully, Balisha, I'm not afraid of a little hard work and I don't think you are either. Making something from scratch is so worth any little aggravation!

    Happy Weekend. It's 50 degrees and blustery here at the lake. Whitecaps!

    Jane xx

  2. Thank you for stirring up some good memories for me. My mom used to can tomatoes, peaches, grape jelly, and wild grape jelly. The spaghetti sauce she made with those canned tomatoes was so delicious. It tasted fresh like summer. It was never seasoned with any garlic like the spaghetti sauce I have nowadays is. I never had any food with garlic in it until I was about 17 years old (1971). I don't know if not cooking with garlic was a family thing or a Missouri thing. Mom kept all of the jars in the basement on a big section of wood shelves up against the cool concrete block walls. My mom vividly remembered the Depression, so there was always an abundance of tomatoes, peaches, and jellies on those shelves.

    The steps in the picture you show look very similar to the steps that went down into my grandma and grandpa's fruit cellar, they called it a fruit cellar too, not root cellar, nor storm cellar. It was dug down into a hill and had a wooden door, and was across the yard from the back porch of their house. The steps down into it were big-brown-gravel filled concrete and the floors were dirt. It seems like the walls might have been dirt, too. But I am not sure. It was filled with all of the things that Grandma canned on her big black wood burning stove.

  3. Me too, Balisha. Wasn't it wonderful. And the smell in those "Michigan Cellars" as we called them. When I moved into my Grandma's house--I too canned lots of "stuff" and put on the same shelves she used in the basement. I still like to can, although there is no reason, just for one, makes me feel all pioneer woman-like :-) I do truly believe we lived in the best of times--the 40's and 50's.

  4. My great grandmother's farm had a spring house where she kept canned goods. The spring nearby is where we put watermelons to get cold, which may be why watermelon was my favorite fruit as a young child. These memories are from when I was very young but I'm glad I have them. It was a different time for sure.