As a young girl, I was intrigued by root cellars and always wanted one. However, the climate I grew up in wasn’t conducive to a root cellar and so, we went without. It wasn’t until several years ago that I realized cold room storage could preserve food in the same manner.
When we moved to our rental home, my delighted eyes saw our cold room it as nothing more than a suitable place to store my canning, apples, pears, squash, onions and garlic.
This is a photo of that first winter:
Little did I know it was just the beginning!
On the Cold Room Shelves
As I began to see the potential this cold room held, my intrigue for traditional food preservation methods expanded. Soon I was digging out old cookbooks, researching cold storage methods and experimenting with all kinds of foodstuff. Here’s what I currently have on the cold room shelves!
While the cold room doesn’t always hold to steady temperatures, homemade cheese can be cured in this small space. In the corner of our cold room, a small dairy shelf holds waxed cheese wheels.
Sugars, Fats, Herbs and Oils
In a cupboard are jars of rendered fat, jugs of maple syrup, bottles of oil and homemade vinegar, herbs and spices of all kind. Our yearly supply rests in this place.
Home Canned Food
In the heart of autumn, the basement cold room is full of home canned food. Pressure canned meat, broth and veggies line the shelf. Jams, preserves, sauces and golden peaches fill another, neighbored by pickled cucumbers, beans, beets and more.
Though it takes time to make the trek into our basement, keeping home canned food cool helps preserve its quality and vitamins.
Dry Loving Produce
Dry loving produce, such as onions, garlic and squash overwinter well in the cold room, so long are they are properly cured. These do best when stored on a top shelf where it’s warmer!
Root vegetables and tubers will keep well in the cold room when packed in damp soil. They do well in the coldest part of this space! Most often, we store potatoes, beets, carrots and parsnips in bins for winter eating.
There are a few fruit varieties that preserve well in the cold temperatures of the cold room. Apples and pears are the easiest, therefore the most common. Because pears spoil faster, we spread them on a bottom shelf. Apples are left boxed up, to be picked through at our leisure.
Fermented vegetables, if jarred and sealed, keep beautifully in lower temperatures! Cucumbers, pickled vegetables and kraut varieties will keep for months on the cold room shelf.
While I look forward to the day when we can have an actual root cellar, I’m delighted with this space! Who would have thought that our rental home would afford such luxury?
I hope you enjoyed taking a walk through my cold room storage! And if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below!
Just wondering how cold your cold room gets? I live in Canada & our cold room gets very very cold & I’m wondering if its okay to leave canned goods, glass containers & oils in there?
Thank you for a great post!
Our cold room drops to near freezing temps inside (occasionally just below). I don’t have a thermometer in it, but I know one year we accidentally froze some of the potatoes in a sack that was placed just below the window where cold air came in. Oops! We do try to keep it just above 0 and I do leave canned goods, glass containers and yes, oil in it (cold actually helps oil retain it’s healthy properties). I’ve never had any problem with foodstuff actually freezing, but we are careful to adjust the window and sometimes even close it when we hit -20C temps. Because frozen canned goods would be a problem! My in-law’s live in the far north and they actually keep a tiny space heater in their cold room, just to ensure it doesn’t get far below freezing. Just a thought!
Good day. Nice post. Thanks for sharing. I’m wondering, what’s the best way to keep my “cold room” cold? Mine is in my basement. I have my walls insulated all around.
Do you have a window? We just use adjust the width to control the temps in our basement cold room. If you don’t have a window, you could look into running some venting with pipes. This is the best book I’ve found on root cellaring and cold basement storage set up and techniques: https://amzn.to/3kaNNqj
Is there a certain level of humidity that works best ?
You can find recommended humidity levels for real root cellars. However, that level of humidity would likely lead to the growth of mold in a basement cold room, particularly if it didn’t have good ventilation. So I just take what I can get from the open window and the moist soil that my root veggies are buried in. Overall, my room is quite dry.
Do you have any favorite canning books or cold storage books that you’d recommend? I’ve started canning three last few years but I’d love to do more and preserve more.
Hi Heather! I do have some favorites! By far one of the best I’ve read on both cold storage and root cellaring is a book by Mike & Nancy Bubel. An excellent book for tested and approved canning recipes is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. These items can be found on my blog’s resource page
You can also find safe canning recipes online at the National Center of Home Food Preservation! Good luck!
Kathleen C. says
I want to dedicate a portion of our basement to food storage from the garden. But I am concerned about mice. We live in a 92 year old farm house and mice make their way in each year between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The basement in their home-base. Any advice, tips, or experience to share?
We occasionally had mice in our basement. Our cold room was sectioned off from the main area and that’s where we would store squash, root vegetables and such. If you can create even a small, mouse-proof room, that would ideal! Of course, they wont bother canning and such. But for storing raw produce that needs to breathe, I don’t know of any other way to protect it!
april kaiser says
Wow! I’m impressed. Fond memories of my grandparents and all the hard work they did putting out 2 huge gardens then canning and freezing the harvest. Thank you for sharing this post.
Glad it could spark some happy memories for you! When I’m gardening and canning, I’m in my happy place! Thanks for the note of encouragement!