The faded blue steps lead down into the basement, each one slightly worn down from years of use. Across the basement floor, just beyond the washer and dryer is a small door. Hand on it’s knob, I twist and enter.
Darkness greets me, along with a chilly blast of cold, slightly damp air. One can’t help but shiver! At the end of the room in one of the exterior walls is a large window that is slightly open. There, I can just see the outline of a heavy screen, secured to keep rodents out. Most of the light is blocked by a wrap-around deck hovering several feet overhead.
How I love this little white room! Here, I have nutrition at my fingertips for the course of the winter. All in the same place!
Reaching out, I flick on an electric light. On my left is a long, wide shelf running the full length of the room. It’s surface holds 300+ jars of home-canned goods! Fruits preserved in honey-sweetened syrup. Tender young vegetables, pickled in a brine. Small jars of jams and preserves. Stewed tomatoes. Sauced tomatoes. Salsa. Canned meats, broth and veggies.
This is my happy place!
On this shelf is a basket of raw garlic. Another of hazelnuts. Often onions or other vegetables.
During the winter season, a special place is make for gallons of sauerkraut, along with smaller quantities of other fermented vegetables.
At the back of this room is a row of bins.
Within them root vegetables rest in a dormant state, put to bed between layers of moist soil. Our winter supply of beets, carrots and parsnips. Rooted leeks stand tall in the corner, adding a spot of green color.
Plump potatoes are bound up in old feed sacks, awaiting use.
On the right wall, a large cupboard holds herbs, spices, honey, fats, oil and vinegar. Another floor-to-ceiling shelf holds winter squash.
There’s a special shelving for dairy products. Here homemade cheese are brine-cured, waxed wheels of goodness ripen and butter is preserved in a brine.
Yes, this is my favorite room in the house! Here, even raw goods will overwinter for 4-6 months or until spring temperatures halt the process. Here’s a quick run-down of how it all works! Should you want to see the real deal or collect more details, check out my post: Cold Room Storage: A Walk-Thru and Tutorial
The cold room relies on nature for it’s cooling properties. If your winters hold to just-below freezing temperatures, you are a prime candidate! Cold air must be brought in by way of a window or piping and should be adjustable.
Steady temperatures are achieved by putting a cold room in a corner of your basement, with two of the four walls being buried exteriors.
A cold room should be free of the home’s heat source and if possible, well insulated.
A cold room can by a small 4×6 space or a larger 10×16 area. It all depends on what you are overwintering and how much of it. Vegetable bins take up a large amount of space, as do winter squash and pumpkins. The key is this: raw foodstuff must be checked and sorted through often, so maneuvering space is a big deal!
Light will cause your food to break down faster, cause your root vegetables to sprout out. A dark room is necessary long-term (5 month) storage.
A RODENT FREE ENVIRONMENT
Nobody wants rodents chewing on their winter squash, cheese or onions! Whether you source cold temps by way of a window or piping, be sure to screen off any access routes!
MOLD/DISASTER FREE ENVIRONMENT
Storing food in a moldy environment is counter-productive. If your basement has serious mold issues or flooding, you may want to reconsider food storage plans.
Cold rooms aren’t perhaps as old as root cellars, but in many ways they are more convenient. Read on, about how root cellars vary from cold rooms.
Or, read up on about how to grow, harvest and prepare your own garden vegetables for cold room storage. You’ll also find tutorials with actual overwinter techniques!