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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Food preservation and self-sufficiency

Nannie Pharis describes the process of food preservation. Prior to this passage, Pharis had described in detail the various foodways of her family and of working people in general. Here, she focuses on how her family utilized various preservation tactics as a means of furthering their self-sufficiency. Additionally, she describes how the technique of food preservation changed over time as glass jars grew to replace earthenware jugs as containers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
Did they preserve a lot of things in cans?
NANNIE PHARIS:
In stone jars, mostly then. The glass canning jars hadn't come in when I was growing up.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would people use real metal cans?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Stone jars. They'd have a tight lid on them. My mother used to pack sausage in them stone jars. We'd get ice off of the river, enough to last us during the summer. And we'd put these jars where they'd keep cool. And it was just as good as it could be.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where would you put them?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Where we put the ice and packed it. Have a cave dug and fill it full of ice. Take it out and use it when we wanted to.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Ice, could you keep it two or three months?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Oh, it would stay most of the summer. We'd try to get enough to do us the summer.
JAMES PHARIS:
Back in them days ice froze that thick.
NANNIE PHARIS:
See, you'd get it off of the river and it would be six or seven inches thick. How you would see them haul it. To get it out you'd have to rinse the dirt off it. Packed straw. That's old time living.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You could put most anything in these stoneware….
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes, you could. Make all kind of preserves and pack them there. We'd have to keep them on ice because they be preserved in the sugar and the syrup, you know.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What size of containers would these things be?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Different sizes. Some of them would be five gallon churns. My daughter's got one now.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would you put five gallons worth of preserves in them?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes. A big family that wouldn't go very far. There was a sweet apple that didn't come apart when you preserved it. It used to make awful good preserves, and we'd make an awful lot of those. And peaches. They wasn't as numerous then as they are nowadays. Peaches was very scarce. Had a lot of plums. Blackberries. Had these old time fields of strawberries. You'd go out in the field and pick those strawberries.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When do you remember the glass jars starting?
NANNIE PHARIS:
I reckon it was right after we married. I don't know exactly. I was housekeeping and I'd can stuff in it and it would spoil because they didn't have the tight lids they had nowadays. But they grew to that, and I done a lot of canning.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How would you can when you first began using the glass jars?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Well, we'd seal them. Two pieces, a rubber ring to put around the jar and then you'd screw a zinc top on it as tight as you could get it. But there wasn't no boiling in the can them days, but there is now. I've got a canner out there now that I've used for fifteen or twenty years, that you process it in the jars. But they didn't have that them days. Some of the vegetables would keep very well and some would spoil. So we had to take our chances. They were right green, they wasn't clear like they are nowadays.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where would you buy your stone containers?
NANNIE PHARIS:
I don't know where my mother and father got those. They had a place they made them.
ALLEN TULLOS:
A pottery?
NANNIE PHARIS:
. People had things to work with then. They was smart but they didn't have too much to do with.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So you think the jars would be bought from a potter?
NANNIE PHARIS:
I don't know where they come from. They must have been made like that. My daughter has one that I had fifty years.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When you started buying your glass jars, where would you buy those?
NANNIE PHARIS:
At the grocery store.
ALLEN TULLOS:
It would just be like a regular general store, a grocery store.
NANNIE PHARIS:
That's right. They kept all kind of pottery, jars, and frying pans and things like that.