Automn Chores

Automn Chores

Aquarelle: Chemin derrière l’allée Lundy,
chutes Niagara
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/C-093924

During the pre-industrial period, people’s lives were tied to the cycle of the seasons much more than they are today. In order to survive, they had to be in tune with nature so they could complete the tasks needed to fulfill their needs at the right time. With the arrival of the fall equinox, the days grow shorter and the temperature drops. The countdown to winter starts. People did everything they could to ensure the subsistence of their families during the cold season when fresh food was extremely limited.

There was so much work to be done during the fall that religious festivals occasionally had to be cancelled so that parishioners could deal with the demands of the soil. At the same time, some children could only start school in October since their work was essential for their families.

This series of chronicles invites you to discover the many chores that kept our ancestors so busy during this most colorful season. The techniques used in Canada reveal how the European colonists adapted to an environment when the productive period was shorter and winter was longer and harsher. These settlers discovered interesting things here, including the fact that the cold and snow could be allies in preserving food.

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First episode
Harvest Time
Harvest Time

Photo: Straughan sélectionnant
des grains de maïs
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
Crédit: Reuben R. Sallows/C-009654

When autumn arrived, the feverish farmer would keep a close eye on the sky. He had to find the right moment and the best conditions possible for harvesting the fruit of his soil. He would be concerned. In the fields, his vegetables and grains were vulnerable to inclement weather and accidents. As a result, the settler would only be truly relieved once everything had been completed.

Before starting work, the farmer had to make sure that the scythes, sickles, spades, picks and other tools were in good condition. The quality of his tools had a major impact on his results. They had to be adapted to each situation. For example, a long, straight scythe is suitable for a flat, open field whereas a short, curved scythe is better for working on a surface covered with obstacles.

What vegetables were harvested in the fall? One of the first was corn. Of course, some cobs would be gathered and eaten as vegetables, but most were stored like grains and harvested once the plants wilted in the field. In a similar manner, peas, beans and broad beanscould be eaten during the summer or harvested in September, dried and stored as legumes.

Immediately after corn, it was time to harvest tobacco, since the tobacco plant could not survive the frost. Tobacco was harvested during dry weather. The leaves were allowed to dry in the sun for a few hours before being sorted by quality. Onions were harvested in October when they were in the optimum condition for lengthy storage and apples were picked when the leaves on the trees turned yellow. A roll-over plough was used to turn over as much of the soil as possible, with picks being used for the finishing touches. The best vegetables were quickly placed in the basement so they would not take on a bad taste. Carrots, beets and turnips were also picked by hand near the end of the fall and care was taken to cut off their leaves before they were stored.

Pumpkins and cabbages were the last vegetables harvested. If there was a risk of frost, the pumpkins had to be covered. Pumpkins are ready when their stems shrink and turn black. Cabbages, on the other hand, are so resistant to the cold that they can be kept in snow throughout the winter.

Before being stored in the cellar or the attic, certain types of perishable foods had to be processed. For example, corn would be dried and then the kernels removed. Corn can be dried either using the technique developed by the Amerindians, namely by folding the leaves back to expose the cobs before being hung in small bundles, or by paying them on the ground in their leafy envelop. When the cobs are dry, it’s time for husking. The tobacco leaves were also hung in an attic or a well ventilated shed. The dried tobacco would be pressed, chopped and placed in boxes. Onions and garlic were braided prior to hanging. Dried peas would be beaten with a flail, except for those that would be used for sowing the next year’s crops. In the fall, the settlers also had to beat the wheat that was harvested during the summer in order to collect the seeds.

In addition to the crops they sowed, our ancestors also harvested plants along the river shores. In the Lower St. Lawrence Region, they gathered sea grass. Near Quebec City, they harvested sedge grass and rushes. Near Trois-Rivières, they gathered cord grass. Depending on their characteristics, these plants could be used to insulate houses, for bedding, for food for animals, to stuff seats and mattresses or for thatched roofs on farm buildings.

Certain fruits and vegetables required more refined preparation so that they could be stored longer. To learn more about preserving, we invite you to come back on October 16, 2007.

  • AUDET, Bernard. Se nourrir au quotidien en Nouvelle-France. Sainte-Foy, Les Éditions GID, 2001. 367 p.
  • PROVENCHER, Jean. C’était l’automne. La vie rurale traditionnelle dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent. Montréal, Boréal Express, 1984. 236 p.
  • PROVENCHER, Jean. C’était l’été. La vie rurale traditionnelle dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent. Montréal, Boréal Express, 1982. 248 p.

Second episode
Putting Summer into Jars
Putting Summer into Jars

Aquarelle: Chemin derrière l’allée Lundy,
chutes Niagara
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/C-093924

How we do enjoy the season of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and apples. During the right time of year, these precious treats are on hand – fresh, tasty and available in large quantities. What a pleasure... and one that ends all too quickly. Fortunately, people have had the means to preserve the taste of summer in jars for a long time now. This knowledge is still appreciated since preserves and pickles still occupy a choice place on the shelves in grocery stores and in public markets.

In Antiquity, people used certain products for their preservative properties. Obviously the best known of these is salt, which dries foods, taking the water from them and protecting them from bacterial decomposition. In New France, salt, which was imported from France, was a valuable commodity. People demonstrated when it was not available. Salt was used to store several types of food, either in a brine, or dry. Herbs, for example, could be stored in this way, along with beans and corns.

From the time of New France, vinegar was used to make pickles, which were made from vegetables such as cucumbers, onions, and beets. Inventories from that period include clay jars and dippers, namely large ladles made of pewter, iron, copper or cast iron and used to dish up pickled vegetables.

Another excellent preservative is sugar. In the early days of the colony, only the most prosperous individuals could afford the expensive sugar from the Caribbean. With sugar, strawberries, apples, pears and pumpkins could be candied or transformed into jams. The elite also ate candied fruits such as lemon and citron. The appearance of maple sugar on tables during the 18th century democratized the use of sugar in food. Unfortunately, maple syrup does not work well for preserving fruits. As a result, a large portion of the population had to wait until the first sugar refinery was opened in Quebec, in about 1850, before they could sample good jams.

The traditional means for preserving food took a great leap forward in about 1810, when Frenchman Nicolas Appert made a major discovery public: sterilization of food contained in hermetically sealed containers using heat, enabling them to be stored for more than a year. This revolutionary process was later refined. The English used round, tin cans which were less fragile and easier to ship than glass. The Mason Jar was invented by an American in 1858.

In addition to extending the life of jams and pickles, canning fruits and vegetables requires a lot less salt or sugar and keeps the food in virtually the original state. Thus, celery, carrots, beans, peas, corn, apples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, prunes, rhubarb, pears, peaches, etc. can all be canned. Once the jars are filled, they are boiled in a large pot before being stored in a cool, dry, dark place, such as a cellar. According to the Gazette des campagnes, it is also possible to prepare economic preserves by placing fruit dusted with brown sugar clay pots, which would then be heated in the bread oven or in a pot of water.

The autumn harvests provided essential food resources for all. They also filled other needs. To learn more about a plant used to make fabric, we invite you to return on October 30, 2007.


You want to try a little canning? These pickles and old-fashioned jam recipes will please your taste buds!!

Sweet, red tomato and fruit ketchup

30 large red tomatoes
6 peaches, 6 pears
3 cooking apples, peeled and diced
6 large onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 cups white sugar
2 tbsp salt
5 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup mixed spices (for ketchup)

Blanch tomatoes, peaches and pears. Peel and dice them. Place them in a pot with the apples, onions, and pepper.

Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar. Pour this over the previous mixture. Place the ketchup spices in cheesecloth. Tie it with string or thread and place it in the pot.

Cook over low heat. Allow to simmer uncovered, stirring gently from time to time, for two hours or more. Cook until ketchup has thickened.

Pour into sterilized jars up to 1/2 cm from the lip. Close partially. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes, pour wax over top, then seal. Keep in a cool, dry, dark place.

Source: Congrégation de Notre-Dame. La cuisine raisonnée. Nouvelle édition abrégée. [Saint-Laurent], Fides, 2003, p. 381.

Pickled beets

Wash beets, and place in a pot, cover with water and cook with their skins and stems. Simmer for about 20 minutes or more, depending on their size. After cooking peel them and, if they are too large, cut them. Place in sterilized jars.

Pour in a mixture of 50% vinegar and 50% water in which 50 ml (1/4 cup) of sugar per liter has been dissolved. The liquid must cover the beets.

Fill jars to 1/4 cm from the lip, cover partially. Allow to cool about 30 minutes. Pour wax over top, then seal.

Keep in a cool, dry, dark place.

Source: Congrégation de Notre-Dame. La cuisine raisonnée. Nouvelle édition abrégée. [Saint-Laurent], Fides, 2003, p. 380.

Pumpkin jam

8 cups pumpkin, diced
1 cup water
6 cups sugar
5 or 6 cooking apples

Dice pumpkin. Prepare apples, dice and add to pumpkin. Cook over low heat in water until the fruit is transparent.

Add sugar. Mix carefully. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Let cool and store, in a cool place, in sterilized, sealed jars.

Source: Congrégation de Notre-Dame. La cuisine raisonnée. Nouvelle édition abrégée. [Saint-Laurent], Fides, 2003, p. 370.


  • AUDET, Bernard. Se nourrir au quotidien en Nouvelle-France. Sainte-Foy, Les Éditions GID, 2001. 367 p.
  • MARTIN, Paul-Louis. Les fruits du Québec. Histoire et traditions des douceurs de la table. Sillery, Éditions du Septentrion, 2002. 219 p.
  • PROVENCHER, Jean. C’était l’automne. La vie rurale traditionnelle dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent. Montreal, Boréal Express, 1984. 236 p.
  • SAINT-LAURENT, Agnès et al. L'art de vivre au temps jadis. Tout le savoir-faire de nos grands-parents. Montreal, Sélection du Reader's Digest, 1981. 384 p.
  • SÉGUIN, Robert-Lionel. Les ustensiles en Nouvelle-France. [Montréal], Leméac, 1972. 143 p.

Third episode
Flax – What a chore!
Flax – What a chore!

Old man and boy pulling flax by hand at the Ontario Government farm off Yonge Street,
[Toronto, Ont.], 7 sept. 1918
Credit: John Boyd/Library and Archives Canada/PA-071125

In the middle of the summer, the immense fields of flax were superb, covered with thousands of small blue or white flowers balanced on fragile stems. The flax plant, which was picked just after it flowered, contained silky fibers which could be transformed into high quality fabric. For farmers, who picked the plant once it had matured, the plant’s stem contained a large quantity of flax hare that could be transformed into a sturdy fabric, as well as seeds that would guarantee future harvests, which were useful both medicinally and for feeding their flocks.

The use of flax to make textiles dates back to prehistory. For a long time, the French wore clothes made of linen, wool or hemp. The growing of flax was introduced in New France by Jean Talon in about 1665. He distributed several looms and encouraged the few nuns who came to New France to teach young girls the principles of spinning and weaving. Although the colony still depended on imports of European textiles in the 17th century, flax crops gradually grew in importance. In 1749, finish botanist Pehr Kalm observed that flax was grown throughout the colony. In the 19th century, the production and manufacture of flax flourished here, although the arrival of cotton struck a cruel blow to the industry.

Making fabric from the flax hare extracted from the flax stems was long and arduous work. From the harvest to the spinning, it took about 10 hours of work to produce 16 ounces of thread, and 10 hours of weaving to produce a length of linen measuring three meters by six meters.

Flax was harvested by hand and the plants had to be uprooted and then placed on the ground. All hands were welcome for this lengthy process. The flax would be left in the field for three to four weeks, for retting, a process that allowed the resin covering the stems to dissolve through the action of bacteria. Once the flax was picked up, it would be placed in the treshing room. The sheaves would be placed side by side, with the tips all facing the same direction. The farmers would then hit them with a flail to make the seeds fall out.

Le lin

Illustration: Le broyeur de lin, peinture par A. Suzor-Côté, 1947.

Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec / E6, S7, SS1, P35580

Another important step was breaking. This chore was done in company. Families would gather and select a place sheltered from the wind, if possible, near a stream. They would bring their breaks with them and invite the “roaster” to join them. This experienced individual was responsible for drying handfuls of flax over the fire in order to facilitate the work of breaking the fibers down. This task was very delicate since it would only take a small spark to ignite all of the stalks. The “breakers” would work standing, holding handfuls of flax. They would lower and raise the breaks on the flax. As much as possible, they would remove the small woody bits stuck in the fiber. This exhausting day would be followed by festivities to congratulate the workers.

After these steps had been completed, there was still a lot of work to be done before the end product was attained. Despite all of the hard work, frequently the fibers would still contain tenacious tufts, which were removed through repeating the heating and breaking process yet again. The flax fibers could also be “scutched” with a long wooden knife. Following this the fibers had to be combed or “hackled”. The hackle was placed on a bench or chair and the flax fibers were passed through it in handfuls in order to untangle it. Once this was done, the tow, namely the fibers that were too short, would be set aside. The long fibers would be spun for weaving. They would be spun with water so as to soften the resin, which would make it easier to stretch them, resulting in thread that was finer, more regular in form and more resistant. Linen was a marvelous fabric for summer clothes and for household linens such as sheets, towels and mattresses. The silky fiber of the flax harvested in the summer was used to make lace and fine textiles.

The fibers, which were spun and woven during the winter, were first stored, as was the case of the provisions needed to ensure survival during the longer winter months. To learn more about the fascinating and occasionally mysterious storehouses located in cellars and attics, we invite you to return on November 13, 2007.

  • Les arts textiles: trésors du patrimoine. [Longueuil], Cercles de fermières du Québec, 1995. 411 p.
  • POMERLEAU, Jeanne. Arts et métiers de nos ancêtres, 1650-1950. Montréal, Guérin littérature, 1994. 507 p.
  • PROVENCHER, Jean. C’était l’automne. La vie rurale traditionnelle dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent. Montréal, Boréal Express, 1984. 236 p.
  • SAUVAGEAU, Thérèse. Au matin de notre histoire. Souvenirs de nos ancêtres. Sainte-Foy, Anne Sigier, [1992]. 223 p.

Fourth episode
Cellars and Attics
Les caves et les greniers

Photo: Isaac Sukanick’s root cellar, Edenbridge, Saskatchewan, 1931
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/Crédit: Louis Rosenberg/Fonds Louis Rosenberg/C-027531

Long before supermarkets and warehouses, Canadian families kept storerooms within their own walls that were suitable for storing a great many perishable goods. At the top of the homes, attics provided a very dry environment that was ideal for storing grains while at the very bottom, the cellar had an ideal temperature for storing vegetables, in both summer and winter. Both attics and cellars were easy to reach at all times. Picking up something for dinner was even easier than on-line shopping!

The Cellar

In 1724, Joseph-François Lafitau, a Jesuit, described the ingenious means the Amerindians had found to protect food from freezing [*]. They built “granaries” under the ground, which would be lined with bark, where they would store pumpkins and other fruits. Following their example, many French settlers dug small holes under the floor in their kitchen, which could be reached through a trap door. tall cellar, in which people could stand upright, were rare until the 18th century. Symbols of abundance and autonomy, they were a privilege of the rich, merchants, and civil and religious institutions.

Les caves et les greniers

Photo: Maison de M. François Routhier à Sainte-Foy, le caveau, 1943
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du QUébec / E6, S7, SS1, P19921

In the 19th century, the growing popularity of a tuber, namely the potato, had a major impact on the architecture of the Canadian home. In fact, since this new vegetable was best stored in the cellar, more and more families wanted cellars. In order to install cellars, houses were built higher, which led to the appearance of staircases and porches. Roofs with extended edges also became popular since these new additions had to be protected from the rain! The access to such cellars was generally through a trap door in the floor or an outside door, which also ensured better air circulation.

Before storing a new harvest in the cellar, it had to be aired out and cleaned with rakes, brooms and lime water. Holes made by rodents would be plugged with rags soaked in liquid camphor or a lime and vinegar solution. In the cellar, vegetables (turnips, rutabagas, beets, potatoes, leeks, celery carots, cabbage, would, for the most part be stored in wood bins. The cellar also housed barrels filled with apples, butter, salted foods and other preserves. The food was watched closely so as to remove anything that spoiled.

Les caves et les greniers

Photo: Caveau à légumes à Château-Richer, 1948
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec / E6, S7, SS1, P62656

Root cellars, which are similar to cellars and serve the same purpose, bring the Amerindian way of storing food to mind. Made of stone or wood, root cellars would be built along the sides of knolls or occasionally in the middle of a field. The roof and the walls would often be covered with dirt. Some were equipped with shelves for storing preserves.

The Attic

In the time of New France, people did not live in attics. They were used to store grain and, occasionally, feed for livestock, providing excellent insulation for the dwellings at the same time. A small opening in the gable wall was enough to let in light. When a house was equipped with dormer windows, it was essentially to facilitate lifting certain loads up into the attic. In the 19th century, people started building bedrooms in the attic space without, however, discontinuing its use as a storehouse. At that time, dormer windows became increasingly popular.

The attics contained a large variety of grasses, legumes, dried herbs and utilitarian objects. Grains and flours, stored in large wood bins or linen bags, were also kept in the attic. You could also find sugar loaves, corn kernels, barrels filled with salt or flax seeds, heating wood and tools. Tobacco, corn cobs, and braids of onions and garlic would be hung from the beams. Once the attic was full, the barn, the hay barn and the shed would be used. During the summer, the entire place would be cleaned thoroughly. In order to keep insects out, a mixture of hemp seeds, elder leaves and garlic would be spread on the floor.

As in the case of grains and vegetables, there was also a specific place in the house to store meat. For example, salted pork would be kept in the cellar. To learn more about the traditional means for storing meat and fish, we invite you to come back on November 27, 2007.

Cellars and attics in literature

Since cellars and attics are dark places, away from the rest of the house, it is easy to imagine ghosts living there. Moreover, there are many tales and legends that mention these mysterious places. For his part, the author Jean de La Fontaine chose the attic as the scene of one of his fables...

The Weasel in the Granary
Jean de La Fontaine, Book III, Fable XVII

A weasel through a hole contrived to squeeze,
(She was recovering from disease,)
Which led her to a farmer’s hoard.
There lodged, her wasted form she cherish’d;
Heaven knows the lard and victuals stored
That by her gnawing perish’d!
Of which the consequence
Was sudden corpulence.
A week or so past,
When having fully broken fast,
A noise she heard, and hurried
To find the hole by which she came,
And seem’d to find it not the same;
So round she ran, most sadly flurried;
And, coming back, thrust out her head,
Which, sticking there, she said,
‘This is the hole, there can’t be blunder;
What makes it now so small, I wonder,
Where, but the other day I pass’d with ease?’
A rat her trouble sees,
And cries, ‘But with an emptier belly;
You enter’d lean, and lean must sally.’
What I have said to you
Has eke been said to not a few.
Who, in a vast variety of cases.
Have ventured into such-like places.

  • Les arts textiles: trésors du patrimoine. [Longueuil], Cercles de fermières du Québec, 1995. 411 p.
  • POMERLEAU, Jeanne. Arts et métiers de nos ancêtres, 1650-1950. Montréal, Guérin littérature, 1994. 507 p.
  • PROVENCHER, Jean. C’était l’automne. La vie rurale traditionnelle dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent. Montréal, Boréal Express, 1984. 236 p.
  • SAUVAGEAU, Thérèse. Au matin de notre histoire. Souvenirs de nos ancêtres. Sainte-Foy, Anne Sigier, [1992]. 223 p.

Fifth episode
A Well-stocked Salting Tub
A Well-stocked Salting Tub

Towards the end of fall, the vegetables and grains would be safely stored in the cellar or in large bins in the attic. Then it would be time to take care of the livestock. For farmers, keeping livestock over the winter required a large quantity of fodder. Frequently, they would decide to slaughter a few animals. The fresh meat this provided was excellent, but it would deteriorate quickly. In order to be able to keep it and use it until the following summer, our ancestors developed a variety of conservation processes.

In North America, the cold is a major ally when it comes to preserving meat. The animals slaughtered at the beginning of December, just like fish that were caught during the winter, could be cut up, frozen, placed in oatmeal and eaten before spring. A mild spell was the worst thing that could happen. Starting in the 17th century, some colonists stored ice in “ice ditches”, “ice chests” or “ice houses” so as to be able to keep food fresh until the summer.

Salting was a very popular method for long-term preservation. Canadian settlers generally had a large stock of salted pork, which would be their largest supply of meat. Cut from the pig’s chest or back, these pieces of meat would be placed in thee salting tub alternated with layers of salt. After a few days, the salting tub would be filled with brine and placed in the cellar. Beef and fish such ass eels, cod, salmon and trout could also be salted. This fish, which was greatly appreciated during Lent, would be rinsed to remove the salt, before being eaten.

In addition to salting, the colonists who lived along the shores also dried fish, particularly cod which was intended for export. Salted fish had to be exposed to the sun for eight days. In the case of rain, it would be stored inside for a maximum of two weeks. Meat, cut into thin strips, could also be dried in the sun, as the Amerindians used to. It would become very hard and light and could be kept a long time. Ground into powder, it could be use to make pemmican. Although it became popular with the coureurs de bois, many French colonists found the odour of this dried meat disgusting.

Acting as an antiseptic, smoke could also be used to preserve poultry, game, pork and fish, while giving it a particular taste. For this, some settlers built smoke houses that looked like tall, narrow shacks. It was also possible to smoke food by hanging it in the chimney of a fireplace or placing it on a tripod in a bread oven. To produce a tasteful smoke, oak or beech sawdust could be thrown on the fire. Juniper leaves or green branches could also be added. The sugar shack was an excellent place for preparing the traditional Easter hams in the springtime. Some villages had “smokers” who would smoke the pieces of meat the villagers brought them in exchange for wood, sawdust and food.

Fancy meats and pieces of meat that could not be preserved would be cooked quickly. Thus, the cook would prepare blood pudding, tourtières, pork hock stew, farmer sausage, head cheese, cretons and sausages. Leaf fat, pork fat of excellent quality, would be heated. It would be used to make lard for use in making pastry during the holiday season. This fat would be kept in circular wooden containers, which could hold 30 to 40 pounds. Some families had a wreath-shaped device equipped with hooks to hang sausages, pork and hams so they could dry in the air.

This is the last of the chronicles on Autumn Chores.

  • AUDET, Bernard. Se nourrir au quotidien en Nouvelle-France. Sainte-Foy, Les Éditions GID, 2001. 367 p.
  • POMERLEAU, Jeanne. Arts et métiers de nos ancêtres, 1650-1950. Montréal, Guérin littérature, 1994. 507 p.
  • PROVENCHER, Jean. C’était l’automne. La vie rurale traditionnelle dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent. Montréal, Boréal, 1984. 236 p.
  • PROVENCHER, Jean. C'était l'hiver. La vie traditionnelle rurale dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent. Montréal, Boréal,1986. 278 p.
  • SAINT-LAURENT, Agnès et al. L'art de vivre au temps jadis. Tout le savoir-faire de nos grands-parents. Montréal, Sélection du Reader's Digest, 1981. 384 p.


When everything had been removed from the pig’s carcass, there would still be little bits of meat, fat and entrails that are thrown out today. Our ancestors used this to make sausage
Head cheese
To prepare this dish, the entire pig’s head, with the exception of the teeth and eyes, would be boiled. The more skin there was, the more gelatinous the head cheese would be. Once cooked, all of the meat would be shopped up, set to simmer, then poured into a mould. The mixture would set while cooling.
Farmer sausage
This type of sausage was made using the pig’s peritoneum (membrane containing the animal’s internal organs).
Pork hock stew
This dish was prepared using one or two pork hocks, along with other meats.
Blood pudding
The main ingredient of blood pudding was pig’s blood. Collected in a pan and stirred constantly as the intestines were cleaned, it was cooked with milk, salt, onion and lard. It would then be stuffed into the pig’s intestines and boiled. Prepared in this manner, it kept for a long time.
Good ham from the sugar shack
Pieces of meat would be suspended over a large tank in which maple water would be boiled. Treated with sugary steam and the smoke of burning maple wood, the meat would take on an exquisite taste.
A mixture of animal fat, powdered dried meat and berries shaped into a loaf.
Green cod
As soon as the fishermen arrived, the heads would be cut off the fish, they would be cleaned and placed in salt. “Green” cod was cod that was not salted. Stored in barrels, it was intended for the local market.
The eel would be plunged into brine while alive where it would die quickly and then turn white under the effect of the salt. Barrels of eels would be placed in a room or shed and the contents would be stirred frequently to keep them from going bad.
The Salting tub
Large clay or wood container equipped with a cover, the salting tub can hold up to 200 hundred pounds of meat. Some salting tubs were equipped with locks, indicating just how valuable their contents were.
Lean pork
The lard taken from the pig’s chest, which is leaner, makes excellent bacon.
Supplies for the winter
In France, people said that “someone who has salted his pigs will have no trouble making it past Christmas”.
A hare stuffed with grain
In an issue of the periodical Le Glaneur published in 1837, an item suggested storing game in oats or wheat. The animal had to be gutted, stuffed with wheat, sewed back up and buried in a pile of grain.
Emptying the attic!
In France, a rummage sale is occasionally referred to as “emptying the attic”.
A very practical opening
In order to be able to lift loads into the attic, the colonists occasionally made an opening in a gable wall.
Gable wall
External wall. The upper portion of this wall is located between the two sloped portions of a roof.
Apples were stored in a barrel filled with sawdust or dry sand. Adding elder flowers also served to preserve them better.
Cabbages were also placed in a bin in a single row, head up. They could also be hung from beams. To keep them from taking on a bad taste, the best way to store them was outside in the snow.
Leeks, celery and carrots
While leeks and celery were buried, carrots fared better stuffed in straw, sand or sawdust.
Fragile potatoes
The best potatoes harvested were quickly stored in the cellar. They remained very fragile until the intense cold of the winter settled in since temperature variations cause disease.
Powder obtained by cooking limestone at a very high temperature.
Watching on the porch
Located between the private space and the public space, the porch was a major place for socializing. An ideal place to rest during the summer, it encouraged conversation with neighbours and passersby...
Fully-equipped cellars
Certain cellars, in well-off areas, were even equipped with a well, a fireplace or a furnace.
* This description appears in the work Moeurs des sauvages ameriquains comparées aux moeurs des premiers temps.
Attics are always dry?
In Spring 1815, the level of the river rose so high in Berthier and Verchères that people even had to empty out their attics.
Nothing was wasted...
The flax tow, which was left over after the hackling, was used to make felt. It could also be spun to make sack cloth or used for the weft in catalogne weaving.
This instrument, which was used to comb the flax, consisted of a plank covered with wooden or iron spikes.
What a set-up!
In order to “roast” the flax stalks, a large ditch had to be prepared and a scaffold installed over it. This scaffold would be built from hard wood such as maple, cherry or alder. Green wood would be used so that it would resist the flames.
The base of this instrument was heavy and solid, measuring about three feet tall. The upper portion consisted of two pieces of wood that fit into on another in such a way that one could move and be used to pound against the other.
The mobile portion of this tool was built like a whip and a wooden bat. It was used to thresh grains.
Threshing room
This area, in the barn, would be used to thresh grains in order to recover the seeds. The planks in the floor there would be adjusted to prevent the seeds from falling through the gaps.
Flax flowers
Flax with blue flowers originally came from Latvia, whereas flax with white flowers came from Belgium. The flowers of the flax grown in New France, imported from France, would have been white.
Mason Jar
The hermetic seal on this glass jar is ensured by a cover held in place by a metal spring. The cover lies on a leather or rubber ring.
Nicolas Appert
Nicolas Appert (1749-1841) was a Parisian confectioner. After years of research, he invented a method of canning called “appertization” in 1795. This discovery was implemented in the canning plant headed by Appert, the first of its kind.
This citrus fruit is a little larger than a lemon and its skin is thicker. It is used a lot in making candied fruit.
Candying a fruit means replacing its natural sugars with a white sugar syrup. To do this, it must be heated several times.
Producing this saturated salt solution required one pound of salt for four liters of water. Certain brines were less salty, such as brine used for sauerkraut. As the cabbage is allowed to ferment slowly, the bacteria transform the natural sugars of the vegetable in lactic acid, which enhances the taste and improves the preservative properties.
A good salary
Salt was so important in Antiquity that the wages paid to Roman soldiers, used largely to buy salt, was called salarium. This word is the origin of salary.
Husking corn
Certain tasks are so colossal that people have to be invited over to help with the work. Husking corn is a custom that came from the United States. Once the leaves were removed from the cobs, the kernels were removed by rubbing the cobs against one another or scraping them against an iron blade fixed to a bench. The leaves were stored carefully to be used to stuff mattresses. The day of work was followed by a celebration when the participants were rewarded with the best boiled or roasted cobs of corn, eaten with cream, salt and butter.
Music above all!
Towards the end of the 19th century, children in the Charlevoix region would make flutes from pumpkin leaves. They even managed to play a few tunes.
This root vegetable is small, whitish, with purple coloring around the neck. It should not be confused with the rutabaga, which is larger and has orange flesh.
Red and white beets can be found in soups. The white beet is also known as the sugar beet. White beets were grown primarily to feed animals..
Broad beans
A legume grown in the Charlevoix region, the broad bean was harvested and stored like peas. It could be used in soups or to make a nourishing drink to replace coffee. In this case, it had to be roasted, ground and boiled.