Vintage cooking skills seem to be a dying art in the general population. I write a lot about “vintage skills” because I don’t want to see this important knowledge to be lost to current and future generations. You don’t have to be a homesteader or a prepper to appreciate that there a skills we need to maintain, even though modern society has a easier version.
10 Important Vintage Cooking Skills You Should Have
- Cooking with FIRE!
The girl scout in me loves this one. I’m not talking about grilling here folks. I am talking about open fires and wood stoves. We should all learn how to work with an open flame for basic cooking and baking – because you never know when you might HAVE TO!
- Butchering & Dressing
If you don’t think that butchering animals and dressing wild game is a kitchen skill, just skip this one. But let’s be honest – pioneer women and even women before and during the great wars knew how to take an animal (chicken, rabbit or small game) and bring it to the table. They raised it, they killed it, cleaned it and cooked it up…if that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what.
- Canning and Preserving
I know this one gets talked about a lot but it had to be in here. Canning and preserving food is high on the list essential vintage cooking skills. If you are going to be gardening, shopping the farmer’s market or looking for good deals on produce – you have to know how to make it last!Be sure to see my list of Common Canning Mistakes.
- Home Brewing and Wine Making
Home brewing isn’t just a skill, it can be an art form. And wine making can be as well. I’m not advocating drunkenness but these skills can be helpful as well as entertaining. Not to mention that you can use more natural ingredients to create your home beverages.
- Fermenting and Pickling
These go along with the canning and preserving but I feel they deserve their own special section. Fermentation and picking not only preserve food but they preserve good digestion and gut health. Your great grandmother probably had batches of refrigerator pickles in her house and maybe a fermentation crock on the counter.
- Cooking with real ingredients (from scratch)
The saddest thing I see these days is pre-prepared foods. No one really enjoys these; or they wouldn’t if they knew how good home cooking was. In the movie Kate and Leopold, Leopold says, “Where I come from, the meal is the result of reflection and study, menus are prepared in advance, timed to perfection. It is said, without the culinary arts the crudeness of reality would be unbearable.” One of my favorite quotes about food. Now I am not saying you should be preparing 4 course meals every night but real food tastes REAL GOOD! For more on this see 10 Amazing Reason to Cook from Scratch.
- Cook with the basics (no fancy tools/appliances)
If you already cook from scratch but it takes 5 different appliances to do it…consider cooking with the basics. What about the vintage cooking skills that are done without electricity? No Kitchen Aid Mixer? Are you crazy? Maybe… But the people that know how to really whip up a meal sans the fancy tools are could be in high demand someday. Not to mention we would save a fortune not buying them, using electricity to power them and build us some serious muscle using the hand-powered tools! See Hand Powered Kitchen Tools
By curing, for the purpose of this article, I’m referring to preserving meats and fish with salts, nitrates and smoking. I’ll be honest, this is a skill have have yet to acquire; but I’m working on it. It isn’t easy to find someone that has the set up for curing meats. Every time I think about meat curing I am reminded of the scene from Little House on the Prairie where they are preparing the pigs to go into the smoke house and the girls make a ball out of the pig bladder. Can you imagine modern kids putting down their phones or video game controllers to toss around a pig bladder? Sigh….I digress.
- Cheese Making
Personally, among my vintage cooking skills or kitchen skills, cheese making is one of my favorites. There is nothing on the first bite of homemade ricotta or spreading your own chevre on a cracker. If you are raising dairy goats or cows this is probably something you’re already doing. But if you don’t have the space to raise your own, I highly recommend finding a good raw dairy (if that is legal in your area) and get a copy of Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll.
- Food Drying
If you start just by using a dehydrator to dry herbs, that is a great beginning. But I am going to suggest that you take is a step further and learn to dry without electricity or any appliance. You can sun dry, or hang dry or even use a solar oven. I talk a lot more about this in Drying Your Own Herbs but you should be trying out jerky, all natural fruit roll up and more.
BONUS – A few more Vintage Cooking Skills
Here are a few more terms / skills I see a lot of modern folks aren’t familiar with:
- Poaching – basically poaching is cooking an egg (without the shell) in or just over water. I love poached eggs – they take a little practice but it is so worth it.
- Braising – old cookbooks use this method a lot but I don’t see it much in the newer recipes. When braising you typically cook food at a high temp before covering and cooking it low and slow (usually meats).
- Roasting – is similar to baking but used to refer to cooking something over a flame. But it is using that hot air to crisp and caramelize foods with high but indirect heat. I have an awesome recipe for a roasted rabbit
- Blanching – mostly for vegetables, blanching involves quickly boiling a vegetable and then cooling or freezing it. Great for veggies you are going to store in the freezer, to retain flavor.