If you grow or gather a significant amount of your own food, you'll need plenty of storage space come harvest time. One benefit of living in the snowbelt and having an unheated porch or outbuilding is that you never run out of refrigerator space in winter! Here’s a photo my wife, Dead-Eye, took last week of our walk-in cooler (AKA front porch). From left to right, here’s what’s in it: 1. (in yellow enamel box) deer tallow for the suet feeder (Woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches love it.); 2. plastic flowers for all-season floral bouquet; 3. (in ZipVac bag) half-eaten wild turkey carcass for leftover meals and soup; 4. cabbage gleaned from friend’s field (Frozen when we picked them, they keep well all winter. Peel off outer leaves to reveal crunchy inner section.); 5. (in peanut butter jar) chicken broth for soup; 6. (in blue roaster) chicken carcass waiting to be simmered to make broth for next soup; 7. dead cottontail rabbit waiting to be dressed and butchered; 8 & 9. (jars behind roaster) Chinese hull-less pumpkin seeds (l) and shredded coconut (r) for quick road snacks; 10. (under table) bottle of wine; 11. (yellow thing) solar lantern to help me find the door when I come home late at night) OK, so a solar lantern doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but leaving it on the porch helps us remember to put it where I can find it when I come home after dark.
On any given day, our porch might contain all these items and more. The guy from Culligan who delivers salt for our water softener didn’t bat an eye at the rabbit, but here in farm country I’m sure he’s seen stranger things. I often leave game on the porch to age for a few days before dressing or freezing it. Aging tenderizes tough meat, which is exactly what slaughterhouses do with beef, hog and lamb carcasses. Granted, they hang meat under controlled temperatures, but I’ve never had a problem keeping game for as long as a week if the temperature stays between 30º and 40ºF. If its gut is not perforated with shot, you can leave a small animal intact for a couple days at these temps. If it freezes solid, you can let it thaw out overnight and then process it. If you’re not certain of its condition, field-dress it and wipe the inside of the carcass dry with a paper towel. Don’t wash it with water, as moisture encourages bacterial growth. If a critter is gut-shot, you can butcher it, wash and dry it and put it in a sealed container for a few days before cooking or freezing it.