Prairie Preservation

Post Details

Written By

Madeleine McDougall


News Letters, Stories

Date Posted

October 11, 2023

How do you preserve food without a fridge? 

There are many traditional ways to make food harvested in the summer and fall last through the winter. Indigenous nations throughout the prairies have been making pemmican for centuries. Pemmican is a mixture of dried and pounded meat (usually bison), fat, and fruit (such as saskatoon berries). But the Indigenous nations of Alberta have been preserving far more than just this famous example. Berries, bulbs, roots, and seeds can be air dried, meat smoked or salted, and starting in the 1800s, canning became popular. Many communities continue these practices today. And settlers also used many of these same methods to preserve their foods.  

Early European fur traders and explorers relied on trading for pemmican for their survival. However, early homesteaders generally avoided it, preferring to stick to what little flour they could carry with them on their travels until they could establish their own crops and livestock. When these families were able to invest into more buildings and appliances, root cellars, iceboxes, and ice houses aided in the preservation of foods cultivated from their land.  

Whether Indigenous, European settler, or more recent immigrant, preservation methods and recipes were often handed down from one generation to the next, reinforcing a sense of culture and identity. However, these traditional connections to food and community are no longer as popular thanks to international trade, preservatives, and refrigeration. 

Thankfully, Heritage Park benefits from modern technology like refrigerators, which makes it easy to prepare our soon returning Prairie Winter Breakfasts! Call Guest Services at 403.268.8500 to book yours today.


Shephard, Sue. Pickled, Potted, Canned. Simon & Schuster: New York, 2006. p. 30 

Prescott, Cynthia C., Maureen S. Thompson, et al. Backstories. The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota: Grand Forks, 2021. p. 87-89 

Photo credit: “Pantry, Alberta Ladies College, Red Deer, Alberta.”, [ca. 1913], (CU1108186) by Fleming, G. E.. Courtesy of Glenbow Library and Archives Collection, Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

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