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The War Garden Victorious


 

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CHAPTER XVI

CONSERVATION BY DRYING
How American Housewives Made It Hot for the Kaiser

Marie Antoinette's milliner once remarked that there is nothing new except what is forgotten. One of the "new" methods of food conservation practiced by the women of America during the war was that of drying food. To most of them the process was an absolute novelty, yet it is as old as civilization itself. It is merely one of those practices so long out of use as to be forgotten.
    Most of us are familiar with dried apples and the evaporated fruits of California, but there our knowledge ends. To most of us it comes as a distinct surprise, to learn that practically all vegetables and fruits can be preserved for future use by drying. Certainly it was a great surprise to most of the housewives of America when they were asked to conserve food, not only by canning, with even which process many were only slightly acquainted, but also by drying, a method practically unheard of.
    Drying is both economical and simple as a method of preserving food. It requires no elaborate or costly apparatus. The finished product can be kept in any sort of containers that are clean; whereas in canning expensive glass receptacles must be purchased. Dried foods are compact, thus saving space in storing and shipping. The original quality and flavor of the dried product is largely retained; and when dried foods are restored by proper soaking, they can hardly be distinguished from fresh vegetables and fruits.

He is not lecturing, he won the canning contestHE IS NOT LECTURING, HE WON THE CANNING CONTEST
The women of Elmhurst, New York, were not jealous but applauded when the announcement was made on the evening of their war-garden contest that the first prize for canned vegetables, carrying with it the National Capitol Prize Certificate, had been awarded by the judges to Mr. Charles A. Rundquist. He did his garden and canning work in the late afternoons and evenings.

    Specifically, dried food products are products free from moisture. The words "dried" and "drying" are applied in general to foods preserved in a comparatively water-free state, without regard to the method of drying employed. Technically, the term "dried" as applied to food products means products that are dried by exposure to the heat of the sun; "evaporating" is drying by artificial heat; "dehydrating" is drying by artificial air blast, the process often including the application of artificial heat as well.
    The duration of the drying process varies with the method chosen, the size and degree of compactness of the material to be dried, the variety of the product, the range of temperature, and the humidity of the atmosphere. Two hours is sufficient time to dry some products by evaporation or dehydration. Other products may require from one to several days for sun-drying.
    Practically all fruits and vegetables, it was early found, can be dried successfully so far as the "keeping" quality is concerned. It was discovered, however, that many dried vegetables were unpalatable when eventually cooked and served. Enzymic action in the raw products, as well as bacterial action, caused chemical changes which not only affected the flavor of dried food but to some extent also affected its wholesomeness. The problem thus arose as to how this disadvantage could be overcome.

    Cooking was tried. Complete cooking, parboiling, and even partial cooking were employed with various vegetables, until it was found that a certain minimum period of boiling water treatment was favorable to both the wholesomeness and the flavor of dried products.
    This treatment, which varies in time for different products, has been accepted as an essential part of the proper drying of vegetables. It is called "blanching." By it the protoplasm is killed and enzymic action stopped. There is a thorough cleansing and a destruction of many bacteria. Furthermore the flow of coloring matter is started, and the color of the product thus accentuated. The fibers are loosened and softened and a condition created which facilitates the giving-off of moisture in the drying process.
    In "cooking" food, heat is usually applied long enough to alter the nature of certain materials, such as starch, rendering them digestible. Blanching should not be confused with cooking as it differs both in purpose and effect. It is a preparatory process by which the wholesomeness and flavor of a sound product are retained through the temporary stoppage of chemical changes due to agencies present and to bacterial action when raw flesh is exposed to the air. The drying process should follow at once, and be done as rapidly as possible, with due attention to the proper temperatures, which range from 115° to 175° according to the products handled.

Preparing to dry vegetablesPREPARING TO DRY VEGETABLES
Dehydration except in the case of a few fruits is comparatively a new art in this country, and yet the process is simple. Practically all vegetables can be dried successfully. An effective drier to hang over a stove is simply made. The trays are of galvanized wire screen of small mesh tacked to the frame. A rotary slicer cuts the vegetables into uniform slices and secures regularity in drying.

    If products are not dried sufficiently, the moisture retained makes a medium for the development of bacteria and mold, and spoilage occurs. How much water to extract becomes therefore, an important consideration. The abundant sugar present in most fruits acts as a preservative and therefore it is not necessary that they be so dry as vegetables. A rational method of determining the right degree of drying for the finished state is by the texture of the products. Most vegetables should be rather brittle when taken from the drier, and fruits should be leathery and pliable. One method of determining whether fruit is dry enough is to squeeze a handful, and if the fruit separates when the hand is opened, it is dry enough. Another way is to squeeze a single piece; if no moisture comes to the surface the piece is sufficiently dry. Berries are dry enough if they stick to the hand but do not crush when pressed.
    There is considerable shrinkage in bulk and weight when products are dried. The reduction in weight is in direct proportion to the amount of moisture lost, but the reduction in bulk varies with both the structure of the product and the amount of water removed. In general terms it may be said that foods, in drying, are reduced to a bulk ranging from one-third to one-fifth of their original volume and to a weight from one-sixth to one-twelfth of the weight of the fresh material.
    After the Boer War, considerable surplus dried vegetable material, no longer needed for the English army, was put into barrels and stored away. The barrels were opened during the European war and the contents satisfactorily used for army rations. Products thus kept unchanged in quality and flavor for eighteen years might reasonably be supposed to keep well almost indefinitely.

    Naturally enough, most of the conservation of food so far accomplished through drying has been done by housewives in their homes.
    Home drying is profitable both to the household and the nation; but if a neighborhood or community pools its expenditures for equipment and works as a unit, a larger amount of material may be dried with greater convenience and a considerable saving of labor, time, and fuel. A bigger drier than could be put into a home kitchen can be set up in a schoolhouse, parish house, clubhouse, or other accessible place for common use in drying; and definite hours of duty can be assigned to different persons. Such, in general, is the plan of neighborhood or community drying. Details as to how much material each person may bring at one time, just when such material shall be brought, and who shall be on duty to regulate the drier, should be worked out by a small committee, preferably of three persons.
    Each woman should prepare her own products and leave in good order the utensils she has used. When people are novices at drying it is advisable to hire a paid expert for a short time, and if the arrangement for a common drier is to cover the entire community, the continuous services of at least one salaried person is necessary. Some one is also required to do regular cleaning in the quarters used. This may require an hour a day, once or twice a week, or all day every day, according to the needs.

A Montana prize cannerA MONTANA PRIZE CANNER
Although she had never done any gardening or canning before, Irene McMahon, a twelve-year-old girl of Missoula, Montana, won the first award for the products she conserved and exhibited. She received a National Capitol Prize Certificate from the National War Garden Commission.

    Our country is calling upon the women of America to do their utmost to preserve for winter use all garden, orchard and market surplus. In millions of homes prompt action has been taken for home canning and drying. There remains, in addition, an enormous surplus still uncared for. The solution of the problem is to be found in community drying, which is simply organized drying, not for commercial profit, but for mutual aid and facility in the conservation of vegetables and fruit for home use.
    How can a community drier best be started? If three to six or eight families are to benefit, it will be necessary to secure a room with running water in or near it. A space is necessary for conditioning, and, provided it is not damp, the same room or one near by may be used. Space and facilities for blanching vegetables are essential, so that chimney, gas or electric connection is also needed. Such a place can doubtless be found in the home of one of the members.
    An evaporator can be purchased for from $25.00 to $50.00. A stove to supply heat to the evaporator is needed and very probably would not have to be bought. A home-made dehydrator can be readily devised and is practical where rates for electricity are low. A motor-fan running on kerosene or alcohol is also on the market. Hot air combined with the fan makes the drying more rapid. Drying by air blast without heat is satisfactory in dry climates. Where the atmosphere is humid, the process takes a long time and the addition of heat is desirable.

    A slicer for vegetables costs $1.50 or more, according to size. Tables and other utensils may be collected from the different households. White oilcloth for tables, cheese-cloth for use in protecting material from insects and dust, and pasteboard cartons for containers of dried products would make necessary slight extra purchases. Butter containers are useful for holding dried products, as are also baking-powder cans and similar covered tins.
    If an entire community is to be organized, it will be necessary to ascertain how many families will use the community plant and approximately how much material will be dried daily. These things determined, a drier can be chosen intelligently. Because of its usual hot-air blast, which dries products more quickly than they can be dried by the evaporating process, a dehydrator is often preferable. The cost of a satisfactory dehydrator may be put at $1,000 to $2,500. A homemade outfit may be constructed at considerably less expense. Carpenters and men installing hearting apparatus will usually be glad to furnish estimates of cost, if supplied with a description of the apparatus desired.
    Mr. C.W. Pugsley* devised a successful community plant, which was first used at Lincoln, Nebraska. His method is dehydration minus heat, which system is serviceable in dry climates. The cost of an outfit like this would be $250 or more according to the local cost of materials and labor. Twelve of these driers have been in successful operation. Instead of air being forced over the products, suction is used, the theory being that the drying is quickened by this reversal of the air blast.

        *For dimension and detailed directions, see "A Successful Community Drying Plant, " by C.W. Pugsley, Farmers'  Bulletin 916, United States Department of Agriculture.
[ed. note–If you know where I can find this publication, please e-mail me.]

They helped to can the KaiserTHEY HELPED TO CAN THE KAISER
The Inland Steel Company's plant, at South Chicago, Illinois, was blessed with patriotic employes. Their war gardens supplied vegetables regularly to the South Chicago Day Nursery and to many needy families. The picture shows patriotism expressed in both slogans and canned vegetables.

    Illustrations, descriptions, and prices of several standard ready-made evaporators and dehydrators should be obtained from dealers or manufacturers. From technical training institutions information can be obtained as to the cost of procuring persons for instruction and management to take charge of a drying plant. In making an estimate of funds needed there should be included also service for cleaning, cost of operation of stove, fan, or both, and $25.00 to $30.00 for accessory equipment. It should be clear to all concerned that a major part of the expenditure would represent investment for an indefinite number of seasons, and should not be considered in terms of one season.
    The committee or individual promoter, with the estimate in hand, may then consider how best to finance the matter. The local Chamber of Commerce or a leading women's club is a suitable organization to back a movement for organized food conservation. Such emergency activities should be as far as possible conducted by committees of established central bodies. The unnecessary multiplication of associations is a handicap to a community.

    Adequate organization, as well as backing is necessary. It is essential to have the right executive machinery as to have the proper material facilities. There should be an equipment committee, a publicity committee, a workers' committee, a food supplies committee, and an executive committee composed of the chairman of these. All committees should meet at least once a month. In charge of the drying plant there should be a man or a woman of technical training and experience. There should be a checker to keep account of products, and a book-keeper. Volunteer service is usually obtainable for these duties. Women who help to prepare and dry extra products which are sent in as general surplus should be paid by the hour. Such payment should be in products rather than in money, and the value of the products should be based upon market prices of fresh products plus the cost of drying, including labor.
    The location is important. It should be central and suitable. School kitchens are usually available, are fitted with various conveniences, and are rarely used during the summer. Church kitchens are sometimes offered, but their use sometimes interferes with other activities on the social side of church work which it may not be wise to interrupt. Empty stores or space in a gas or electric company's quarters are good possibilities.
    The schoolhouse is usually the most economic choice. In fact, parts of the house itself may frequently be converted into dehydrators. When viewed merely from a local standpoint, it may seem advisable simply to buy a ready-made dehydrator; but considering the number of communities in the whole country, and the need for drying operations in each one, it is uneconomic to buy. There are not enough dehydrators made to dry the surplus home products of the country; shortage of man-power renders an adequate development of their manufacture difficult, not to say impossible.

Food goes with the flagFOOD GOES WITH THE FLAG
The American flag has meant food to Belgium and other countries. In this picture is shown Walter Wolski, an employe of the Inland Steel Company, of South Chicago, who had the prize garden among the employes at the plant. He raised produce worth close to $200 and his wife put up more than 200 cans of vegetables.

 

    Mr. W.L. Feisher writes in the Journal of American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers, April, 1918:

    I claim that in our newer schools and in our public buildings throughout the country, those things that are required for the drying of food products are already at hand, and that the walls of the rooms, or the corridors in these buildings, eliminate the necessity of a great part of the kilns themselves, and that with very little ingenuity, the heating and ventilating systems in our schools and public buildings can be turned into dehydrating plants in quick order. As to the actual application of my idea, in most of our schools the blowers are located in the basements and the main ducts leading from these blowers are run through the corridors of the basements in the various uptakes. It is my idea that these basement corridors can be turned into tunnel driers by means of wooden partitions, or where the corridors are narrow enough, only cut-offs and divisions are essential. The heated air can then be blown into one end of the corridors and the duct blanked off with a damper beyond this outlet. At the far end of the corridor or tunnel, another damper can be placed and an inlet located at this point, with a connection taken from a point beyond the first damper back into the fan so that recirculation from the fan end of the tunnel can be obtained. In this way, we can create a very fair tunnel drier, which according to commercial practice, is the very best and most economical drier built.

    It has ever been true that distance lends enchantment to view. Only the near at hand and the familiar seem mean and commonplace. To use what we already possess often seems both foolish and useless. Yet it was by using the five loaves and two fishes from their own pouches that the disciples fed the multitude, and many another miracle has been performed by utilizing what is already at hand. In organizing community driers it will usually be found that all the facilities needed already exist if only we have the vision to see them. Existing organizations, existing buildings, existing apparatus, and the advice and assistance of local carpenters, plumbers and other workmen will provide the essentials for a successful community drier in almost any city or town. "Use what you have" is a good motto for those about to organize a community drier.

 

CONTENTS

 

Title

I.

How the National War Garden Commission Came into Being

II.

The Story of the War Garden

III.

How War Gardens Helped

IV.

Types of War Gardens

V.

Uncle Sam's First War Garden

VI.

How Big Business Helped

VII.

How the Railroads Helped

VIII.

The Army of School Gardeners

IX.

Community Gardening

X.

Cooperation in Gardening

XI.

War Gardens as City Assets

XII.

The Part Played by Daylight Saving

XIII.

The Future of War Gardening

XIV.

Conserving the Garden Surplus

XV.

Community Conservation

XVI.

Conservation by Drying

XVII.

Why We Should Use Dried Foods

XVIII.

The Future of Dehydration

XIX.

Cooperation of the Press
  Chapter 19 - Cartoon Illustrations
   
 

APPENDIX

  "War Gardening,"
Victory Edition, 1919
INDEX
Cover / Letters / 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32
More Letters / Back

 
  "Home Canning and Drying," Victory Edition, 1919
INDEX
Cover / Letters / 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32
More Letters / Back
 
 


Color Plates

  Sow the Seeds of Victory - Every Garden a Munition PlantWILL YOU HAVE A PART IN VICTORY?

"Every Garden a Munition Plant"

James Montgomery Flagg


  War Garden Victorious Poster - War Gardens Over The TopA Poster Spreading the Idea of Militant War Gardens

Maginel Wright Enright


  War Garden Victorious Poster - Every Garden a Peace PlantA Poster for 1919, Symbolic of Victory

Maginel Wright Enright


  War Garden Victorious Poster - Can Vegetables, Fruits and the Kaiser tooCAN VEGETABLES, FRUIT AND THE KAISER TOO

J. Paul Verrees

A Poster Which Was Used in 1918, and Which, Amended–Following Germany's Defeat–Was Also Forceful in 1919

   
 

OTHER POSTERS

  We can can vegetables, fruti and the Kaiser too We can can Vegetables Fruit and the Kaiser too