Exploring Storage Containers
Appropriate storage containers can also go a long way toward preserving produce. Wooden crates are simple and good for many types of produce when the cellar is at the correct humidity. Portable ones allow you to rearrange the cellar easily, while permanent ones can be built into the cellar for large amounts of a single food.
"Sand buckets" can be created from any bucket, can, or sealed wooden box. As you layer beets, carrots, or other root crops, fill the container with sand. This method makes it easy to keep the humidity level high for roots, since you can sprinkle water on the sand without increasing the overall humidity in the cellar.
Open racks work well for squash and cabbage that are bulky and awkward to pack in crates. While some varieties of produce won't affect others and can be stored side-by-side, that doesn't apply to everything. Apples, for example, release ethylene gas, which can cause potatoes to sprout; therefore they shouldn't be stored close to each other. The flavor of onions can transfer to more mild foods.
Begin with the best keepers, and as you get to know the ins and outs of the cellar and the science of storage, branch out into more delicate foods that need specialized care. Good starter foods include apples, beets, cabbages, carrots, ginger, onions, parsnips, potatoes, and pumpkins. Master cellaring and you'll enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your harvest until the next season rolls around.
Try these quick and easy recipe is adapted from The Complete Root Cellar Book, by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie (Robert Rose Inc., 2010; www.robertrose.ca). Reprinted with permission.