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Food Preservation Methods


With refrigeration and canning yet unknown, the colonial housewife depended on other techniques to keep her food supplies edible and to provide variety in the diet throughout the year—expecially during the winter months. All cooks learned several effective food preservation techniques.

In this lesson, students will learn about four food preservation methods used during the colonial period—drying, salting, pickling, and jellying. They will work cooperatively to identify foods that are preserved in these ways, and create an illustrated booklet describing one type of food preservation.



1. Have students view the The Smokehouse slideshow. [NOTE: Use of the slideshow is by teacher discretion. We suggest previewing the slideshow before showing it to students. If you feel any of the images may be too strong for some students, skip the slideshow and proceed to lesson step #2.]

2. Divide students into groups of four. Within each group, assign each student one method of food preservation (drying, salting, pickling, or jellying) to research. Teachers who have access to computers or a computer lab can have students do their reserach online, taking notes about the method and the types of food that are preserved in that manner. [NOTE: If students do their own research, the Food Preservation Methods Information Sheets become a teacher reference for checking students' work.]


Give each student the top section of the pertinent page from the Food Preservation Methods Information Sheets. [NOTE: Do not give students the bottom portions of the sheets which list the types of food preserved with each method. Students should, individually or in collaboration with group members, brainstorm their own lists of appropriate foods.]

3. Have each student make a 3/4 booklet (see Directions for Making a 3/4 Booklet). The booklets should be constructed as follows:

  • Front cover: title page that include the name of the food preservation method (drying, salting, pickling, or jellying)
  • Inside front cover: illustration
  • Front of flip-down page: types of foods preserved with the selected method
  • Back of flip-down page and the space below it: Notes on the preservation method

4. Give each student a Food Preservation Rubric. Review the rubric with the class.

5. Within each group, have each student describe the assigned method of food preservation to the rest of the group. Have students use their Food Preservation Rubrics to grade one another's presentations.

Lesson Extension

Ask students to identify several modern food preservation techniques. Student responses may include methods such as canning, bottling, refrigeration, freezing, freeze-drying, vacuum-packing, or even irradiation. Discuss these modern methods, how they work, and why they were not available in the 1700s.

This lesson was written by Glenna Raper, middle school teacher, Davis, Oklahoma and Nicole Marsala, middle school teacher, Coral Springs, Florida.