Winter food stuffs in the olden days.

What did rural Americans eat during the winter months before the global market and preservation techniques like canning made a lot of food available all year round?

I assume fresh fruit and vegetables weren’t available during the winter like they are now, since all produce would be grown locally, and canned goods wouldn’t be available until mid 1800’s. So did they just eat a lot of pickled things, meat, and dairy until the garden would start to produce?

What was a typical dinner meal for the rural American family in the winter of the early 1800’s?

Besides, I think you are forgetting winter vegetables. Cabbages, leeks, all stay on the field in winter. Brussels sprouts are grown in cellars from roots harvested in fall.

Grain was preserved in the form of flour, frm which could be made porridge and bread.

I also recall people had “root cellars” where thy would keep produce stacked. Apples, well stacked so that air could circulate around them, would keep well for months.

Herbs, peas and beans, mushrooms and fruits could be dried.

Don’t forget grain.

Wheat Flour, oatmeal, buck wheat, rye, corn, molasses, sorghum, maple sugar, honey, store bought sugar, eggs, milk, butter, smoked meats, salted meats, dried meats, lye soak fish, meat sealed in butter, meat parts boiled down into a solid form of gelatin and reconstituted later, winter squash, rutabagas, cabbage, sauerkraut, apples, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, pickled stuff, hickory nuts, black walnuts, butternuts, hazelnuts, pecan nuts, chestnuts, acorn flour, jams, raisins, dried fruit, and more.

There was fresh game whenever they could shoot it, because there was no season on any game. There were many plants eaten that most people wouldn’t eat now. Down south you can add in sweet potato and okra. Stuff like nettles, burdock, and rose hips provided vitamin C.

They canned their own fruits and pickled the veggies. Smoke the meat and stored the grain.

Wow, I guess I was ignoring some really obvious things. Sounds like good eatin’!

I left out a couple big items. Beans and peas need to go in there.

Hard cheeses should be around by then too. Good long storing protein source.

Also - beer, wine and cider - they are liquids, but have food value.

Ice fishing? Theorizing. I’ve never lived anywhere that got below 30F in the winter, so it’s hard to imagine what kind of eatables are around naturally in real winter.

Harmonious Discord: I thought Black walnuts were disgusting to the point of being inedible, and why we bother grafting white walnut tree tops to the excellent root systems of black walnut trees.

My impression has always been that home canning didn’t really take off until the Mason jar was invented in 1858 — later than the period the OP has in mind.

Food was salted, dried, packed away in root cellars, pickled, and brined.

Black walnuts are completely edible, although you will get some argument about this. Black Walnut ice cream is divine.

black walnuts are delicious, but hard to open (one method I’ve seen runs them over with a truck), and the juice from the husk stains everything in sight.

Regardless of canning technique, you can always keep apples (well, they get old, but you can keep 'em), potatoes, onions, some squash - “winter vegetables”. You keep them in your root cellar. The actual root ones you keep in a box of sand.

They pickled stuff way before glass canning jars were available. They used crocks and wood barrels.

Roots get stored in damp sand.

The first pioneers in my hometown (see location) cleared the swampland for Henry Flagler’s railroad with the idea of shipping fresh vegetables north during the winter months and getting rich. This was in the 1890s. After five years of clearing land and battling 4 INCH long mosquitos, they finally were ready to plant their winter crop…and faced the only frost on record to date in this area.

They returned to Michigan penniless.

There was a global market before America was permanently settled. The English fished on these shores before Jamestown and Plymouth were settled. Sugar, molasses, rum, citrus fruits, etc. were all shipped by ocean, coastal, and inland water routes.

The “100-mile diet” is a myth.

Contrary to popular belief, winter was the BEST time for rural Americans. The grain harvest was in. The apples were packed away. The root cellar was stocked. The cabbages (or sauerkraut, for some) were stored. The livestock had been slaughtered and preserved. You ate well during the winter.

Late spring, on the hand, sucked. That’s where the term, “scraping the bottom of the barrel” comes into play. Your food stores are getting very low, and very sketchy.

Yes, you probably would run dangerously low on potatoes, roots, cabbages, apples, beans, grains, and other dry goods in the early to late spring. However, in the spring you get a lot of wild greens, wild asparagus and other wild shoots. These alone wouldn’t provide enough bulk to make up for the end of the potatoes, but they would give you a lot of vitamins, other micronutrients and some interesting flavors that you would have missed. In the late spring you’ll be harvesting the first radishes and greens from the garden if you didn’t have a late frost.

Cherries, rhubarb and the other first fruits won’t be coming on until June. No tomatoes or new potatoes until July.

Wild game (rabbits and squirrels) both start multiplying pretty quickly when spring starts. So that would also help supplement.

You are also, however, extraordinarily busy, with spring planting, repairing infrastructure from damage that come from winter and spring floods, animal births: people doing that sort of physical labor need calories more than they need flavors.

Remember, too, that “winter” in Alabama and “Winter” in Vermont are very different things: it never gets as cold or as frozen in the south, but it also means your can’t have a root cellar that’s cold and dry.