It occurred to me yesterday, after hauling over 100 pounds of harvested food home from our community garden, that we have never discussed one of the most important tools we have in our arsenal to do just that. And that topic is cold storage! Having appropriate abilities to keep your produce at relatively cool temperatures is absolutely vital to maintaining the freshness of your food. At commercial levels, you’ll often see large walk-in coolers. That’s impractical at the home scale, so we’re going to show you what our “home scaled” solution looks like!
In your “average” home, you likely have a refrigerator. That’s certainly an option and it will work as cold storage for smaller, hobby gardens. Honestly, we worked with this solution for far longer than we should have! But, the truth is, it’s highly limited since it’s very multi-purpose and is largely used for storing important foods for the home and refrigeration of many different things. Using the average home refrigerator will limit any kind of larger scale harvesting and not by small amounts. Especially when you start hauling in those cabbages, bags of broccoli and zucchini that might have gone a little too far.
Since we are larger scale growers, these days, we have more or less “dedicated” cold storage. We’d call it that, but it’s still multipurpose in the fact that we also consider it a “drink” fridge. In our case, we’ve converted a standard chest freezer into what basically amounts to a temperature controlled refrigerator. It’s cost effective to operate that we can easily store excess beverages at cool temperatures, but still large enough that we can pack in over 100 pounds of food at any given time. Truth be told, we also use this space for fermentation (of beer, food and other things) since we can establish any temperature that we would like. We shift the purpose of this cold storage based on the season and general activities we might be up to over the year.
In case you’re interested in what’s going on here? In our case, we have raised the height of the freezer’s lid by 10 inches with standard lumber, stained to our preference, along with appropriate insulation. We’ve also overridden the temperature control aspects of a standard chest freezer. We use an external temperature controller, in our case a DIY temperature controller that we built, but there’s inexpensive commercial alternatives like Inkbird controllers. We simply use this to turn on or off the freezer, based on a specific set temperature, that allows us to use it for standard refrigeration or other temperatures that we may desire. In theory, you can use this for all sorts of temperature controlled applications like cheese making, meat crafting, fermentation and other crafts that require specific temperature control.
This allows us a ton of flexibility, especially for producing food at larger scales. We can harvest one day and preserve at some later point, without a concern of our valuable food being subjected to room temperatures. It’s fundamental to our ability to take in a ton of produce and offer us enough time in our busy schedules to make preservation happen.
If you want to know how to sell this to the family? Here’s one way! If you’re a guy, well, you can get a heckuva “beer fridge” if you’re willing to share your space for the “good of the home.” If you’re you’re trying to sell your hubby, just ask him if he wants a “beer fridge!” Yes, our cold storage takes up valuable space in our home and we have to deal with it. But, the uses of a fully configurable refrigeration space provides incredible value across a lot of different interests. It costs us $1.75 (or less) to operate every month and provides us FAR more than $20 a year in value. We personally use this solution for multiple purposes, but it might even be worth it if you simply needed bulk refrigeration for food production.
If you’re a scaled grower, we are curious what you use for cold storage? Or, did you find another way?