Welcome, to what is probably my favourite room in our house! I always call it the root cellar but I should probably use the more appropriate term, which would be a cold room. It’s warmer and drier than a traditional root cellar should be, but it’s still a dark, cold place that works great to store many of my garden’s goodies in. This room is a popular conversation topic and people always seem interested in learning more about long term food storage, so I’ll give you a tour and show you what I do and why it works for us.
It used to be our house’s cistern before our subdivision had municipal water and one of the previous owners connected it to our basement hallway and converted it into a storage room. Since then, we’ve turned it into our cellar by adding ventilation and shelving. I’ve put my heart and soul into this room and all its contents. Food preservation and gardening have become very big parts of my life and this room showcases the hard work, lessons learned and success I’ve had throughout that journey. It’s a very wonderful and rewarding feeling, looking at all the beautiful food you’ve grown and preserved yourself. As always, I encourage you to try it if you don’t already – and don’t be afraid to start out small. Grow some tomatoes! Can a batch of jam! Pickle something! Okay, back on track…
When you first walk in the room, I have a heavy duty adjustable garage shelf where I store my pressure and water bath canners, dehydrator, electric roaster and some bulk pantry staples. I have another space upstairs where I store all my bulk dry goods (which I’ll cover in a different post) but I keep a lot of commercially canned food, cooking fats and oils, or heavy items here.
I have a thermometer hanging on the wall here so I can see the room’s temperature easily when I come in. Right now it’s been sitting around 13 degrees Celsius (at least when the door is closed and I’m not hanging out in here) but come January it’ll cool off to 8 or 9 degrees. Not ideal, but still plenty cool enough to keep potatoes well into February and squash for a full year (seriously, we ate our last spaghetti squash from last years garden this September).
To the right, I have a very large built-in shelf where I keep all my home canning, a few more store-bought staples, and my emergency water supply (I’ll go into detail about that in another post also). These shelves were built to maximize storage but were spaced far enough apart so I could comfortably reach my arm in to pull jars forward. I process 1000+ jars every year and these shelves have been wonderful for storing them.
This year I wanted to try storing apples long(ish) term in here so I individually wrapped about 80lbs of apples in newspaper and stored them in boxes on the top shelf. About a month or so later I started realizing that this room would never be cold enough for them to keep well, so I ended up refrigerating, freezing, dehydrating or canning them all. That was kind of a bummer but lesson learned and they didn’t go to waste. Plus now I’ll have more space to store empty jars throughout the winter.
To the left I have another heavy duty shelf tucked in the corner where I keep a some empty jars, all my snap lids and rings, a smaller water bath canner, and all my kitchen gadgets that go along with preserving (apple peeler, cherry pitters, mandolin slicer, canning utensils, etc.).
Beside that is my awesome potato bin! It has a little shelf on top where I keep squash/sweet potatoes and plenty of space underneath to store my carrot bin and some jars. It has 3 large, well ventilated potato compartments with plywood lids which is super neat. Lastly, I have a couple baskets hanging around where I store my onions and garlic.
I store my carrots by layering them in damp sand in a large Rubbermaid tote with the lid sitting loosely on top for some air flow. They’re starting to sprout a bit now but that’s okay. It’s better that they’re alive and sprouting than dead and rotting! My cold air intake (bottom left) keeps this side of the room a degree or two colder. Storing my carrots near that, plus them sitting on the cold concrete floor, helps a bit.
So there you have it, our makeshift root cellar! I hope you enjoyed the tour and maybe got some inspiration for your own food storage. Have questions or tips to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments.