I'm a history buff when it comes to how people actually lived and what they did to survive. When you look at the history of food preservation before canning jars came to be it was five things they did to prolong the foods life. This is not counting root cellaring.
Salting- which gave you good outcomes but made the meat very very salty. However since people back then ate very little meat the extra salt was probably appreciated.
Drying- no comment necessary
Larding- things like mince pies or cooked meat was layered between melted fat and put in crocks in a very cold secure room. This was done in the late fall of course.
Sugaring- preserve fruits in very high (like inedible) concentrations of sugar. The foods has to be soaked in water before eating. But this was only used infrequently because truly poor people had very little money to use sugar this way.
Fermented pickling- this was very common and used on meats, veggies and fruits.
I love fermenting my pickles and veggies. It doesn't require heat treating or self sealing lids. I have made both fermented pickles and regular pickles. I like fermented pickles for dills and mixed veggie pickles. They are always crisp tangy and have a zing that is almost like carbonation that other pickles don't. Also there is a lot of info out there pointing to lactos fermented pickles being very good for your health. I only do Bread and Butter cucumber pickles the standard way. The recipe I use for that is from my favorite book The Joy of Pickling.
Fermenting is also easy, much easier than making standard pickles. All you do is mix the brine, throw in the spices and veggies, cover with brine, and bam! Your done. The fermenting takes place in a moderately warm room or shelf. You check them ever so often to make sure the brine is covering the veggies and to make sure that the fermentation is doing it's thing. That's it! After two weeks you have really amazing food. Keep it in a cool place and they last up to a year like the fridge. Mine are gone way before that though! You can use used canning jar lids and quart jars for this. Or you can get old fashioned pickle crocks. You could also use non reactive tubs.
Anyone here who has put up lots of food for home use will know that the summer is frenetic in its pace. You are constantly planting, harvesting, canning, and preserving all the food to get you through to the next year from dawn till dusk. So anything that cuts down on processing time is a blessing, especially if you are using a wood cook stove to process jars in a hot kitchen .
Just to give you a clue on how much food you'll need to be canning for fall/winter/spring use I tell you mine. I have a family of 6. To get us through from fall to late spring I have to can:
30 quarts applesauce
30 quarts cherries
30 quarts pears
30 quarts peaches
20 quarts assorted pickles
20 pints of assorted fruit pickles
15 pints each of strawberry, cherry, peach, and apricot jams at least
45 quarts marinara sauce
30 quarts tomatoes
30 pints of misc. condiments like apple chutney, salsa, and ketchup.
I don't can green beans because it freaks me out with the low acid so I freeze tons and tons of them for dinners.
I also freeze a mix of summer squash/onion/eggplant for casseroles, soups, stir fry, and oven roasting in the winter.
There is so much more I do or want to do but these are just the main things I shoot for. We also root cellar a lot of winter squash, potatoes, apples, and onions. You can see how busy you'll be just doing preservation if you really had to grow all your own food. And I don't even reach that goal. I'm going to try doing sauerkraut this year too. It's supposed to be much better than the store stuff and you can ferment it in quart jars.
Two great books on easy fermenting foods are:
The Joy of Pickling- has a huge section on fermented pickles. The other sections are great too, I tried making pickled grapes last year with a recipe from this book and even my very picky extended family loved them at Thanksgiving. They were more like a condiment you would serve with meat. Like cranberry sauce.
Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables At Home- Klaus Kaufmann and Annelies Schoneck- This is where I first learned to make fermented pickles. It explains how Lactic acid fermentation works to preserve the food safely and a step by step look at the process which The Joy of Pickling does not. The Joy of Pickling has many more recipes for flavors of fermented pickles. They sell this book in health food stores.