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Root Cellar Reveal and Pantry Tour

Updated: Oct 19, 2023


Marie and her husband, GB, have worked tirelessly on their Hobbit Hole Root Cellar. I have to say, they have done a wonderful job and I am so excited to brag up how awesome Marie is for making this stunning masterpiece come to fruition. I am amazed at how hard their entire family worked and now they can all reap the rewards of a safe place for their food storage. --Emmaline Hoffmeister
Completed Root Cellar - View from the door.

Completed Root Cellar

The outside of the root cellar still needs some finishing but we will have to wait for the spring thaw to complete it.

The hobbit hole root cellar covered with snow.

Under Winter Snow

Happily, the inside of our root cellar is all done. With completing the root cellar at the beginning of winter I could fill it with my canned goods but had few items from my garden left. In some ways, this was a good thing because I want to use this as a test year to make sure the temperature is regulated. I was able to go to the market and buy all the things that I thought I might want to store in my cellar.

A heat lamp used to help the root cellar stay above freezing when the temperature drops too low outside.

Heat Lamp

Without the full coverage of dirt on the roof, we did find that when the outside temperature dipped into the teens the inside temperature dipped to just above freezing. This is a little too cold, so we needed to fix it. Luckily, this was an easy fix. We just brought in a heat bulb to keep it from freezing for the deepest part of winter. The heat bulb took off the “nip” and it settled at a perfect temperature.


As I mentioned above, this is my experimenting year. Each area and each root cellar are going to be a little different as far as temperature and humidity. This can make a big difference in how long food can be maintained and which foods will store best in it.


Fruits like apples and pears tend to like it just above freezing from 32 to 40 degrees with very high humidity, around 90-95%. Cold-weather crops like cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and leeks will also do well with those levels. Root vegetables like carrots and beets don’t mind it that cold, but potatoes and yams tend to do better around 50 degrees. Garlic, onions, and squash also like the warmer 50-degree range but they also like it to be drier, in the 60-70% humidity range. You can see how hard it would be to have a wide variety of foods in the same root cellar. In trying to find a middle ground for temperature and humidity, I realize that the foods at the ends of those spectrums will have a shorter cellar life, but it will still be longer than they would have had in my garage. By taking my canned goods and produce out of the garage, I have opened up space and made my husband happy. That makes it all worth it.

Wall hangings inside the root cellar.

Wall hangings

I had so much fun creating this pantry space for myself. A brick wall is a little hard to hang items on but with the proper drill bit we were able to add items to the wall. Adding light-colored decorations helped to elevate the feel of the cellar and make it a place you don’t mind visiting. A clock and thermometer are a must as it is easy to lose track of time when I am working with my pantry items and I need to know if interventions are needed to increase or decrease the temperature. We are considering getting a humidity gauge so we can monitor that as well. At this point, I just add moisture when it starts to feel dry to me. Some of the old books say if you need more humidity in your root cellar to just dump a bowl of water on the ground. I haven’t tried that yet but it might be something to consider.

The root cellar work bench.

Work bench

I felt like a workbench was integral so that I had space to work on and an additional storage area for smaller items. Primarily, I keep my seeds and essential oils in it. The seeds like the low temperature but need to be bagged in plastic to avoid moisture. I have found all kinds of fun bottles and baskets to store things in. Garage sales and thrift stores will have a wide variety of interesting items for great prices. Also, my friends who know me well have gifted me some beautiful cellar accessories.

Various bottles.

bottles

Various containers.

containers

I like to create infused oils and vinegar. Right now I have garlic and rosemary vinegar, garlic-infused olive oil, and rosemary-infused olive oil. Clearly, I like garlic and rosemary. I also made some ginger-infused olive oil for massage. This could be used for food but in my case, I used a bottle that I can’t prove doesn’t have lead paint so we will use it as a non-consumable. Ginger is incredibly good for the skin and has a pleasant scent.

A drying frame for herbs hanging from the ceiling.

drying frame

I also wanted to have areas to hang herbs. They stay good but getting completely dry in a humid root cellar is a little difficult. I usually use them in their half dry state but if I wanted them really dry I would place them in the dehydrator. I have hung parsley, sage, cilantro, and rosemary. Of those, the best was the rosemary which has dried very nicely. For hanging the herbs I took an old frame, stretched a bit of chicken wire across it, and then hung it from the ceiling. For the rosemary, I used an old frame, a thin panel from an old hollow door, a broken belt, and some extra drawer pulls. I put these together and had another great herb drying location. I have one more metal wall hanger that I am planning to attach to the ceiling for more space.

Home canned food storage items in the pantry.

The multiple baskets and small crocks became great depositories for roots like turmeric, ginger, and horseradish. Cinnamon bark and dried hibiscus flowers found homes in more little containers.

Onions in a basket on the floor of the root cellar reveal and pantry tour.

onions

Garlic on display in our root cellar reveal and pantry tour.

garlic

The onions and garlic needed to be in containers that offered a lot of ventilation.

Potatoes in wood storage bins on display for the root cellar reveal and pantry tour.

potatoes

Yams and butternut squash in wood storage bins on display for the root cellar reveal and pantry tour.

yams and butternut squash

Potatoes and yams last longest when nestled in beds of hay and not touching each other.

Carrots in wood storage bins on display for the root cellar reveal and pantry tour.

carrots in damp sand

Carrots also need to be separated from each other but prefer damp sand to reside in.

Apples and Pears in wood storage bins on display for the root cellar reveal and pantry tour.

apples and pears

Apples and pears should be separated from the other produce and should be stored without touching each other. Wrapping them in tissue paper or newspaper usually has good results.

Water glassed eggs in the root cellar pantry.

water glassed eggs

An additional item I have been stocking in my cellar is water-glassed eggs. The great thing about preserving eggs this way is that they stay good for multiple months so we can bring them out during the time of year that the chickens have reduced laying. Plus they are incredibly cute.

Delicious canned goods on display for the root cellar reveal and pantry tour.

canned goods

Last but not least, I store my home canned goods in the root cellar. This has allowed me to not only give the garage space back to my husband but to keep my canning highly organized and inventoried. I love being able to see the wide variety of items I have canned and choose what to use that day.


No matter what you store in your root cellar, it is important to regularly go through them and remove any that need to be used. The old adage “one bad apple will spoil the whole batch” comes from the time of root cellars for a reason. Rotation for canned goods is nearly as important. I try to place the older jars closer to the door to encourage earlier use.


I love having the root cellar to store my goods in and can’t wait to start putting items from my garden in it. Now I just need to add a stone path from the house to the cellar because I think I am going to create a trail in my lawn if I don’t.



After the spring thaw, we will be doing the last installment in this series with the final finishing touches.

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