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Keep Foods Cool With A Zeer Pot

>7 October 2010
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 So, this is a really cool idea I wanted to pass along. The people of Sudan have come up with an innovative way to keep their produce fresh for significantly longer by using these clay refrigeration systems known as Zeer pots. In the severe heat of their country, produce only lasts a couple of days before going bad. Many people lose half of their crops to spoilage because of a lack of refrigeration, sadly leading starvation for many. Fortunately, a new method of preserving their crops is being taught, and more and more Sudanese are learning how to keep their produce fresh for up to three weeks longer than they normally could by making and using their own Zeer pots.

I love this idea because it doesn’t require any consumable resources; no gas, no kerosene, no electricity whatsoever. Nothing but nature itself: two clay pots, sand, and water. It works off of evaporative cooling.

Here’s how you can make your own:

1. You need two large terracotta pots, one larger than the other. Plug any holes.

2. Pour sand into the bottom of the larger pot, enough that when you place the smaller pot inside, it’s rim is level with the rim of larger pot. There needs to be about an inch of space, or slightly more, between the smaller pot and the larger one.

3. Fill in the gap between the pots with sand, all the way to the rim.

4. Now, pour water over the sand until it begins to puddle on top. Place the pots in a shady place, to help maintain coolness.

5. Place a damp cloth over the pots to help hold in the cooler temperature.

6. Make sure to add enough water every day to keep the sand moist.

The pots will begin to absorb the water, which will then evaporate causing the pots and their contents to become cooler. Zeer pots really need to be in a low humidity environment to work.

They won’t produce cold enough temps to safely preserve meat, but they are definitely useful for drinks and fresh produce.

Many Sudanese have multiple pots around their homes, so don’t feel limited to just having one of these!

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9 Comments »

  • Bonnie said:

    Very interesting and amazing! I would love to try this! But I think the climate here would not be cool enough. Good Thought though.
    Have a wonderful day.

  • Jessica said:

    Very neat! Excellent alternative for people who can’t/don’t have root cellars.

  • tarena said:

    that is awesome!!

  • janet said:

    Have you tried it yet? Sounds interesting…although, what about little critters, ants, bugs etc.? It actually sounds a lot like how the colonists preserved things in stoneware, but in root cellars, or below ground. Unique way though.

  • Lori said:

    Wow that is cool. I have thought about that very same thing, loosing power and not being able to keep the food cool. What a great thing to know. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Janet,

    No, I have not tried it yet. I just learned about these yesterday, and wanted to pass it along :) I didn’t think about bugs though, good question. Evidently, it’s not a problem for these people. I have seen ceramic lids made for the pots too, that would probably do a better job of keeping critters out.

  • Leigh said:

    Hurray for the zeer pot. I read about these awhile back but have yet to make one. Should have thought. One might have helped with my potatoes.

  • quakerdan said:

    Very cool! ;)
    Another thing to do would be to have a cellar or a cistern. We use our root cellar year round, a great place to keep things cool. My grandparents didn’t have a fridge and they kept their milk and everything cool by hanging it down the cistern.

  • Sarah C said:

    I lived in Sudan for a while, and if you think it is hot where you are, whooooeee! The only place I could see this not working would be where the humidity is very high, as the condensation wouldn’t dry.

    I remember being shocked as one of the ladies who cooked for us dipped me out some water from a clay container to wash my hands, and it was very cool to the touch.

    I’m going to try these pots as soon as spring comes, and share the idea with friends.

    Thanks for your blog!

    Sarah

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