Closing up the cottage: What to take and what to leave

Your guide to which cottage staples can weather winter at the lake

By Ian MerringerIan Merringer



Cold. It’s a taker, and a giver. Those who spend Thanksgiving weekend eating surplus food that was packed into the freezer in early May know that ice is a great preservative. But when that same freezer is home to a forgotten beer can that needed chilling with extra haste, it’s clear the far side of the freezing point can be a destructive place.

Closing-up weekend is busy enough without making extra work by carting home things that can easily weather a few months in a deep freeze. Likewise, wouldn’t it be nice to arrive in the spring and not have to clean up all the things that spoiled, burst, or expired because they should never have been left to overwinter in an unheated cottage?

Common sense, elementary chemistry, and perhaps enough daring to sometimes go against the manufacturers’ cautious caveats will ensure that when the heat is off, you’ve got the right stuff out of the kitchen (and bathroom and tool shed). Keep a few principles in mind to help make closing-up weekend a relaxed, leisurely affair:

  • Water is rare among earthly substances in that it expands, not contracts, when it freezes. So liquid-filled containers could burst and leave a mid-winter mess.
  • Alcohol, salt, and sugar greatly hinder the ability of water molecules to organize themselves into a frozen state.
  • If substances do freeze, it is likely that some separation of ingredients will happen. Sometimes, a shake of the thawed product is all that’s needed. Other times, as in the case of medicines, a fundamental deterioration of the chemical structure could result.

This article was originally published on October 12, 2009

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Sep. 22, 2011

10:52 am

I had a problem with an open jar of real maple syrup, it went moldy. I thought It would survive, guess I was wrong

Sep. 20, 2011

9:25 am

If you are not sure what to do with all your unopened items, every town has a Food Bank, you could donate all your extra's to them. As a cottager I always did that at the end of every season.

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