Here is a link to the programme the Frontier House, which we enjoyed on our household.
The website has many tips on food preservation and shops during the 19th century so it's worth a look, but I've listed some below.
"One popular "coffee substitute" recipe advised settlers to roast molasses-soaked bran in the oven until it was charred black. The bran could then be ground like coffee beans, and the resultant brew was "a very tasty drink for a number of months."
"Though ice-boxes were available beginning in the 1830s, most settlers did not have regular access to ice. To chill foods such as butter, homesteaders placed them in earthen crocks in springs or wells."
"Homesteaders were often short on containers for food storage. Former kerosene cans were pressed into service, and could be used "for two or three years, until the can discolored the fruit, or until it made the juice black, and tasting of tin."
"The success of cooking in either fireplaces or stoves was largely based on intuition, guesswork, and luck. One popular guide advised, "You know your oven is ready for baking when you can hold your hand in it for twenty seconds but no longer," while another suggested the following scientific method:
To test the oven put a half a sheet of writing paper [in it]; if it catches fire the oven is too hot; open the dampers and wait ten minutes, then put in another piece of paper; if it blackens it is still too hot. Ten minutes later put in a third piece; if it gets dark brown, then the oven is right for a small pastry. This is 'Dark brown paper heat.' Light brown paper heat is suitable for vol-au-vents or fruit pies. Dark yellow paper heat for large pieces of pastry or meat pies, bread, etc. To obtain these various degrees of heat try the paper every ten minutes till the heat required for the purpose is attained."
"Lack of supplies and lack of cash led many pioneers to dream up "alternative versions" of favorite dishes, as well as to substitute, improvise, and invent while cooking. Molasses stood in for sugar. Vinegar could be used to imitate lemons. Boiled, mashed beans mixed with plenty of nutmeg and allspice made a lovely pumpkin pie. Catharine Beecher revealed that "two tablespoonfuls of snow, stewed in quickly [to the batter] is equal to one egg in puddings or pan cakes." Another frontier cook determined that you could stew up "orange marmalade" by boiling carrots in a sugary syrup flavored with ginger."
"The most common method of preserving fruits and some types of vegetables was to dry them. Fruit was set under cheesecloth in the sun (one homesteader insisted that the cabin roof was an ideal place to dry fruit), until it became shriveled and hard. This dried fruit was then hung in a cellar or storeroom until needed. Months later, when the fruit was eaten, it was soaked in water, and then stewed with sugar, to make it palatable. Even so, stewed fruit was often leathery and tasteless. The 1858 introduction of the Mason jar, with its rubber ring and wire clamp, did little to decrease the amount of time dedicated to preserving settlers' scanty supplies of fruits and vegetables."
"Drying and stewing fruit was a picnic compared to the elaborate rituals involved in the preparation and preservation of meat. If settlers lived near a sizable town or city, they relied on a meat market. Homesteaders who had been on their homesteads for a period of time might have a few chickens, but it took a substantial period of time to build up a sizable flock. Most homesteaders obtained their fresh meat by hunting. In an area such as Montana, homesteaders would have had access to deer, pheasant, wild turkey, rabbits, bears, and a variety of fish. However, once game was killed, it almost immediately had to be prepared or preserved. In summer months, meat would go bad in an afternoon."
"If meat was to be kept for a few days, settlers par-boiled or par-roasted it, and finished cooking it immediately before eating. If it started to go bad, women's magazines suggested to "try rubbing a little salt on it, to restore its nourishing qualities."
"Settlers had other means of preserving meats for longer periods of time. To pickle meat, homesteaders essentially salted it to the point that it would no longer rot. Catharine Beecher offered the following procedure in her Homekeeper and Healthkeeper's Companion:
To preserve one hundred pounds of beef, you will need four quarts of rock salt, pounded fine; four ounces of saltpeter, pounded fine; and four pounds of brown sugar. Mix these well. Put a layer of meat in the bottom of a barrel, with a thin layer of the mixture under it. Pack the meat into the barrel in layers, and between each layer put proportions of the mixture, allowing a little more to the top layer. Then, pour in brine till the barrel is full ... if the brine ever looks bloody, or smells badly, it must be scalded, and more salt put to it, and poured over the meat."
"Brine was saltwater that was traditionally "strong enough to float an egg." Preserved in this way, homesteaders could keep meats for weeks and months at a time. However, like the other staple of pioneer diet, salt pork, "salted down" meat had to be laboriously rinsed, scrubbed, and soaked before consumption. One of the few positive aspects of winter on the frontier was that meat could be hung outside and frozen, or, as Catharine Beecher noted, "packed carefully with snow in a barrel." Settlers with access to wood also cured their meats in smokehouses, a process that involved feeding a smoky fire under the meat for days -- and weeks -- at a time. " http://www.pbs.org/wnet/frontierhouse/frontierlife/essay6_2.html