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Icehouses and Refrigeration

Poster: Joyce Baldwin <jocetta@ibm.net>

My that cider was tasty...of course I really have to make absolutely 
certain it's of a consistantly good quality before I use it to make 
the chicken stew for Boat Wars (May 2'nd-4'th, you remember)....

(accepts another mug and proceeds to sip, daintily of course)

I've a random question, brought on by thoughts of thawing meat and 
serving safe feasts. 

Did they have icehouses in Northern Europe in the Middle Ages?  I know 
they were quite common in the 19'th c. and the technology is not that 
elaborate - dig a hole in the ground, roof it over, insulate with sod, 
and in deep winter head to a good clear frozen lake, cut out hunks of 
ice, take them back to the icehouse (presumably built not too far from 
the lake), pack well with sawdust. If you put in enough ice it will keep 
frozen well into the depths of summer.  It seems to me they must have had 
some form of this.  "Everyone" keeps saying there was no refrigeration in 
the Middle Ages -- I would think you could store some spoilables (dairy 
and some meats) quite well in the middle of an icehouse. This is not to 
say the majority of food was preserved this way, but I would think some 
of it might have been.

Anyone know where I might find some info on this?  I've made myself 
curious.  Who knows - coolers at Pennsic might not be so anachronistic 
after all!


Jocetta Thrushleigh of Rowansgarth

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