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Keeping stuff cold

Posted: Thu May 25, 2006 12:04 pm
by Joanna
in tha ages gone by on the battlefield and in the camp
how did they keep things like butter and cheese cold.
wouldent the cheese co moldy and the butter go soft?

Posted: Thu May 25, 2006 12:54 pm
by Steve Stocker
The modern low-tech solution is to use a terracota holder or cover and soak it in water, the evaporation causes cooling inside. Similarly, placing a wet cloth over a beer barrel renders the contents pleasantly cool and quaffable. This works well, but I don't know if the process was known or understoood before the 19th century.
Rich people had ice houses of course, but once again I can only be certain that they were used in the 19th century and these stored ice imported from Scandinavia.

Posted: Thu May 25, 2006 3:51 pm
by Fillionous
As far as I am aware various water evaporation techniques were used... ie damp cloth or unglazed terracotta or even not fully sealed wooden barrels that 'sweat' and thus cool the contents.

The other thing to remember is that a lot of foods would have been dried, salted, smoked or other wised preserved foods and that adds to shelf life even in hot conditions (although not so well in the damp) quite considrabally esspecally if they are sealed in barrels.

For fresher stuff I suspect that when/if it was avalible on campain it had been 'raided' and was eaten very promptly by who ever had taken it and his imidiate friends.

Be bright, be bold
Fillionous

Posted: Thu May 25, 2006 4:17 pm
by Vicky
What period are you talking about here?

Posted: Fri May 26, 2006 7:53 pm
by Cat
Last w/end we enjoyed cooled cheese and butter etc which had been covered with cloths that had one end in a bowl of water. The continual evaporation kept the comestibles pleasantly cool.

Posted: Fri May 26, 2006 8:45 pm
by sally
Thick stone slabs stay cold much longer than wooden shelves. Its remotely possible that a particular thickness of wall in one of the Cosmeston cottages might have lent itself to use as a food store, it certainly works well that way in the reconstructed version

Posted: Sun May 28, 2006 1:13 am
by Mrs. Babyjuice
Steve S - Ice houses were all the rage definately by the late C.18th, mostly at large, wealthy country estates. In fact they used ice from their own property, digging out a few wide, shallow ponds. They were deliberately designed that way for ease of removal of the ice.

These were then allowed to freeze over to build up a good ice layer which was then put down into the ice house. (As well as ice from local natural watercourses).The ponds would all be scraped regularly and thus filling the ice house with an appropriate amount of ice to overwinter meat and the like.

The ice house was actually a horizontal tunnel which led to a deep pit. The ice was chucked in to maximum capacity and the meat (venison, beef and whatever else) was kept in there, often hung in the freezing tempurature.

Posted: Sun May 28, 2006 1:19 am
by Mrs. Babyjuice
When we used to do the Shire Horse centre we pitched up at "Celtic Corner",and put all our watertight stuff in the brook behind the tents. Freezer box went in, no mank milk after half a day, bliss! ....Not to mention the cool beers.

Posted: Tue May 30, 2006 8:06 am
by Steve Stocker
Mrs B,
Thanks for that, you reminded me that there are some very well preserved remains of ice ponds on Northern Dartmoor. These had a series of sluices so that thin layers of ice could be formed before letting in a bit more water. This speeded up the freezing process. The ice was carted to Plymouth etc. for use by fishmongers. This was in the late 19th Century.

Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 1:19 pm
by Mrs. Babyjuice
Steve - The ice house and ponds which I'm talking about were spead out through the estate, about 4 in total. They didn't have the sluice system, perhaps too early for that idea.

I'm not sure of the precise age of the ice house, but I have reason to belive it was built when the latest incarnation of the house was completed in 1701, (haven't looked it up yet, but I should know because I used to live in the Hall! Tut-tut at me for forgetting!) I do know it was one of the best and oldest preserved examples around and has the ice house cottage intact too, where the retired administrator and his wife used to live.

Not a job for me!

Posted: Sat Jun 17, 2006 12:36 pm
by Bittersweet
Did anyone have enough 'spare' food to necessitate finding a way to keep it cold?
Also, did they care/know enough about food poisoning? If you're desperate for food, perhaps you'll eat anything, even if it's 'off'. I'm pleased to say that I've never been that hungry so I don't know.

Posted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:07 pm
by m300572
It is still possible to get 'farmhouse' cheeses wrapped in muslin - the outer rind goes mouldy but that bit gets peeled off - a whole cheese would disappear fairly fast in an army situation so the keeping gualities after opening wouldn't matter too much. Likewise meat would tend to be killed, butchered and cooked in short order so keeping not a problem.

The cold cloth method was used until recently (my granny didn't get a fridge until the late 1970s - she used to keep her milk in a bowl with a couple of inches of water in it and a wet cloth over the top of the bottles - kept it fresh enough to drink for a day).

Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 8:39 pm
by Ace Rimmer
m300572 wrote:It is still possible to get 'farmhouse' cheeses wrapped in muslin - the outer rind goes mouldy but that bit gets peeled off - a whole cheese would disappear fairly fast in an army situation so the keeping gualities after opening wouldn't matter too much. Likewise meat would tend to be killed, butchered and cooked in short order so keeping not a problem.
There is a "cheese Farm" in South Wales somewhere between Tenby and Carmarthen, Can't remember exactly where I'm afraid, but I bought some lovely cheeses there a few years back. All muslin wrapped, no need to refridgerate :)

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:08 pm
by Tuppence
jus to say wrapping stuff in wet cloth worked wonderfully last weeked to keep me custard tarts cold!

Posted: Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:56 pm
by Peter Lyon
I got interested in the problems of keeping stuff cool during a very warm (up to 28 celcius) camp last weekend here in New Zealand. We had a fridge handy, but it got me to wondering what to do if we don't have one, or don't want to use one.

Lots of good postings here, I'd already heard about the unglazed terracotta pot solution, which sounds good and low-cost. I've heard the Romans were able to make ice in the African desert by evaporative cooling, so the knowledge goes back a long way.

Now, I know about salting and drying being common, but it doesn't work for some foods like milk and butter, so I have a question relating to my period (late 14th century - I am equipped as a knight doing the jousting circuit in Europe with his lady and household, so have the large tent and a lot of higher-end bits, so carrying some extra stuff is not an issue) or general medieval if you will:

Does anyone have solid evidence (pictorial, written, or archaeological) for chilling or cooling of foods in the medieval period? And if you do, posting references/pictures would be most appreciated.

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 4:39 pm
by m300572
a very warm (up to 28 celcius) camp last weekend
You could really get to dislike people :shock: We spent the weekend freezing our parts off in a windchill that must have been -20 at least. :shock:

Milk would generally have been converted to butter and cheese anyway and butter, if slated and packed in a pot will keep reasonably well for a while (although there are several early medieval finds of butter packed into wooden tubs from peat bogs, the suggestion was that these could have been the equivalent of the fridge). Hard cheese (been through a press) will also keep fairly well if the truckle isn't opened - once you cut through the outer skin it needs eaten fairly fast.

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:52 pm
by Peter Lyon
Thanks for the info - I'm steering towards keeping stuff like milk in an unglazed pot (planter or the like) in a bowl of water, and covering it with damp muslin, to use evaporative cooling to keep perishables cool. But I'm still curious to know of any direct evidence of such methods being used in the later medieval period.

Forgot to mention it, but the weather at the camp was also virtually windless for the four days, and hardly any clouds. :D This is worth mentioning because the camp was near Wellington - famous as Windy Wellington - and I've never experienced a situation before where a candle could sit outside for three evenings in a row and not be instantly snuffed out (let alone being ripped out of my hands by the "breeze"). But the weather returned to normal a couple of days after the camp - torrential rain etc. Sorry if it sounded like I was crowing about the weather, but I doubt we will ever have a camp so blessed by the weather again.

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:55 pm
by m300572
Sorry if it sounded like I was crowing about the weather, but I doubt we will ever have a camp so blessed by the weather again.
I was only pulling your leg about the weather - if it had been that warm we would have been going down with heat stroke (wool waistcoats under wool jackets under wool plaids!) :lol:

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:14 pm
by gregory23b
Live oysters were transported in barrels, in seaweed.

Hard cheeses can become very dry, but they are often older, nice IMHO.

Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 6:55 pm
by James Bretlington
m300572 wrote:
a very warm (up to 28 celcius) camp last weekend
You could really get to dislike people :shock: We spent the weekend freezing our parts off in a windchill that must have been -20 at least. :shock:
Oh, you're going to hate us then. We're praying for temperatures not in the high 80's F for the upcoming festival in Soth Florida, and we do wear wool.

There's some good thoughts here, and I may have a play around with some of them during the festival. I will admit that we have a fridge in one of our tents, and a huge wooden chest that we sit a cooler into.

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 6:19 pm
by m300572
James, in the modern world the hidden fridge is a necessity unless you can get salted/smoked food or use stuff that doesn't go off rapidly in warm weather. I'm sure that the general population had a higher tolerance of soem germs than we have today but slaying your group by feeding htem botulism isn't really a good option (we used to have a "cook" who was noted for poisoning a number of people on more than one ocasion)

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:49 pm
by KezT
, in the modern world the hidden fridge is a necessity
Depends if you are feeding the ravening hoards or just yourself:-)

I never bothered with fridge type things for feeding myself and my family - all three kids have managed to survive battlefield food all summer since birth.

meat dosn't keep much more than 24 hours without salting/drying, but fresh meat was usually hunted and eaten immediately in an army situation. I cheat and bring one set of fesh meat for Saturday and one set of frozen for Sunday:-) Hard cheese keeps for ever as long as you don't break the rind. Milk was miked from the cow each day:-) I make butter on site each weekend and it not only keeps well in wet muslin, but it cools it hard enough to make into good solid pats to take home for later consumption - even during the occasional heatwave. Sealed bottles sit in a stream (mmmm, cold homemade ciser round the campfire). Pretty much everythng else (including chocolate in the tent) is happy ina small bowl/jug sitting in a large bowl full of water and draped with muslin.

I wouldn't like to do it for months on end, but for a weekend? easy. And when at cossie with nice dark cottages - especially anywhere with stone, it's even easier.

of course, them oldies were probably a bit more resistant to listeria bugs and such like anyway. I have been known to use those nice anti-bac hand spray's on my toddlers when camping on a muck filled cow field!

Posted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:59 pm
by James Bretlington
We do ok, and we've not poisoned anyone in three years.

We do deliberately go for hard cheeses, as they do not sweat anywhere near as badly once cut and placed into a bowl. I reckon a soft cheese would have started its own civilisation of bugs before noon in the heat we get.

Posted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:28 pm
by Aginoth
keeping stuff cold is not going to be a problem this weekend...brrr