Station: [12] Storage

M 1: In medieval Jerichow Monastery, there was no such thing as a refrigerator, and nor did airtight packaging exist. So you may well be wondering how people managed to preserve the grain, vegetables and fruit they grew, the medicinal herbs from the garden and the fish from the River Elbe. How did they stop them rotting or fermenting, or being eaten by mice and insect pests? How could they provide enough fresh, vitamin-rich food even during the winter months?

F 2: There were all kinds of different ways of storing and preserving food at the monastery, and the relevant skills go back a very long way. Extracting moisture is one way to preserve many foods: herbs were hung up to dry, apples were dehydrated, fish was salted or smoked. Proper storage was also important to preserve agricultural produce. Turnips and carrots were stored in a clamp – covered in soil. Apples and mistletoe were kept on straw; cabbages both white and red were hung up to protect them from pests and mould. After threshing, grain was tipped into a pit with clay-lined walls, and then covered in clay and soil to provide an airtight seal. The final topping of straw ensured you knew where to find it. Vacuum packaging, medieval style.

Fermentation processes were also used for preservation. That’s the secret of the barrel of sauerkraut, which is particularly rich in vitamin C. Thanks to the fermentation process and the alcohol content, beer was kept free from pathogens – which was more than you could say for the water, which was often filthy back then.

Foto: © Stiftung Kloster Jerichow