People in the Middle Ages, i.e. from the 6th to the 15th century, were using stock-keeping techniques that still prove their worth today. Such methods included drying, kiln-drying, smoking, sweet pickling in honey and sour pickling in vinegar.


Meat was pickled in oil or covered with tallow or another type of fat. The preservative and germicidal properties of spices were discovered during this period and the contemporary practice of adding hops to beer has survived to this day. The main preservative of the age was salt. Thanks to the spread of Christianity, fish was gaining in popularity as an alternative to meat during times of fasting: herring was placed in barrels of salt immediately after it was caught and fish with a low fat content was dried, resulting in stockfish. Cabbage was also pickled with salt.

In the 16th century it was discovered that combining water with sodium nitrate had a cooling effect. Natural ice was a luxury in the Western world right up to the middle of the 17th century, when chilled drinks and parfait desserts started to be sold in Paris. In the Arab world, however, the benefits of natural ice had already been known for some time.


At the end of the 17th century it was discovered that in order to prolong the shelf life of food, it had to be given an air-tight seal. In 1691 two Englishmen were granted the first global patent for a method of food preservation. A little later the military significance of preserved food and its potential impact on troop provisions was recognised and 150 years after that, the German Justus von Liebig successfully produced a preserve containing meat extracts on an industrial scale.


All articles on this topic:

Stock-keeping in ancient times: From the Stone Age to the Romans
From salt in the Middle Ages to natural ice and beyond to the tins of the modern era
Ice and preserving jars create modern stock-keeping
Stock-keeping today: Pantry & fridge – The perfect partners
Stock-keeping over the years

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Stock-keeping in ancient times. The tradition of stock-keeping and preserving food in private homes
At the beginning of the 19th century public cold stores were set up at the instigation of the
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Stock-keeping has seen some fundamental changes over the last few decades. Long shop opening hours,