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Articles - The Changing Face Of Storage:

Stock-keeping in ancient times. The tradition of stock-keeping and preserving food in private homes
From salt tonatural ice and beyond to tins. Meat was pickled in oil or covered with tallow or
Pantry & fridge – The perfect partners. The fridge represented a revolution in stock-keeping,
Stock-keeping has seen some fundamental changes over the last few decades. Long shop opening hours,

At the beginning of the 19th century public cold stores were set up at the instigation of the American Frederic Tudor. He was a man who recognised the principle of the distribution cold chain, traded in natural ice and encouraged the spread of refrigerators into private homes, where they could be used to store the ice. Ice harvesting became a real industry in America. Food could now be shipped to Europe in a chilled state and the ice also enabled slaughterhouses in the USA to operate the whole year through.

Finally, the fridge arrived in people’s homes. However, compared to the USA the demand for chilled food in Continental Europe, and particularly in Germany, remained low right up to the middle of the 20th century. Here people preferred their tried and tested methods of preservation and storage: until the Second World War, German houses had a cool provision cellar where the inhabitants could store their preserves.

In the mid-19th century the Frenchman Louis Pasteur discovered the perishable effect of micro-organisms, above all in food, along with the fact that they could be killed off by heat. The process which bears his name, pasteurisation, involved heating milk and other foods to temperatures of between 70 and 85°C, thus giving them an extended shelf life. After Pasteur’s discovery, the development of heat sterilisation (160°C) created almost perfect preservation conditions.


At the start of the 20th century canning in private households experienced a boom in Germany when Johann Weck founded his eponymous company. Right up until the 1950s, canning was the most common preservation method used in private German homes.

Houses built before 1914 had vaulted cellars with stomped mud floors, an average temperature of below 10°C and air humidity of over 90%; in short, the perfect conditions for storing food. Potatoes and apples could be clearly arranged in wooden pens and no self-respecting cellar of the time would have been without earthenware jars for pickling and curing. Root vegetables such as carrots, celery and black salsify were stored in boxes of sand.


In contrast to this approach was the “Frankfurt Kitchen” of the 1920s, a standard kitchen for rented flats designed in line with ergonomic and functional principles. The opening of cans was considered to be an important function in this type of kitchen, which provided almost no room for supplies. A provision cellar and storage cupboards were seen as superfluous.

During the Third Reich there was a backlash against this movement, although it was born of necessity because fruit and vegetables were no longer being imported. Particularly in the hungry years following the Second World War, the German population was dependent on their own preserved stocks of home-grown food. Homemade preserves were the “iron ration” – military association fully intended. The German saying “Jetzt geht's ans Eingemachte”, which roughly translates as “Let’s get stuck into our reserves”, originates from this time too. In the post-war years kitchens once again became very small, particularly those installed in public housing. Larders or suitable provision cellars were simply out of the question.


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