Middle Age: the Shrb, the progenitor of sorbet

The recipes of Arab apothecaries

Shrb: it’s sugar syrup, the base for sorbets made of fruits, herbs, spices, flowers, etc. The first written recipes about Shrb have been traced by researcher Lucie Bolens in an Arabic manuscript (the Book of Sorbets), dating back to the XI century. Shrb was prescribed by apothecaries and eaten hot or “frozen”. This is the progenitor of sorbet: transformation through the heat of a mixture (infusion) containing sugar and new alteration through cooling. Ice is no longer mixed with the drink: the jars are, now, placed inside the ice that is used to freeze them


The ancient Sicilian ice-houses

The use of preserving frozen snow is documented in Sicily since the Eleventh century. The Sicilian ice-houses were natural or man-made moats, 2 or 3 meters deep, so that they could be filled even when the snow was scarce. They were made in places where the snow could accumulate by being pushed by the wind to a small shelter. During the summer, they would cut the frozen mass with the aid of picks, shovels and wedges. They would obtain blocks of about 120-150 kilograms. After being wrapped with leaves and burlap, the blocks were placed on the backs of the mules and guided to various destinations, to be sold.