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THE ICE-MAKERS

In the account of a hunting party that took place in Coto de Doñana, in the Spring of 1624, offered by the Duke of Medina Sidonia to King Philip IV, attended by 1,200 guests, it says literally: “Bring every day six loads of snow from Ronda on forty six mules".

The conservation of food has been a serious problem until quite recent times. Ice production and cold-storage chambers are a modern advance that until then was substituted by the use of brine, marinades, preserves or snow. Progress has brought about the disappearance of what was surely one of the most unique trades in the Sierra de las Nieves: the Ice-Maker.

The tasks of the ice-maker started in Spring, after the last snows. First the snow had to be dug out with spades and transported to the snow pits where they were pressed with large wooden rammer until they turned into ice. A layer of straw was placed on top of every half-metre of snow. There was a drainage hole at the bottom to drain away the melt-water, as this would spoil the conservation of the snow. The snow pits were circular in shape, built with walls of stone, preferably in the shade and facing north, in order to obtain the best temperature conditions for preserving the ice. The hard work involved in digging out the snow with a spade and dragging it to the pits was alleviated in part by the warmth of the fire that was permanently lit inside the little huts.

In summer, it was transported by pack animals led by muleteers through the whole province of Malaga and other parts of Andalusia. To transport the ice, it was prepared in sacks of esparto grass weighing 50 kilos, surrounded by thin straw and bracken. It was transported at night to prevent the load from melting. Although ice was distributed throughout the year, most of the trade was carried out between the months of May and October.

From 1870 onwards the trade went into decline, and disappeared during the 30’s of the last century. The industry fell into disuse with the first ice-producing machines, the brainchild of Tellier, inventor of industrial freezing.

The ice-making pits are located in the districts of Yunquera and Tolox (Málaga), in the area known as Puerto de los Ventisqueros in the Sierra de las Nieves, at an altitude of 1,600 m. They are circular in shape with a diameter of 8-10 metres and a depth of five metres. Nowadays there are still vestiges of those snow pits, although only some of them have been restored or rebuilt in order to preserve the historical memory of this trade that, like many others, has been swallowed up by progress.

 

 

 

Association for the Rural Development of Sierra de las Nieves

Edificio Sierra de las Nieves, Paraje de Río Grande-Las Millanas, s/n - 29109- Tolox (Málaga) - Phone: 952 48 28 21 - Fax: 952 48 29 44

Email: agdr@sierranieves.com