Cod Press

A handy contraption to squish fish helped feed Christian Europe.

Written by Anne-Gaëlle Weber

Posted February 9, 2023

Beginning in the sixteenth century European fishermen — mainly Basque and Breton — salted and dried cod on the Atlantic coast of North America. Salted cod could be preserved for about two years; it was therefore an important food source for European Christians, as the Church urged abstention from meat for 160 fast days throughout the year.

This press was found in Paspébiac, Quebec, one of the most important ports for the export of dried cod in the nineteenth century. The contraption was used to compact the fish inside barrels (or boucauts) for transport to Europe, the West Indies or even Brazil.

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This object resides at the Paspébiac National Historic Site.

This article originally appeared in Cinquante Merveilles de nos musées: les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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