Salt & smoking I – an experiment

June 8, 2010

In the morning I noticed how the mould growing on the brine in which the tongues were stored had started to turn blue. According to some reliable sites on smoking and brine the best solution would be to change the brine and clean the meat. However, as I had been brooding over the use of salt in early medieval times I considered this a good chance to do some further investigations into the subject.

Instead of simply throwing the brine away I figured that in a society in which salt was a fairly scarce commodity, the recovery of any salt used would have been of utmost importance. By boiling the brine I should be able to recover some of the salt used to salt the meat, of course some would be lost to the meat, some to the vat, some to the cauldron and some due to incompetence from my side.

When the meat was put in brine I had used approximately 1,5 kg of salt, this amount could probably have been lower if I had been able to better monitor the amount of brine to meat. However due to a slight lack of control over the heat in the hearth I did not manage to keep it boiling at all times which made it take a bit longer than it would have done under more controlled circumstances. While I managed to boil away all of the water during the opening hours of the museum, there was no time left to scrape of the salt from the cauldron and measure it.

This will have to be continued at my next session in the museum.

salt

Perhaps I ought to start my next session a bit earlier as I just realised that the salt may oxidise the metal vessel.

10 Responses to “Salt & smoking I – an experiment”

  1. if I remember it well, one of the antique sources (Cato? Columella?) recommends exactly this procedure to recover salt from used brine.

  2. eldrimner said

    That sounds like a good source to lean on, and it makes much sense to recover the brine. However, in hindsight, perhaps the iron cauldron was not the best choice in order to get a nice colour on the salt. I’ll put up a post later with a picture of the retrieved salt.

    • I was thinking about the use of the iron cauldron for the brine… Wouldn’t it be more likely that the food was salted in barrels or ceramic vessels rather than in an iron cauldron? Have no source for it, but consider the fact that salted fish and other goods was rather kept in such vessels than in iron ones for the reason you already mentioned – rust/oxide. Do you have any source for the food being salted in such vessels before smoking? Am curious to know.

      • eldrimner said

        Ah, I might have been a bit unclear, but the iron cauldron were only used to boil the brine when trying to retrieve the salt use. For actual curing I used a wooden vat.

  3. Ok.🙂 That makes a bit more sense – still, I bet a glazed ceramic vessel to boil off the brine in would make it easier to extract afterwards than from the rugged surface of an iron cauldron. So, hope you get the chance to try that too at some point.

    • eldrimner said

      Well, I did reconsider quite soon after using the metal cauldron as I realised how corrosive salt may be. In the next post I’ll follow up on this one I am using a soapstone vessel, but still could have used some improvment.
      The main reason for not using glazed pottery, is that it seem to have been rare here at the time.

    • eldrimner said

      And you are of course right about the difficulties in working with the rugged surface.

  4. Ah,yes. I’m forgetting that many of my sources now are from around the southern part of Europe (living in Portugal) which is quite different from the Nordic reality of those times.

    Still, looking forwards to seeing your further experiments with this. Inspired to start trying out some more here too..Just the endless lack of time as always.

    • eldrimner said

      Oh, that might be a bit different. Well quite agree, time is always a problem when it comes to do these experiments – which is why this project was very good. Where do you do your experiments?

      • Yeah, I guess it pretty much takes care of itself most of the time.😉

        I cannot say I’m experimenting on such a professional level as you do. I’m more of a hobbyist when it comes to food-history and food-archaeology, but I’m trying to learn more and have been doing some smaller medieval dinner events throughout the years. Now here in Portugal and am trying to start my own business doing different historical activities – including some basic food workshops. If it turns out to go well I would definitely like to invite you down.

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