[Sca-cooks] Smoked Meats in Northern Europe
Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius
adamantius.magister at verizon.net
Mon Oct 9 10:02:07 PDT 2006
On Oct 9, 2006, at 11:38 AM, Sandragood at aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 10/8/2006 9:22:45 P.M. Central Daylight Time,
> adamantius.magister at verizon.net writes:
> I'm unsure of the extent to which smoking was actually used all over
> period Europe.
> There's that term again that everyone hates...;o)
Not enough of them, I suspect ;-). But I took a chance that my usage
was pretty clear as referring to "all-Europe, all-the-time", so to
> The most common preservation techniques used in Europe were salting
> dry salted or brined) and pickling (wine and vinegar) sometimes in
> with other spices. For the most part they relied on simple
> Although we do know that sausages and hams were smoked as well as
What do we actually know about fish being smoked? For example, I was
pretty shocked to see Mark Kurlansky state in his book about cod,
that Basque fishermen essentially discovered the technique of salting
fish while still on board ship, thus greatly extending their travel
range -- this is another of those things that makes great common
sense, and one which you'd assume had been known since pre-history,
but Kurlansky says, as I recall, that this was first implemented in
something like the thirteenth century. So, my question is, is there
really a lot of very old evidence for smoking fish in Europe, or do
we simply know they do it now, could have been doing it for
millennia, and it's a terrific idea?
> Smoke contains alcohols, acids, and other substances which inhibit
It was my understanding that smoke contains creosotes and other
tarlike substances that inhibit insect infestation, and that it
doesn't do much against bacterial activity unless the food is also
dried and/or salted.
> Although the main use was for preserving meats, there are records
> of smoked cheese in Celtic lands. Some non-European sources
> include smoked
> fruits (China) and smoked olives kept in oil (Arab). A Chinese
> source has a
> technique for smoking thin strips of pork that have been rubbed
> with crushed
> garlic and marinated in vinegar. Smoking was usually, not
> always, used in
> conjunction with other methods.
Even things like uncured jerky are effectively dried over the same
heat source that provides the smoke. Can you provide an example of a
food that is only smoked, expressly for the purpose of preservation?
> Smoked hams were a combination of salting or
> brining and smoking. The meat would be rubbed with salt or soaked
> in brine
> for several days. The meat would then be hung in a chimney or
> smoke room to
> nor can I recall any references to "if the meat be smoked do X",
> as there
> are with, "If it be salt," or "if it be soused, do Y".
> Some of this may be the fact that salted or pickled meat requires
> preparation i.e. soaking salted meat to bleach (remove) the salt
> from the
> meat. In the example above, when referring to cooking methods, it
> is more
> likely because the given method for salted meat gives better
> results than for the
> fresh meat. For example, you would get a more succulent piece of
> meat from
> boiling or stewing salted meat compared to roasted salted meat.
> This is due
> to the fact that salting dries out the meat, even when brined. As
> you know,
> boiling or stewing helps keep the meat moist while cooking.
> Smoked meat ,
> unless salted, doesn't really require any special preparation and
> could be used
> in place of fresh meat.
How well is such meat preserved?
> When referring to condiments or spices, this may be a personal
> preference of
> the cook, or the person for which he was cooking, or the regional
> fad at the
> time. I've seen French examples where they used mustard on salted
> meats and
> another condiment for regular roasted meat in the same recipe.
Yes, if you look at the Opusculum Saporibus or the Enseignements,
they're full of such distinctions: "mackerel gets a sauce of
verjuice, minced onion, sage and parsley, and if salted, it gets
> I think this
> has to do with flavor preferences. Condiments were used to
> enhance a dish,
> and something that enhances a salted dish might be overpowering to
> a regular
> dish. Depending on the source, the use of smoked meat may have
> been limited,
> thereby reducing the number of references on how to serve it.
That's pretty much what I was thinking. We do know, and can prove,
that the technology for smoking meats existed, and was used, but what
remains unclear (to me, anyway) is the extent to which it was used,
and in which locations.
Or, to put it another way, how comfortable would you be having the
hero of the medieval historical novel you're writing pack smoked meat
into his saddle bags for a journey, all other things being equal?
> Depending on
> the region of the cookbook would explain the lack of references in
> i.e. references being found in French or German sources and not in
> English or
> Spanish, or coastal recipes vs. inland.
That's a possibility I'd considered, but then regionalism could be
secondary in some cases since many of our surviving cookbooks
represent court cuisine.
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