[Sca-cooks] ISO resources for history of cast iron cookware

Honour Horne-Jaruk jarukcomp at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 13 23:24:36 PDT 2011

Respected friends:

> I wrote:
> > The above leads me to the idea that the Portugese, who
> were trading in these waters in period, may well have
> brought such pots back. (They have obvious advantages for
> some uses.) Thus, if any cast-iron pots were in use in
> Europe in the 1500s, they'd probably include ones that were,
> and were shaped like, Indonesian ones.
> > ...Anybody know what Indonesian ones were shaped
> like?

--- On Tue, 6/14/11, Terry Decker <t.d.decker at att.net> wrote:

> According to Michael Flecker, an
> expert on these wrecks, the most common cast iron cookware
> found in wrecks are woks and cauldrons.  Rather than
> being of Indonesian origin, the cast and wrought iron found
> in these wrecks is of Chinese origin.  The Chinese had
> the raw materials and technology to produce high quality
> iron that the other nations in Asia did not.
> The importation of cast iron via Portugal is an interesting
> idea, but like most ideas about cast iron cookware in
> Europe, there is no evidence for or against.  In any
> event, such a trade would not have occurred before 1503 and
> the return of the first spice fleet from India.  The
> trade is more likely after 1513 when the first Portuguese
> caravelle made port in Canton.  This leaves roughly a
> 400 year gap between the introduction of cast iron
> manufacturing in Europe and the beginnings of the Portuguese
> oriental trade. I suspect that a trade in cast iron utensils
> did not occur because there were far more compact and
> valuable trade goods to hand.
> One thought that I haven't chased down is wafer
> irons.  The most logical cookware that is easily made
> of cast iron and likely to survive is the wafer or waffle
> iron.  It might be interesting to find and examine some
> period irons.
> Bear

Chinese cauldrons seem like the most likely import, then; and I did specify 1500s, so I had the time right as well. As for compactness and value, two important factors: cauldrons that, unlike brass, bronze and copper, don't make acid foods taste revolting have a high value; two, cauldrons make wonderful containers to ship other things in. So Portugal probably had some cast iron cauldrons, in the homes of the extremely screamingly wealthy (Kings and merchant-princes), that came originally from China, before 1600. Doesn't do the rest of us trying to do cooking at events in period pots any good, but it's interesting.

Yours in service to both the Societies of which I am a member-
(Friend) Honour Horne-Jaruk, R.S.F.
Alizaundre de Brebeuf, C.O.L. S.C.A.- AKA Una the wisewoman, or That Pict

"If you're a normal human, the inside of your head is not a pretty
place. Venting it unfiltered to the internet may feel therapeutic,
but it's unlikely to end well."

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list