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

Anne-Marie Rousseau dailleurs at liripipe.com
Tue Jun 14 07:26:17 PDT 2011

On the reactivity of brass and bronze cauldrons....

My discussions with the nice boys at Hampton Court, who use cast bronze
cauldrons all the time is that the food does NOT turn out tasting nasty as
long as you don't let it sit. Apparently the magics of thermodynamics means
that as long as the food is heating inside the pot, the energy required for
the chemical reaction is used up. 

If you remember, a fair number of recipes specify that you are to cook the
dish, then transfer to a clean plate. According to the Hampton Court fellas,
this serves to keep that unfortunate taste thing from happening. 

Neat, huh? :)

Certainly if the archeological record is to be considered, the majority of
cookware was cast bronze (cast by bell makers, perhaps?), fabricated tinned
vessels and ceramics. I have used all three in re-enactment settings to good
results :).


-----Original Message-----
From: sca-cooks-bounces+dailleurs=liripipe.com at lists.ansteorra.org
[mailto:sca-cooks-bounces+dailleurs=liripipe.com at lists.ansteorra.org] On
Behalf Of Terry Decker
Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 6:33 AM
To: Cooks within the SCA
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] ISO resources for history of cast iron cookware

> 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

Ceramic cookware was common and that handles the problem of acidic foods.

While cast iron cookware may or may not have been imported from China, 
importing the idea is less expensive, even with the cost of fuel in Europe. 
England and France were expanding iron production in the 16th Century and 
England and the Dutch were major players in the Lisbon spice market (at 
least until 1594).  Examples of cast iron cookware from the 17th Century are

still around and the cookware became common in the 18th and later Centuries.

There is an interesting parallel with porcelain, which was definitely 
imported from China by the Portuguese.  European manufacture didn't start 
until 1575 and wasn't on par with the Chinese until 1708.  If the Portuguese

were importing cast iron pots, I would expect to find a few examples still 
with us.  While the lack of pre-17th Century cast iron cookware is not 
definitive, it is suggestive of both lack of import and lack of manufacture.


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