Today we continue trolling
the cyber-pages of Eighteen Books Of the Secrets
Of Art & Nature, Being the Summe and Substance of Naturall Philosophy, Methodically
Digested … (1661) by John Wecker (I love you,
At peak holiday and
entertaining times, we all struggle with refrigerator space. Imagine the
challenge of keeping meat for more than a day or two in warm weather in the olden days. Olden day
cookery books abound with hints on how to preserve flesh and how to retrieve it
when it was already putrefied. Our source of the day has some comments and ideas.
To keep flesh long uncorrupted.
It is reported that in the Mountains of West-India, flesh is kept so long uncorrupted
that is beyond belief, for near the City Cuzcum,
Horses having been killed above four Moneths, will be as fresh and without any
ill sent, as if they were but newly killed. I suppose the cause to be not only
the cold, which though it be exceeding great here, yet in greater cold flesh
will not be preserved so long. Wherefore I conceive that the Ayr is thin and
brackish, may be the flesh of itself conduceth something thereto. For flesh
corrupts sooner in Water than in the Ayr because the Ayr is thiner, if all
other things be alike. And again by the fame reason flesh Will keep longer if you
fasten a brass Nail into it, because the force of the Brimstone dryeth it.
The final hint is repeated
elsewhere in the text, without the explanation of the force of the brimstone.
To keep flesh from corrupting.
If a Nail of Brass be stuck into Hogs or Crows
flesh, Plutarch saith, That by its
astringent faculty and drying, it will keep their flesh long uncorrupted. Those
that dig forth Mettals know this by certain experience by abiding in the Mines;
and Langius saith, That he that shall
enquire after it may here be satisfied of it.
the rationale for ‘hanging’ meat and game is that it tenderises the flesh (and
improves the flavour.) If, back in 1601, it was time to kill an elderly,
hard-working farm beast, the flesh would have been far too valuable to used as
pet food, but would surely have been expected to be very tough? I wonder if
the following hint would have worked?
That flesh may soon grow tender.
The flesh of Cattle that are slain will soon
grow tender and soft, that are hung in a Figtree. Plutarch in his Symposiacks demands the reason of it. For faith he,
when a Cook had amongst the Meats of Ariston
had offered a dunghill Cock, in sacrifice to Hercules, that was, fresh, tender,
and would even break in pieces, Ariston
said, the Figtree made it tender so soon, affirming that all Birds be they
never so tough will grow tender by hanging in a Figtree. The reason he gives is
this, That the Figtree sends forth a vapour that is strong and digesting, and
thereby flesh is digested and concocted. The same is done by laying them into
an heap of Wheat, and cover them all over with it.
If it was still suspected
to be tough after its allotted time in the fig tree, then it could still be rescued
in the kitchen:
That old flesh may sooner by
boyled and wax tender.
Monks Rheubarb*, some call it
patience, (it is a plant with a great top, and large long leaves, and the stalk
is red when it is ripe, and the root yellow,) boyl this with flesh, and it
makes them tender and more fit to be eaten.
*Rumex patientia, or Patience Dock: a member of the Dock family, related
to, but not the same as the rhubarb used for pies.
Finally, on another
meat-tack altogether: have you ever bought mince for bolognese, then wished for
pot roast instead? You could have solved this problem a few hundred years ago
by using the instructions given below. This is definitely not recommended today
as Comfrey can be dangerous when taken internally due to its high alkaloid
content, which can induce liver failure.
That flesh cut in pieces may
grow together again.
The roots of Comphrey that are black without
and white within, and glewey, if they be boyled with chopt Meat, will soon make
them grow together again, as if they had never been cut.