Monday, October 13, 2014

Salt, Fish, and Diverse Other Food Topics of 1682.

I don’t know about you, but deeply regret the disappearance of the detailed, informative, decorative and enticing title pages of previous times. I blame progress in the production and insertion of images for this text loss. I have given you transcriptions of title pages of a number of books in the past, although sadly, I have not been able to reproduce them in all their font- and style-glory. Our source today is another lovely example. It is from a seventeenth century book on the salt and fishing industries of Britain and other places, and was written by one John Collins, and published in 1682.

A discourse thereof
Insisting on the following HEADS:

1. The several ways of making Salt in England, and foreign parts.
2. The Character and Qualities good and bad, of these several sorts of Salt, English refin'd asserted to be much better than any Foreign.
3. The Catching and Curing, or Salting of the most eminent or staple sorts of Fish, for long or short keeping.
4. The salting of Flesh.
5. The cookery of Fish and Flesh.
6. Extraordinary experiments in preserving Butter, Flesh, Fish, Fowl, Fruit, and Roots, fresh and sweet for long keeping.
7. The case and sufferings of the Saltworkers.
8. Proposals for their relief, and for the advancement of the Fishery, the Woollen, Tin, and divers other Manufactures.

Although the main topics are salt and fish, the discourse, as noted in the title page, covers many other things. I have chosen a couple of random ideas for your delectation today.

Of Salt upon Sand, Embodyed by the Sun.
Where the Sun shines hot, and the Tides vary but little, ‘tis easie to have Salt enough, as they have in many places of the Streights.
With Salt of the like kind made near Smyrna, Beef at Midsummer hath been extremely well preserved in manner following.
The Ox hath been killed one day, and cut out into pieces and salted the next, the Salt hath been beat very small, and the Beef being well rubbed therewith, it was footed or pressed into a Cask, with sprinklings of Salt between each Lay, in which condition it was permitted to stand 48 hours, for close packing made the Blood to arise above the Meat which was powred [poured] off, then a Brine was made of fresh-water, and Salt as strong as might be sufficient to cause the Salt to Dissolve (which it will not, if too little water be put in,) then the Meat was washed in this Brine, and well salted again as before, and then the cask filled up with the Brine aforesaid. This was imparted by Mr. Richard Norris, and ancient experienced Master or Mate, who now teacheth Navigation and Mathematicks in Crutched-Fryers and saith he hath often seen it so done, and none of the Meat stunk.

There is a selection of recipes in the book, including ones for such things as pease pottage, tripes, and a-la-mode beef. The author does not claim them as his own, but says:

I am beholding to Mr. John Bull for the following Receipts, it being well known that he served an apprenticeship to a Cook, and hath been eminent for his Skill therein, which he hath put into Practice for about 30 years together.

I give you from the book an alarming and cruel method for cooking fresh cod - without for one minute suggesting that you use this method today. It does indicate however that on the whole, in spite of current controversies and outrages and the need for further progress in this regard, we have come some way in the ethical handling of our food in the last few hundred years.
To Stew Carps.
Take two living Carps, prick them in the Tail with a great Pin, rub the Scales off with a handful of Salt as clean as may be, lay them in a deep Pan, and put to them a quart of Claret which makes them Bleed and kills them; open their Bellies and take out their Roes, then put them into a Kettle with their Roes in the middle, into which put a quart of Oysters, two Anchovies, a bunch of sweet Herbs, Stew them over a gentle Fire for about an hour, in which time they will be almost enough, and then put in a quarter of a pound of fresh Butter, take out a little of their Sawce, into which put three yolks of Eggs beat up together, then putting all together in a Dish stir it about and serve it up.

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