One of my current favourite historical food books is The Family Receipt-book, or, Universal Repository of Useful Knowledge and Experience in all the Various Branches of Domestic Economy, (London, c. 1810.) Several recent posts have been inspired by this book, and I want to dig into it again today.
Preservation of meat - a valuable source of protein as well as tasty food - in pre-refrigeration days was, at the same time, extraordinarily difficult and extremely important. Meat could be dried, salted, or smoked, but for various reasons (climate, availability of ingredients or equipment etc.) were not available at all times in all regions. Alternative methods for preserving meat were eagerly sought, and the author of The Family Receipt-book - who as we have seen, loved a ‘curious’ recipe - included a couple of exotic ideas in his book.
Tartar Method of Preserving Meat.
This is described, by the respectable communicator, as a most excellent method of preserving meat, and making it tender, as well as improving it's flavour—Put the meat in milk, and lay a weight on it; when the milk will become sour, but not putrid, and the flavour of the meat be much improved. This mode is not to be despised, either for it's extreme simplicity, or because it is practised by the Tartars of the Crimea; who are; indeed, a very clean people, with the exception of their eating horse flesh, which we may not, as they certainly do, think a dainty.
Excellent Tartar and Russian Method of preparing Beef, &c.,
for a Journey, or Cold Repast.
The Tartars put under a heavyweight lean beef well rubbed over with salt; and let it remain ten or twelve days, till no more liquor runs from it; exactly, indeed, as we salt beef for the Navy. This beef is then chopped and pounded, just like potted beef with us. They next add some sugar and pepper, with whole pepper, clarified butter, and crumbs of bread, and work all well together. It is lastly rolled out into cakes, like pancakes, and thoroughly dried; when it will keep long, and is quite excellent.
The Russians have improved on this method. They add bits of fat bacon, and tie it up in bladders or pots. After it has remained three weeks, it far exceeds either common potted beef or Bologna sausages. It is neither to be boiled nor roasted but eaten as it is, being sufficiently dressed by the mode of curing and drying. The Tatars say, that the flesh of a young horse is still better than beef. They easily carry, prepared in this way, provision for a journey of many days, and even weeks. The Russian method is very delicate; but, unless the whole be hard dried, there must be no mixture of bread.