Smoked meat from the Oeconomia

Coler includes a long section on preserving meat. This is the first part.

Salting meat or of smoked meat

(marginalia: Smoked meat, how to keep it)

In households, you have to to salt many kinds of fresh meat as it is slaughtered. Firstly there is the kind that you hang into the smoke so that it becomes dry and tough and lasts long so that it can be kept as supplies in fortresses or carried into the field as war provisions. This is chopped into pieces (schroten) as soon as it is slaughtered and laid in a vat, and each piece well strewn and rubbed with salt, especially around the bones, for that is where it commonly acquires an old, repulsive (garstigen) and stinking savour. Therefore it must be preserved well with salt in these places.

Then you leave it to lie thus. The salt melts (zergehet) and produces a brine (Lahke) which you must pour over it all around once or twice every day and finally hang it in the smoke and light half a small fire under it so that it dries (übertreuget) a little. The smoke of oak wood is best for this. From that smoke, it acquires an excellent lasting virtue (trefflich tawerhafftige Krafft) of which much might be spoken or sung. But the world is not worthy to learn and know these mysteries and miracles of God though it has need enough of them, because it makes a mockery of them and scorns them if one were to want to tell of them. Therefore shall be silent who can be silent on this, for this pandora does not serve everyone.

A householder must have smoked meat to his sustenance throughout the year, especially in harvest time for the servants and labourers, for they digest everything and work it out again. For the learned people (Gelehrten) and others who do not do great work with their bodies, you must have something else such as meat of young lambs, eggs, young chickens and old pikes, veal roast and what else there is of its kind.

But you do not only hang flitches of bacon (Speckseiten), pork, oxmeat and cow meat into the smoke, but also veal, mutton, slaughtered geese, all manner of fish, eels, pike, trout, herring, lampreys, carp, Gesen (?), Bleyer (?), Rayen (?), basses and the like so that you can take them in times of need when you cannot have fresh fish and meat, especially in hot summer where fresh meat spoils easily. And the fish must be well preserved with salt around the heads, otherwise they will become stinging and maggoty there as on the bones and joints of the animals.

Against the house thieves that like to climb into the smoke hole and steal the meat from within the chimney walls, many good husbandmen use this art: They have a well-plastered pediment (Söllerichen) with a trapdoor that is full of holes so that the smoke can reach the meat through it, and they put a lock on that door. And when it has smoked enough, they do not hang it up in their houses for show, as many do, but hang it up in a chamber that is locked, experto crede Ruperto (believe one who has experienced it). That is a good move against secret thieves that a gentleman often has in his house and against Brother Vitus (Bruder Veit i.e. the landsknecht soldier) when he goes marauding (garten) through the villages. They all find themselves in the kitchen, or one alone, he lets the others talk to the host or hostess in the parlour (Stuben) and meanwhile makes off with bratwurst sausages, ham and bacon flitches in the fireplace. Therefore it is best not to let such fellows into the house, but to give them what you will allow them through the door on a stick. Do not admit them to the house because they seek and easily find what will serve them, but not to the good and comfort of the host, and then they say the are feeding themselves by the toil of their own hands. Eye that sees, hand that takes away, but in the end it pays evil wages.

Whoever will hang up salt meat in his home for show will have the gain from it that he must count every day. For house thieves are bad thieves, they teach you to pay attention to your possessions, and you must have everything locked away that you do not wish to be stolen.

How to salt all manner of meat, see Constant. Lib 19 c 5

Sea salt is not good for salting meat, Mizald. Cent. 5 Aphor 71

I have my suspicions what kind of fish Gesen, Bleyer and Rayen are, but I am not sure yet. Certainl this is a clear enough idea of the way wealth could insure a household against the perils of dearth and scarcity, and the ways it could be conspicuously displayed. Coler often quotes other authors on technical points. Sometimes, he takes recourse to the authors of classical antiquity for commonplace activities, which is somewhat strange to modern readers, but would not have disturbed contemporaries too much.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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