Salt beef, Hanseatic style (meat preservation part 8)

The section on meat preservation in the Oeconomia ends with instructions how to preserve meat in the style of the Seestätte, the port cities of the Baltic and North Sea.

How they preserve meat in the port cities (in den Seestätten) so that it stays good a whole year or longer

(marginalia: Meat, how it is customarily preserved in the port cities)

In the port cities, a citizen often slaughters an ox, two, three, or four at one time, also a pig or ten or twelve at the same time, and thus they sometimes lay an entire tun in brine (Pekel oder … Sülze) as I described above. They do it thus: First, they take the upper lid of a tun and strew the bottom lid well with salt, about half a finger thick. Then they take fine, large pieces of beef as big as they wish to cook at one time in a fairly large pot, and rub them well with salt one after the other. They lay them in orderly and strew fresh salt over them until the tun is filled with meat. Then they lay the other lid on top of the meat and weigh it down with large stones so that the humores exit it all the better and the meat develops a brine (Lahke).

After a month, when it appears to them that the brine is not good and strong enough, which can easily be discerned from the taste and smell, they drill a hole into the tun at the bottom, draw off the brine, boil it well, skim it, clean it nicely, strengthen it again with fresh salt, and pour it back onto the meat again. Thus it is preserved well by the salt and the meat lasts well over a year and you can cook of it at any time.

Interestingly, a similar process is described by Fronsperger in his book on provisioning garrisons, so this is not a technique unique to the Hanseatic ports, at least. Nonetheless, their citizens were famous conoisseurs of beef and surely had high expectations. Hamburg beef especially was renowned and is sometimes cited in the hamburger‘s ancestry. If that is true, the connection is circuitous since this type of beef was a highly prized food and certainly not part of an emigrant ship’s regular provisions.

This is it as far as Coler’s work on meat preservation goes. I will post the section from Fronsperger tomorrow and then turn to a different subject.

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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