After the Lions Gate A&S Defenders competition I got a lot of questions about how to salt meat. So I decided to put my research together into an article for the local newsletters. So, here it is.
The preservation of food has always been a major concern of civilization. Modernly we tend to rely on refrigeration to preserve our foods. Cooling was also a method for food preservation in the middle ages, however, for obvious reasons there were limitations. Other methods needed to be devised to preserve foods, especially regarding meat. In this article I will be focusing on the medieval method of salting meats to preserve them for later consumption. The methods I describe are those which would have been used in England and France in the late medieval period.
The salting of meat was a common practice in the middle ages. This allowed for the preservation, storage, and transport of meat without refrigeration. According to Food in Medieval England “it was a routine procedure on big estates for deer to be hunted according to season, when the meat was at its best, and the venison prepared and stored in larders till needed, and in this case heavier salting would be necessary” (Woolgar, Serjeantson and Waldron 181). The salting of venison was common in great households, so much so that there were quite often men whose sole job was the preservation of food. They would accompany the huntsmen so as to make sure that the deer were treated properly and would be preserved properly (Woolgar, Serjeantson and Waldron 181).
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This was done for the Barony of Lions Gate A&S Defenders competition in February 2010. The competition was that your entry had to be related to your persona, and you needed one page of documentation to show that. I made Baked Venison and Cameline Sauce. I made two kinds of Baked Venison, one with salted venison and one with fresh. I served them with a cameline sauce. Here are the highlights of my entry:
When looking for a baked venison, or venison pie, recipe I found seven different recipes, sometimes from the same cookbook, spanning from 1393 till 1596. I have arranged them in order with my commentary here.
DEER VENISON. As this meat is tougher than fawn or goat, it must be parboiled and larded all along it: and in cooking, it must be put in plenty of wine, and when partly cooked, ground mace added; and it must be eaten with cameline. – Item, in pastry, let it be parboiled, larded along its length, and eaten cold with cameline. (Pichon)
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In June of 2009 my lady and I entered the Sealion War A&S competition. The theme was “War Rations”. We salted venison and salmon, then baked the salmon into a pie and grilled the venison. I’ll be giving snippets from the documentation here and attaching the full documentation at the end.
In war, the need to keep your troops well fed is an important necessity, but the long distances travelled to each battle requires some careful preservation and selections of such foods. As such the science points will be the best representation of period war rations. Points will be awarded to the rations that provides the best balance of nutrition/energy, best execution, and best documentation.
The supply train seems to have been a key part of medieval armies. The failure to cut off the English supply train during the siege of Orleans in 1429 for example nearly cost the French the city, and without aid from Jeanne d’Arc it would have (Kibler and Zinn). In the 13th century supply trains were so vital to the function of an army that Florence had a special guard unit simply to protect it (Nicolle and McBride). For this reason we have decided to focus ourselves on things that may have been carried in a supply train and cooked along the way.
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