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Europeans’ hoarding coup, beyond your expectations

  In the supermarket, a dazzling array of packaged foods can easily be stored for months to years. But 500 years ago, it was not easy to preserve fresh food for a long time. You must know that the ancients did not have refrigerators, canned food, and chemical preservatives. They had to be creative according to local conditions to have something to eat in winter or during difficult times.
  There are old ways of preserving food in Europe that worked well before the modern food industrial revolution and are still used occasionally today. We review several of them, focusing on fish preservation.
  Europe is a region with a long coastline and many rivers and lakes, so fishing is easy. However, fish is easily spoiled and spoiled. If the fish can be preserved for a long time, the food supply will not have to worry about.
  Saltwater and wooden barrels to
  kiln salt has long been used for preservation. In a high-salt environment, microorganisms cannot reproduce smoothly, which can prolong the shelf life of food. However, the knowledge of pickling was not popular in northern Europe at first.
  You must know that it is easier to dry salt in the Mediterranean Sea where the sun is hot and dry, but it is unlikely to be dried in the cold and rainy northern Europe, and the salt eaten by the Nordics can only be shipped from the Mediterranean. It was probably not until the Viking Age that the method of salting reached northern Europe due to extensive trade across the seas.
  During the Middle Ages, salt was a luxury in northern Europe, especially in the remote interior. So instead of using pure grains of salt to preserve food, they found that it was possible to preserve food with a lower concentration of brine, and it was quite flavorful (albeit unsightly).
  Herring is the most commonly eaten fish in northern Europe, and many herring bones have been excavated in archaeological sites. The medieval church stipulated that meat was not allowed during the fasting period, and Europeans ate salted fish to supplement protein during fasting. In the 12th century, Pope Alexander III even stipulated which days of the week it was legal to catch herring.
  Herrings appear irregularly and may disappear for several years before reappearing. Fishermen often catch too many herrings at once, so they need to be pickled and preserved immediately.
  Today, people in the Netherlands, Germany and other regions love to eat a kind of “boy fish”. The practice of this kind of fish is to remove the gills and part of the esophagus of the immature herring caught by the fishermen in May-June to eliminate the bitter taste. , leaving their livers and pancreas in the body (the enzymes in the pancreas make the fish tender and soft and release the flavor), put the fish in brine and marinate in oak barrels for 5 days. The marinated herring still looks fresh, silver on the outside and pink on the inside, with a tangy fishy flavor, and is served with chopped raw onions and pickles. There is also a raw herring marinated in vinegar, which is usually coiled and full of flavor.
  Brine pickling may have been first practiced in Scotland in the 8th century AD; and curing herring in wooden barrels has been a common practice in Norway since the 15th century. In the 16th century, the Dutch took over Norway’s fish trade from the Hanseatic League, which also lost its monopoly on Norway’s salt trade. The standard process of Dutch wooden barrels + brine is also slowly unifying Northern Europe.
  Buried Dark Cuisine
  Northern Europe has different curing techniques, varying in salt concentration, storage temperature, storage container, fish type and handling.
  There is an old Swedish dish called “buried salmon”. Salted salmon fillets are buried in the ground for days or months, an ancient technique also used to preserve herring. The longer it is buried, the stronger the rotten smell.
  Today, Swedes have switched to salt-and-sugar-cured salmon instead of the ancient buried salmon. But similar dishes still exist in Iceland, namely the well-known “hakar”, or “buried shark”.
  To this day, Icelandic grandparents still scare children into feeding them “buried sharks”. The smell of this thing is so unpleasant that most people smell it.
  Shark fishing became popular in Iceland in the 14th century, and hakar has been an important part of the Icelandic diet ever since, and it continues to this day.
  The metabolism of sharks is different from that of ordinary fish, and their bodies are filled with a large amount of urea and trimethylamine oxide (this is why many fishermen only keep fins and discard shark bodies). The taste of the Greenland shark in the Arctic Ocean is particularly unpleasant, and eating its fresh fish can cause poisoning and dizziness.
  Icelanders remove trimethylamine oxide from shark meat by fermenting – cut the shark into chunks, rinse it with sea water, put it in a gravel pit by the sea, and drown the fish at high tide; cover it with stones, seaweed or turf Live in the pit and leave it for a few weeks or months.
  Fermented shark meat can be stored for several years, and its texture is soft and white, a bit like cheese, but with a pungent ammonia and a strong fishy smell. Hakar is usually cut into small cubes and served with a local coriander-flavored gin.
  ’Sour-dipped fish’ without salt
  In 2016, a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science revealed that researchers discovered a pit at a site in Sweden about 9,000 years ago that contained more than 9,000 fish bones.
  Elsewhere on the site, common fish remains are perch and pike. But most of the pits are simulacrum (a small bony fish), which has less flesh and more spines, and is not as easy to handle as sea fish.
  After testing, about 1/5 of the vertebrae of the pseudo carp showed signs of acid damage. Researchers believe it was a fermentation pit – the oldest evidence of local fermented food.
  What made the researchers curious was that the fish were not salted, but treated with pine bark and seal fat. Pine bark is used to acidify the fish, which is wrapped in thick, fatty seal skin and buried in pits for long-term storage in cold climates. When the degree of fermentation is sufficient, dig it out and eat it.
  Today, many people often think that Nordic tastes are heavy, such as Swedish sausages with a layer of white salt on the outside, and autumn apples will be sliced ​​and fried with cured meat and syrup. However, compared with the ancestors who ate sour fish wrapped in sealskin, today’s Nordic tastes are too refreshing.
  Coincidentally, the Inuit people of the Arctic Circle now eat a special food, which is a pickled puffin. In the summer when the puffins are prosperous, the Inuit people take large net bags and sit on the hillside to catch the puffins. The puffin, which was about the size of a magpie, foolishly threw itself into the trap, and was immediately twisted and broken its neck.
  The Inuit eviscerated the captured seal, stuffed hundreds of puffins into the cavity, sealed it, coated it with seal grease to prevent maggots, and buried it in the permafrost. After a year, the puffin is fully acidified and fermented, and the meat has softened when taken out to eat.
  When eating, the Inuit plucked the pickled puffin and sucked it like a jelly. Pickled puffin is often regarded as the darkest dish in the world.
  Western Europeans who love caviar
  Today , Russia and Iran produce a famous delicacy – Caspian sturgeon roe. This was originally a specialty of Western Europeans.
  In medieval European rivers, sturgeons with full ovaries were everywhere. From the Seine to the Thames, from the Po to the Danube, from cool Scotland to hot Andalusia, sturgeon is everywhere.
  Beginning with Edward II in the 13th century, the British royal family has claimed sovereignty over the first sturgeon caught in British waters each year. The French royal family also loves sturgeon roe.
  After Western Europeans take out the roe, they use a large sieve to separate the adherent fibers, and then carefully stir them with salt, which can be preserved for a long time and can produce a specific taste. With more salt, the roe will last longer; with less salt, it will taste better.
  The good times did not last long, and sturgeon was particularly sensitive to pollution. With the process of modern European industrialization, sturgeon gradually became hard to find. If you want to find sturgeon, you have to go to the Caspian Sea.
  Ancient Western Europeans also ate other caviar. In 1450, Italian chef Martino wrote a “Handbook of Culinary Arts.” According to the book, when the season comes, take the roe from the belly of fresh mullet, being careful not to break the delicate skin that wraps each roe, add the right amount of salt, leave it for a day and a night, and then put it far enough away from the flames. drying in the smoke. After the roe has dried, it can be stored in a container with wheat bran. This pickled mullet roe can be eaten raw or warmed in the ashes or on a clean, warm stovetop.
  I have to say that Europeans are quite good at preserving fish.