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Pliny the Elder - PD

 

Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) is best known for his Natural History, an encyclopedia diplomatically described by Encyclopedia Brittanica as being "of uneven accuracy".

 

His name comes up in most accounts of garum as he was one of the first to describe it, saying

 

"Another liquid, too, of a very exquisite nature, is that known as "garuim:" it is prepared from the intestines of fish and various parts which would otherwise be thrown away, macerated in salt; so that it is, in fact, the result of their putrefaction. Garum was formerly prepared from a fish, called "garos" by the Greeks..."

 

What these accounts choose not to mention is that he was in fact writing a fantastical 'medical' treatise which makes TCM look sensible. Among other ailments, he recommended garum for 'bringing away the afterbirth' and praised its efficacious effects in the treatment of crocodile bites. To say he was an unreliable witness would be generous.

 

Garum's medical properties' reputation survived long after it's culinary use was all but lost. A 1607 English document reads "Cure it by laying two linnen clothes, or by a pinte of the best Garum, and a pound of Oyle infused into the left nostril of the Mule."

 

More usefully, he mentions several places involved in the production of garum in Italy but also further away in the Empire, including Spain, which was considered to produce some of the highest quality garum, capable of attracting huge prices.

 

In recent years, attempts have started to revive the industry.

 

Spanish company Matiz of Andalusia is producing Flor de Garum (literally Flower of Garum), a premium fish sauce they claim to be made to a 3rd century recipe discovered in an unidentified European abbey.

 

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Made using anchovies and salt it is also spiced. It, like ancient garum, is less heavily salted (15% salt to fish compared with up to 50% in Asian sauces).

 

This results in a finer, more complex flavour while retaining its umami. It is recommended for "in salad dressings, marinades, pasta dishes, or add a splash to finished dishes". It can also be incorporated in dips with garlic, vinegar and chilli.

 

Available through Amazon and elsewhere.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

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Here are the two relevant to garum chapters of The Natural History from Pliny the Elder. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. 1855

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

 

The full Natural History, complete with footnotes and references can be found here:

 

https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3Ddedication

 


 43.—GARUM: FIFTEEN REMEDIES.

 

Another liquid, too, of a very exquisite nature, is that known as "garuim:" it is prepared from the intestines of fish and various parts which would otherwise be thrown away, macerated in salt; so that it is, in fact, the result of their putrefaction. Garum was formerly prepared from a fish, called "garos" by the Greeks; who assert, also, that a fumigation made with its head has the effect of bringing away the afterbirth.

 

At the present day, however, the most esteemed kind of garum is that prepared from the scomber, in the fisheries of Carthago Spartaria: it is known as "garumn of the allies," and for a couple of congii we have to pay but little less than one thousand sesterces. Indeed, there is no liquid hardly, with the exception of the unguents, that has sold at higher prices of late; so much so, that the nations which produce it have become quite ennobled thereby. There are fisheries, too, of the scomber on the coasts of Mauretania and at Carteia in Bætica, near the Straits which lie at the entrance to the Ocean; this being the only use that is made of the fish. For the production of garum, Clazomenæ is also famed, Pompeii, too, and Leptis; while for their muria, Antipolis, Thurii, and of late, Dalmatia, enjoy a high reputation.

 

44.—ALEX: EIGHT REMEDIES.

 

Alex, which is the refuse of garum, properly consists of the dregs of it, when imperfectly strained: but of late they have begun to prepare it separately, from a small fish that is otherwise good for nothing, the apua of the Latins, or aphua of the Greeks, so called from the fact of its being engendered from rain. The people of Forum Julii make their garum from a fish to which they give the name of "lupus." In process of time, alex has become quite an object of luxury, and the various kinds that are now made are infinite in number. The same, too, with garum, which is now prepared in imitation of the colour of old honied wine, and so pleasantly flavoured as to admit of being taken as a drink.

 

Another kind, again, is dedicated to those superstitious observances which enjoin strict chastity, and that prepared from fish without scales, to the sacred rites of the Jews. In the same way, too, alex has come to be manufactured from oysters, sea-urchins, sea-nettles, cammari, and the liver of the surmullet; and a thousand different methods have been devised of late for ensuring the putrefaction of salt in such a way as to secure the flavours most relished by the palate.

 

Thus much, by the way, with reference to the tastes of the present day; though at the same time, it must be remembered, these substances are by no means without their uses in medicine. Alex, for instance, is curative of scab in sheep, incisions being made in the skin, and the liquor poured therein. It is useful, also, for the cure of wounds inflicted by dogs or by the sea-dragon, the application being made with lint. Recent burns, too, are healed by the agency of garum, due care being taken to apply it without mentioning it by name. It is useful, too, for bites inflicted by dogs, and for that of the crocodile in particular; as also for the treatment of serpiginous or sordid ulcers. For ulcerations, and painful affections of the mouth and ears, it is a marvellously useful remedy.

 

Muria, also, as well as the salsugo which we have mentioned, has certain astringent, mordent, and discussive properties, and is highly useful for the cure of dysentery, even when ulceration has attacked the intestines. Injections are also made of it for sciatica, and for cœliac fluxes of an inveterate nature. In spots which lie at a distance in the interior, it is used as a fo- mentation, by way of substitute for sea-water.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

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Colatura di Alici may sound cool and glamorous but when you learn the literal meaning of the Italian some of that disappears. It's literally 'leakage from anchovies', often rendered in English as 'anchovy dripping'.

 

In the town of Cetera on Italy's Amalfi Coast , gutted and filleted alici (anchovies) are mixed with sale (salt) and left to ferment in small wooden barrels called terzigni  for up to three years. 

 

When it is deemed to be ready, holes are drilled in the barrels and the liquid drained through the fermented fish residue, further flavouring the sauce.

 

It is then filtered, bottled and sold for a high price in specialist Italian stores.

 

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The locals make a big deal of it being the reincarnation of garum, but there is little to actually back that up. Marketing.

 

That said, it is undoubtedly a very fine fish sauce. The lower salt content (as low as 10% to 90% fish) means a more powerful umami flavour. It should be used sparingly which helps offset the high cost.

 

It isn't usually used for cooking, but more as a condiment added to vegetables, fish or pasta.


 

  • Like 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

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I finally got hold of some 潮汕鱼露 (cháo shàn yú lù), Chaoshan fish sauce (see above).

 

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Made in Shantou, the 'shan' part of Chaoshan, this is a three year fermentation sauce. I'll use it tonight or tomorrow and report back.

 

 

  • Like 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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