Salted Beef – Institute of Nautical Archaeology https://nauticalarch.org Institute of Nautical Archaeology Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:48:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 Recent Progress for the Ship Biscuit & Salted Beef Research https://nauticalarch.org/recent-research-for-sbsb/ Thu, 07 Dec 2017 05:24:57 +0000 https://nauticalarch.org/?p=21568 As the semester draws to an end, many are perhaps wondering about our research status. Research assistant, Emelie Nelson, shares our newest results and progress in this post.

What were 17th-Century Sailors actually eating? How did their diet affect their health?

by Emelie Nelson

These two important questions serve as the basis for “Ship Biscuit and Salted Beef Research Project.”  To answer these questions, a two-month sea voyage simulation was conducted. All food and beverage items were handmade, following 17th-century recipes.

Beginning in August 2017, barrels of wine, water, salted beef, salted cod, and biscuits were loaded into the iron hull of Elissa in Galveston, Texas. These barrels remained on the ship for approximately two months (even through the tumultuous Hurricane Harvey). Contrary to what one may initially expect, Hurricane Harvey ironically contributed to the accuracy of the simulation because the simulation was modeled after Warwick, a ship that sunk in a hurricane off the coast of Bermuda.

Every few days, members of the team retrieved samples from the barrels to test for bacterial growth and to perform nutritional analysis.

The Loading of the Barrels. Emelie Nelson.

Why is this relevant, you might ask?

It has been hypothesized that exposure to pathogens, such as in the case of 17th century sailors, may strengthen the human immune system. This idea is known as the Hygiene Hypothesis. If  “Ship Biscuit and Salted Beef Research Project” can identify the types of pathogens that 17th century sailors most likely encountered in their diet, the results of the investigation can be used to better understand the Hygiene Hypothesis.

Furthermore, present-day safety measures that help to ensure the safety of our food not only kill the bad bacteria (ie. pathogens) that make us sick but also the good bacteria (ie. probiotics) that keep our guts healthy.  Therefore, if  “Ship Biscuit and Salted Beef Research Project” can also identify the good bacteria present in the diet of 17th Century Sailors (prior to modern food and safety regulations) we can potentially put them back into our diet! Pretty cool, huh?

What does this mean for our project going forward?

In the upcoming months, our project will attempt to isolate the probiotics that are present in our samples and perform genomic sequencing.  We will be using techniques such as PCR, gel electrophoresis, and 16S rRNA sequencing. To read more about probiotics and their importance, visit: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm.

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New Undergraduate Members and Summer Progress Update https://nauticalarch.org/new-undergraduate-members-and-summer-progress-update/ Sun, 17 Sep 2017 23:43:39 +0000 https://nauticalarch.org/?p=15029 We are incredibly excited to begin a new semester of the Ship Biscuit & Salted Beef Project. If you have not been following us on Facebook, please check our webpage: https://www.facebook.com/SBSBResearch/  to stay up-to-date with our progress. Over the Summer, we have successfully loaded our food items on Elissa and are now analyzing the nutritional and microbial contents of the food items! Further, we are so proud to announce that our team microbiologist, Elizabeth Latham, graduated over the Summer with her PhD in Animal Science!

We have also started a fundraising page as the cost of the media we are growing our microbes on for study has exceeded our initial costs (https://experiment.com/projects/what-did-17th-century-sailors-really-eat).

Lastly, I would like to announce the new members to our team who we are so glad to have with us!

Johanna Fischer

Degree: Bioenvironmental Science (B.S.) from Texas A&M University, WIP

Myers-Brigg Personality Type: INTJ

Interests: traveling the world, hiking, animals, binging TV shows on Netflix, discovering new bands and music in general, FaceTiming my boyfriend across the world

Favorite bookBlue Covenant by Maude Barlow

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done: Saw of view of the Rhine River from the Reichenstein Castle in Germany.

I was born in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, to an American mother and a German father. At 5 years old, I moved to the beautiful city of Corpus Christi, Texas, where I called home for most of the year and spent my summers back in Ecuador. In high school, I was very active in any club that seemed interesting and would look good on a college application, especially the clubs with “honor society” in their title. These included the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and the National Technical Honor Society. After high school I moved to College Station, Texas to attend Texas A&M University and to pursue a degree in Bioenvironmental Science. I originally had plans to work for the EPA, but seeing as how the government has steered away from an environmental focus, I’m open to wherever my education may be applied. I’m also looking to further my education in Germany. I’m in my last semester of my undergraduate career with high hopes of graduating in December and moving to Sweden shortly following graduation.

Somer Smith

Myers-Brigg Personality Type: ISTJ

Interest: Reading, eating good food, organizing, and watching Netflix.

Favorite Book: Most of the books I read are trilogies or longer and my current favorite is Significance by Shelly Crane.

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done: Rode a roller coaster (that probably wasn’t safe) through the trees in Jamaica.

Somer Smith is an undergraduate Biology major at Texas A&M University. She is also minoring in Applied Learn-Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, also known as AggieTeach. Before attending Texas A&M, Somer attended a rural high school in Groesbeck, Texas. While there she was very active in extracurricular activities and held many leadership positions. She graduated as Valedictorian of her class and was also able to receive an Associates Degree. Some of her hobbies include: reading, arm knitting, cross-stitch, and spending time with family and friends. Her focus on this project will be primarily based on studying the samples in the lab and doing basic research for the team. She looks forward to all of the experience and knowledge she will gain and contribute.

Helen Chen

Degree: Biomedical Science (Estimated Graduation May 2018)

Myers-Brigg Personality Type: ESTJ

Interests: Kayaking, Hiking, Powerlifting, Game of Thrones, Makeup, and Traveling!

Favorite Book: Ready Player One

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done:  I climbed the Great Wall of China and it was amazing! The view was stunning and the weather that day perfect.

Helen lived in Phoenix, Arizona for the first 9 years of her life, and then moved to a small town in the southern tip of Texas. She attended a magnet high school focused on the health professions career and started college at Texas A&M University in 2015. Before attending Texas A&M University, she traveled to China to see her relatives and to experience new adventures. In College Station, she’s occupied her time with studying for her degree, volunteering in the local hospital, and being involved with her scholarship organization, Century Scholars. In the Fall of 2016, she started to work as a lab assistant in the Veterinary Pathobiology department focusing on hemoparasites that affect cattle. Outside of the class and lab, she likes to spend time watching movies or cooking different meals and recipes.  If she has a free weekend, she likes to spend it visiting friends in Houston or Austin and food hopping at new restaurants. She likes to start everyday with the mindset of  “better today than yesterday”. Her focus on this project will be on data analysis and laboratory work in salted beef and vitamin D.

Emelie Nelson

Degree(s):Biomedical Sciences (BS) WIP; Certificate of Medical Proficiency in Spanish

Interests: Learning languages, medicine, traveling, painting, and yoga.

Favorite Book: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done:  I started a non-profit organization (Love Our Lungs)  to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis.

Emelie Nelson is an Undergraduate Student at Texas A&M University currently pursuing her degree in Biomedical Sciences. Emelie was born and spent the beginning of her childhood in Galveston, TX. At the age of ten, she and her family relocated to Friendswood, TX where she was heavily involved in cheerleading, science fair, and the debate team. Emelie has spent the past two summers interning at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and volunteering at Shriners Burn Hospital in Galveston, TX. These experiences have reaffirmed her lifelong dream of becoming a Physician. In college, Emelie has participated in a medical mission trip to Peru, been an active member of MEDLIFE, and volunteered for Meals on Wheels. Emelie is incredibly excited to be a member of this research project! Her focus will be on the analysis of the microbial growth of food samples.

John McQuitty

Degree(s): Biomedical Sciences (BS) and Entomology (BS) from Texas A&M University, WIP

Interests: Scuba Diving, Fishing, Mosquito- Transmitted Diseases, Taekwondo, Pottery Making, and Cooking.

Favorite Book: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done:  I swam with a sea turtle that was bigger than me!

John McQuitty is a Biomedical Sciences and Entomology double major at Texas A&M University. He is originally from Galveston, TX where he spent his youth heavily involved in school, Taekwondo, and art. This past summer, he had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Tracy Kinsky in a research lab at Shriners Burn Hospital in Galveston, TX. This experience inspired him to pursue an MD/PhD program following the completion of his Undergraduate at Texas A&M. In college, John has been an active member of the fraternity Alpha Tau Omega and a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. John greatly looks forward to participating in this project. His focus will primarily be on the microbial and nutritional analysis of collected food samples.

Daniela Trevino

Degree: Texas A&M University, Biomedical Sciences. Estimated graduation: Spring 2018

Myers-Brigg Personality Type: INFP

Interests: Weight Lifting, Sudoku, Music, and Nutrition

Favorite Book: Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done: Medical Brigade in Nicaragua

Daniela Trevino is a pre-med undergraduate student at Texas A&M University studying Biomedical Sciences. She was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon and lived there until she was 6 years old. Growing up in Monterrey allowed her to learn both English and Spanish since she attended an English speaking school and spoke Spanish at home with her parents and siblings. Daniela moved to the United States just before starting 1st grade and attended Garza Elementary in McAllen, Texas. She continued her education all throughout high school in the valley, until she graduated and moved to College Station to attend Texas A&M University. She started working at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in 2016 as a technician in their Drug Laboratory. Daniela plans on attending medical school after taking a gap year to focus on research.

Mariana Trevino

Degree(s): Biomedical Sciences (B.A) from Texas A&M University (estimated graduation date: Fall 2018)

Myers-Brigg Personality Type: ISTJ

Interests: Traveling, Olympic Weightlifting, Nutrition, Reading, Chemistry

Favorite Book: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done: Watched a live craniotomy

Mariana Trevino is an undergraduate Biomedical Sciences major at Texas A&M University. She was raised in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico until she was 5 years old after which her family moved to Mission, Texas. Growing up she enjoyed playing competitive tennis and later found her love for Olympic weightlifting during her senior year of high school. During her first two years of college Mariana became very interested in nutrition and how the foods that we eat affect our body which ultimately led her to discovering a vegan lifestyle which she has been following ever since. This along with working at the Texas A&M Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center helped fuel her interest in nutrition even further and she hopes to use the knowledge that she has gained throughout her academic career.

Christian Encarnacion

Degree(s):
Biomedical Sciences (B.S) from Texas A&M University, Graduating 2019
Myers-Brigg Personality Type: INTJ
Interests: Traveling, hiking, eating lots of good food, video games, TV shows, movies, and running
Favorite BookAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done: Visited Vatican City and saw Pope Francis during a Papal Audience.

Christian was born in Miami, Florida to two Filipino immigrants. He lived there for ten years before moving to McAllen, Texas. He is currently a pre-med junior at Texas A&M University and is majoring in Biomedical Sciences. He is an active member of Minority Association for Pre-Health Students and is currently Vice President Internal for the Philippine Student Association. He previously volunteered in a lab studying the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol. Back home, he regularly shadows doctors and was part of a student observation program with the surgery department at a local hospital. When not cramming and studying into the late hours of the night, Christian likes to spend time binging on his favorite TV shows, catching the latest movie, or eating food with some friends.

Emily Bandy

Degree(s):

Nutrition (B.A.) from Texas A&M University, WIP

Myers-Brigg Personality Test: INTJ

Interests: Running, eating (especially froyo), cooking, hiking, camping, skiing, listening to music

Favorite Book: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolken

One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen Or Done: Only person to make a smoothie Speedy Noil liked

Emily Bandy was born and raised in San Antonio, TX. After running three and a half years on the cross country/track team in high school, she joined the A&M XC & Track team her freshman year at Texas A&M. While balancing her athletics, she began to work for the Sports Nutrition department for the A&M football team. She later left the team to pursue a bigger role in sports nutrition, leading to traveling to the bowl game in 2016 and to a national sports nutrition conference in 2017. She now works as a tutor for student-athletes and continues to work for the football team. Her focus in this project is to get hands-on experience and learn the basics of research.

 

These new members are joined by several of our past undergraduate research scholars including Erika Davila, Rogelio Casas, Sarah Bankhead, Melissa Dossett, Monica Montgomery, Karen Galvan, Michael Pawlus, and Roger Howard!

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What did the English feed their cattle? https://nauticalarch.org/what-did-the-english-feed-their-cattle/ Thu, 09 Feb 2017 01:42:04 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/?p=10693 After consuming a burger from the nearest fast food restaurant, little thought is given to the process beef cattle, cattle used specifically for meat production, undergo to ultimately end up on our plate. Their journey to our table begins when beef cows are approximately six months of age. At this point in time, the beef cows are then sent to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as feedlots, where they are fed grains, particularly corn, for the remainder of their lives. This diet quickly fattens the cows up, however, it causes detrimental effects on their health seeing as they have not yet evolved to be lot fed. Instead, a ruminant’s stomach has evolved to efficiently digest grass.

Folio from Profit and Pleasure United Or The Husbandman’s Magazene dated 1684 by John Smith, that describes what livestock were fed during the 17th century.

Numerous studies have shown that lot feeding causes beef cows to become more vulnerable to illnesses, thereby necessitating the use of antibiotics to prevent them from becoming sick. Knowing this information, what does it have to do with 17th-century cattle? To answer, identifying the food source of beef cows is essential for understanding their overall health, as well as the condition and quality of the meat that is produced from them. If English cattle during the 17th century were primarily lot fed, then this would result in more marbling, a white pattern on meat that is caused by deposits of intramuscular fat within the meat.

During the process of brining, we know that marbled beef is more susceptible to spoilage due to the extra fat. In addition, unlike today’s cattle industry, antibiotics were not used during this time period which thereby increases the likelihood of consuming meat from a diseased cow. On the other hand, beef cattle that are grass fed are generally healthier and produce leaner meat, reducing the possibility of meat spoilage. Based off our preliminary investigation, it appears that the cattle during this time period were fed a mixture of both grains and grasses. The diet of cattle mentioned in the historical accounts include sweet chaff (oak hulls), pease straw, barley straw, oats, wheat, rye, corn, rapeseed, parsnips, carrots, and even turnips. Cattle were also allowed to graze in grass filled pastures and ate several specific grasses, such as clover grass, lupins, and sweet hay. This information is not only crucial for pinpointing the nutritional content of the beef that the sailors so often consumed,  but also assists us in determining the sailors’ overall health as well.

However, as previously mentioned, this investigation is still ongoing. If conclusive evidence is found stating that the English had a preference for either lot or grass feeding, then we hope to perform isotopic analysis on the cattle bones found from Warwick to further confirm or disprove this hypothesis.

Post by Ruby Jean Vela

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Making Salted Beef (Part 2 of 3) https://nauticalarch.org/making-salted-beef-part-2-of-3/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 06:52:24 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/?p=9510 WARNING: Once again, this series of posts is not recommended for landlubbers and those with weak stomachs. Expect images of raw and partially decayed food. Read at your own discretion.
> Enough *whiffle-whaffling...click here to read the post

It has now been several weeks since the salted beef was put in brine. The meat, due to the salinity of the brine, floats and needs to be submerged in the brine either with a rock (this is the Colonial Williamsburg Method because the casks there are put on their heads, rather than on the roll with the bung up, which is the typical way of stowing casks), or by filling the cask up to the brim with brine so that all the meat is submerged. We used a jar, and although we filled it to the top with as much brine as possible, some of the meat from our experiment still stuck out of the brine and had to be pushed below the liquid with a bottle cap that was pressed up against the lid. As our images show, however, the bottle cap was somehow displaced shortly thereafter from its original position, allowing some of the meat to protrude above the brine–this made an unexpectedly large difference with how the meat held up.

Day 7 (08/30/2016):

Salted Beef in Brine, Aug 30, 2016

Day 17 (09/09/2016):

Salted Beef in Brine, Sept 9, 2016

Salted Beef in Brine, Sept 9, 2016

Day 24 (09/16/2016):

Salted Beef in Brine, Sept 16, 2016

Salted Beef in Brine, Sept 16, 2016

Day 34 (09/26/2016):

Salted Beef in Brine, Sept 26, 2016

Salted Beef in Brine, Sept 26, 2016

Is that mold? A bacteria colony?: Possible signs of life growing on top of the brine. Sept 26, 2016

Is that mold? A bacteria colony? Possible signs of life growing on top of the brine. Sept 26, 2016

Day 46 (10/08/2016):

Salted beef in brine, Oct 8, 2016.

Salted beef in brine, Oct 8, 2016.

We discover new forms of life! The mold has spread across the surface of the brine.

We discover new forms of life! What appears to be mold has spread across the surface of the brine.

The brine has now turned a deep red, we speculate this is due to the tannins and other chemicals from the 2 wood pieces. The muscle (red meat) on the beef is now a washed out pink/gray color. As for the mold, our hypothesis is that the saturated fat from the meat floated to the surface of the brine and created a barrier from the salt (which typically inhibits mold and bacterial growth), on which the mold could grow. If this is the reason the mold has grown in the jar, it is no wonder that sailors continually checked for leaking casks and refilled them with brine.

Check back soon for new updates!

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*Whiffle-Whaffle: “An indecisive, time-wasting ditherer.” The author of this post discovered this list while writing the post and couldn’t resist using at least one. Apparently the word waffle comes from “The onomatopoeic waff (17th C) which means to bark or to yelp like a dog is, sad to say, virtually obsolete but its modern-day counterpart, woof (19th C), still thrives. From An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1808) by John Jamieson we gleam that since at least 1678,waff and waif meant “the act of waving” and “to fluctuate” whereas waff alone, denoted someone who was worthless.” Fascinating.

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Making Salted Beef (Part 1 of 3) https://nauticalarch.org/making-salted-beef-part-1-of-3/ Wed, 05 Oct 2016 01:09:22 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/?p=9466  

WARNING: As you may have guessed from the title, this post is gross. It is not recommended for those who are sensitive to images of raw meat. You have been warned.
> Click here if you dare to read more...Curiosity killed the cat cow

The most basic salted beef recipe is replicated here and serves as a preliminary run for what we will be doing on a larger scale in August, 2017. There are many variants of salted beef that include other ingredients such as sugar, salt peter (sodium nitrate), and spices and herbs, which are omitted in this recipe but which may be added during the final experiment depending on these test trials.

Ingredients Used

Grass-fed beef (1982.7 g, or 4.4 lbs)

Large glass jar with mason jar lid (holds about 4080 mL)

Rectangular blocks of white oak (4”x 1” x 1.25” and 3.75”x 1.06”x .94”)

Salting board and tub

2000 mL purified water

1,069.7 g unprocessed sea salt

 

Recipe:

Take a cut of  beef (4 to 8 lbs) and lay it on the salting board. Cover the surface of the meat with salt, being sure to coat the entirety of it. Let sit for a day and repeat the dry-salting for 4 to 5 days (the tub has holes that would have drained into the ground, but because this was done indoors, a plastic tub below the salting board was lined with paper towels that were changed each day when the meat was re-salted).

An excellently designed dry-salting board

An excellently designed dry-salting board made with artistic talent by Dr. Donny Hamilton and Grace Tsai.

After 4 or 5 days, the brine is prepared by boiling salt and water together, until the mixture is salty enough to “float an egg.” The brine is put into a barrel and the beef cuts submerged in it, being weighed down by a rock. Saltpeter can be added to the brine if desired.

Pre-preparation (08/23/2016):

A large 6 lbs cut of beef rump (USDA certified and grass-fed) was purchased from the local butcher shop at approximately 5 pm. The beef is vacuum-packed to retain freshness, because meat is usually salted shortly after butchering and our meat would not be salted until the next day. The beef was cut to about 4 lbs later the next day to allow it to fit into the glass jar. Natural sea salt was also purchased at the local supermarket.

Two pieces of white oak were acquired from Glenn Grieco. They measure 4” x 1” x 1.25” and 3.75” x 1.06” x .94”.

(Note: the white oak is used to simulate a cask environment, as tannins and oils from the wood would have soaked into the brine and meat if stored in wooden casks rather than a glass jar. This test batch is put in a glass jar, rather than a cask, to allow for visual observation without disturbing the beef.)

Day 1—Dry-Salting (08/24/2016):

Approximately 4 lbs of beef ready for salting

Approximately 4 lbs of beef ready for salting.

Time: 12:30 pm
Temperature (ᶜF): 71
Meat Weight (g): 1982.7
Salt (g): 175.4
Color: Deep pinkish red. Subcutaneous fat looks white/very light yellow. Very minor marbeling.
Texture: Firm, smooth, and juicy. Still bloody in some places due to being vacuum-packed.
Smell: Like fresh meat, almost no smell at all.

Day 2—Dry-Salting (08/25/2016):

Day 2 of Dry-Salting: Beef is noticeably darker and slightly firmer. Salt has melted off into the tub with the juices.

Day 2 of Dry-Salting: Beef is noticeably darker and slightly firmer. Salt has melted off into the tub with the juices.

Time: 1:33 pm
Temperature (ᶜF): 72
Meat Weight (g): 1912.4
Salt (g): 124.1
Color: Red meat is now brown, but subcutaneous fat is still white/light yellow. Specks of the colored salt can clearly be seen sitting on the surface of the subcutaneous layer of fat.
Texture: Much firmer, no longer juicy.
Smell: Meat does not have any smell, but the plywood has a noticeable smell from being soaked in the meat’s juices. The paper towels beneath the board are soaked through.

Day 3—Dry-Salting (08/26/2016):

The salted beef after the third day of dry-salting.

The salted beef after the third day of dry-salting.

Time: 1:30 pm
Temperature (ᶜF): 71
Meat Weight (g): 1875.1
Salt (g): 122.3
Color: Very dark brown
Texture: Very firm, and almost completely hard on the edge where the meat is thinnest (maybe 3 inches through). The center gives a little, but meat is generally quite firm.
Smell: Faint smell, but now not only of wood, but also somewhat like a butcher shop with cured meat.

Day 4—Dry-Salting and Making Brine (08/27/2016):

Meat on Day 4 prior to daily coating of salt.

Meat on Day 4 prior to daily coating of salt.

Time:  3:50 pm
Temperature (ᶜF): 71
Meat Weight (g): 1841
Salt (g): 104.1
Color: No significant changes.
Texture: Very hard. Edges are almost entirely solid. Center still gives a bit, but overall quite hard.
Smell: Strong smell of curing meat
Observations: Far less juices in bottom of tub. Salt is no longer being absorbed into the meat, or melting off with the juices, but rather stays on the meat’s surface.

Meat juices at the bottom of the tub significantly decreased by Day 4.

Meat juices at the bottom of the tub significantly decreased by Day 4.

Brine was made to be used the next day according to the recipe. Meanwhile, the white oak pieces were soaked in water for 24 hours to remove excess tannins and chemicals, because casks were typically seasoned before use.

Day 5—Putting in Brine (08/28/2016):

Time:  12:30 pm
Temperature (ᶜF): 71
Meat Weight (g): 1848.6
Salt (g): None added for dry-curing. Time to put in brine!
Color: Brown but difficult to see true color, as salt now sits on meat and none was absorbed overnight.
Texture: Hard and firm.
Smell: Strong smell of curing meat.
Observations: Almost no liquid at bottom of tub.

The finished salted beef in brine.

The finished salted beef in brine.

Check back soon to read about how the salted beef holds up!
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Salazar’s Lament: Where He Hates on Salted Beef https://nauticalarch.org/salazars-lament-where-he-hates-on-salted-beef/ Wed, 28 Sep 2016 02:53:04 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/?p=9369 Click the Link to Subscribe! (Make sure your browser RSS Feeder is enabled)

Detail from a Pieter Bruegel drawing. A beef tree, used for evisceration and butchering, is shown in the back. In the foreground, women are shown salting meat and placing the cuts in a large cask.

Salted beef has been referred to by a French 19th-century historian as the “food of sailors” and was the staple of the naval diet during the 16th-18th centuries on all European vessels—nearly every shipboard account from this period mentions salted beef being eaten on board. Before the modern technology of canning and refrigeration were available, the most effective ways to preserve food were salting, drying, smoking, making preserves, or fermentation. Due to the high humidity on ships and other practical reasons, salting was the most popular method of preservation on ships. This preference for salt is described by Eugenio de Salazar, a 16th-century Spanish explorer, in a letter replete with preternatural griping on his life at sea, now appropriately named, The Landlubber’s Lament (1573). In it, Salazar wrote:

“[…]then they put three or four large wooden plates on the table, filled with stringy beef joints, dressed with some partly cooked tendons. They called these plates ‘saleres:’ and for this reason they didn’t put on cellars for salt […] And having asked for a drink, you could die of thirst in the middle of the ocean, because they give you water by the ounce, as in a pharmacy, after too much beef jerky and salted things: for Lady Sea will not tolerate or conserve meat or fish that is not dressed in her salt. Everything else that is eaten is rotten and stinking, like the dish called mabonto that some African tribes eat. And even with the water it is necessary to lose your senses of taste and smell and sight just to drink it and not sense it.”

Salazar may have been an exceptional bellyacher, but did his complaints have any merit? Find out in the next post, which will include a step-by-step guide to make salted beef…17th-century style!

The first page of The Landlubber’s Lament by Eugenio de Salazar, Translated by Carla Rahn Philips.

Shock

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