Preparing Salt Pork – 18th Century Cooking Series S1E5

Preparing Salt Pork – 18th Century Cooking Series S1E5

August 10, 2019 100 By William Morgan


As we talked about in earlier videos, pork
was one of the most common and popular meats
in the 18th century. It was one of the meats
that would be supplied in rations for soldiers.
It was a common thing for sailors and the
entire population. Pork was salted so that
it would last any number of months and could
be transported, used in ships, the sailors
could eat it later on. Today we’re going
to show you a method for salting and preserving
your pork in an 18th century manner.
Salting is an ancient technique, even previous
to the Romans, very easily documented. There
are a couple of different variations of salting.
Sometimes they would just pack their meat
in salt water or brine, sometimes they would
hard pack it with lots of salt and then there’s
even adding salt peter to it for a deeper
preservation technique that might last a little
bit longer, but didn’t taste as well. Today
we’re going to prepare our salt pork in
this 2 gallon oak keg. This one is a well
bucket keg that we sell at Jas Townsend & Son’s.
This doesn’t have the holes drilled in it.
You can ask for a keg like that if you want
to do a similar project. This one has been
touched up on the inside. We took a torch
and melted out the excess wax here at the
top, and we also prepared a little wooden
lid that will press down on the pork and keep
it inside the brine solution.
Before we get started packing our meat, we
need a hot brine solution prepared.
There’s a common misconception that salt
pork is easy to come by these days. You’ll
find something in a modern grocery store that’s
called salt pork, but in reality it’s nothing
like what was known as salt pork in the 18th
century. This is just a cured but unsmoked
pork belly product, but it isn’t actually
prepared in a manner that 18th century salt
pork was. So rather than use a pork belly,
we’re going to use a pork shoulder or this
is a picnic. I’ve got our pork already cut
up into about 1 pound size pieces. We’ve
got to have it so we can put it in in layers
so the salt can get into it, so we’ve got
1 pound pieces here. We’re going to put
about a cup of salt into our barrel here so
that we’ve got a layer of salt in the very
bottom. We’re going to spread that out and
make sure it’s nice and even and now we’re
going to start putting our pork into the barrel.
We’ve got rind pieces on this. These rinds,
you want to make sure, are toward the bottom
or toward the outside edges with the meat
parts on the inside. You want to pack this
tight. You want to have as small a quantity
of air pockets as possible. Each time we put
in another layer of meat, we put in another
layer of salt. Make sure that’s all spread out evenly.
Get this tightly packed, and we add more salt.
You can’t add too much salt, so don’t
worry about getting too much salt in this.
Better to have too much than too little.
That’s our final piece of meat. The keg
is pretty much full. There’s still some
space there at the top. The final step here
is going to be pouring the hot brine solution
in. That will fill in all the gaps and seal
it up, and then I’m going to put our lid on.
So a method in the 18th century to see whether
our brine solution was briny enough was to
float an egg. This is just a regular raw egg,
still in the shell, and we can see that this
egg is floating in the solution, so we know
its thick enough. There’s enough salt in here.
Here’s our hot brine solution. We know that
it’s thick enough. We’re going to start
pouring it in on top until it completely covers
our meat, and then it’s time for your wooden
lid. We’re going to float that up on top
and then finally to make sure that this lid
presses down on top of the meat we’re going
to place a weight on top. If we see some frothing
that means something is going on. We need
to take care of that. We need to pour the
brine solution off, you need to scald the
brine solution and then you can put it back
on again.
Well, our keg is ready to store now. In the
18th century it was traditional to process
pork and beef products, when they salt it,
they would do that in the fall when the temperatures
were cool. It would make this last a lot longer.
That’s the same thing we’re going to do.
We’re going to take this keg and we’re
going to put it in the refrigerator to keep
it nice and cool so that it doesn’t go bad.
It will probably last and be good for several
weeks, put in a cool place like that. In the
18th century they would use it all through
the winter into the next spring.
When it comes time to use your salt pork and
you pull it out of the barrel, you need to
soak it. You need to soak it sometimes overnight,
but at least 2 hours. You want to soak it
in fresh water, changing the water often so
that you get as much salt out of that pork
as possible. You’re never going to get it
all. It’s going to be a salty thing, but
other than that, you use it like you would
any fresh cut. You can use it in any recipe.
Well, there you have it, salt pork. All the
things you’ve seen in this video today,
you can see on our website or in our print
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