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Re: [Authentic_SCA] Salt and Pepper Shakers period?

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  • Kirrily Robert
    ... The quick answer is no . The longer answer is: Keep in mind that I am most familiar with late-period western Europe, especially 16th century England and
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 29, 2001
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      In lists.sca.authentic-sca, you wrote:
      >Can someone please tell me if Salt and Pepper shakers
      >are period and, if so, when did they come into play?

      The quick answer is "no". The longer answer is:

      Keep in mind that I am most familiar with late-period western Europe,
      especially 16th century England and to a lesser extent 1400-1600 in
      England, France, Flanders, Burgundy, etc.

      That said: both salt and pepper were widely used in medieval and
      renaissance cooking. Pepper was usually added at the time of cooking (I
      have *never* heard of pepper added at the table as we do in modern
      times) but salt was added both at the time of cooking and at the table.

      Both spices were expensive, since pepper had to be transported overland
      (until about 1500) or by sea (slightly cheaper thereafter) from the
      East Indies, and salt had to be made by drying out seawater and other
      like techniques. So neither would be used as casually as we do now.

      Salt was usually served on the table in a vessel called a "salt cellar".
      These could be relatively simple or incredibly ornate, depending on the
      rank of the owner and related issues. It should not be too hard to find
      pictures of medieval/renaissance salt cellars; I know I have pictures in
      both "Fast and Feast" and "All the King's Cooks", and probably in other
      books I own. However, to give you a quick description, they could be
      anything ranging from something that looked like a high gothic
      reliquary, to a ship (called a "nef"), to animals, to whatever.

      Diners served themselves salt on the tip of their knives from the salt
      cellar. They'd put the salt on the edge of their plate or trencher and
      dip their food in that personal supply. There is an extant trencher (16C
      English) which are basically a square plank of sycamore wood, about 8"
      square, with a large round indentation carved in it as a bowl and a
      smaller (approx 1") indentation in one corner for the salt. It's at the
      Royal Museum of Ontario and there is a line drawing of it in "Daily Life
      in Elizabethan England" and photographs various places that I can't find
      right now.

      Etiquette manuals (I've been reading a heap of 15th and 16th century
      English ones) quite often address how to serve yourself salt politely.

      If you want to read up on this some more, my top recommendation for a
      single book to read is "Fast and Feast: Food in Medieval Society" by
      Bridget Ann Henisch. It's a must-own for anyone interested in food or
      general persona stuff for high medieval through 16th century western
      Europe.

      Yours,

      Katherine

      --
      Lady Katherine Robillard (mka Kirrily "Skud" Robert)
      katherine@... http://infotrope.net/sca/
      Caldrithig, Skraeling Althing, Ealdormere
      "The rose is red, the leaves are grene, God save Elizabeth our Queene"
    • Jeff Gedney
      ... Well, not precisely true. Salt was freqently and extensively mined. Halstatt In Austria has salt mines that have been in continuous use for an estimated
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 29, 2001
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        > Both spices were expensive, since pepper had to be transported overland
        > (until about 1500) or by sea (slightly cheaper thereafter) from the
        > East Indies, and salt had to be made by drying out seawater and other
        > like techniques. So neither would be used as casually as we do now.

        Well, not precisely true.
        Salt was freqently and extensively mined. Halstatt In Austria has salt
        mines that have been in continuous use for an estimated 3500 years . A La
        Tene era (c1500 BCE) mummy of a miner who was trapped by a cave in and then
        naturally preserved by the salt, was found there in the middle 1800's .
        Control of salt barges on the Danube formed the basis for the wealth of the
        Hapsburg Houses, and may have been a foundational part of much of the early
        royalty of Europe.
        (Source: "the Celts" by Gerhard Herm, a _very_ good book on premedieval
        Europe.)

        That said, mined salt was also expensive, and as it was freqently colored
        with other mineral compounds like metal oxides and other metal salts, was
        rarely pure white, ranging from pale yellow to umber, was therefore more
        frequently used for preserving, pickling, and cooking. The salt placed
        before guests and royalty would have been as white as possible, If pure sea
        salt was unavailable, the salt would have been refined by dissolving it in
        water, letting the minerals settle, and then drying the brine in shallow
        pans. Sometimes this process was repeated a number of times to make the
        salt as white as possible.

        Also not all seawater is suitable, some coastal areas had extensive
        problems with effluvia from towns and farms which made the salt
        unpalatable. Also the weather was a problem, as long strings of fair sunny
        days are required for salt productions. For these reasons, almost no salt
        was made in England in late period, despite the fact that it was completely
        surrounded by water. Almost all salt in England had to be imported. Cornish
        merchants were well known for shipping and importing great quantities from
        the coasts of France and Brittany.

        The price of salt generally depended on how close you are to the point of
        origin. It was rather expensive in England, due to reasons cited, but in
        other places it would not have been nearly so dear.
        Pepper and other spices were universally imported, as it could not be
        locally produced, and thus were universally expensive.


        Elias
      • Kirrily Robert
        ... Yeah, sorry. When I said like techniques I should have said similarly labour intensive techniques , which is what I meant. As I was focussing on table
        Message 3 of 6 , Jun 29, 2001
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          In lists.sca.authentic-sca, you wrote:
          >> Both spices were expensive, since pepper had to be transported overland
          >> (until about 1500) or by sea (slightly cheaper thereafter) from the
          >> East Indies, and salt had to be made by drying out seawater and other
          >> like techniques. So neither would be used as casually as we do now.
          >
          >Well, not precisely true.

          Yeah, sorry. When I said "like techniques" I should have said
          "similarly labour intensive techniques", which is what I meant. As I
          was focussing on table salt and not cooking salt I chose to give Bay
          salt as my example rather than mined salt.

          But thanks heaps for clarifying and teaching me some new stuff too :)

          Yours,

          Katherine

          --
          Lady Katherine Robillard (mka Kirrily "Skud" Robert)
          katherine@... http://infotrope.net/sca/
          Caldrithig, Skraeling Althing, Ealdormere
          "The rose is red, the leaves are grene, God save Elizabeth our Queene"
        • Jeff Gedney
          ... Well, salt making is not that labour intensive as these things go. I think most of the work involves refilling the pans as the water evaporates and
          Message 4 of 6 , Jun 29, 2001
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            > Yeah, sorry. When I said "like techniques" I should have said
            > "similarly labour intensive techniques", which is what I meant. As I
            Well,
            salt making is not that "labour intensive" as these things go. I think most
            of the work involves refilling the pans as the water evaporates and keeping
            the seabirds away.

            I made salt once this way, one summer, as a teenager (Taking the sheetcake
            pan in the house at night and when it rained), but I used Long Island Sound
            water, so I can tell you first hand about the effects of not using clean
            seawater... Yecch. _very_ chemical/fishy aftertaste.
            I threw it away pretty quick.

            > was focussing on table salt and not cooking salt I chose to give Bay
            > salt as my example rather than mined salt.
            >
            > But thanks heaps for clarifying and teaching me some new stuff too :)

            I am sure you knew that, but I wanted the newer folk to know this as well,
            since that was not obvious from your statement.

            Elias
          • Michael Suggs
            ... wrote: ... placed ... pure sea ... dissolving it in ... shallow ... the ... Saw this while reading the archives, and had to comment...
            Message 5 of 6 , Aug 22, 2003
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              --- A million years ago (or was it 1991?), Jeff Gedney <gedney1@i...>
              wrote:
              <snip>
              > frequently used for preserving, pickling, and cooking. The salt
              placed
              > before guests and royalty would have been as white as possible, If
              pure sea
              > salt was unavailable, the salt would have been refined by
              dissolving it in
              > water, letting the minerals settle, and then drying the brine in
              shallow
              > pans. Sometimes this process was repeated a number of times to make
              the
              > salt as white as possible.
              <snip>

              Saw this while reading the archives, and had to comment...

              Novgorod did a brisk trade in salt, in medieval times. On a Russian
              archaeology website (don't recall the one at the moment, can look it
              up for those interested), found some pictures of excavated medieval-
              period Novgorodian "salt cookers"--rather like cast-iron pans, but
              designed for making the water evaporate faster... Thought to
              myself, "self, I need one of those..." :)

              Back to the archives... I'm to the 8500's! Woohoo!!

              --Mikhail Novgorodets
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