I posted this to the main list, but wanted to have it here as well...
Yesterday I got a package a friend had sent, a bottle of Roman "garum" sauce!
For those that don't know, Garum was a flavoring sauce that the ancient Romans (and subsequently the Byzantines) put in almost everything as a flavor enhancer. The Roman world *loved* this stuff! The Greeks were the first to use it, the Romans adopted it, and the Byzantine world continued using Garum for centuries.
Garum was made by taking a certain kind of fish, packing it in salt, and letting it ferment in the sun. Out of the bottom of the containers would come a clear-ish liquid oil, that basically tastes like salt.
The secret to this stuff? It's natural MSG! Monosodum Glutimate is a flavor enhancer... it really does make things more flavorful. It's even good for you, having a lot of amino acids and B vitamins.
Unless you have an intolerance to MSG this stuff really is pretty wonderful. A little put into an ancient recipe really makes it taste as it was intended in the ancient world, full of flavor.
This garum was produced by a company called "Deltino" located in Italy. My friend had it shipped from specialty food company called Zingermans - their website is www.zingermans.com .
I haven't cracked this bottle yet, but I've had Garum at Roman reenactments. Since it's so salty you use it in place of salt when cooking... and wow! :)
Just had to pass it on to anyone interested in doing period Byzantine cooking.
-Marcus Cassius Julianus