Food: Bacon and Fish Soup

This recipe was taken from “Prehistoric Cooking” by Jacqui Wood which is a great jumping off point for Iron Age recipes and available foods, especially in the UK.  She did years of experimental archaeology on food which is a combination of the use of paleoethnobotany to determine foods available and diets of ancient people as well as the act of using that information to experiment with making edible items.

Things you might learn while doing experimental archaeology, which is learning through living IMO, is that many of the Iron Age bread recipes are best cooked (and more quickly cooked) as bannocks rather than straight up rolls or bread loafs.  That sleeping and bathing in a torc is feasible.  Or that horse hair sleeping rolls are pure gold whether it’s winter or summer.  These are some things you can only learn by doing and experiencing.

While my focus is more on the continent, many of these foods were available in both places, barring some plants which are not a fact in this specific dish.  I would place this recipe in: entirely reasonable for Gaulish consumption.

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Recipe as shown: Bacon, leeks, smoked fish, milk, cream, chives, and salt.  Fry the bacon, add leeks to the grease.  Cook until tender.  Add fish and cover with milk, slow cook for about 30 minutes.  Add cream, chives and salt at the end.

Since I am a consistent and steady lady…I eyeballed everything.  I would have likely used every cooking pan in my kitchen for the sole reason to drive myself insane with cleaning dishes.   All cooking adventures usually ends in our kitchen looking like a greasy tornado touched down, said NOPE and went on it’s way.

However, I convinced myself that as an Iron Age lady, I can’t be bothered with multiple cooking implements.  It was all going to be done in one pot: it was glorious.

This recipe was not entirely the result of careful planning as it was the result of actually having most of the ingredients on hand.  The only item I had to seek out was the smoked fish, in which case I looked for smoked herring without complicated additives: so just fish and salt.

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All ingredients above, just ignore the butter.  Butter just appeared out of no where and photo bombed everything.  Bad butter!

After the ingredients have been assembled and the butter dismissed it was time to cook.

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Bacon cooked in pot.

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After bacon cooked and grease from bacon was released, I added the chopped leaks.

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Bacon and leeks cooked down.

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Add the smoked fish and milk to the batch.  Simmer for about 30 minutes.

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After about 30 minutes I added a little cream, stirred it all up, and served it.

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Finished meal.

This came out very well and got the picky-husband seal of approval.  My husband is one of those guys that is always happy to try new things, but has been generally disapproving of historical recipes.  This one was a hit.  It was great with a little bit of bread for dipping.  I eat mine with a glass of beer which really added to the experience.

This is a heavy and high calorie meal.  This took about 10 minutes of actual work from me and 30 minutes of waiting for things to cook.  I would absolutely consider this for camping events as both a period and easy to make meal.

An adjustment I might make is the drain the bacon grease from the bacon and leeks before adding the fish and milk.  The grease would slowly separate and lay on the top of the dish, which might not be visually appealing for others.  In the interest of time and simplicity on a site I would leave it and just stir it well before serving.

Plausible Food: Passum

When it comes to the food of the celts were mostly have “an idea” as recipes don’t exist.  We rely on latin and greek accounts of food as well as the occasional  break down of some surviving pieces of food.

However, Gaul is a large place with many overlapping cultures.  Today I want to talk about Passum.  Passum, I believe, would be a reasonable wine that some of the populations would have come in contact with in Roman Gaul.  Seeing as the celtic populations loved their undiluted wine, I think that more eastern celts would have had contact with this item.

Passum is a sweet raisin wine thought to originate in Carthage but made it’s way into the Roman Empire.  It was not only drunk, but reduced and used as a sweet sauce in recipes.  Surviving documentation for it come from a Punic farming manual by Mago(unknown date).  Mago’s Latin translation is by Decimus Junius Silanus (2nd century BCE) and referenced by Columella in De Agricultura 12.39.1 (1st century CE).  This fits within my period of interest.

A modern variation of the food is called “passito” and can be found in specialty wine shops.

Additionally, this is considered a “girly drink”.  Polybius, in Histories, Fragments, 4.6.2, writes that “Among the Romans women are forbidden to drink wine; and they drink what is called passum, which is made from raisins, and tastes like the sweet wine of Aegosthena or Crete.”  Don’t worry, gentlemen, there is no shame in passing the time with some passum.

Below is the quick and dirty method of making this wine.  If you brew your own wine, then that’s a whole other step that’s up to you.  This recipe is quicker and take about 4 days.

Ingredients

1 Bottle White Wine such as a Riesling or Moscato

White/Yellow Raisins to taste (I used about 1.5 Cups)

01

Gather ingredients and find yourself a pitcher of some kind you will be able to shake or stir.

 

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Combine wine and raisins.  Give it a good shake or stir.  Place aside or in the fridge for 4 days.  You can leave it for longer if you want a very strong raisin flavor.  Mix the concoction every day.

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After several days you will have plumper raisins and a more golden wine.

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It is time to strain the contents of the passum.  I used a mixing bowl and cheese cloth for the first straining.  FYI: you can keep the wine soaked raisins and eat them or add them to a recipe.  I cannot say how long they keep since my husband ate them all immediately. Tasty!

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Since I wanted a much clearer looking batch of wine, I added some cheesecloth to my funnel for one more straining as I bottled the brew.  Coffee optional, but highly motivating for achieving things.

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Passum bottled and ready to go.

This was debuted at Lochmere’s Holiday Bardic this last weekend.  It was very sweet and easy to drink.  It went well with many of the find dishes people brought.  This was simple and tasty, so I think I will make is a staple that I will bring to BYOB events.  Feel free to track me down if you want a taste.