We Get Letters – v. 1: Garum


Even tho’ my e-mail address is absent from the blog template that I use, people have been crafty enough to scour the site and track me down. Every once in a while I get a note asking me a specific question, some of which I actually require me to sit down, consider, and answer.

The following is one of those questions.

Hi Kate!

I love your site. I find you entertaining yet informative. I was hoping you could answer a question for me.

What is Garum Sauce? I saw that you wrote a little about it but I never heard of it before.

Stephanie
xxxxx@hotmail.com

Hi Stephanie…thanks for kind words. I did indeed write briefly about Garum Sauce in my post about Lazio last week.

Garum is a sauce that was quite popular in Rome. But as with most thing Roman, they actually took the recipe from the Greeks.

Garum is, at its core, a fish sauce. To make it, you’d take some Mackerel, slice it open and pour its blood and intestines into the bottom of a container. Mash the meat and bones of the remaining fish and place on top of the intestines. Layer two fingers of salt and herbs (most likely a combination of dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, or oregano). Repeat layering process until container is full.

Cover and place in the sun for 7 days. Although the fish will liquify, it will not putrify. Instead, it will go through a process called Enzymic proteolysis, sort of a fermentation with meat and fish guts. It is at this point that you would want to strain off the residual liquid and bottle.

As you can imagine, this process stunk up the place to high heaven. So much so that they banned garum making in urban areas of the Roman Empire.

If you’re looking to taste Garum, it’s not widely made anymore. Supposedly, you can pick up a bottle of Vietnamese nuos nam or Thai nam pla fish sauce and get a similar tase, although I am led to believe that they use fish meat only and not the blood or guts of a fish.

If you have any question that needs answered, I have no fear of doing the research on any food topic you may have. Contact me at Kate AT accidentalhedonist DOT com.


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