Salt pork fed the armies and navies of the world for hundreds of years. Make your own salt pork and use it on your next extended camping trip or in home cooking.
Salt pork was both the method and final product name for preserving pork in the years before refrigeration and home freezers. But it works as a preservation method just as well today as it did for centuries.
James Townsend and Son‘s Jonathan Townsend explains and illustrates the process of salting pork as it was authentically done in the 17th and 18th centuries in colonial America.
Forget about that stuff in the grocery store masquerading as salt pork. It’s a weak imitation of the real thing. Here’s how you make authentic salt pork, the 18th century way:
Salt, of course, is a natural preservative. Its ability to preserve perishables for extended lengths of time has been known since humans first started recording their activities. Pigs have been relied upon as a food source by people of virtually all cultures since the invention of the ‘oink!’ Salt pork is a natural marriage between the two.
Pork lends itself particularly well to preservation by salting or salt brining. During the age of tall ships, salt pork was a staple in all of the European and colonial navies, merchant vessels, and pirate operations. Salt pork was also a staple ration for soldiers of land-based armies well into the 19th century.
The Oxford Companion to Food indicates that recipes varied somewhat by occasionally adding herbs and spices such as bay leaves, onions, cloves, and allspice. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little yourself. The one constant is the salt.
You can use salt pork in any number of recipes where fresh pork might be used, although the character of the pork will, of course, be a bit different. Try it in a stew with cabbage or with baked beans, for example.
Jas Townsend and Son sells the oaken barrels like the one used in the video, should you wish to do a little 18th century kitchen reenacting yourself.