Sal Prunella in History

The Bristol Mercury and daily post, western countries and South Wales Advertiser, Bristol, England, 9 September 1828.

Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin has introduced on the Devonshire coast a new branch of industry, which promises to afford employment and food to thousands. It is the drying of pilchards for winter consumption, in the same way as herrings. The process of curing them is cheap and simple: – The pickle is made with one part sugar and molasses, and four parts of salt, with sal prunella, in the proportions of six ounces to every fifteen pounds of sugar and salt together – sufficient water is added to make a pickle, in which a potato will float. The fish are left for a week in the pickle, and then smoked as herrings are.

The North Devon Journal-Herald, 4 Sept 1828

Dried Pilchards – Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin, Baert, who has long served the country at home and abroad, on the deep and in the senate, has lately turned his attention to a study which though it cannot promise him any addition to his laurels, is nevertheless likely to conduce materially to the benefit of the nation, but especially of the counties on the western coast. The pilchards taken on this coast have in good seasons been a source of great profit to the owners of the seans; and while giving a livelihood to a vast number of fishermen, have been of great use to the public, as an article of wholesale and nutritious food. But these advantages were only temporary and dependent on the state of the weather, and a great variety of circumstances. Some times immense shoals of pilchards were taken and then they were necessarily sold for a trifling price; at other times scarcity made them dear. Under such circumstances it is evident that a plan whereby the superabundance of one time might be available to meet the scarcity of another, must be a grand improvement; but strange to say until the present time no attempt of the kind has been made. Sir Isaac Coffin, however, being on a visit with Mr Whidby at Bovidand, where he had frequent opportunities of considering the subject, and being of the opinion that there was nothing to prevent pilchards being dried as herrings are, and in that state made an article of trade, was induced to make the experiment. The result has fully equalied his most sanguine expectations, and we can say from personal knowledge of the fact, that the pilchards dried by Sir Isaac, are not only equal but superior to the best red herrings ever brought to the market, the flavour being much better. The process of curing them is simple and inexpensive; 3lb of sugar or molasses, 12lb of salt, 6 ounces of sal prunella, made into a pickle, strong enough to swim a potato on the surface, being all the ingredients required. The fish being left a week in the pickle, and then smoked as herrings are, will be ready for use. Hitherto this plan has been tried on a small scale, but we understand, that Mr Wm. Billing, of Devon port, is about to undertake the curing of pilchards, according to Sir Isaac’s suggestion, and that he will form a large establishment for the purpose. This will open a new branch of trade, and be of great benefit to these towns and to the neighbouring counties.”

Hannah Glasse’s (1708–1770) The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy

To pot Beef

Cut the lean of a buttock of beef in pound pieces; for eight pounds of beef, take four ounces of salt-petre, four ounces of peter salt, a pint of white salt, and one ounce of sal-prunella, beat the salts all very fine, mix them well together, rub the salts all into the beef, then let it lie four days, turning it twice a day ; then put it into a pan, cover it with pump-water, and a little of its own brine, then bake it in an oven with household bread till it is as tender as a chicken, then drain from the gravy and bruise it abroad, and take out all the skin and sinews, then pound it in a marble mortar, then lay it in a broad dish, mix in it an ounce of cloves and mace three quarters of an ounce of pepper, and one nutmeg, all beat very fine, mix it all very well with the meat, then clarify a little fresh butter and mix with the meat, to make it a little moist; mix it very well together, press it down into pots very hard, set it at the oven’s mouth just to settle, and cover it two inches thick with clarified butter. When cold, cover it with white paper.

There are several fish dishes where sal prunella was also used. The biggest use, by far in this work is related to fish.

“A Lady”, Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, 1745-1828. (1807) A new system of domestic cookery, formed upon principles of economy, and adapted to the use of private families. Benjamin C Buzby, 2, North Third Street, Philadelphia, USA

To cure Hams, First ivay. Hang them a day or two; then sprinkle with a little salt, and drain them another day. Pound an ounce and a half of saltpetre, ditto petre salt, half an ounce of sal prunel, and a pound of the coarsest sugar; mix these well, and rub into each ham every day for four days, and turn it. li a small one, turn it every day for three weeks: :if a large one, a week longer; but do not rub after four days. Before you dry it, drain and cover with bran. Smoke ic ten days.

Sprinkle the ham with salt after it has hung ^’o or three days; let drain; make a pickle of a quart of strong beer, half a pound of treacle, an ounce of coriander seeds, two ounces of juniper berries, an ounce of pepper, ditto pimento, an ounce of saltpetre, half an ounce of sal prunel, a handful of common salt, and a head of shalot, all pounded or cut fine. Boil these together a few minutes, and pour over the ham : this quantity for one often pounds. Rub and turn it every day, for a fortnight; then sew it up in a thin linen bag, and smoke it three weeks. Observe to drain it from the pickle, and rub it in bran previous to drying.

To make Sjirats taste like Anchovies. Salt them well, and let the salt drain from them. In twenty four hours wipe them dry, but do not wash them. Mix four ounces of common salt, an ounce of bay salt, an ounce of saltpetre, a quar- ter of an ounce of sal prunel, and half a teaspoon-

ful of cochineal, all in the finest powder. Sprinkle it among three quarts of the fish, and pack them in two stone jars. Keep in a cold place, fastened down with a bladder.

These are pleasant on bread and butter : but have the best for sauce.

To keep Anchovies when the liquor dries. Pour on them beef brine.


TO MAKE ANCHOVIES.— Procure a quantity of sprats, as fresh as possible; do not wash or wipe them, but just take them as caught, and for every peck of the fish take two pounds of common salt, quarter of a pound of bay-salt, four pounds of saltpetre, two ounces of sal-prunella, and two penny worth of cochineal. Pound all these ingredients in a mortar, mixing them well together. Then take stone jars of small kegs, according to your quantity of sprats, and lay a layer of the fish, and a layer of the mixed ingredients alternately, until the pot is full; then press hard down, and cover close for six months, they will then be fit for use I can vouch for the excellence and cheapness of the anchovies made in this manner.