What was the Vecht Curing Method? 3 February 2023 Eben van Tonder
Having looked at the life of Aron Vecht for a few years now, the question came up again, what was the curing method of Aron Vecht? I re-examine this question considering the most recent evidence, and I delve into his company, Intermarine Supply Company.
Aron Vecht Curing Method
– From Press (1893)
From an article in Press (1893), the product they “mess pork”. Transporting the pork, in the brine is too expensive. He mentions that at Home there is virtually no demand for saltpetre-cured bacon. “He has invented and patented an antiseptic, which he maintains will preserve the meat for any length of time. After the pigs are killed and dressed in the usual manner, the carcasses are allowed to cool. They are then placed in ovens and subjected for a certain time to heat. This partially roasts the outer surface and melts a portion of the fat beneath the skin. The carcasses are then plunged into cold water, and the melted fat becomes solid so that the pig is, so to speak, hermetically sealed within itself. The patent antiseptic fluid is then by pressure injected into the carcase, which becomes wholly impregnated, and the curing is complete. With the antiseptic flavour, according to taste, may be added. ” The target market is navies, shipping and armies of the world.
Of interest to New Zealand is the mention of the preferred pig breeds. Vecht said that Berkshire, Yorkshire or a cross between the two would do. As little as possible of the Chinese need and a dash of Captain Cook “would not be objectionable.”
– The Star, Christchurch, 28 July 1894
In this interview (Interview with Aron Vecht 1894), he connects his curing system very clearly with mild cured bacon invented by William Oake. It was the Inter Marine Supply Company that brought mild curing to New Zealand. He was asked how long this method of curing existed, to which he gave the following reply. Vecht stated that bacon-curing, like most other things, had now been reduced to a science. The present system is of a “very modern date.” I estimate the original invention by Oake to be around 1830, some 60 or 70 years prior to this interview.
He seems to refer to the old method of curing and says that it “did not appear to have been altered much for the better and consisted merely of salting, with the addition of a little sugar and saltpetre.” “This process of course made an article which was very nice as a relish, but the true nature of the nutritive qualities of bacon was only discovered some twenty years ago,” which takes us to the 60s or 70s. He explains how the British Government examined the nutritional value of the meat. “In some expeditions sent out by the British Government as late as the sixties, many ships were provided with meat and bacon cured in the old-fashioned way and it was a well known fact that those who were compelled to live on it suffered from poorness of the blood, and in consequence scurvy followed in many cases.”
He gives great insight into the thinking at the time why the sailors, even though they had enough to eat, still got sick from scurvy. “Scientific research proved that, notwithstanding the fact that these people did not suffer from lack of something to eat, the nutritive value of the food consumed was absolutely nil, for the simple reason that chloride of sodium (salt) possesses the quality of chemical affinity for albumen. Under the old method the salt and the albumen contained in the pork combine and make a pickle which runs away in the process of curing, taking away all the nutriment from the meat, and leaving only the fibrous system and the fat. The saltpetre also acts chemically upon the fibrous tissues of the meat, giving a high colour, unnatural to the flesh, and this high colour was often mistaken for goodness by the uninitiated. After this fact became generally known, scientists, foremost amongst whom was Professor Liebeg, set about to remedy the evil, so far as beef was concerned, by preserving in tins instead of salting, and also by extracting the albumen from the beef and bottling it.” Here he refers to the beef extract developed by Liebig and that was produced at the port of Fray Bentos in Uruguay, where the products were originally processed and packaged until the 1960s. Liebig trademarked Fray Bentos in 1881.
The new method of curing that was developed was centred abound, producing a “sustaining food” and not just a nicety. Vecht then related the discovery of the new method as follows. “Mr William Ouke, an eminent chemist of Ulster, discovered the new method of curing. This gentleman was related to one of the largest bacon-curers in that centre, and took considerable interest in the business.” The process is the described as follows. In the course of experiment he discovered that the antiseptic properties of salt were to be found in Nature apart from chloride of sodium (salt), and that the obnoxious effects of dissolving the albumen in the curing process could therefore be avoided,i.e. by NOT relying on salt. “This was really the key to the new system of curing.” So, not relying on salt was the central tenant of mild-curing.
Salt was not key, even though it still played a part. The important thing was that the albumen was still in the meat. “As to the advantages possessed by the new style of treatment, Mr Vecht pointed out that bacon and hams treated by this process, although thoroughly cured with the very essence of salt, still retained all the albumen originally in the meat, although it would not, of course, be salty to the palate. The lean instead of being a secondary consideration, as under the old process, became at once the nutritious delicacy it was intended by nature to be.“
The major difference was the colour of the end-product. Mild-cured bacon was pale bacon. “Asked to explain the difference in colour between the bacon and ham cured by the old process and those treated by the new, Mr Vecht said that many people un- acquainted with the matter had at first objected to the new product on account of its colour. Those who had had experience in the old process were of course, familiar with the fact that softness in the lean of the meat was anything but desirable, and as the lean of the bacon cured by the new process was always soft and juicy many had condemned it at first sight on that score, thinking that it would not keep. This was a great mistake, which they soon found out, and after eating the bacon a very different opinion was given. It was not long before they discovered that the high colour given to the lean by the saltpetre in the old process was detrimental, as the saltpetre chemically coloured the bacon, while it extracted the albuminous juices causing thereby a loss in nutrition.”
He again tightly linked Mild Cured Bacon with the Inter Marine Supply Company. Their bacon was pale but nutritious. Another major difference was that it kept better than the old systems. Vecht is quoted in the interview as saying, “the products of the Inter-Marine Supply Company really retained the natural colour, while the value of the meat as a nutritious food was not interfered with in the slightest. The proof of its keeping qualities was the fact that it had already been exported from various places where the cure had been adopted to all parts of the world and had successfully withstood many climates.“
Who used this system? Vecht mentions that it is “largely used in America having been adopted in Chicago by the Messrs Armour, whose name in the industry is a household word.” Besides Armour, “a large factory was in operation at Toronto in Canada, and the system was greatly used in Holland, Denmark, and many parts of England.” He said that “five firms . . . possessed the right to use it one of which was the Intermarine Supply Company, which was also the patentee of the process at present in use at Islington and the bacon and hams sold here were exactly the same as those sent to the Home markets.” This is a fascinating quote. The only firm that had patented their process to this extent and which I can map to other processes in use at the time is the patents by Oake Woods from Gillingham. But he says nothing about the hardware associated with the patents of Oake Woods. The only patent he referred to was his own patent of the antiseptic. The interview makes it clear that the Intermarine Supply Company was one of five firms that had a right to the system.
– A New Market for Farmers. Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume XX, Issue 2465, 28 June 1893
“At present, his company drew large supplies from America (Chicago) where they had a large factory and also from Denmark where they had factory, and other places. . . . “Skilled men were on the way, and curing operations would be commenced about October.”
Identification of the market is interesting. “The market is not altogether in London or England; the contracts his firm had were for supplying armies, and navies, and forts. They had contracts for a long time ahead.”
The product was identified as mess pork which had to be the same everywhere, i.e. the same product from his company everywhere. This would be achieved by using the same production process everywhere. They had traceability in mind, which they would achieve by electrically marking every pig.
– Marlborough Express, Volume XXIX, Issue 164, 4 July 1893
The Vecht’s Process is summarised as follows: “At a meeting of Pettlers at New Plymouth last week, Mr Vecht gave some particulars reference to the pig industry he is desirous of seeing established m the colony. He said an outline of their process was to get a large oven heated to a white heat, the carcase was then put in for a very brief space of time just sufficient to melt the fat under the skin | and break the pores. The carcass was then taken out, and then by the application of a sudden cold process, the carcase become hermetically sealed. They would, therefore, see that they required a pig that had a coating of solid fat, which would seal better than the bacon fat pig.” From this, the major emphasis from Vecht on how the pigs must be finished.
– The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW, Tue 29 Jun 1909)
MESSRS. STEWART and MORTON, at NOWRA, on account of THOMAS MARRIOTT, Esq., Liquidator of the Shoalhaven Co-operative Bacon Curing Company, Limited in Liquidation).
BACON CURING FACTORY at Bomaderry, N.S.W., and other Assets of the above Company, consisting of the following:
- 4 acs 1 road 18 perches, being lots 9 and 10 of Section 33, on Deposited Plan No. 2880, in the Town of Bomaderry, Parish of Bunberra, county of Camden, TORRENS TITLE million to reservations in Crown Grant), with Factory premises and fixed plant and machinery thereon, as per schedule No. 1
- Movable Plant, Office Furniture, Horses, Wag-gone, Carts, and Harness, as per Schedule No. 2.
- License to use exclusively in NSW. process for curing Bacon known as “Vecht Mild Cure Process.”
- “York Castle” Trade Mark for Bacon.
Items 1 and 3 are under mortgage, on which there is a Band of £2050, with Interest at a 5 per cent, per annum, from 2nd June 1900, owing, and will be sold subject thereto.
Item 3 Is held under certain Deeds and Documents, which, together with the Mortgagee over Items 1 and 3, may be inspected at the Offices of Messrs. Perkins. Stevenson, and Co., of 122 Pitt-street, Sydney, Solicitors.
The Vecht Mild Cure Process was tied to the Christ Church Meat Company and Vecht and Stokes individually as is clear from the further provision in the notice that “any Assignment of Item 3 is subject to consent of ARON VECHT, WILLIAM STOKES, and the CHRIST CHURCH CHURCH MEAT COMPANY, Limited.”
Lists of the Plant, etc may be inspected, at the Office of THOMAS MARIOTT, Esq. and the Auctioneers, at Nowra, and at the Offices of Messrs. PERKINS, STEVENSON, and CO., Solicitors, Sydney.
The Intermarine Supply Company
– The London Gazette, Friday, May 1, 1986
A notice was published on 5 May 1896 in the London Gazette under Joint Stock Companies, “Notice is hereby given in pursuant to s. 7 (3) of 43 Vict., ch. 9 (Companies Act, 1880), that at the expiration of three months from the date hereof the names of the undermentioned Companies, unless cause is shown to the contrary, be struck of the Register and the Companies will be dissolved:-
In the list, Internarine Supply Company.
– The Bush Advocate. Thursday, May 11. New Outlet for Farmers, Volume IX, Issue 777, 11 May 1893.
The Intermarine Supply Company is an international organisation which supplies the fleets of the great marine powers and the large fleets of the European mercantile marine with “mess” pork. The Company has factories in every large producing country in the world, and as everywhere, they find that the local demand for pork, as well as the growth of bacon curing factories, ultimately competes with the mess-pork factories, they are always on the lookout for fresh fields and new countries suitable for the production and manufacture of their staple.”
In an 1894 (Interview with Aron Vecht 1894), interview he said that “a large factory was in operation at Toronto in Canada, and the system was greatly used in Holland, Denmark, and many parts of England. Five firms now possessed the right to use it, one of which was the Intermarine Supply Company, which was also the patentee of the process at present in use at Islington and the bacon and bams sold here were exactly the same as those sent to the Home markets.”
Returning to the Bush quote (1893), “Mr Vecht himself has had considerable experience as a pioneer, and New Zealand will not be the first new country he has exploited on behalf of his organisation. In conjunction with his brother, he introduced the now great industry of pig raising for mess pork manufacture into Holland in 1879, and his success in the various countries with which he has been connected led to his being selected upon it being decided to open in New Zealand if the conditions were found suitable.” In his own words, the patented differentiator was the antiseptic brine to be injected. The invention of the singing of the pigs was Henry Denny, and the mild cured system was William Oake.
The three-fold system of antiseptic-singeing-mild curing was not the only unique feature of the system. The Bush (1893) reports, “Mr Vecht conducted the necessary preliminary experiments at Waitara, where every facility was afforded by the Egmont Freezing Company. . . . . . The requirements of the manufacture are that the pigs should be hard and firm fleshed, but these were soft in the fat and Mr Vecht consequently did what the suppliers will in the future have to do — ‘topped them off’ for a fortnight on hard food, chiefly sharps. After this fortnight’s hardening up the pigs were killed in a cooling room made expressly for the purpose and prepared by the process which was originally the secret of Mr Vecht’s Dutch Company.”
Press. (1893) The Pork Industry; Volume L, Issue 8590, 18 September 1893, Page 5
A New Market for Farmers. Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume XX, Issue 2465, 28 June 1893, Page 2
Marlborough Express, Volume XXIX, Issue 164, 4 July 1893, Page 2
The Bush Advocate. Thursday, May 11. New Outlet for Farmers, Volume IX, Issue 777, 11 May 1893, Page 2