William and William Harwood Oake

William and William Harwood Oake
By Eben van Tonder
10 July 2021

From Worth, R. N.. Jan 1888. Tourist’s Guide to Somersetshire: Rail and Road. E. Stanford

Introduction

It’s been a while now since the early hours one Monday morning when I learned the name of the man who invented mild cured bacon, William Oake. All I knew about him is that he was a pharmacist from Ulster in Northern Ireland. I was reviewing my book on the history of bacon curing, Bacon & the Art of Living. I had just worked through the chapter where I give my historical review of bacon curing, Chapter 12.09: The Curing Reaction. I worked through the progression of mild cured bacon to pale dried bacon and tank curing. Just before tank curing, I included Auto Curing in the review. Something about the timing and the sparse description of the process did not sit well with me. I knew that the re-use of old brine was in its infancy in England in the 1820s and 1830s from a quote from The Complete Grazier where the reference speaks about it in very tentative forms and says that the brine can be re-used twice. In 1852 Youatt gives a far more confident reference to the reuse of old brine. I knew that that reusing old brine was part and parcel of the auto curing system of bacon production which, by 1861 was already in use in England, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada. 

The adoption of the mild curing system by C & T Harris only took place in the second half of the 1800s. By 1861 auto cure was already in use in England which relies on a complete re-use of old brine. Why did they not work the concepts of tank curing out long before the end of the decade? Besides these, I was still wrestling with the question if Oake was the one to rely on a continual re-use of the old brine. Was this his invention, so to speak? If I take that out of the equation, then it reduced the uniqueness of the mild curing system and it would mean that there was not much of a difference between mild curing and the sweet cured system of C & T Harris.

These questions plague me. I was sure I am missing something. If Oake was the one who started re-using the old brine repeatedly and if this is one of the features of auto curing, I wondered if there is a link between Oake and auto curing. There had to be! It was around 19:00 on Tuesday evening, 6 July 2021 when I started searching a combination of auto curing and William Oake and an explosion of information followed. Unfortunately for me, I had just figured out that the Maillard Reaction was responsible for unexpected results in my MDM replacement product I was working on and the rest of the night was spend intermitted searching for information on Oake and Auto Curing and frantically reviewing the Maillard reaction! Needless to say that I did not get much sleep that night, but what an absolutely glorious night it has been!

I dedicate this article then to William Oake and his son, William Harwood Oake. William should be celebrated and I share what I have been able to uncover about his life. I also reveal that his son was the inventor of auto cured bacon. I want to immediately extend an invitation to anybody with more information to share it and in particular to their extended family who may have valuable source material. The English factory started by Howard Oake only closed in the 1980s and there should still be many people from Gillingham who have first-hand recollections of the process and his factory.

Mild Cured Bacon

William Oak invented mild cured bacon and the essence of the invention centred around the power of the salts he used in the brine. The initial information came to me from The Journal of Agriculture and Industry of South Australia, edited by Molineux, General Secretary of Agriculture, South Australia, Volume 1 covering August 1897 – July 1898 and printed in Adelaide by C. E. Bristow, Government Printer in 1898.  By the time of writing in 1897 and 1898, William Oake has already passed away.

A second reference comes to us from the Cape of Good Hope (Colony). Dept. of Agriculture, VOL . VIII . 1896. Published for the Department of Agriculture, Cape of Good Hope by WA Richards & Sons, Government Printers, Castle Street, Cape Town. It quotes the same paper published in Australia in 1889. It refers to a paper that was read at a congress of the South Australian Agricultural Bureau on pig-breeding and bacon-curing by Mr TN Grierson of Bodolla, New South Wales.

“There is at the present time a new process coming into vogue, which is attracting considerable attention amongst bacon-curers. The process is called the “mild cure.” The discoverer of the new process of curing was, it appears, an eminent chemist – the late Mr William Oake, of Ulster. In the course of an experiment, he discovered that the antiseptic properties of salt were 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. This is really the key to the new system of curing. By the new process of treatment, it is said that the bacon and hams, although thoroughly cured with the very essence of salt, still retain all the albumen originally in the meat, and yet do not taste salty to the pallet. By the new process, the lean of the cured bacon remains soft and juicy, and natural in colour; and the best proof of the value of the system is in the fact that where mild cure has been adopted the bacon and hams will keep for any length of time in any climate. A great deal of labour, it is said, is saved by the new process, while the article put on the market is declared to be much superior in taste and flavour quality to bacon cured on the old system.” ( Department of Agriculture, Cape of Good Hope, 1896)

A definition of albumen from 1896 defines it as follows. “Albumen is a substance found in the blood and the muscle. It is soluble in cold water and is coagulated by hot weather or heat. It starts to coagulate at 134 deg F (57 deg C) and becomes solid at 160 deg F (71 deg C).” It is distinguished from fibrin which is the substance in blood that causes it to coagulate when shed. “It consists of innumerable delicate fibrils which entangle the blood corpuscles, and from with them, a mass called blood clot. Fibrin is insoluble in both cold and hot water.” (Farmer, 1896). Albumin, with an “i”, in the modern use of the term refers to “any of a class of simple, sulfur-containing, water-soluble proteins that coagulate when heated, occurring in egg white, milk, blood, and other animal and vegetable tissues and secretions.” (Dictionary)

Albumen, therefore, refers to meat juices in particular. It is then the opaque fluid found plentifully in eggs, meats, fish and succulent vegetables, especially asparagus. (Gejnvic) It is the red substance that oozes from our steaks when we fry it and is mostly myoglobin, a protein from muscle tissue.

The reason why the meat juices do not leach from the meat is simply a function of the brine which surrounds the meat and comes down to the matter of partial pressure. Bristow gives us the real reason for the effectiveness of the system in terms of the speed and consistency of curing when he says “the same pickle can be used for many years – the older the better; it only requires, when it becomes somewhat muddy, to be boiled and clarified.” He follows this statement by saying that he has “seen pickle which had been used in one factory for 16 years, and that factory produces some of the best bacon and hams in Australia.”

There is no question that the preservative that William Oake observed is saltpetre, reduced to nitrite. In the detailed process description given, Oake insisted that the blood be drained properly. I give the full system as described by Bristow in note 1. The meat is cut up and notice that Oake’s system called for “the portions [to be] (are) laid on the floor of the factory (which should be made of concrete or flagged), flesh uppermost, and lightly powdered over with saltpetre, so as to drain off any blood.”

Here he does not use salt. He only uses saltpetre. After this step the pork cuts are “placed in the tanks” and he now introduces salt (NaCl) for the first time. He writes, “for salting. . . — sprinkle the bottom of the tank with salt, then put in a layer of sides or flitches, sprinkle saltpetre over them lightly, and then salt and sugar. The next layer of sides or flitches is put in crosswise and served in the same way, and so on until the tank is full. Then place a lid to fit inside the tank (inch battens 3in. apart will do); fix an upright on top of the lid to keep the bacon from rising when putting in the pickle.”

Now let’s consider the makeup of the pickle. He says that it is prepared as follows: “To every 10lbs. of salt add 8lbs. of dark-brown sugar, lib. of spice, and 1/2lb. of sal-prunella. Make it strong enough to float an egg; let it settle for some time, then skim, and it is ready to go on to the meat.” Let us pause for a second and clearly understands what is meant by sal-prunella. Sal-Prunella is, according to Errors of Speech or Spelling by E. Cobham Brewer, Vol II, published by William Tegg and Co, London, 1877, a mixture of refined nitre and soda.  Nitre, as used at this time was refined saltpetre used in the manufacturing of explosives.

Let us again quote Oake through Bristow when he says that “in the course of an experiment he (Oake) discovered that the antiseptic properties of salt were 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. This is really the key to the new system of curing.”

Based on these statements I am convinced that what William Oake was testing for was to identify the exact substance which is responsible for preservation of the meat. He tested the salt and that is not it. Salt preserves primarily through the drying effect it has on meat. He no doubt tested saltpetre and as experiments from the 1920s confirmed, by itself, it is a very poor preservative. However, there was a preserving power that developed in the brine which he clearly did not understand. It is due to this, I firmly believe, that I make the vague statement that he “discovered that the antiseptic properties of salt were found in nature apart from chloride of sodium (salt).” He knew it was something that was added to the salt and based on the priority he gives saltpetre in the application of the different salts, I believe he had a suspicion that it had something to do with the saltpetre but by itself, he knew that it was not it! Still, there is an “antiseptic” mechanism at work that is from nature but his vague wording at this point clearly shows that he is uncertain as to what it is exactly. In the cure, there is “antiseptic properties of salt were found in nature apart from chloride of sodium (salt).”

When I started this journey, I was very reluctant to say that Oake’s main characteristic of his mild cured system is the repeated re-use of the old brine. I could not come to that conclusion precisely because I very dearly wanted that to be the conclusion. I, therefore, forced myself to find other options besides this and I refused to concede the point until such a time arrives when I am forced by the overwhelming weight of the clear evidence to say that to Oake goes the credit for using the power of old brines in a system of curing where the older the brine is, the better! Such a time has now arrived where I can say that the preponderance of evidence forces me to make this one simple conclusion that William Oake came to the understanding of the power of the repeated use of old brines albeit that being achieved without a full understanding of the mechanisms which was not understood at that time. This is absolutely and comprehensively remarkable!

Therefore, look at my handling of the matter in my 2019 article when I was first introduced to Oake, Tank Curing Came From Ireland. The best explanation I could give of exactly what made mild curing so revolutionary was the overall system that he developed by taking known techniques from his time and ordering it in a better way so that the outcome of the work would be better. You can see how I tried to avoid the conclusion that Oake pioneered the multiple re-uses of the old brine! I now believe that the former statement is still correct related to his ordering of the different components in the work of curing bacon in a better way and that it holds up to evaluation and scrutiny, but by far the biggest feature in his new system was the repeated re-use of the old brine. For this reason, I now choose to retain the original articles I have written and I will simply amend it with a note referencing this article and my better and fuller conclusion on the matter.

Another point that must be made and which is probably far more important than I ever realised is that the genius of Oake was not just what he used in his brine, but what he omitted. From the Sessional Papers, Volume 34, Page 204, Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons,1902, we have the statement about Oake’s invention “to meet the increased demand for mild – cured goods without the use of modern preservatives.” This means that Oake is not just responsible for the repeated reuse of the old brine but for omitting any other preservative from bacon. It was then his work that was directly responsible for steering the course of the development of curing technology away of artificial preservatives and keeping the process, unbeknownst to him, close to the natural processes which take place in meat in dead matter and in living animals and humans. Sure, at this time Oake and Harris used borax or boric acid as preservatives in their hams, but Oake identified another preserving principle from nature which we now know as nitrite!

Its Roots

The first clue I got that there was something distinctly different to Oakes system of continued reuse of the brine from anything that was in use at the time came to me from an 1830 edition of The Complete Grazier. The report says that wet cure is more expensive than dry cure unless the brine is re-used. First, the meat is well rubbed with fine salt. A liquor is then poured over the meat and “though the preparation of such brine may, at first sight appear more expensive than that prepared in the common way, yet we think it deserves a preference, as it may be used a second time with advantage if it be boiled, and a proportionate addition be made of water, and the other ingredients above mentioned.” (The Complete Grazier, 1830: 304)

The concept of reusing the power of old brine is something that has been known in England from at least the 1820s or possibly many years earlier. The Complete Grazier (1830) says that liquid brine may appear to be more expensive than if it is done “in the common way” which in the context should refer to dry curing or rubbing a mixture of dry ingredients onto the meat. The edition of the Complete Grazier referred to is from the 5th edition which means that by this time, the description may already be 5 years old if it appeared in the 1st edition. Notice the comment that the brine can be used “a second time.” The continued reuse of the brine was not what the author in the Complete Grazier was describing. The practice of reusing old brine in England of 1820 and 30 was a far cry from the complete system of William Oake from the same time in Ireland where the multiple (continues) re-uses of old brines were part of Oakes complete mild cured system.

I must also add that in the system that Oake developed the brine was no longer boiled after every use which has a major impact on the microorganisms responsible for the reduction of saltpetre which is added before the brine is re-used. By not boiling the brine after every use, a distinct microflora develops.

The inspiration to re-use old brine was European with its roots in Westphalia in Germany. William Youatt who compiled the Complete Grazier restates this process in his 1852 work, Pigs: A Treatise on the Breeds, Management, Feeding and Medical Treatment of Swine; with directions for salting pork, and curing bacon and Hams. He says that “the annexed system is the one usually pursued in Westphalia : — ” Six pounds of rock salt, two pounds of powdered loaf sugar, three ounces of saltpetre, and three gallons of spring or pure water, are boiled together. This should be skimmed when boiling, and when quite cold poured over the meat, every part of which must be covered with this brine. Small pork will be sufficiently cured in four or five days; hams, intended for drying, will be cured in four or five weeks, unless they are very large. This pickle may be used again and again, if it is fresh boiled up each time with a small addition to the ingredients. Before, however, putting the meat into the brine, it must be washed in water, the blood pressed out, and the whole wiped clean.”

Youatt repeats the re-use of the brine in the publication just mentioned. He writes, “In three weeks, jowls, &c, may be hung up. Taking out, of pickle, and preparation for hanging up to smoke, is thus performed: — Scrape off the undissolved salt (and if you had put on as much as directed, there will be a considerable quantity on all the pieces not immersed in the brine; this salt and the brine is all saved; the brine boiled down [for re use].” Notice that his 1852 description is far more “matter of fact” and he does not go into all the explanations and caveats he did in the 1830 description and his reference to pickle . . . used again and again is a progression from the 1830 reference.

The incorporation of this facet of curing brines was undoubtedly not as advanced as it was in Ireland in the 1820s and 30s. Mild cured bacon was separately listed in newspapers of the time related to price and market conditions. The very first reference goes back to 1837 to a report from Antrim, Northern Ireland.  It is fascinating that following this initial reference, Antrim completely disappears from the map and Limerick and Waterford takes over. This report simply said about bacon arriving from Ireland and that the Bacon market was dull the past week but (except) for “a small parcel of mild cure.”  (Belfast News-Letter (Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland) 21 July 1837)

Before this date, mild cured bacon is not mentioned. Remember that bacon was a commodity with prices regularly quoted in newspapers like maize and other farming commodities in certain publications. The second reference is in 1842 reported in the Provisions section of Jackson’s Oxford Journal which would regularly report on bacon prices from Ireland. In a mention about produce from Ireland, it says, “in the bacon market there is no great alterations; heavy bacon is more inquired after, and all fresh mild cure meets a fair demand.”  Heavy bacon seems to be used as opposed to mild cure.  (Jackson’s Oxford Journal (Oxford, Oxfordshire, England) 17 September 1842, p4)

The progression in the references, all related to bacon from Ireland and all focussed on amongst other, Limerick and Waterford.  An 1845 report said that “choice mild-cured Bacon continues brisk.” (Jackson’s Oxford Journal (Oxford, Oxfordshire, England) 26 July 1845, p4.)

An 1853 report from Ireland itself is very instructive. From Dublin, a report says “We are glad to observe that several Dublin curers are now introducing the system of mild cure in bacon as well as hams, in consequence of the great difference had in price.  (The Freeman’s Journal, (Dublin, Dublin, Ireland) 11 Feb 1853, p1)

From this, it would seem that we are justified in retaining the most likely place for the invention of mild cure to have been in Northern Ireland, sometime just before 1837.  (see my addendum to this work, Addendum A, Occurrences of “mild cure” in English Newspapers.

Following Reports About Oake and his Son

Report from The Freeman’s Journal (Dublin, Dublin, Ireland) 23 Sep 1853, Fri, Page 4

There is a reference in The Freeman’s Journal (Dublin, Dublin, Ireland), 23 September 1853 reporting that the previous Wednesday, letters from London “announced the disposal of the provisions contract for the royal navy, 12 000 tierces (casks) of pork and 4000 tierces (casks) of beef.” The short notice says that “we have the satisfaction to add that half the pork contract was taken for Irish account, and a considerable portion will be made up in Limerick, by Shaw and Duffield, William G. Gubbins, William Oake, and Joseph Matterson.” The article is quoting the Limerick Chronicle and shows that Oake had tremendous commercial success.

We also know that at least one of his sons was involved in the business with him, but not in Ireland. A notice was posted in Manchester Weekly Times and Examiner (Manchester), Saturday, 28 September 1889 of the death of William Harwood Oake from Gillingham, Dorset “elder son of the late William Oake of Limerick“, aged 49.  This means that WH Oake was born in 1840 and if we presume William Oake from Limerick had him when he was 20, William was probably born around 1820. I later revised this estimate, taking more information into account and it seems that he was born around 1807.

From Daily News (London, Greater London, England) 18 Jul 1885, Sat Page 3 about the dissolvent of the partnership of the firm Oake Woods Waring. The new firm Oake Woods was created from this.

In The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Western Countries, 18 July 1885, page 8, a notice appeared for the dissolution of a partnership between William Howard (Harwood??) Oake, John Woods, and William Waring trading as Oake, Woods, and Waring, at Gillingham, Dorset. If the address is not a clear link to the son of William Oake from Limerick in Ireland, the commodities they traded in is the final proof and a picture is emerging of an imminent “bacon” family. They were, according to the notice, bacon and provision merchants. The partnership was dissolved due to Waring retiring. At first, I thought that if (and there is good reason to suspect this), that William Oak from Limerick is the inventor of tank curing, this would indicate that by 1885 the process has not been exported to England since his son is selling the bacon which is, probably being imported from Ireland.

The circumstantial evidence is strong. William Oake had a substantial bacon curing operation and was able to do it at prices so far below curers in Britain that they were able to secure a large part of a lucrative Navy contract. The cost compared to dry salt curing is one of the main benefits of tank curing is compared to dry salting. The driving force for these was then, as it is today, cost and quality, but mainly cost. The other one that goes hand in hand with cost, is speed. Tank curing or mild curing is much faster than dry salting.

Britain was the main market for Irish bacon and it stands to reason that the Irish would have been very protective over their technology. It makes sense that he set his son up to trade their bacon in England and did apparently not export the technology to England.

I discovered that my conclusion is only partly correct. His son and partners may have started selling Irish bacon produced by his dad but it quickly changed into a fully-fledged bacon curing operation itself. It turns out that the Gillingham, Dorset was a curing operation where auto curing was employed.

Talking about the Gillingham station, The Dorset Life reports that “the effect on agriculture was the rise in the number of Gillingham farmers; 12 in 1842; 34 in 1859; 45 in 1875. In 1860 and 1893 the station platform was extended to cater for the vast numbers of milk churns that were brought in each day. Close to the railway was Oake Woods & Co., bacon curers. Pigs arrived in cattle trucks to be delivered just yards away to the bacon factory. Next to Oake Woods was the Salisbury, Semley & Gillingham Dairy which acted as a collection depot and purchased milk from farmers whose production was in small quantities.” (Dorset Life. 2016)

This factory became intimately associated with Wiltshire bacon curing. They won first prize as well as the silver medal at the annual Dairy Show held in the Agriculture Hall, Islington. (Cassell, 1894)

William Oake, his Son and Possible Relatives

Information that I could find about William Oake, his son and possible relatives. I will continue to update this section. A death notice appeared for Harriette Oake who passed away on 27/07/1844, Henry Street. She was the wife of William Oake who was the Commander of the Eleanor which was a trader between the port and London port. This could be the parents of William Oake from Limerick.

There is a record of the death of William Oake on 24/08/1859 Thomas Street, a provision merchant, buried at St. Munchin’s

William Harwood Oake from Gillingham Dorsetpassed away on 28 September 1889.

There is an interesting reference to William Oake, a master butcher who lived in Perth, Perthshire, in Scotland referring to records for 1939 and 1940. A direct descendant? (Leslie’s Directory,1939-1940)

Auto Curing

So far the timeline that was fixed in my mind was that the continued re-use of the old brine was adopted by C & T Harris in the last half of the 1800s or possibly the very early years of the 1900s. The one fact that did not fit my timeline was auto curing. I learned that reusing old brine was part and parcel of the auto curing system of bacon production which, by 1861 was already in use in England, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada. If this was the case, how did Harris only got introduced to the system so late?

Let us first understand what auto curing is. The process is described as follows. The pig is slaughtered in the usual way and the sides trimmed and chilled. After chilling, it is laid out in rows on a sort of truck that exactly fits into a large cylinder of steel 32 feet long, 6 feet in diameter and which will hold altogether 210 sides. When the cylinder is filled, the lid, weighing 3 ½ tons (7000lb. Danish) is closed and hermetically sealed by means of hydraulic pumps at a pressure of 3 tons to the square inch.

A vacuum pump now pumps all the air out which creates a vacuum of 28 inches. It takes about an hour to pump all the air out. The brine channel which leads to the brine reservoir, holding around 6000 gallons of brine is now opened. The brine rush into the chamber and as soon as the bit of air that also entered has been extracted again, the curing starts. It happens as follows.

The brine enters the cylinder at a pressure of 120 lbs. per square inch. It now takes between 4 and 5 hours for the brine to enter the meat completely through the pores which have been opened under an immense vacuum. When it’s done, the brine runs back into the reservoir. It is filtered and strengthened and used again. This is very clearly the continued reuse of old brine. I was baffled.

A feature of the system is that it allows the bacon to be shipped overseas immediately, assuming that maturation would happen en route as was usual. The time for the total process is around three days. On day 1 the pig can be killed, salted on day 2 and packed and shipped on day 3.

There are two brine reservoirs. The one is used with a stitch pump to inject brine into the sides as usual before they are placed in the cylinder and the second tank is used. The largest benefit of this system is the speed of curing and many people report that the keeping quality of the bacon and the taste is not the same as bacon cured in the traditional way.

The system cured the meat in a short time, partly because of the vacuum and the penetration of the brine into the muscle, but also because it too used the power of the old brine which is based on the reduction of nitrate to nitrite. The vacuum had an impact in rather keeping the brine inside the meat and sealing the meat fibres over the areas where holes were created during injection and brine normally leached out again.

It clearly is a progression of the mild cured system but who invented it? The brine is distributed into the meat through step one and not primarily by what they call the “opening of the meat pores.”

There is a reference from another source that meat cured in this way is more tender. The system allowed for a 3% to 4% brine pick up which would have added to the bacon being much more tender than with dry curing.

Capital Structure

The following article appeared in The Morning Post (London, Greater London, England) 23 Nov 1889 reporting on new companies (Limited) which has been registered recently. The firm opted for public funds to finance the imminent international expansion.

The Morning Post (London, Greater London, England) 23 Nov 1889

The Gillingham, Dorset Operation and Oake-Woods’ Patent

Oake’s son and partners were responsible for setting up the curing operation in Gillingham, Dorset, making it clear that they were not just re-selling Irish bacon cured by Oake’s father, but they actually used the auto cure technology.

The Journal of the British Dairy Farmers’ Association (1887) reports that Oake, Woods and Company won a bronze medal for their British Mild Cured Bacon. This being the case, we know for certain that mild cured technology, including the repeated re-use of the old brine which was the cornerstone of the system, was in wide use in Britain by 1887 which hones in on the time when C & T Harris acquired the technology. It must have been well before 1887. The second important point to note is that Oake, Woods and Company not only used auto curing but also mild curing.

An article appears in The Age, Melbourne, Australia in 1898 which describes the proliferation of the system. It reports that the leading factories in Canada, Denmark and Sweden are all adopting the new auto-cure process because the article produced by it means is superseding all other brands in the largest market in the world” which at this time was England. The author of the article gives us a date when the curing operation of Oake, Woods and Company, Ltd was started in Gillingham, Dorset using auto curing. He refers to them as “curers of Wiltshire Bacon” which was in operation for 18 months by 1895 taking the establishment of the auto curing line to 1896. We know that by 1861 it was already in use in England, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada. It was, however in the 1890s when international patents were taken out and it would appear as if the expansion plans were truly global including the Scandanavian countries just mentioned but also the USA, South Africa and New Zealand.

A certain Mr Down, “the patentee of the process” described the process in his own words which are reported in great detail. It is a tedious description and the reason why it was so successful is attributed to incorrect factors, but it is nevertheless instructive and gives the full description of the process. Those who are interested can read the full article at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/80931212/auto-cure/. I received a mail from Will Dean who writes that Mr Down was the managing director of Oake Woods in the 1890s. His full name was Evan Roberts Down.

Stanier elaborates on this information provided by Down. He says that the factory and offices close to the railway station was established in 1847. Vitally he credits William Harwood Oake, son of William Oake from Limerick for the invention of auto cured bacon. He writes, “Oake (referring to William Harwood) invented the ‘Auto-Cure’ method of curing bacon under pressure in cylinders, for which the Danes paid a £4,000 annual royalty. It seems then, that the factory was established in 1847 and sometime between then and 1861 he invented auto curing. Very importantly, the Danes who obtained the system of mild curing which was invented by his dad paid him a royalty for the use of his technology. This fact along with the reference to Mr Down as the patentee, informs us that he very well protected the invention. By 1896 it was in full operation in Gillingham.

Dean who looked at the actual patents told me in private communication that he “had always thought [the process patented by Oake Woods] sounded extremely similar to the “tanalising” process for treating timber – amusingly this is actually mentioned in one of the patents.” He also provided me with copies of the actual patents.

Auto Cure Patents






Special thanks to Will Dean who sourced these and sent them to me.

The fact that Down is clearly listed as the inventor in these patents is of considerable interest. It may be that he takes the place of the inventor, who had to be listed as filing the application simply on account of William Harwood Oake having passed away on 28 September 1889. Down may in fact have been responsible for improvements to the system in addition to the reality that Oake was not around in the 1890s to file the application.

We return to product quality briefly and an observation related to the Gillingham site is in order. We know that water quality was very important to William Oake. Stanier mentions related to this site that “water was pumped from a well, and extensive cellars beneath the factory were said to be the best in the country for curing-by hanging bacon in the smoke of smouldering hardwoods. 150 were once employed but the factory closed in about 1980.” He makes it clear that he is talking about the same factory we referred to above when he writes that “the United Dairies milk and cheese factory remains next door along Station Road.”

Food Flavourings, Ingredients, & Processing, Volume 1, 1979 likewise confirms the 1861 date of the invention of the auto cure system. The invention was featured at the Paris show in 1867. The 1897 Diplomatic and Consular Reports, Morocco, Harrison and Sons, mentions that the system was brought out not just by Oake but by his company, Oake, Wood & Co.

Two personal sidenotes are in order related to Down. Will Dean tells me that his family own the house which belonged to, and was built for a “certain Mr Down.” This is the same E. R. Down who filed the patents for Oake-Woods and who ran the firm in the 1890s. A second note is that Evan Down’s son was killed in WW1. I include the information because throughout my work on bacon I strive to link the human story to the profession and art of meat curing. It goes hand in hand and is the basis for the double emphasis in my work on the history of bacon, Bacon & the Art of Living. For this reason, I site a reference also given to me by will Dean that provides fascinating background information on the Down family where the story is told of Captain William Oliphant DOWN MC. For his actions he received the military cross and including this reference in a work on bacon is an honour! In Bacon & the Art of Living, I include many stories from the Anglo Boer war. It seems as if there is nothing like war to remind us about the value and joy of living! A distant second is the epic story of bacon!

International Expansion

The matter of international sales of this patented system is very interesting. Henry, M. (1897) reports in a section called “A tip to Bacon Curers”. “SINCE the beginning of May this year experiments have been going on with a new method of curing bacon at the Ystad bacon factory in Sweden, and the results that have been attained have been so successful that it has been adopted at the Landskrona factory also, which belongs to the same owner. Mr Philip W. Heyman, of Copenhagen, the well-known curer of bacon, is adopting the same method, too, at two of his Swedish factories, and five of his Danish factories, and other bacon factories in Sweden and Denmark are making arrangements for having the same method introduced. The auto-cured bacon is treated in the following manner: The meat is cooled in the usual way and placed in large strong iron cylinders that can hold about 200 sides of bacon at one and the same time, and the lids are closed and can be kept closed by water pressure. The advantages claimed for this method, which is patented, are, besides others, the following: The auto-cured bacon will retain the juice of the meat, by which it becomes more nutritious and tender and of milder and more agreeable flavour than bacon cured according to the usual method, and it is easier to digest and keeps for a longer time than the latter so that it need not be ” forced off ” in sale even during hot weather. It will lose no more in weight than other bacon when smoked. Swedish auto-cured bacon has been sent “unbranded” for some time to London from the above-mentioned factory, together with other bacon cured according to the usual method, and has been referred to the latter, having attained about a couple of shillings per cwt, higher price. The first bale of branded auto-cured Swedish bacon, marked “Down’s auto – cure patents, Sweden, ” has been forwarded to the official representative for Sweden, Dr Hugo Wedin, of Lancaster Avenue, Manchester, ” for showing, ” having arrived last week, and has been inspected and tested by a number of merchants interested in the bacon trade here. It is expected that this bacon will soon find an increased sale on its own merits.” (Henry, 1897)

The elaborate quote gives us an insight into the extent of the propagation of the system due to international interest. I retained the description of the process to remove all doubt that we are talking about William Harwood Oake’s system and the advantages have been re-stated. From the quote, one wonders if the annual royalty of £4,000 paid by the Danes for the system was paid by Mr Philip W. Heyman or by some Danish association. The publication in 1897 seems to point to the system being introduced into Scandinavia closer to the end of the 1800s.

There is a report from the Queensland Agricultural Journal: Volume 2, Jan 1898, Queensland Department of Primary Industries which says that “A NEW process of bacon – curing ( says the Australasian ) has been brought under the notice of the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, named the “ Auto – cure Process of Bacon – curing, ” which has been adopted by some of the large bacon factories of Sweden, and by Messrs . Oake, Woods, and Co., Gillingham, Dorsetshire, who have employed it for the last eighteen months in the production of Wiltshire bacon.” The article then makes the interesting statement that “the new process will be used on a considerable scale in Canada and Denmark”

A year later, The Journal, Volume 2 by South Australia’s Department of Agriculture (1899) reports that “in Sweden and Dorsetshire (England), at the factory of Oake, Wood & Co., at Gillingham, a new process under the name “auto cure” has recently been adopted. About seven hours only is required to cure meat, which retains its albumen in an almost unchanged condition, so that the meat is tender, mild, and sweet. The process is carried on in air-tight cylinders of considerable capacity. The meat is then impregnated with brine under considerable pressure. The cost of apparatus to treat 150 sides at a time is said to be £780 in Britain.”

From New Zealand comes information that the same patent was lodged on 3 September 1896 number 8750 E. R. Down from Gillingham, Dorset, Eng. for cylinder or vessel for curing bacon and hams. (Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand) It seems likely that similar applications were filed around the world.

An 1893 reference from the NZ official yearbook mentions that a very definite expectation existed among farmers that the trade of raising pigs will meet the demand of local meat curers and the trade is expected to increase rapidly. It reports that an unnamed firm, referred to as “one of the largest suppliers in the UK of mess pork to the navies of the world and the mercantile marine operations” sent an agent to New Zealand in order to investigate the viability of setting up a branch in the colony. The agent was there a couple of months and was making inquiries as to the prospect of opening up a branch establishment. Reference is made to a trial that he ran to test the quality of the New Zealand pig for their purposes. The trial was done by preparing some carcasses by a process patented by the firm. It is this last statement that makes me suspect it to be Oake-Woods that is referred to. Market research, done clandestinely before the patent application is lodged seems very plausible. It would fit the scenario where an actual application was done and granted three years later in ’96. I am sure that like today, foreign patent applications was an expensive process and the approach would seem reasonable. The close time between the report of the clandestine work and the actual granting of a patent, the reference to an existing international footprint to supply the navies of the world and the fact that the head office was in England makes it almost certain that this reference is to Oake-Woods doing market research before filing the application.

The approach of protecting the process with a patent, followed by appointing local producers to use the system under license is an extremely effective way of expanding internationally. Oake-Woods was one of the only firms that could do it based on the fact that their process was highly patentable. The reason for this is that theirs was not only a process as was the case with mild cured bacon of William Oake but involved very specific equipment. A process is impossible to protect as the case of William Oakes mild cure system illustrated beautifully. The moment unique equipment enters the equation, the entire situation changes and it becomes highly patentable! No other firm to my knowledge had both a totally unique process as well as totally unique equipment going along with the process at this time. A process is only protected till your staff leaves. It was true then as it is true today! To my knowledge, Oake-Woods had the most expansive international coverage of any bacon and ham curing company at the time by far!

The agent of the company in question in New Zealand ran the trails and then shipped these to his principals in England. He received a cablegram which stated that the meat and the curing were done to “perfection.” As a result of this, arrangements were made for extensive trade throughout the colony. The English firm was prepared to erect factories at a cost of £20,000 each in areas where they have a reasonable expectation to secure 2,000 pigs per week. (The NZ Official Yearbook, 1893) I wondered if this was not C & T Harris for a long time but Oake-Woods fits the profile of the unnamed company in question much better.

Through a Gillingham, Dorset Facebook group, Helen Shorrocks contacted me with the following interesting recollection of a South African operation. She writes, “My Grandad worked for them (Oakes William & Co.) all his life, I believe he was head butcher and was offered a job in South Africa as a young family man with the company as they had a factory out there. My Grandmother wouldn’t go.” The same modus operandi would have been used in South Africa where a local company was granted a license to use the technology after it was patented.

Conclusion

The Oak family is responsible for giving us two powerful and historically significant systems of curing. The first being mild curing by William Oake and the second was auto curing by William Harwood, his son. The key feature of both systems is the repeated re-use of the brine where the microflora is retained for as long as possible and the brine was only boiled under very specific conditions. The second, auto curing, adds vacuum and pressure with the accompanying befits. This is a remarkable journey and we salute the work of William Oake and his son.

Notes

(1) Mild Cured System

I quote the entire section from The Journal of Agriculture and Industry of South Australia.  A better treatment of tank curing of that time is as far as I know, not in existence.  I can only imagine the Irish immigrants who brought this technology to Australia.  After quoting it, I will make a few comments on the system.

“Bacon-Curing under the Factory System.

Like the dairying industry in the latter years, the manufacture of bacon and hams has undergone great changes. The old expensive system of dry-salting has been almost entirely superseded by the less expensive method of curing with pickle in tanks. This method is not only less expensive, but it is the safest and most profitable for the climate of the Australian colonies.

There is at the present time a new process coming into vogue, which is attracting considerable attention amongst bacon-curers. The process is called the “mild cure.” The discoverer of the new process of curing was, it appears, an eminent chemist — the late Mr William Oake. of Ulster. In an experiment, it is said he discovered that the antiseptic properties of salt were to be found apart from chloride of sodium (salt), and that the obnoxious effects of dissolving the albumen in the curing process could, therefore, be avoided. This is supposed to be the key to the new system of curing. By the new process of treatment, it is said that the bacon and hams, although thoroughly cured with the very essence of salt, still retain all the albumen originally in the meat, and yet do not taste salty to the palate. By the new process, the lean of the cured bacon remains soft and juicy, and natural in color; and the best proof of the value of the system is in the fact that where the mild cure has been adopted the bacon and hams will keep for any length of time in any climate. A great deal of labor, it is said, is saved by the new process, while the article put on the market is declared to be much superior in taste and flavor and quality to bacon cured on the old system.

Whatever may become of the new process, whether a success or not, it is certain that the time has now gone past for farmers to kill and cure for sale their own pigs to best advantage. The trade now requires an article well got up and of uniform quality to bring the highest prices, and as a rule, farmers have not the convenience for such work, and therefore are unable to compete against factories where they have all the latest appliances. It is therefore advisable for farmers either to co-operate and build a factory or to sell their pigs to some individual or company in the trade.

A factory with a capacity for working from 120 to 150 pigs per week, with refrigerating room and all machinery required, can be erected for about £1,000, and pigs of an average weight of 125lbs. can be killed, cured, smoked, and made ready for placing on the market at a cost of 4s. per head. In these times of keen competition and low prices, to make bacon-curing a profitable industry- no bacon should be held longer than from six weeks to two months, and hams from three to four months — the longer it is held the more weight it loses, and very often does not improve in quality.

The following is the system adopted in curing bacon with pickle. It is necessary to have a number of tanks, either built of brick and cement, slate, or wood. If timber is the most easily got, 2 1/2 in. planks well put together will answer. These tanks, if made 5ft. square by 40in. deep, will hold fifty ordinary sized pigs. Tanks sufficient for one week’s killing, with one spare tank for turning over the bacon, will be required.

Pigs that are to be killed should be kept without food for twelve or fourteen hours, and during that time should be yarded up adjoining the slaughter house. In no case should pigs be driven or heated in any way just prior to killing. From the yards to the killing pen a small race can be made, where from six to eight at a time can be run in and killed ; and the best method of killing is to stun the pig by a smart blow on the forehead, halfway between the eyes and the top of the head, with a hammer or similar weapon ; then, before the pig can struggle, turn him square on his back, place a foot on each side of the head, facing the animal, holding the head down to the floor by placing the left hand on the snout. Now place the point of the knife on the animal’s throat, at the same time looking over the carcass and pushing the knife in a straight line in the direction of the root of the tail. If you do not stick just right the first time, you will see why when the pig is opened. A little observation will enable you to become an expert pig sticker.

Pig Tank Curing.png

The killing pen should be raised from the ground about 2ft. 6in., and the floor allowed about 2in. fall. The blood will then flow all into one corner, where a receptacle can be placed underneath, and the blood all saved and used or sold for manure. From the floor of the killing pen the pigs can be drawn easily into the scalding vat, which should be placed adjoining the killing pen. A good size for the scalding vat is 6ft. long, 4ft. wide, and 2ft. 6in. high, and if a steam pipe is laid on from the boiler into the scalding vat the water can always be kept at a regular temperature — the best heat for scalding is 160°. Adjoining the scalding vat should be placed another vat of similar dimensions for cold water. After the pig is scraped it should be dropped into the vat of cold water, which will cleanse and cool the carcass and get the final scrape before being drawn up by the gamble on to the aerial tram, where the internals are removed and the backbone cut out, and then run into the factory, where they are allowed to hang till the following morning, when they are cut up into flitches or full sides, according to the size of the pigs.

As the carcasses are cut up the portions are laid on the floor of the factory (which should be made of concrete or flagged), flesh uppermost, and lightly powdered over with saltpetre, so as to drain off any blood. It can then be placed in the tanks for salting in the following manner: — Sprinkle the bottom of the tank with salt, then put in a layer of sides or flitches, sprinkle saltpetre over them lightly, and then salt and sugar. The next layer of sides or flitches is put in crosswise, and served in the same way, and so on until the tank is full. Then place a lid to fit inside the tank (inch battens 3in. apart will do); fix an upright on top of the lid to keep the bacon from rising when putting in the pickle. The pickle to be made as follows: — To every 1Olbs. of salt add 8lbs. of dark-brown sugar, lib. of spice, and 1/2lb. of sal-prunella. Make it strong enough to float an egg; let it settle for some time, then skim, and it is ready to go on to the meat.

Explanatory note by Eben:  Note Sal-Prunella is, according to Errors of Speech or Spelling by E. Cobham Brewer, Vol II, published by William Tegg and Co, London, 1877, a mixture of refined nitre and soda.  Nitre, as used at this time was refined saltpetre used in the manufacturing of explosives.

At the end of forty-eight hours turn the meat over into another tank, taking care to put the sides that were on top in the bottom of next tank, treating it as regards saltpetre, salt, and sugar exactly the same as at first, and using the same pickle. It can then remain until the seventh day from when first put in. It can then be taken out, and stacked on the floor of the factory, putting some salt between each layer, but do not stack higher than four sides deep, until it has been on the floor for some days when it should be turned over, and stacked higher each time until the fourth week from the day it went into the tanks; the bacon will then be cured.

The bacon can then be placed in tanks containing cold water, and allowed to soak all night. Wash well with a brush, then hang up to dry, and when properly dry it can be trimmed and smoked.

As hams require slightly different treatment from the bacon, separate tanks are required. Before placing the hams in the tank rub over the face of each one a thin layer of brown sugar. When the first layer is placed in the tank sprinkle over with saltpetre and salt, same as with the bacon, treating the balance the same as at first until the tank is full. Make the pickle same as for bacon, and leave the hams same time in tanks. Always retain the same pickle for the hams, and in no case use the bacon pickle for hams. The same pickle can be used for many years — the older the better; it only requires, when it becomes somewhat muddy, to be boiled and clarified. I have seen pickle which had been used in one factory for sixteen years, and that factory produces some of the best bacon and hams in Australia.

Explanatory note by Eben:  This means that tank curing or “mild cure” as it was called, was in use in Australia at least by 1880.

Smoking Bacon and Hams.

The smokehouse should be built according to the intended output of bacon and hams, and the walls of the building should not be less than 12ft. high. One of the principal things in smoking bacon is to have the smoke as cool as possible before coming into contact with the bacon and to assist this it is well to put a floor 6ft. 6in. or 7ft. from the ground, just allowing a slight opening between the flooring boards to allow the smoke to make its way up to where the bacon is hung. The flitches or hams should be hung as close together as not to touch, so as to allow the smoke to penetrate every portion. A small slide can be put in the gable of the smokehouse to regulate the smoke as required. A place should be made in the centre of the floor, say 6ft. by 3ft., where the sawdust is placed. This is lighted, and if the door is kept closed there will be no flame, but the sawdust will smoulder and cause a great quantity of smoke. From twenty-four to forty-eight hours will suffice to properly smoke the bacon if the weather is suitable, after which it may be packed and forwarded to market.

Where teatree (Melaleuca) is obtainable it is excellent for smoking ; it imparts a flavor to the bacon which is much appreciated by many people.

A Conclusion is offered

Mild-cure Bacon. — In all of the large cities of Britain and the European continent, the public demand is for mild-cure bacon. The system of cure is very simple and perfect, but requires expenditure of at least £1,000 on the plant for carrying it out. By this process the albumen of the meat is retained and is not coagulated, so that the bacon is devoid of excessive salt, is by no means hard or dry, and there is no loss of weight in the curing. A factory costing £2,000 to construct could easily cure 400 pigs per day. The process takes about a month to complete, but after the first day there is no further labor involved.”

References

The Age. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia29 Mar 1898, Tue, Page 7

APPENDIX TO THE JOURNALS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF NEW ZEALAND . SESSION II . , 1897 . VOL . III .

Leslie’s Directory for Perth and Perthshire, 1939-1940, By J. Bartholomew, Edinburgh. Published by the proprietor.

Belfast News-Letter (Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland) 21 July 1837

The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Western Countries, 18 July 1885, page 8

Cape of Good Hope (Colony). Dept. of Agriculture, VOL . VIII . 1896. Published for the Department of Agriculture, Cape of Good Hope by WA Richards & Sons, Government Printers, Castle Street, Cape Town.

Cassell. The Official Guide to the London and South Western Railway: The Royal Route to the South and the West of England, the Channel Islands, Europe and America, Cassell and Company, ltd Jan 1894

Diplomatic and Consular Reports, Morocco, 1897. Harrison and Sons.

Dorset Life. 2016. Gillingham railway station.

William Douglas & Sons Limited, 1901, Douglas’s Encyclopedia, University of Leeds. Library.

Errors of Speech or Spelling by E. Cobham Brewer, Vol II, published by William Tegg and Co, London, 1877

Farmer, F. M.. Fannie Farmer. 1896. Cook Book. Skyhorse Publishing.

Food Flavourings, Ingredients, & Processing, Volume 1, 1979

The Freeman’s Journal, (Dublin, Dublin, Ireland) 11 Feb 1853, p1

The Freeman’s Journal (Dublin, Dublin, Ireland), 23 September 1853

Jackson’s Oxford Journal (Oxford, Oxfordshire, England) 17 September 1842, p4

Jackson’s Oxford Journal (Oxford, Oxfordshire, England) 26 July 1845, p4.

The Journal of the British Dairy Farmers’ Association: For the Improvement of the Dairy Husbandry of Great Britain (1887), Volume 3

The Journal of Agriculture and Industry of South Australia, edited by Molineux, General Secretary of Agriculture, South Australia, Volume 1 covering August 1897 – July 1898 and printed in Adelaide by C. E. Bristow, Government Printer in 1898.

The Journal, Volume 2 by South Australia. Department of Agriculture. Vol II, No. 1. Edited by A Molineux, F. S. L., F. R. H. S, General Secretary Agriculture. Bureau of S. A., August 1898, to July 1899, Government Printers. 1899.

Henry, M. (1897). Food and Sanitation. Vol 8, No 230.

Manchester Weekly Times and Examiner (Manchester), Saturday, 28 September 1889

The Queensland Agricultural Journal, Issued by the direction of the Hon. A. J. Thynne, M. L. C. , Secretary for Agriculture. Edited by A. J. Boyd, F.R.G.S.Q. Vol. II. PART 1. January 1898. By Authority: Brisbane: Edmund Gregory, Government Printer.

Stanier, P. 1989. Dorset’s Industrial Heritage. Twelvehead Press

Worth, R. N.. Jan 1888. Tourist’s Guide to Somersetshire: Rail and Road. E. Stanford

Bacon Curing Systems: From Antiquity till now.

Bacon Curing Systems: From antiquity till now.
Eben van Tonder
18 June 2021

Introduction

In the development of bacon curing technology, four iconic curing methods stand between the old dry-cured system and the modern system of the direct addition of nitrites to curing brines and the latest development which is Grid bacon. In my book on the history of bacon curing technology, Bacon & the Art of Living, the following chapters are dedicated to these different systems of curing. In my book, I presented the story in narrative form. This style may be annoying to some but it proved to a very useful investigative technique as it forced me to think through every process in the 1st person and allowed me to see relationships between seemingly unconnected bits of technology in a completely new and holistic way. By, as it were, “living in the moment,” I gained insights I would never have seen if I simply reported the features of each system separately.

Bacon by Robert Goodrich. A man who inspires me more than he can imagine!

The Progression of Curing Systems

Here are different chapters that deal with the various stages in the progression of curing systems.

– Dry Cured Bacon

The bacon curing system existed for hundreds of years and included only dry ingredients and later dry ingredients with wet brine added.

– The Empress of Russia’s Brine

During the time of Catherine the Great of Russia, salt was heavily taxed. She had a lively interest in the latest developments in food technology and the excessive cost of salt was a major concern for her. It was under her rule that she or someone in her court suggested that instead of discarding old used brine, the brine should be boiled, impurities removed, and it should be used repeatedly. Her brine, called the Empress of Russia’s Brine contained salt, sugar and saltpetre. Bacterial reduction of saltpetre (nitrates) to nitrites in the old brine would have caused the curing of subsequent batches to be sped up considerably. I have no doubt that this led directly to the discovery of William Oake that it was not necessary to boil the brine between batches and all that was required was to replenish the salt, sugar and nitrates (saltpetre) as was prescribed by Catherine the Greats brine.

Westphalia hams were famous for their use of the Empress of Russia’s brine from a time before it was introduced in Ireland and the cold smoking process which was unlike anything being done at the time when “chimney smoking” was the order of the day.

– Mild Cured Bacon

Invented by William Oake in Northern Ireland some time before 1837 and a key concept namely the re-use of the old brine was a progression of the Russian brine of Catherine.

– Sweet Cured Bacon

Invented by Harris in Calne, early in the 1840s. He did not re-use the old brine but a combination of smokehouse development, the inclusion of brine soaking in the curing process and the injection of meat allowed them to reduce the salt levels, yielding a “sweeter”, less salty brine.

– Pale Dried Bacon and Wiltshire Curing or Tank Cured Bacon

Pale dried bacon was invented under John Harris in Calne in the 1890s. It was drying the bacon without smoking them. Wiltshire bacon curing or Tank curing was introduced in Calne in the closing years of the 1800s or early 1900s.

Wiltshire Cured and Ice Cured Bacon

Before the Wiltshire cure was firmly established, the Harris operation launched Ice Cured bacon which incorporates refrigeration technology into meat curing.

– Auto Cured-, Rapid Cured- and Tank Cured Bacon

Auto curing was invented by William Harwood Oake, the son of William Oake from Limerick in Ireland who invented mild curing. William Harwood Oake brought mild curing to England when he opened a curing operation with two partners in Gillingham, Dorset. He invented auto curing which is a progression on Rapid Cure invented by Robert Davison, an Englishman working in America.

– The Vecht’s Curing Method and Mild Curing by Henry Denny

Henry Denny from Ireland invented a mechanical method of singeing pork and used refrigeration to achieve less salty bacon. His process was effectively copied by the Dutch Orthodox Jewish master cure, Aron Vecht who applied his curing method in New Zealand and Australia.

– The Direct addition of Nitrite

Ladislav NACHMÜLLNER invented the first curing brine legally sold containing sodium nitrites in 1915 in Prague. The system was made popular around the globe by the Griffiths Laboratories. The direct addition of nitrites to curing Brines is covered in two chapters namely:

– Grid Bacon

A system pioneered in Germany in the early 2000s. This final article of interest is not part of Bacon & the Art of Living, but it fits here because it represents the latest thinking about the most modern curing system.

The Story of Bacon

The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting. The characters are modern people, most of whom are based on real people and they interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this. As the title indicates, it is far more than only the history of bacon as it relates these events to a personal quest to find purpose in life through the pursuit of bacon. In the process family, friends and concepts such as nationalism and faith are examined in a way relevant to the pursuit of excellence.

The index page to Bacon & the Art of Living: Bacon & the Art of Living

“Canadian Bacon” by Kevin Clees. A master at the art and a true inspiration!

Please make contact!

Any contributions or comments can be directed to me at:

Phone Number and Whatsapp: +27 71 545 3029
Cape Town
South Africa

The complete history of bacon.

Chapter 12.01: The Fathers of Meat Curing

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.


The Fathers of Meat Curing

June 1959

Dear Tristan,

Amsterdam is one of the greatest cities on earth and for someone with your adventurous spirit, it is perfect. I remember that you had a small cannabis garden back home in Cape Town. This makes your move to Amsterdam all the more appropriate! You already know the culture.

Hashish, another name for cannabis, has been used since antiquity as an anesthetic. It was described in the “Arabian Nights” by the name bhang. Bhang was smoked like a cigarette or taken orally in tablet form. Some mix it with sugar and eat it like candy and still, I heard that some create a green liquid from it to serve as a drink. I love your passion for the natural world and your desire to make money! Follow your dream! 🙂

T-man, since you and your sister have been entreating me to complete my work on bacon, I decided to begin with a review of everybody that I found over the years who had an impact on unravelling the mystery of meat curing. Many of the men and women did this without even realising the value of their discoveries to the inquisitive bacon factory or production manager.

I will complete this work, but you and Lauren have to promise me that before you eventually publish my work, you will add the most recent discoveries to my letters in this section of the work. This way, it will remain current and useful to the curing professional or the layperson who wants to know bacon curing or those who are simply interested in a great story will know they have the latest version with all the facts available to us!

Nitric Oxide

A study of curing is a study in the interaction between nitrogen, oxygen with a meat protein, myoglobin, with an auxiliary role for blood proteins, haemoglobin. It is about oxygenation, protonation, and reduction. It has recently been discovered that there exists a close correlation between certain reactions in human physiology and meat curing – the exact same processes are involved which means that in the basic meat curing reaction, it so happens that we merely mimic a biological process in our bodies. I decided to begin my letters from the Union of South Africa by giving you an overview of some of the men and women who contributed to our understanding of the curing process and their important contributions.

In the letters following, I will circle back and go into some detail into the important discoveries which I touch on in this overview. There have been many important advances in our understanding of the curing reaction over the years since 1893 and they all begin with a far greater understanding of proteins on the one hand and nitrogen compounds and their role in curing on the other hand. We discovered, for example, that meat curing begins with a bacterial reduction of saltpetre (nitrate) to nitrite and then a chemical reduction of nitrite to Nitric Oxide (NO). It is the interaction of this molecule with protein that gives the meat its reddish/ pinkish colour and the important protein that it interacts with, in the muscle, turns out to be myoglobin.

Here I must caution you that early work was done by giving the interaction of nitric oxide with a protein found in blood, haemoblobin (Hemoglobin – American English; haemoglobin (British English).  This should not alarm you. Let me explain what I mean.

Haemoglobin and Myoglobin

One of the proteins in the blood cell is haemoglobin. It is a red protein that is responsible for transporting oxygen in our blood. Early researchers in meat curing did their trails on it. In recent years we discovered that the curing reaction is not so much the effect of curing agents on haemoglobin, as it is in reality, the reaction with a meat protein found in all muscles, myoglobin. The oxygen is passed from the haemoglobin in the blood to the myoglobin, located in the muscle. We can say it is the cell oxygen reservoir. When you work out and the blood oxygen delivery is not enough, it temporarily provides oxygen.

The reason for using haemoglobin was “mostly a matter of convenience” and “a matter of necessity since myoglobin was not isolated and purified until 1932 (Theorell, 1932).” “In spite of the differences between haemoglobin and myoglobin, Urbain and Jensen (1940) considered the properties of haemoglobin and its derivatives sufficiently like those of myoglobin to allow the use of haemoglobin in studies of meat pigments.” (Cole, Morton Sylvan, 1961: 2)

These are then some of the fathers of meat curing and processes that were elucidated by them. In the case of Da Vinci, he is one of many people who’s work provides a link back to our ancient past and the art of meat curing that is thousands of years old. Our art is built, in huge part, on the foundations the following people laid.

7000 BCE to 3000 BCE

Good evidence suggests that meat curing has been practiced with sodium or potassium nitrate at various locations around the world where it naturally appears as a salt. Four locations stand out. The Atacama Desert in Chile and Peru, the Tarim Basin in Western China, the Dead Sea, and Egypt. It is in the Tarim Basin, where I believe, it was first developed into the art that we recognise today with a level of sophistication in the application of saltpetre by the early Christian Era that has not been fully appreciated until recently (1987).

LEONARDO DA VINCI

FMC1

Leonardo da Vince (1452–1519) described a method of preserving the cadavers for his own dissection and study. (Brenner, E.; 2014) The mixture he used consisted of turpentine, camphor (scent masking), oil of lavender (scent masking), vermilion (colouring agent), wine, rosin (a resin used as an adhesive), sodium nitrate, and potassium nitrate. In his mix, for preservation, he relied on sodium and potassium nitrate and turpentine. It is clear from these and other examples that the preserving power of nitrates was well known, well before modern-day scientific rigour would come to the same conclusions. The knowledge of the particular taste imparted, the colour formation and the preserving power of curing through nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide has been harnessed for thousands of years.

GLAUBER, PRIESTLY, CAVENDISH, DAVEY

It is generally believed that nitric oxide, the chemical compound responsible for meat curing, was discovered by Joseph Priestly in 1772. This is not completely true. Before the time of Priestly, the production of nitric oxide was known through the reaction of nitric acid (CodeCogsEqn(7)) with any one of a number of commonly available metals. Nitric acid was, for example, known in the 13th century Europe and was known as aqua fortis. A known way of making it was was to react sulphuric acid and potassium nitrate as was developed by Johann Glauber (1604 – 1670). It was observed that a gas was formed when nitric acid was poured over copper, iron, or silver by a number of natural philosophers including Johannes van Helmont (1579 – 1644), Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691) and Georg Stahl (1660 – 1734). The last two noticed that this gas forms brown fumes when it comes in contact with the atmosphere.

Priestly’s contribution was immense in terms of identifying NO as a distinct chemical entity, separate from other gasses or “airs.” Priestly made important discoveries related to NO and was able to characterise it, but it was the eccentric and brilliant Henry Cavendish (1778 – 1810) who showed that NO is a composition of nitrogen and oxygen. Humphrey Davey (1778 – 1829) showed the diatomic nature of the compound (Butler, A. R., Nicholson, R.; 2003).

CARL WILHELM SCHEELE

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In 1777, the prolific Swedish chemist Scheele, working in the laboratory of his pharmacy in the market town of Köping, made the first pure nitrite. (Scheele CW. 1777) He heated potassium nitrate at red heat for half an hour and obtained what he recognised as a new “salt.” He realised that there was more than one “acid of niter.” He distinguished phlogisticated acid of niter or nitrous acid (HNO2), as it became known in the 1800s, from nitric acid (HNO3) as being a weaker volatile acid produced by the reduction of nitric acid. He also showed that niter, when strongly heated, lost oxygen, and left a salt that readily decomposed into a volatile acid when treated with acid. (http://nitrogen.atomistry.com/)

The two compounds (potassium nitrate and nitrite) were characterised by Péligot and the reaction established as 2KNO3→2KNO2+O2. (Péligot E. 1841: 2: 58–68) (Butler, A. R., and Feelisch, M.) (Butler, A. R., and Feelisch, M.)

ANTOINE-LAURENT DE LAVOISIER

Antoine de Lavoisier (1743 – 1794), the father of modern chemistry did landmark work on nitric acid. In 1790 he coined the terms nitrate and nitrite. In his work on nitric acid, he noted that different oxidation states of nitrogen have been known for some time. The term niter was allocated to these compounds by Macquer and Beaumé, but Lavoisier changed this to nitrites and nitrates “as they are formed by nitric or by nitrous acid.” (Lavoisier, A; 1965: 217)

CARL REMIGIUS FRESENIUS

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A private laboratory was founded in 1848 in Germany by C. R. Fresenius (his doctoral advisor was none other than Justus von Liebig). One of the first recorded tests of nitrite as a meat preservative took place at his laboratory. (Morton, I. D. and Lenges. J.,1992: 142)

JUSTINUS KERNER

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Kerner in Germany makes the link between Saltpetre and food safety particularly in relation to the prevention of botulism. After studying many outbreaks of botulism, he identifies the omission of saltpetre from the curing brine as the common denominator in the various outbreaks. (1817, 1820, 1822) (Peter, F. M. (Editor), 1981.)

HÜNEFELD

Hünefeld in 1840 observed a crystalline substance in the blood of an earthworm thus discovering haemoglobin. “Reichert, von Kolliker, Leydig, Budge, Kunde, and many others noted that blood from various species yielded a similar crystalline substance. As early as 1852 Funke described the method of laking blood with water and then inducing crystal formation with alcohol and ether. Laking is defined as “the physical or chemical treatment of blood to abolish the structure of the red cells and thus form a homogeneous solution. Laking is an important preliminary step in the analysis of haemoglobin or enzymes present in red cells.” Although he prepared only small quantities of haemoglobin, the principle of this method has been widely used” for many years. (Ferry, R. M.; 1923)

HUMPHREY DAVY

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Humphrey Davy (1778 – 1829) in 1812 (cited by Hermann, 1865) and Hoppe-Seyler (1864) was the first to note the action of nitric oxide upon haemoglobin. (Hoagland, R.; 1914: 213)

HERMANN

Hermann studied the properties of the compound formed in the reaction between haemoglobin and nitric oxide. He discovered the compound Nitric Oxide-Hemoglobin (NO-Hemoglobin) in 1865 and it was supposed that it existed only in a laboratory. Until the work of Haldane, the compound has not attracted much attention. (Haldane, J. 1901)

Hermann showed the spectrum of oxyhemoglobin and NO-hemoglobin. “The blood saturated with nitric oxide was found to be darker in colour than either arterial blood or that saturated with carbon monoxide.” (Hoagland, R.; 1914: 213)

T. LAUDER BRUNTON

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In 1867, Brunton identifies nitrite as a treatment for angina, the first nitrovasodilator. His story is interesting and I quote a section edited by Hurst, J. W. from a 1989 article that appeared in Clinical Cardiology.

“Brunton learned of amyl nitrite from faculty members at Edinburgh who were interested in this substance that had been synthesised in 1844 by the French chemist Antoine Balard.” (Hurst, J. W.; 1989) Antoine-Jerome Balard achieved this when he passed nitrogen fumes through amyl-alcohol. An interesting liquid was formed. It had a pungent smell and when he inhaled it, it made him blush. He told a friend that he is a shameless character and nothing makes him blush. He speculated that the compound dilated the blood vessels and caused a drop in blood pressure. Bruton thought that anything that dilated the blood vessels of the skin may have the same effect on the heart. (Dormandy, 2006)

“London physician Benjamin Ward Richardson discussed possible medical uses of amyl nitrite at meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science between 1863 and 1865. Arthur Gamgee, a recent Edinburgh graduate, also studied the physiological effects of amyl nitrite and encouraged Brunton to continue these investigations when he discovered that inhalation of the substance reduced arterial tension as measured by the sphygmograph.” (Hurst, J. W.; 1989)

“While a house physician at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Brunton became impressed with the lack of effective treatment for angina pectoris. Although the popularity of therapeutic bleeding had declined by the late 1860s, it was still advocated for the treatment of angina by some authors. When Brunton bled patients with angina some of them seemed to improve. He explained, “As I believe the relief produced by the bleeding to be due to the diminution it occasioned in the arterial tension, it occurred to me that a substance which possesses the power of lessening it in such an eminent degree as nitrite of amyl would probably produce the same effect, and might be repeated as often as necessary without detriment to the patient’s health.” Brunton began to study the effects of amyl nitrite on patients in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. When it was administered to patients with chest pain thought to represent angina, the discomfort usually disappeared in less than a minute. This was accompanied by facial flushing – an outward sign of the effect of amyl nitrite on the vascular system. Brunton published his observations on the value of amyl nitrite in angina in Lancet in 1867. Amyl nitrite was rapidly accepted by practitioners as an effective agent for angina pectoris.” (Hurst, J. W.; 1989)

The reason for this inclusion is the fact that amyl nitrite, like alkyl nitrites, as discovered by Brunton, is a very effective vasodilator. How it achieves this is that alkyl nitrite is a source of nitric oxide, which signals for relaxation of the involuntary muscles. Some of the physical effects are a decrease in blood pressure, headache, flushing of the face, increased heart rate, dizziness, and relaxation of involuntary muscles.

It has been discovered that nitrites and nitric oxide perform this function in the human body as a normal course of physiology. The reduction step of nitrite to nitric oxide which is the final step in meat curing turns out to be an essential mechanism in the human body that makes life possible. The full effect of Brunton’s discovery and the link with NO formation would not be realised until 1987 (Salt – 7000 years of meat curing).

There is another interesting reason. A friend of mine, Gero Lütge, a 3rd generation German Master Butcher grew up in the German town of Braunschweig in Lower Saxony, Germany.

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Apprenticeship book of Otto Lütge, qualified butcher in 1927.

If anyone can tell you anything about meat, it is Gero and as someone who inherited his trade from his father and grandfather, he is a rich source of historical anecdotes, illustrations, and information! He tells the story of his grandfather, Otto Lütge, who used to buy nitrite for meat curing, from the pharmacy. That would have been somewhere between the years 1950 and 1970 before it actually was regulated by law.

He confirmed that it was indeed nitrite and not nitrate that his grandfather added. The colour was more intense and stable, but health issues were a big concern, in particular, cancer from which he himself passed away.

Butchers could have bought nitrate also from the pharmacy. Following Bruton’s application of amyl nitrite for chest pains, William Murrell experimented with glyceryl nitrate to treat angina pectoris and to reduce blood pressure. After Murrell published on it in 1879, it became widely available as a remedy. It was officially known as glyceryl trinitrate, but due to a longer curing time, butchers would have preferred nitrite and in all likelihood, if they bought it through pharmacies, it would have been amyl nitrite. Fascinatingly, this indicates that there is a possibility that amyl nitrite was used in meat curing.

ARTHUR GAMGEE

On 7 May 1868, Dr. Arthur Gamgee, who studied the physiological effects of amyl nitrite along with Brunton at the University of Edinburgh, brother of the famous veterinarian, Professor John Gamgee (who contributed to the attempt to find ways to preserve whole carcasses during a voyage between Australia and Britain), published a groundbreaking article entitled, “On the action of nitrites on the blood.” He observed the colour change brought about by nitrite. He wrote, “The addition of … nitrites to blood … causes the red colour to return…” Over the next 30 years, it would be discovered that it is indeed nitrites responsible for curing and not the nitrates added as saltpetre.

MEUSEL, GAYON, AND DUPETIT

The important reduction process of nitrate to nitrite was identified by E. Meusel (1875) who was the first to associate microorganisms with nitrogen losses. He noted that antiseptic-sensitive agents identified as mixed populations of bacteria in soil and natural waters reduced nitrates to nitrites and even further. (Meusel, E. 1875) Gayon and Dupetit coined the term denitrification in 1882. (Gayon, U., and G. Dupetit; 1883) It was this knowledge that was the basis of Polenske’s speculation about the source of nitrite in curing brine and cured meat. (See Saltpeter: A Concise History and the Discovery of Dr Ed Polenske)

POLENSKE

Dr. Ed Polenske (1849-1911), working for the Imperial Health Office in Germany, made the first discovery that would lead to a full understanding of the curing action. He prepared a brine to cure meat and used only salt and saltpetre (nitrates). When he tested it a week later, it tested positive for nitrites.

The question is where did the nitrites come from if he did not add it to the brine to begin with. He correctly speculated that this was due to nitrate being converted by microbial action into nitrite. He published in 1891. For a full discussion on this landmark article, see Saltpeter: A Concise History and the Discovery of Dr Ed Polenske

NOTHWANG

Following Dr. Polenski’s observation, the German scientist, Nothwang confirmed the presence of nitrite in curing brines in 1892 but attributed the reduction from nitrate to nitrite to the meat tissue itself. The link between nitrite and cured meat colour was finally established in 1899 by another German scientist, K. B. Lehmann in a simple but important experiment.

LEHMANN

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Karl Bernhard Lehmann (1858 – 1940) was a German hygienist and bacteriologist born in Zurich.

In an experiment, he boiled fresh meat with nitrite and a little bit of acid. A red colour resulted, similar to the red of cured meat. He repeated the experiment with nitrates and no such reddening occurred, thus establishing the link between nitrite and the formation of a stable red meat colour in meat.

K. B. Lehmann made another important observation that must be noted when he found the colour to be soluble in alcohol and ether and to give a spectrum showing an absorption band just at the right of the D line, and a second band, often poorly defined, at the left of the E line. On standing, the colour of the solution changed to brown and gave the spectrum of alkaline hematin, the colouring group.

KIßKALT

In the same year, another German hygienist, one of Lehmann’s assistants at the Institute of Hygiene in Würzburg, Karl Kißkalt (1875 – 1962), confirmed Lehmann’s observations and showed that the same red colour resulted if the meat was left in saltpetre (potassium nitrate) for several days before it was cooked.

HALDANE

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The brilliant British physiologist and philosopher, John Scott Haldane weighed in on the topic. He was born in 1860 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was part of a lineage of important and influential scientists. Haldane contributed immensely to the application of science across many fields of life. This formidable scientist was for example responsible for developing decompression tables for deep-sea diving used to this day.

“Haldane was an observer and an experimentalist, who always pointed out that careful observation and experiments had to be the basis of any theoretical analysis. “Why think when you can experiment” and “Exhaust experiments and then think.” (Lang, M. A., and Brubakk, A. O. 2009. The Haldane Effect)

S. J. Haldane applied the same rigour to cured meat and became the first person to demonstrate that the addition of nitrite to haemoglobin produce a nitric oxide (NO)-heme bond, called iron-nitrosyl-hemoglobin (HbFeIINO). He showed that nitrite is further reduced to nitric oxide (NO) in the presence of muscle myoglobin and forms iron-nitrosyl-myoglobin. It is nitrosylated myoglobin that gives cured meat, including bacon and hot dogs, their distinctive red colour and protects the meat from oxidation and spoiling. This is how he discovered it. Remember the observation made by K. B. Lehmann that the colour of fresh meat cooked in water with nitrites and free acid to give a spectrum showing an absorption band just at the right of the D line, and a second band, often poorly defined, at the left of the E line.

Haldane found the same colour to be present in cured meat. That it is soluble in water and giving a spectrum characteristic of NO-hemoglobin. The formation of the red colour in uncooked salted meats is explained by the action of nitrites in the presence of a reducing agent and in the absence of oxygen upon haemoglobin, the normal colouring matter of fresh meats. He showed that the redox reaction occurs in meat during curing (1901).

Haldane finally showed the formation of nitrosylhemochromogen from nitrosylhemoglobin (nitrite added to haemoglobin) when thermal processing has been applied and identified this as the pigment responsible for the cooked cured meat colour. He attributed this formation to NO-hemoglobin denaturing into two parts namely hemin (the colouring group) and the denatured protein (1901).

HOAGLAND

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Ralph Hoagland was the Senior Biochemist, Biochemie Division, Bureau of Animal Industry, United States Department of Agriculture in Chicago. Prior to this appointment, Hoagland was the department head of the Minnesota College of Agriculture (part of the University of Minnesota), appointed in 1909. Presently, the College of Agriculture is the College of Biological Sciences. (http://cbs.umn.edu/ and The Bismarck Tribune; 1912)

In 1908 he published results obtained upon studying the action of saltpetre upon the colour of meat and “found that the value of this agent in the curing of meats depends upon its reduction to nitrites and nitric oxide, with the consequent production of NO-hemoglobin, to which compound the red colour of salted meats is due.” He found that “saltpetre, as such, [had] no value as a flesh-colour preservative.” (Hoagland, R. 1914.)

The results of his 1914 publication are summarised by himself as follows:

a. The colour of uncooked salted meats cured with potassium nitrate, or saltpetre, is generally due, in large part at least, to the presence of NO-hemoglobin, although the colour of certain kinds of such meats may be due in part or in whole to NO-hemochromogen. (Hoagland, R. 1914.)

b. The NO-hemoglobin is produced by the action of the nitric oxide resulting from the reduction of the saltpetre used in salting upon the haemoglobin of the meat. (Hoagland, R. 1914.)

c. The colour of cooked salted meats cured with saltpetre is due to the presence of NO-hemochromogen resulting from the reduction of the colour of the raw salted meat on cooking. (Hoagland, R. 1914.)

BARCROFT AND MULLER

They did not discover the link between nitrite and methaemoglobin, but they were the first to venture an opinion in 1911 on the quantitative relationship that exists between nitrite added and the formation of methaemoglobin. (reported by Greenberg, L. A. et al.; 1943) This is a form of haemoglobin where the iron in the heme group is in the ferrous (CodeCogsEqn (1)) state and not in the ferric (CodeCogsEqn (2)) state. In this state, it can not bind oxygen and in the body, an enzymic action is required to convert it back to haemoglobin.

The reason why haemoglobin turns brown is that nitrite is a very strong heme oxidant. It is the same reason why meat (in particular comminuted meat) that has been injected or tumbled with nitrite also turns brown. This capacity of nitrite increases as the pH decreases. Nitrite itself may be partially oxidised to nitrate during the process of curing and during storage. (Pegg and Shahodi, 2000)

LADISLAV NACHMÜLLNER

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In 1915, at age 19, Ladislav Nachmüllner invents Praganda, the first legal commercial curing brine containing sodium nitrite in the city of Prague. He says that he discovered the power of sodium nitrite through “modern-day professional and scientific investigation.” He probably actively sought an application of the work of Haldane. He quotes the exact discovery that Haldane was credited for in 1901 that nitrite interacts with the meat’s “haemoglobin, which is changing to red nitro-oxy-haemoglobin.” (The Naming of Prague Salt)

MITCHELL AND COLLABORATORS

In February 1916, H. H. Mitchell, H. A. Shonle and H. H. Grindley from the Department of Animal Husbandry at the University of Illinois, Urbana, published “The Origin of the Nitrates in the Urine,” showing that mammals produce nitrate.

LEWIS AND MORAN

In 1928, these researchers suggested that nitrite had antimicrobial efficacy. This was later confirmed by others. (example Evans and Tanner, 1934; Tarr, 1941, 1942, 1944). This becomes one of the great examples of the discovery and continued re-discovery of the same fact by successive civilisations. Beginning with Lewis and Morgan, the antimicrobial efficacy of nitrite was now being subjected to a modern scientific scrutiny despite thousands of years of evidence to the facts. (Peter, F. M. (Editor), 1981)

BROOKS

The reaction of nitrite through the formation of nitrous acid and “its reaction with deoxyhemoglobin to form nitric oxide (NO) and methemoglobin was more fully described by Brooks in 1937. (Gladwin, M. T., et al.; 2008)

DOYLE

The mechanism and unusual behaviour of the reaction of nitrite with deoxyhemoglobin and nitric oxide formation are further described by Doyle and colleagues in 1981.” (Gladwin, M. T., et al.; 2008)

STEINKE AND FOSTER

In 1951 they became the first to demonstrate conclusively the antimicrobial efficacy of nitrite in meat products when added at the levels in use today by commercial curing operations. (Peter, F. M. (Editor), 1981)

H. C. HORNSEY

In 1956 he demonstrated that the characteristic red pigment of cooked cured meat could be extracted completely by an 80% acetone-water mixture. This made the collection of data on the electronic absorbance and reflectance of the cooked cured meat pigment possible and provided an invaluable tool for future researchers. (Hornsey, 1956)

JOHN KENDREW AND MAX PERUTZ

“In 1958 and 1960 molecular biologist John Kendrew published “A Three-Dimensional Model of the Myoglobin Molecule Obtained by X-ray Analysis” (with G. Bodo, H. M. Dintzis, R. G. Parrish, H. Wyckoff,) Nature 181 (1958) 662-666, and “Structure of Myoglobin: A Three-Dimensional Fourier synthesis at 2 Å Resolution” (with R. E. Dickerson, B. E. Strandberg, R. G. Hart, D. R. Davies, D. C. Phillips, V. C. Shore). Nature 185 (1960) 422-27). These papers reported the first solution of the three-dimensional molecular structure of a protein, for which Kendrew received the 1962 Nobel Prize in chemistry, together with his friend and colleague Max Perutz, who solved the structure of the related and more complex protein, haemoglobin, two years after Kendrew’s achievement.” (www.historyofinformation.com) This becomes a crucial tool to progress our understanding of the interaction of nitrite and nitric oxide with the meat protein.

SALVADOR MONCADA AND LOUIS IGNARRO

A phenomenal discovery was made when nitric oxide was identified as a key signalling molecule in human physiology, showing that meat curing is a “natural process”. “Lining almost all blood vessels on the inside is a layer of cells known as the endothelium. A very important function of the endothelium was first reported in 1890 by Furchgott and Zawadzki. The presence of acetylcholine (a small biologically active molecule) in the bloodstream affects vasodilation and it was generally assumed that acetylcholine acted directly upon vascular muscle. However, this was found not to be the case. Furchgott and Zawadzki showed convincingly that that acetylcholine acted, not upon the muscle of the artery, but upon the endothelium and the endothelium produces a “second messenger” which then acts upon the muscles to effect relaxation. This second messenger was christened “the endothelium-derived relaxing factor” (EDRF).” (Cullen, C, Lo, V.; 2005)

During the 1980’s, an intense effort was effected to identify the EDRF. It was initially assumed that it would turn out to be a complex molecule like a hormone. This speculation enhanced the surprise when the chemical nature of the molecule was finally determined. It turned out to be a small diatomic molecule called Nitric Oxide (NO). “That it had a physiological role, in a process as important as vasodilation, came as a complete surprise.” (Cullen, C, Lo, V.; 2005)

“The discovery was made simultaneously by a group at the Wellcome Research Laboratories in Beckenham led by Professor Salvador Moncada and by a group in the USA led by Professor Louis Ignarro. The 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded for this discovery. Once nitric oxide had been detected in one physiological process it was found to have roles in many others, from inflammation to crying.” (Cullen, C, Lo, V.; 2005)

The debate on the safety of nitrites and nitrates in meat curing is not settled by these developments. What it does is to bring to bear much greater interest upon nitrite and nitric oxide and their role in human physiology, including the health risks associated with their intake. It is nevertheless an astounding fact that meat curing has, through the ages, kept so close to natural physiological processes.

On the Shoulders of Giants

These formidable scientists laid the scientific foundation for the full understanding of the mechanism behind curing. All questions have still not been answered, but we continue to build on their work. It shapes our understanding of the action of nitric oxide on blood and muscle protein. Meat curing is, in the end, a natural process that has been practised for thousands of years.

This is a remarkable fact, Tristan, which I can not over-emphasize. What we realise in meat curing is that it follows the most natural reactions in meat, so important that without those exact same reactions taking place in our bodies continually, life would not be possible! Early man discovered that the most perfect dish is one that is cured with a process that exactly mimics physiological processes in our bodies. How remarkable is that! The men listed above, each made a vital contribution to the discovery of the complete process and without these many lifetimes of scientific work, we would not have understood meat curing. Almost in parallel with these men, many countless butchers have done countless small experiments in the form of trials in their individual butcheries and contributed to the full scientific understanding by the diligent application of their trade!

There is a fundamental lesson here. We do not live in isolation. We stand on the shoulders of many diligent students of life and nature before us and we do well to go back to the origin of every important discovery. The most basic understanding of anything is fundamental to every subsequent discovery. This is true about bacon as well as the art of living.

It is June in Cape Town and the storms lash the Cape. It is impressive to see the power of the ocean. I enjoyed putting this list of men and their contributions together as it gave me a chance to review much of their work. This remains on of the most exciting projects I can dedicate my time to.

Lots of love from Cape Town,

Dad and Minette.


Further Reading

The Fathers of Meat Curing

Concerning the direct addition of nitrite to curing brine

The Naming of Prague Salt


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Notes

References

Extracts from:

Concerning the direct addition of nitrite to curing brine

The Naming of Prague Salt

Additional information references:

The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota); 10 July 1912; page 2.

Brenner, E.. 2014. Human body preservation – old and new techniques Erich Brenner. J. Anat.(2014) 224, pp316–344 doi: 10.1111/joa.12160

Butler, A. R., Nicholson, R.. 2003. Life, Death and Nitric Oxide. Royal Society of Chemistry.

Butler, A. R. and Feelisch, M. New Drugs and Technologies. Therapeutic Uses of Inorganic Nitrite and Nitrate From the Past to the Future. From: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/117/16/2151.full

Cole, Morton Sylvan, “Relation of sulfhydryl groups to the fading of cured meat ” (1961). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2402

Cullen, C, Lo, V.. 2005. Medieval Chinese Medicine: The Dunhuang Medical Manuscripts. Routledge Curzon.

Dormandy, T.. 2006. The Worst of Evils: The Fight Against Pain. Yale University Press.

Ferry, R. M.. 1923. STUDIES IN THE CHEMISTRY OF HEMOGLOBIN.
Department of Physical Chemistry, in the Laboratory of Physiology; Harvard Medical School, Boston
Gladwin, M. T., Grubina, R., Doyle, M. P.. 2008. The New Chemical Biology of Nitrite Reactions with Hemoglobin: R-State Catalysis, Oxidative Denitrosylation, and Nitrite Reductase/Anhydrase. Acc. Chem. Res., 2009, 42 (1), pp 157–167, DOI: 10.1021/ar800089j, Publication Date (Web): September 11, 2008, American Chemical Society

Greenberg, L. A. Lester, D., Haggard, H. W., 1943. THE REACTION OF HEMOGLOBIN WITH NITRITE, From the Laboratory of Applied Physiology, Yale University, New Haven, Received for publication, September 10, 1943.

Gayon, U., and G. Dupetit. 1883. La fermentation des nitrates. Mem. Sot. Sci. Phys. Nat. Bordeaux Ser. 2. 5:35-36.

Haldane, J. 1901. The Red Colour of Salted Meat.

Hoagland, R. 1914. Cloring matter of raw and cooked salted meats. Laboratory Inspector, Biochemie Division, Bureau of Animal Industry. Journal of Agricultural Research, Vol. Ill, No. 3 Dept. of Agriculture, Washington, D. C. Dec. 15, 1914.

Hornsey, H. C. “The Colour of Cooked Cured Pork. I. Estimation of the Nitric oxide-Haem Pigments”. J. Sci. Food Agric. 1956, 7, 534-540.

Hurst, J. W., 1989. M. D., T. Lauder Brunton, 1844- 19 16, w. B. FYE, M.D Cardiology Department, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wisconsin, USA. Clin. Cardiol. 12, 675-676 (1989)

Lavoisier, A. 1965. Elements of Chemistry. Dover Publications, Inc. A republication of a 1790 publication

Mitchell, H. H.., Shonle, H. A., Grindley, H. S.. 1916. THE ORIGIN OF THE NITRATES IN THE URINE, From the Department of Animal Husbandry, University of Illinois, Urbana

Morton, I. D. and Lenges. J. 1992. Education and Training in Food Science: A Changing Scene. Ellis Hornwood Limited.

Meusel, E. 1875. De la putrefaction produite par les batteries, en presence des nitrates alcalins. C. R. Hebd. Seances Acad. Sci. 81:533-534.

Peter, F. M. (Editor), 1981. The Health Effects of Nitrate, Nitrite, and N- Nitroso Compounds. Part 1. National Acadamy Press

Pegg, R. B. and Shahidi, F.. 2000. Nitrite curing of meat. Food & Nutrition Press, Inc.

Péligot E. 1841. Sur l’acide hypoazotique et sur l’acide azoteux. Ann Chim Phys.; 2: 58–68.

Scheele CW. 1777. Chemische Abhandlung von der Luft und dem Feuer. Upsala, Sweden: M. Swederus.

Photo Credits:

L Da Vinci: https://www.codeavengers.com/c/gabrielj/leonardodavinci.html

Carl Scheele: http://www.explicatorium.com/biografias/carl-sheele.html

Justinus Kerner: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justinus_Kerner

C. R. Fresenius: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Remigius_Fresenius

Humphrey Davy: https://global.britannica.com/biography/Sir-Humphry-Davy-Baronet

Lehmann: http://www.kumc.edu/

J S Haldane: https://en.wikipedia.org

T. LAUDER BRUNTON: Hurst, J. W., 1989. M. D., T. Lauder Brunton, 1844- 19 16, w. B. FYE, M.D Cardiology Department, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wisconsin, USA. Clin. Cardiol. 12, 675-676 (1989)

Hoagland. Popular Science. 1912.

Photo References

Chapter 12.00: The Union Letters

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.


The Union Letters

Sea Point, Cape Town,
1959

The quest to understand Bacon and the Art of Living has by 1959 consumed 66 years of my time on earth. I lived through three major wars. The second Anglo Boer War was fought between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902 and the First and the Second World War which occurred respectively between 28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918 and 1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945.

When the sun sets over the Atlantic, Minette and I sit in our Seapoint apartment, watching it cast its deep orange cloak over our world. We play chess or cards on the balcony which has been turned into a sunroom when we enclosed it with glass a few years ago. We slowly sip on Gyn and remiss about the old days. In the morning we walk along the Sea Point promenade to stay active. We still regularly hike on Table Mountain but not as often as we should.  At night we stay home and enjoy each other’s company.

Tristan and Lauren

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Tristan and Lauren during the construction of our first factory.

Tristan and Lauren have each gone their own way.  Tristan followed his own passion when he joined a travel firm based in Australia.  Lauren studies B Com. Tristan completed B Com which he did part-time. They both outgrew the difficulties associated with ones childhood and have their own amazing families to take care of.

Woody’s Bacon

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The new Woodys logo. Willem Klynveld managed its creation.

Oscar and I grew Woodys into the largest supplier to retail in South Africa of own branded products for outlets like Pick ‘n Pay and Checkers producing 15 tonnes of the best bacon on earth every day.  We both decided its time to bid our baby farewell when Oom Koos and Duncan took the company over during the depression years and we both decided to follow other meat-related ambitions.

Letters from the Union – Therapy for an Old Man

The kids kept asking me for years to write down my memories from 1893 to 1959 and together with the letters I wrote them, Dawie Hyman, David de Villiers Graaff, and Oscar when I was abroad, learning the art of producing the best bacon on earth compile it into a book. After many years of dragging my feet, I finally decided to take them up on the request. The final idea came together at a time when both Tristan and Lauren were both living in Europe and New Zealand. This time it was not me on a quest around the world to unravel the secrets of bacon curing. It was the two kids travelling and I could write to them, not from Europe but now from home while they are living abroad. I find it difficult to make small talk on the telephone. Writing them about events following 1893 was the perfect structure I was looking for to build my letters around. So I picked the story up where I left off in 1893 when I wrote them my last letter about bacon from New Zealand. They were both pleased with the suggestion since it gives us regular contact and I fulfil their request for completing my work on bacon.

Imperial Cold Storage & Supply Co.

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The prospectus of the company replacing Combrink & Co. in 1899.

David de Villiers Graaff ultimately changed the name of Combrinck & Co. to the Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Co.  He made his fortune at least three times. The one time was when the city wanted to expand the railway station at the bottom of Adderly Street and needed to relocated Combrink & Co.. The location where they wanted to move the butchery business to as well as the money in compensation were both in dispute. After a process of arbitration, an astronomical amount of  £55 000 was awarded to them on 2 March 1895. David approached the high court to endorse the outcome of the arbitration process. The matter was heard on 9 March 1895 by the chief justice John Henry de Villiers and Justice Thomas Upington who found for Combrink & Co. and the  £55 000 was endorsed and made an order of the court.  This provided the initial financial basis for the development of their consumer goods empire.

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The old railway entrance at the Cape Town Headquarters of the ICS.

The second instance was the outbreak of rinderpest, a dreaded disease afflicting cattle that annihilated an estimated 2,500,000 cattle and untold numbers of game across southern Africa. Its spread into South Africa started around 1895.  David’s answer was to import frozen meat from Australia and to distribute it to cold storage facilities to be erected throughout the region. In order to finance this elaborate scheme, early on in 1897, David and his one brother, Jacobus Graaff started thinking of floating a limited liabilities company. On 4 May 1899, the South African Supply & Cold Storage Co. Ltd. was registered with a nominal capital of £450 000.

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Oxen being slaughtered “roughly” in the field. They were then hoisted up with slaughter poles and cut into joints for cooking. (From Ice Cold In Africa)

It allowed David to erect cold storage facilities across Southern Africa and the chance to import vast quantities of meat into the Colony and later into the Union of South Africa. During the Anglo Boer War, the Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Company won the tender to supply the British forces with meat. With the refrigerated railway cars that David saw in Chicago when he visited Philip Armour’s packing plant, he was the only firm that had the capacity to take on such an enterprise. Apart from this, the company became one of the largest meat processing companies in the world.  Our friend eventually sold his shares and the name of the company was changed to ICS during the Great Depression.

The company was in financial trouble by 1934 due to hardship that probably goes back to 1925.  Anglo-American corporation became its biggest shareholder with the total share capital of the company increased to GB£2.2 million (equivalent to £436,000,000 in 2010). The company worked closer and closer with Tiger Oats which was, back then, also a subsidiary of Anglo-American corporation.  (1)

Dawie Hyman

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Eben, Dawie and Tristan at Truth Coffee.

Dawie Hyman returned to America where he transitioned from working for the Community Chess in Los Angeles and the Twin Cities of St Paul and Minneapolis to establish his own company supplying solutions in the manipulation of data. After Minette and my visit to New Zealand, we never made it to America as our partners in Cape Town needed our urgent participation in setting up the bacon company and its processing plant. We did eventually make it to Los Angeles many years later, but the objective of the visit was related to further training in areas outside the narrow scope of bacon which consumed me for so many years.

Family

My mom and dad both passed away. My dad passed away after a motor accident on the way home from a vacation in Natal and my mom, after a long sickbed where she struggled with dementia. My brother, Elmar, became a lawyer and later turned his attention to real estate and the retirement industry. Juanita, his wife, kept working as an optometrist, raising Pieter Willem and Handre, their beautiful two boys. Andre, our older brother left the forestry business and entered the personal protection industry. Fanie and Luani, Minette’s brother-in-law and her twin sister, continue to live in Cape Town and their two kids, Liam and Luan went on to have successful careers in their own right.

Union of South Africa

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The Times, London, England, 11 October 1910

South Africa became a Union in 1910 and there is talk right now that it will sever its ties with Brittain and form a fully independent Republic. I have my own mixed feelings about it and see the attitude of many white people as desiring nothing more than to have independence in order to secure a continuation of slavery just in another disguise. I remember how this happened with the institution of a system of indenture after slavery was abolished and the Transvaal Republic looked for ways to continue the diabolical practice. There were reports of slave markets, now in a new form, but effectively the same thing continues to exist in Southern Africa right up to the end of the 1800s. The English waged the First Anglo Boer war based on an assertion that this system was nothing less than slavery by another name.

I insert the opening paragraph of Louis Botha’s speech when we became a Union. It shows the deeply embedded racist undertones that existed even in the thinking of people even of the statue of General Louis Botha.

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The Buffalo Sunday Morning, 14 August 1910, the opening paragraph of a speech by Louis Botha.

While the Black people got a raw deal, the Union gave unprecedented power to former foes of the British Empire, the Boers.

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The Guardian, London, 1 June 1910, a day after the Union was proclaimed.  Celebrating the new political power now largely in the hands of the Afrikaners.

The achievement of the Boer nation was remarkable and this fact should never be underestimated. Here are two more extracts from the newspaper article quoted above, from the Manchester Guardian. It deals with the fact that a Union was a better option than a Federation and how this gave greater autonomy to the former Boer republics.  It highlights another remarkable fact of the Union of South Africa in the following clipping from the paper.

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This unification of the Afrikaner and English South Africa became a focal point for both Botha and Smuts. The respect from the British that became the basis of their new approach to the Boer nation was built upon respect gained in the Anglo Boer war. In December 1889, in a piece I wrote from Johannesburg entitled, Seeds of War, I recount my meeting of a Boer called Daniel Jacobs.  One night at a dry riverbed outside Kimberly, he asked me if we could camp together for the night. He was travelling alone and our transport party provided him with the security in numbers for the night which lone travellers lack. He was on his way to Johannesburg on government business. I kept in contact with Daniel and after the Boer War, he shared the following fascinating account with me which illustrates my point.

He told me the story of one Gustav Baumann who was born on 21 November 1858 in Bloemfontein. His dad immigrated from Germany and was one of the first residents of  Bloemfontein. Gustav was a land surveyor in the Free State and later became Chief Surveyor General. His daughter published a book on her father’s memories after his passing, The Lost Republic: The Biography of a Land Surveyor by Gustav Baumann and Elfrieda Bright. He was a very compassionate person.

He matriculated from Grey College and even though his mother tongue was Afrikaans, he learned English while in school. During the War with England, he fought on the side of the Boers and was captured when Bloemfontain fell in English hands. Pres. Steyn, the president of the Boer Republic of the Free State instructed him to stay behind and to hand the Free State land title deeds to the English forces.

After the war, he met the Boer warrior and folk hero, General de Wet.  He told Daniel, (2) “Meeting old General de Wet after the war, I asked him why, after Bloemfontein and Pretoria had been captured and we knew we could never win the war, he still went on fighting: ‘Mr. Baumann,’ he said, ‘we kept on because we had to knock respect for our people into the British!’ This is exactly the point I am making about the basis for the English treatment of the Boer nations following the war. It was predicated on respect. His daughter later wrote about her father (2), “Gustav Baumann, who was an old friend of de Wet’s, and who had the greatest admiration for the old warrior…”

He also made another point of something that my great grandfather, JW Kok referred to which I wrote about in October 1960 where I celebrate The Castlemain Bacon Company from Australia as a producer of some of the finest bacon on earth. Here, he makes mention of the fact that some of the Boers who were captured early on in the war were accused of “ill-discipline.” 

de wet et al

Nico Moolamn describes this as “surely… one of the classiest photos in my collection. As dyed by friend Tinus le Roux. For my book “Thank you, general.” Commandant Flip de Vos, Genl De Wet and Veldkornet Alfred Thring at Kroonstad. ABO era.

Gustav Baumann recounts the following about the ill-discipline of the Boers early on in the campaign.  “The lack of discipline, especially in the early stages of the war, was appalling. My brother Herbert was a veld-kornet with the forces investing Kimberley. He was visited by a veld-kornet of the Transvaal Forces. While they were drinking coffee together, a messenger arrived from the Hoft-Commandant (Highest Commandant) for the Transvaler: Commandant Cronje wants to see you at once.” “And who the devil is Cronje to order me about?’ he demanded. ‘Tell him I’ll come when I am ready.’ He finished his coffee and left at his leisure.” He later writes that “…after three years of fighting the men still in the field had learned the art of war.”

Irrespective of the achievements of the Boer, the separation of races and the exploitation of black people and their exclusion from decisionmaking and government never stopped in South Africa but things went from bad to worse when the National Party came to power in 1924 for a short time and again in 1948 which lasted to 1994.  It was in 1948 when a new word was coined to describe the policies of the new government – “apartheid”.  I can see no positive outcome to the scheme and fail to understand how the white population can continue to think that a future is possible that is built upon the exploitation of our fellow human beings and excluding them from determining their own future.  On the other hand, the Boers got a deal, pretty close to what they were fighting for over many years.  South Africa remains a deeply divided land with great opportunities as was proven by David de Villiers Graaff, despite tremendous personal challenges and the diabolical system instituted by the National Government which kept the black man in bondage.

I believe that the unequal distribution of the resources of this great land will come home to haunt every people living here. The English will lose their “little England” and the Boers their “God-given independence” and little Holland with its straight and orderly lines, their language and their church. The peoples from whom they have taken so much by force and illegitimately will grow up to be united and strong enough to fight back. They will leave their care-free existence to forge peoples organised like the superpowers who lord it over them right now and will one day throw the joke off with no regard for Brittain or Holland or the ideal of “self-preservation to the exclusion of all others,” so well exemplified by the Afrikaner. They are training generations of people to hate with a burning fire!  Will they ever be able to withstand what is coming their way?

Bacon Curing and the first Union Cabinet.

It is remarkable that beacon curing and the meat trade featured very prominently in the first Union Cabinet.

Louis Botha’s 1910 cabinet. Supplied by Linda Fouché‎.

Gen Louis Botha was the man who championed the course for the development of the meat industry in South Africa. He had a great ally in David de Villiers Graaff who created ICS which became Tiger Brands. FR Moor is 3rd from the left, back row, looking to his right. His younger brother, JW Moor was the chairman of the farmers cooperative that became Eskort. Botha opened the Eskort factory in Estcourt, Natal shortly before he passed away. The first curing system that Eskort used was the Wiltshire cure associated with Tank Curing.

Through the presence of Botha, De Villiers Graaff and Moor one can see the two South African cold meat giants, Enterprise and Eskort, the largest bacon producer in South Africa represented in the first cabinet.

Meat Curing Focus

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Photograph from L V Praagh, The Transvaal, and its Mines, 1906, p.321, of the curing room of a cold storage and butcher’s shop in  Fordsburg, Johannesburg.

My focus remained steadfastly on understanding the chemistry of meat curing to aim Woodys in the right direction. In recent years I became intensely interested in the development of meat curing and preservation in Africa during pre-colonial times. This is a project on its own to reduce to writing at a future time. When I am done with my work on bacon and the good Lord grants me health and a few more years, I will take this project up for there are amazing tales related to it that have never been told!

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Unie van Suid-Afrika, Departement van Landbou en Bosbou, Hulpboek vir Boere in Suid-Africa, 3de en uitgebreide uitgawe, saamgestel deur D. J. Seymore (Redakteur)

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Unie van Suid-Afrika, Departement van Landbou en Bosbou, Hulpboek vir Boere in Suid-Africa, 3de en uitgebreide uitgawe, saamgestel deur D. J. Seymore (Redakteur)

Bacon & the Art of Living

The letters that follow tell the rest of the story of Bacon & the Art of Living written from South Africa to my children who are living abroad.

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When I’m not working (curing meat) or exploring with Minette, this is my life!


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(c) eben van tonder

Bacon & the art of living” in book form
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Notes

(1) In March 1982 Barlow bought a large interest in Tiger Oats and the controlling share in Imperial Cold Storage. In October 1998 Tiger Brands (Tiger Oats Limited) bought out Imperial Cold Storage.  It swallowed up ICS in its own portfolio of brands and subsidiaries.

(2)  The quotes and references all came from The Lost Republic The Biography of a Land Surveyor by Gustav Baumann and Elfrieda Bright which was brought to my attention and quoted by Daniel Jacobs.

References

Brooke Simons, Phillida (2000). Ice Cold in Africa: The History of Imperial Cold Storage & Supply Company Limited. Cape Town: Fernwood Press.

Gustav BaumannElfrieda Baumann.  1940. The Lost RepublicThe Biography of a Land-surveyor.  Bright Faber & FaberFree State (South Africa)

Chapter 11.02: Oake Woods & Co Ltd in New Zealand and Other Amazing Tales

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.


Oake Woods & Co Ltd in New Zealand and Other Amazing Tales

June 1893

Dear Kids,

There is a Māori proverb that says, “A grey hair held between the finger and thumb is an infinitesimally trivial thing, yet it conveys to the mind of man the lesson of an everlasting truth.” Such is the wisdom of the Māori. They have their own unique set of proverbs; a strong and proud race with sophisticated laws and customs which rivals the modern cities of Europe in complexity and detail. These existed since long before there was any European contact.

New Zealand is an exceptional place to be with a beauty that is unimaginable. The developments from around the world of refrigeration and the production of bacon by the most modern ways reached these far shores of the earth. The three ways that I see this happening is in the quick development of refrigeration storage facilities at all major locations on the Islands, in the fact that I suspect C & T Harris to be looking to establishing curing works here and in the local pig breed, I found in the Island, very popular among the Māori people.

Harris Agent Cropped

Cold Storage in New Zealand

The Dunedin works of the New Zealand Refrigerating Company is the first cold storage installation in operation on these shores. The Dunedin works are only a bit larger than those in Christchurch, Wellington, Napier, Auckland, Timaru, Oamaru, and Invercargill. In total, there are 21 works on the two islands. The business was only started in 1882 in a small way and has since then increased tremendously. Currently, they are responsible for the export of a million carcasses of sheep and lambs per annum, with a total stock of about eighteen million.

The shipping companies could, in the early day of the trade, insist that a required quantity of sheep be supplied to their steamers. The freezing companies set up agreements with farmers on the back of the requirements from the steamers to take up the bulk of the space.

Since those early years, speculators stepped in, at least here on the Middle Island, who started buying the sheep from the farmers for cash which obviously suited the farmers better than having to wait for the steamers to take up their stock from the freezing facilities which only stored the goods. The shipping companies lost the constant supply from the farmers and the farmer is now shielded from the risk of competing with the English market. I heard from farmers that the bulk of the sheep sent from the Middle Island was sold in this way, especially in Christchurch and at the Bluff; and as for the farmers, they got their cash sooner and was able to negotiate good prices with the traders.

New Zealand has then, like Australia and South Africa became part of the New World, which is able to supply the old with its produce.

Oake Woods & Co Ltd in New Zealand 1

As is the case around the world, pigs are a very useful dance partner of the dairy industry. Berkshire is the most popular breed on these islands. The large and small breeds of White Yorkshire are also bred, but they are not as popular as the black pigs. Many farmers don’t breed the pigs; they only rear and fatten them which has proved to be a very lucrative business. The New Zealand pigs are heartier than those from England and unlike the English pigs, they only need a good grass paddock, with an abundance of roots, a small quantity of unthreshed pea-haul for finishing them a few weeks before the killing, and of course, lots of water with good shelter from the sun during the warmest summer months.

Minette and I visited a few large pig farmers who farm close to Cheviot and Gore Bay. I was pleasantly surprised to meet an old friend from South Africa working on another large pig farm very close to Cheviot. We visited Brendon and his lovely wife, Belinda. Their children are a blessing, not only to them but to all who know the Buckland family. The amazingly gifted poet and artist, Rachel is the oldest, then the very unique and beautiful Ruth, Hanna who is spontaneous and joyful, 3rd; the super energetic and joyful Hezekai is 4th, followed by the completely unique and lovely Asher and finally, Anastasia who is still a baby – uniquely adorable. Of all the people I have met on earth, this amazing family perfectly exemplifies what we have been taught a Christian should be and we count the time spent with them as one of the biggest highlights of our trip. They don’t walk around preaching but their lives are worth imitating in every respect!

Bredon tells me that there is a very definite expectation among farmers that the trade of raising pigs will meet the demand of local meat curers and the trade is expected to increase rapidly. Brendon is the kind of man who keeps his word and I suspect that his source asked him not to divulge the name of the firm involved but he told me that one of the largest suppliers in the UK of mess pork to the navies of the world and the mercantile marine operations, sent an agent to New Zealand in order to investigate the viability of setting up a branch in the colony. The agent has been here for some time now, a couple of months at least, and is making inquiries as to the prospect of opening up a branch establishment. He ran a trial to test the quality of our pigs for their purposes. The trial was done by preparing some carcasses by a process patented by the firm. He then shipped these to his principals in England. He received a cablegram which stated that the meat and the curing were done to “perfection.” As a result of this, arrangements are being made for extensive trade throughout the colony. The English firm is prepared to erect factories at a cost of £20,000 each in areas where they have a reasonable expectation to secure 2,000 pigs per week. (The NZ Official Yearbook, 1893)

At first, I thought that this was the famous firm from Gillingham, Dorset, Oake Woods & Co. Ltd. Later I learned that it was the London based firm of Mr Aron Vecht, the Intermarine Supply Co. (The Journal of Agriculture and Industry, 1899)

We have seen that pork industries are very beneficial to dairy and brewery industries since it provides a way to dispose of low-value by-products such as whey protein, a by-product in cheese making and brewery waste which otherwise has to be discarded. Another reason why a healthy pork industry is a benefit to the farmer is that it provided an effective way to deal with inferior grain which may be converted into mutton and pork. It is not a good practice to pay freight on inferior samples of grain; it will pay far better to convert it into mutton and pork, which may be driven to market on four legs, instead of four wheels. The rule applying to our dairy produce—namely, that it should be of the finest quality—applied with equal force to grain intended for shipment.

The Kunekune

To my great surprise, we found a pig breed on the Islands, very popular amongst the Māori, that looks almost exactly like the Kolbroek breed of the Cape. Kunekune is a Māori word meaning “fat and round” and it perfectly describes this adorable and mild-tempered animal.

Let me first show you what I mean when I say that they look exactly like the Kolbroek.

-> Compare the Kune Kune photos, courtesy of the Empire Kunekune Pig Association of New York (https://www.ekpa.org/).

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-> Compare these with the Kolbroek, photos with the courtesy of Zenzele Farm in South Africa. (http://www.zenzelefarm.com/Kolbroek.html)

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I wonder if the Kolbroek which came to the Cape of Good Hope is, in essence, the same pigs (group or breed) that also arrived at the shores of New Zealand? How does it happen that these pig breeds look so strikingly similar? I wonder if I, as a foreigner and not a Kunekune, Kolbroek or pig breeding expert can venture a guess how it could have happened that these animals look so similar.

Form of the Kunekune Compared with Drawings from England

Compare the form of the Kune Kune with the Berkshire and Large White’s.  The similarities are very interesting.

Uniting the Kolbroek, the Kunekune, the English East Indian Company, and China

We know that the Kunekune has Chinese genes. An obvious link between the Kunekune, the Kolbroek, and China from the 1700s is the English East Indian Company and possibly the English navy. The English East Indian Company is the most obvious organisation of that time who facilitated trade between England and China. It makes sense that they were responsible for populating England with Chinese pigs. It also stands to reason that it was an English East Indian ship that was responsible for ferrying the fletching nucleus of pigs of what would become the Kolbroek to Kogel Bay at Cape Hangklip where runaway slaves possibly took over the small herd which swam ashore off the sinking Colebrook and were responsible for initially preserving them.

If the Kunekune came to New Zealand around the same time and also from an English East Indian ship or from the English navy; if the New Zealand pigs were also taken on board from Gravesend as the evidence seems to suggest was the case with the Kolbroek pigs; if the pigs were not breed-pigs like the Berkshire or the Buckinghamshire but, as I suspect, village pigs from Kent; this will explain the Chinese connection and how these seemingly very close relatives made it to both South Africa and New Zealand. One would expect to find evidence in the genetic makeup of the breeds, both Chinese and European origins.

Considering the facts before us leads to this very intriguing and neat conclusion and would settle the matter of the origins of the Kolbroek based on the strong similarities between the Kolbroek and the Kunekune. It would preclude the possibility that the Kolbroek “evolved” through a complicated cross bearding of Chinese or Portuguese, Spanish or Dutch breeds with South African wild boars or even warthogs. Let’s delve into the facts.

China

I have written to you previously about the development of the English Pig when Minette and I met Michael in Liverpool while we stayed at the Royal Waterloo Hotel. I do not wish to repeat myself except to remind you that around eight thousand years ago, pigs in China made a transition from wind animals to the farm. They started living off scraps of food from human settlements. Humans penned them up and started feeding them which removed the evolutionary pressure they had as wild animals living in the forest. They were bred by humans instead of being left in the forests to breed naturally and to fend for themselves. This led to an animal that is round, pale, short-legged, pot-bellied with traditional regional breeding preferences that persist to this day. (White, 2011)

In contrast to the Chinese custom, in the West, the scavengers were treated differently. There is evidence that pigs were initially exploited in the Middle East around 9000 to 10 000 years ago. These denser settlements of the Neolithic times in the fertile crescent did not pen the animals up but ejected them from their society. The pigs may have been a nuisance or competed with humans for scarce resources such as water. Genetic research shows that the first pig exploitation in Anatolia (around modern-day Turkey) “hit a dead end.” (White, 2011) The pigs that were domesticated here all died out.

The pigs in Europe and England were kept in the wild for extended periods of time. Various European populations developed techniques of mast feeding (Mast being the fruit of forest trees and shrubs, such as acorns and other nuts). Herds were pushed into abandoned forests and feeding them on beechnuts and acorns that are of marginal value to humans. (White, 2011)

The practice of pannage, as it is called, is the releasing of livestock-pigs in a forest, so that they can feed on fallen acorns, beech mast, chestnuts or other nuts. One of the requirements for a Chinese/ European pig breed to have survived either in South Africa or New Zealand as a distinct breed is that the pigs did not become part of the general pig population, dealt with according to European custom, but, instead, was kept according to Chinese traditions in pens. The “pressure” to keep them in pens instead of letting them run wild as was the custom at the Cape, I believe was that the pigs were received by runaway slaves who knew pig husbandry and kept the pigs penned up as they did with other domesticated animals on their hideouts as a way to keep them “close” and out of sight of the general farm population for fear of being detected by authorities and the slaves be re-captured. The question is if there existed similar pressure in New Zealand.

The most likely candidate to have taken the pigs from England to the Cape was the Colnebrook in 1778 and Captain Cook, who is known to have released pigs on islands he visited, is the most likely candidate to have ferried the ancestors of the Kunekune to New Zealand. The pigs that he released on the middle Island who was not penned up but roamed the forests became feral and their characteristics changed to revert back to the wild state. We know that crossbreeds between Chinese and European breeds appeared in England well before the 1778 sailing of the Colebrook for the Cape of Good Hope and the three visits of Cook to New Zealand, in 1769-70, 1773 and 1777.

Kunekune

We have already seen that the Kunekune and the Kolbroek can be one pig breed for all intent and purposes. What is there that we know about the genetics of the Kunekune? A paper was presented by Gongora, et al., at the 7th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Montpellier, France, (2) entitled
Origins of the Kune Kune and Auckland Island Pigs in New Zealand.

They introduce their paper as follows, directly addressing the matters of interest to us. “Migrating Polynesians first introduced pigs from Asia to the Pacific islands (Diamond, 1997), but it is not clear whether they reached New Zealand. European sailors and settlers introduced pigs into New Zealand in the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which became feral, but few records were kept of these introductions (Clarke and Dzieciolowski, 1991a; 1991b). It is believed that the European settlers introduced contemporary domestic animals originating either directly or indirectly from Europe (Challies, 1976).” (Gongora, 2002) It is this last possibility that is of interest to us. If the DNA evidence supports this possibility, it opens up the link with the Kolbroek since both pigs have prominent Chinese in their DNA and both possibly originating from Europe.

One must be careful here since Cook got pigs from many parts of the world and others are known to also have sent pigs to New Zealand. The possibility, for example, that the Kunekune came from pigs that Captain Cook released on the South Island in 1773, obtained from Tonga and Tahiti, and, therefore, undoubtedly of Polynesian origin (Clarke and Dzieciolowski, 1991a) remains. (Gongora, 2002)

Gongora, and coworkers et al. (2002) reports that the “unequivocal Asian origin of the Kune Kune mitochondrial sequence is consistent with the pigs being taken from Asia to New Zealand by the Polynesian ancestors of present-day Maoris, but maybe better supported by the well documented introduction of Polynesian pigs into New Zealand by Captain Cook in 1773.” (Gongora, 2002) This is, of course, the most obvious conclusion.

However, the possibility of the introduction of this Asian mitochondrial sequence via a European breed, which acquired Asian mitochondria by introgression in the 18th century in Europe is as good a possibility as the aforementioned. (Gongora, 2002) Gongora says that “such introgression explains the clustering of the Large White and Berkshire sequences with Asian pigs” as can be seen from the graph below.

Kune Kune Lineage.png

Nucleotide substitutions and gaps are found in 32 porcine mtDNA D-loop sequences. The Kune Kune clusters with Asian domestic pigs are most closely related to Chinese and Japanese breeds. The Auckland Island sequence clusters with domestic European breeds (Gongora, 2002). Auckland Island is situated south of New Zealand and it is thought that the pigs that were released there may have the same origin as the Kunekune.

Analysis of additional Kune Kune sequences as well as more Polynesian sequences may help distinguish the first two possibilities from the third. Finding unambiguous Polynesian sequences may be difficult though, as Giuffra et al. (2000) found that a feral pig sequence from Cook Island in Polynesia clustered with European domestic pig sequences. Analyses of nuclear gene sequences in conjunction with mtDNA sequences will also help in discriminating between European and Asian origins as for the porcine GPIP gene in the study of Giuffra et al. (2000). Analysis of microsatellite marker allele frequencies using the standard ISAG/FAO marker set (Li et al., 2000) will also assist in deciphering the relationships of these populations of pigs and are already underway for the Auckland Island population and are planned for the Kune Kune pigs. Jointly these studies will illuminate the history of Pacific island pigs, their geographic origins and genetic diversity.” (Gongora, 2002)

They conclude by stating that “Kune Kune pigs have Asian mitochondrial DNA but at this stage we cannot distinguish between i) Polynesian introduction of Asian pigs, ii) European introduction of pigs from Asia/Polynesia or iii) introgression of Asian mtDNA into European pigs in Europe in 17th century and subsequent introduction of these “European” pigs into New Zealand.” (Gongora, 2002) The link with the Kolbroek may give a hint of what actually happened.

A cursory survey of Captain Cook and pigs confirm the fact that he released pigs on the islands. He did this at more than one time. The pigs could even have been from the Cape Of Good Hope. On this 3rd voyage to New Zealand in 1776, he was met by a ship in Cape Town who accompanied him to New Zealand. The ship was the Discovery, commanded by Charles Clerke. “The Discovery was the smallest of Cook’s ships and was manned by a crew of sixty-nine. The two ships were repaired and restocked with a large number of livestock and set off together for New Zealand [from Cape Town] ( December).” (http://www.captcook-ne.co.uk)

We also know that pigs were sent to New Zealand from Australia. In 1793, Governor King of Norfolk Island gave 12 pigs to Tukitahua, one of two northern Māori chiefs who had been kidnapped and taken to Norfolk Island. By 1795 only one animal was left. King then established relations with the northern chief Te Pahi, and sent a total of 56 pigs in three ships in 1804 and 1805. It is probably from these, and from being gifted between tribes, that pigs became established in the North Island. From 1805 Māori were trading pigs to Europeans.” (https://teara.govt.nz)

Still, it is unlikely that the Kunekune came from animals that were merely “released” on the islands. These animals reverted to the feral state. I also suspect that, as was the case along the South African coast, pigs that were given as a gift or traded were probably consumed. There must have been a reason, planning, purpose and some instruction that accompanied the exchange of pigs into the hands of a leader who could command the breeding of the animals. Such an example exists, and as we will see later, it relates to the one voyage of Cook that started at Gravesend.

“Two pigs were gifted to Māori by de Surville at Doubtless Bay in 1769. During Cook’s second and third voyages, a number of boars and sows were released – most in Queen Charlotte Sound, but two breeding pairs were given to the Hawke’s Bay chief Tuanui.” Cook’s first visit to Hawked Bay was in 1769 sailing in the Endeavour as part of his first Pacific voyage (1768-1771). We know that he released pigs on the South Island. “Wild pigs, in the South Island at least, may have originated from Cook’s voyages, and are generally known as Captain Cookers.” (https://teara.govt.nz)

Below is a portrait of Tuanui (also known as Rangituanui), principal chief of Ngati Hikatoa. The drawing by W. Hodges. Engrav’d by Michel. Published Feb 1st, 1777 by Wm. Strahan New Street, Shoe Lane, and Thos. Cadell in the Strand, London. No.LV. 1777

Tuanui, (also known as Rangituanui), principal chief of Ngati Hikatoa 1777.png

Cook gave him breeding pigs, a very interesting fact. There are accounts from New Zealand where Māori’s tried to pen up wild animals with no success. A leader such as Tuanui is exactly the kind of exchange one would expect to develop into the Māori-pig or the Kunekune.

Oral Tradition

I have great respect for oral traditions. Over the years I have seen how tenacious phrases and stories are over time, persists. It seems to me that the shorter the phrase, the simpler it is to pass on and, oftentimes, the more revealing it is of an actual event. This is more or less my approach with the Kolbroek and I was eager to see just how entrenched the theory is that Captain Cook released, not just any pig, but pigs from England on the shores of New Zealand that could have been the start of the Kunekune.

Searching through old newspapers yielded the following. From The Age (Melbourn, Victoria, Australia) (3) it was reported that “when Captain Cook landed in New Zealand during one of his great voyages of discovery, he set free on the shore several pigs which had been brought all the way from England to provide fresh meat on the voyage.” The wild pigs of New Zealand are according to the author, also descendants of the pigs that Cook released here. The link with England is of particular interest.

The Courrier (Waterloo, Iowa), 7 April 1886 calls the Māori Pig, “a descendant of one of Captain Cooks Pigs it may be – a swine, black but not completely, ill-shaped and clumsy, but apparently a perfectly happy pig leading, as he does, the life of a free and independent gentlemen, as does his mater, the Maori landowner and rejoicing in the grubbing up of abundant and gratuitous fern roots.” There is no reference to the pigs being from England and the author mentions the link between the Māori pig and Captain Cook as a possibility, but there can be little doubt we are talking about Kunekune here.

Studying old drawings can assist us as it does in our study of the development of pig breeds.

new zealand pigs.png

The image above can easily be a young Kunekune but then again, it could be any one of a number of smaller Chinese breeds. Photo by King, 2015).

The Gravesend Connection

The diary of events leading up to Cook’s first voyage gives us a connection with Gravesend.

Jul.18Mon.Pilot arrives to take Endeavour to the Downs.
 21Thu.Sails from Deptford for Gallions Reach.
 30Sat.Sails from Gallions Reach to Gravesend.
 31Sun.Sails from Gravesend.
Aug.3Wed.Endeavour in the Downs.
 7Sun.Cook joins Endeavour to commence Voyage.
 8Mon.Sails for Plymouth.

(from https://www.captaincooksociety.com)

Cook’s second and third voyage was undertaken, not from Gravesend, but another location in Kent, The Downs. This means that in 1768 Captain Cook took pigs on board the HMS Endeavour, and in 1778, a mere 9 years later, the East Indiaman, Colebrook, took pigs on board from the exact same location in Kent. Could these have been Chinese Pigs, crossed with the same large English breed, possibly from the same boar resulting in the Kolbroek and the Kunekune?

Here is a possible reconstruction of events from my imagination. Village pigs at Gravesend in Kent, during the early 1700s, received a dominant pig boar that the villagers used to service their sows. This boar was probably owned by a wealthy local landowner. Beginning in the 1700s, Old English pig breeds were crossed with Chinese pigs, probably brought to English shores by the English East Indian Company. The navy used Gravesend to stock their ships with livestock, as did the English East Indian Company. Captain Cook took on board some of these pigs that managed to survive the journey without making it onto the sailers menu, all the way to New Zealand where they were given as a present to a powerful Maori chief who bred them. They later became the legendary Kunekune pigs.

It was the same kind of pigs that went aboard the East-Indiaman, the Colebrook, who sank off Cape Hangklip. Pigs from the sinking ship swam ashore at Kogel Bay, was taken in by runaway slaves (drosters) and became the legendary Kolbroek breed of the Cape of Good Hope.

The breeds, as they exist today, share so many similarities that if one would simply look at them, one would say it is the same breed. One feature of the Kunekune which I have never found on the Kolbroek is that some of them develop a “wattle” or “tassel,” a fleshy appendage hanging from the lower jaw near the neck. This trait is becoming rate, but some of them have it. A veterinarian once told me that this tassel links them very directly with pigs that were found along the silk road in China. Much more work remains. Evidence may prove reality to be far removed from my imagination, but look at what we learned!

The Harris Family of Cheviot

My theories about the origin of the Kunekune may or may not be accurate, but what is certain is that New Zealanders are “salt of the earth” kind of people. No wonder the Buckland family loves this place. It fascinates me that the largest employer in Cheviot is the Harris family has been instrumental in the establishment of the biggest bacon curing operation in New Zeland. I can find no obvious link between the Harris family in Cheviot and the Harris clan from Calne. We had the privilege to get to know Nick and his brother Bryan Harris from Cheviot. Bryan showed me the best way to kill a pig. I showed up unannounced at their abattoir one day. He told me he was insanely busy, but he has done exactly what I did by showing up unannounced at meat plants in many parts of the world to learn from them and he has never been refused a tour or an audience with the right people. Based on his own experience he paid it forward and spend an entire morning with me, despite his tough schedule, showing and teaching me. He introduced me to the work of an American lady who designs abattoirs in such a way as to ensure very little stress for the animal. His energy and love for his work are infectious. Nick, like Bryan, worked in their butchery in the town of Cheviot that was started by their dad while he qualified as a chartered accountant. As such he is uniquely gifted to teach me about accounting and the pork business. From Nick, I learned the basics of accounting applied to the pork industry and how one links what happens on the floor to the accounting records in the office. More than that, he is an excellent farmer with loads of top management experience. I wish I met these two brothers when I left school! They are an amazing wealth of information and reminds me of the Māori proverb I started the letter with which says that “a grey hair held between the finger and thumb is an infinitesimally trivial thing, yet it conveys to the mind of man the lesson of an everlasting truth.” Such is Nick and Bryan Harris!

The largest pork producer in England is C & T Harris. The largest bacon producer in New Zealand is closely connected to the Harris family and, as you will see later, the Harris family of Australia is responsible for a massive bacon curing operation in Castlemaine. The coincidence is staggering and the tale of the Harris family of Australia I leave for a future conversation! Whichever way you look at it, in the world, no other single surname has been as closely associated with bacon as Harris!

After Cheviot, we spend time with Stu and Simon who are senior managers at Hellers. Stu runs production and Simon manages the operation. They too are salt of the earth kind of men. It was Easter Friday when I showed up at the Heller factory for the first time and both Stu and Simon gave me an amazing welcome. Since then, they became good friends and confidants. People that I have the freedom to discuss our Cape Town plans and who always give clear and unbiased advice.

Minette and I fell in love with New Zealand as we have never experienced anywhere else in the world. The biggest reason is the people of this amazing land even though the land itself is of a beauty that is unrivaled. It was an honour to have married here and to forge a close connection with the people of this land. New Zealand has a unique place in the world community who have contained on its shores, the basic ingredients of bacon curing and living life to the fullest. We are stunned by the experience of the land and its people. I am excited about the prospect that one day you guys will visit these shores and have your own amazing experiences. I think we are building up a set of confidants around the world who will assist us to face any challenge that may be thrown our way at Woody’s.

Lots of love from Christchurch,

Dad and Minette.


Further Reading

Chapter 03: Kolbroek where the story starts.

Read with Chapter 09.15 The English Pig where I deal with the source of pigs for Gravesend where live pigs were loaded onto ships.


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Notes

(1) The source does not state that the firm from England that set up the New Zealand operation was Oake Woods & Co. Ltd.. Considered at face value, they are a very good contender. A patent was lodged on 3 September 1896 number 8750 by E. R. Down from Gillingham, Dorset, Eng. for cylinder or vessel for curing bacon and hams. (Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand) It seems likely that similar applications were filed around the world. The trials were done in 1893. It fits the timeframe very well. I discuss this in detail in William and William Harwood Oake.

(2) Publication date, August 19-23, 2002

(3) Publication date, 14 July 1939.

References

APPENDIX TO THE JOURNALS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF NEW ZEALAND . SESSION II . , 1897 . VOL . III .

Sinclair, J. (Ed). 1897.Pigs Breeds and Management. Vinton and Co, London

Harris, J. (Ed.). c 1870. Harris on the pig. Breeding, rearing, management, and improvement. New York, Orange Judd, and company.

The New Zealand Official Yearbook, 1893.

The Age (Melbourn, Victoria, Australia) of 14 July 1939, p 5.

Biology online. Retrieved 15 February 2013.

The Courrier (Waterloo, Iowa), 7 April 1886

Gongora, J., Garkavenko, O., Moran, C.. 2002. From the 7th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, August 19-23, 2002, Montpellier, France, Paper entitled
Origins of the Kune Kune and Auckland Island Pigs in New Zealand.

Green, G. L.. 1968. Full Many a Glorious Morning. Howard Timmins.

The Journal of Agriculture and Industry, Volume 3, 1899, By South Australia. Department of Agriculture, C. E. Bristow, Government Printers

King, C. M.., Gaukroger, D. J., Ritchie, N. A. (Editors), 2015. The Drama of Conservation, Springer.

The phylogenetic status of typical Chinese native pigs: analyzed by Asian and European pig mitochondrial genome sequences. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology volume 4, Article number: 9 (2013).

White, S.. 2011. From Globalized Pig Breeds to Capitalist Pigs: A Study in Animal Cultures and Evolutionary History, Vol. 16, No. 1 (JANUARY 2011), pp. 94-120, Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of Forest History Society and American Society for Environmental History, https://www.jstor.org/stable/23050648


Photo References

Chapter 11.01: Our Manuka Bay Wedding!

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.


Our Manuka Bay Wedding

June 1893

Dear Kids,

The trip to New Zealand from England, past Cape Town was the most exciting sea voyage I have ever undertaken.

On the ship, we met the most interesting lady who would play a major role in the lives of Eben and Minette, Ange Davidson. Like us, she was travelling from England to New Zealand. Ange loved the story of our engagement. A keen mountaineer, she identifies with our mountain and as a lover of nature, she was fascinated with the input from the Bushman and Korana. Angie happened to be registered in New Zealand with the government to perform weddings. She turned out to be 100% the right person for our union! She is in touch with what really matters in life, mature, outgoing and a keen outdoors, mountain person! A true inspiration in her own right, she has summited Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand that stands at a height of 3,724 meters. This peak is on Minette and my wish list which means we know exactly what skill it requires. We love the same things; emotionally and spiritually we connect; she was perfect! (4)

Minette left to get a refill on coffee when Ange told me that she is a celebrant and if we are interested, she can marry us. It was a most excellent suggestion! All this happened before we got to Cape Town. I was careful not to say anything to anyone, wanting to surprise Minette. Not even you guys knew! I was so scared someone would say something! I took Luani in my confidence. Well, I had to try and find the right size ring and a wedding dress – all without Minette finding out about it and who better to ask for help than her twin sister. Luni gave me one of her dresses which would fit Minette and a ring to use for the ceremony.

I thought I was being very clever, but to my surprise, when I saw Ange again after we boarded the steamer for our final leg of the journey from Cape Town to the small village of Queens Town, she had serious concerns. She urged me to tell Minette what I am planning before we land in New Zealand. “This is a big day for both of you and Minette will want her own input into what she is going to wear and how the ceremony will be conducted,” she pleaded with me. She had me write out our wows and what it is I wanted her to say. Every few days she asked me if I have spoken to Minette about the plans. (1)

She told us about the small village where she lives called Cheviot. Very close to it are two amazing beaches. One is Gore Bay and the other Manuka Bay. I initially suggested we have a ceremony at Gore Bay. I was insanely excited. (3)

I managed to control my excitement and not tell Minette. Suddenly the coast of New Zealand was in sight and as we sailed past the North Island, I realised that Ange is right. I have to tell Minette.

One afternoon I took a double shot of Whiskey for courage and started my very important discussion with Minette. Or was it a confession?! 🤔😁 I asked her what she would say if I told her that I planned the biggest surprise imaginable for her in New Zealand – a wedding on one of the most remote beaches on earth.  The first human footsteps walked on the beach at Manuka Bay very recently.

Minette and I are very much alike. She completely loved the idea! She is also a very level headed person and asked me if I looked into the legalities of getting married in New Zealand as foreigners. Of course, these were the last things I thought of!

We resolved to tackle these matters when we get to Christchurch. I immediately became very thankful for Ange’s advice when Minette told me that while I am figuring the legal stuff out, she will go dress shopping and then we can both go and look for rings. As much as she loved the Luani options, she wanted to make it more personal. I love it how she felt so close to her sister with her dress and ring with us. It was as if Luani was there with her all the time!

We finally docked at Christchurch. The City is situated in the agricultural plains of Canterbury where it is connected with the Port of Lyttelton by a railway, which required the construction of a long and very costly tunnel through the hills surrounding Lyttelton. It was constructed in 1850 as a bridle path for riding or leading horses (as is inferred in the name). The early European settlers used it as the route from the port to new settlements on the northern side of the Port Hills.

Lyttelton Harbour is breathtaking! More beautiful than anything we have ever seen! Later, when we made it back to Christchurch we hiked almost completely around the bay which is situated in a volcano and the hike is along the crater rim. (2)

Christchurch 1893

Christchurch, 1893

SCRAMBLE IN CHRISTCHURCH

Minette and I fell in love with Christchurch from the first time we rode into the city through the surrounding hills. Even while we were still on the steamer, we decided that we will be doing a lot of hiking. However, not much hiking was done in the week leading up to the big day. I was at a local bacon company, which I will write to you about in my next letter, while Minette did dress shopping. Her dress-lady of choice was herself as inspirational as any of the amazing people who guided us through this adventure.

Part of the ceremony required rings. No sooner did we start shopping for it when we realised that even a basic ring in New Zealand is the cost of a small Mediterranean Island! We opted for token rings with a promise to re-visit this back in Cape Town with Free Range Jewels! After fruitless attempts to even find basic rings, the universe destined us to meet up with the most inspirational lady, daughter to a truly remarkable entrepreneur. Both he and his daughter exemplify triumphing against all odds. We spent a long time swapping stories and the matter of rings was concluded. Not only rings but rings with deep meaning in how we got it and from whom.

Concluding the legal requirements was another story. We had to do it all in a certain way to make our wishes binding under both South African and New Zealand law. This proved to be much more difficult than I envisaged and it all came to a great end with an elderly Oscar, a veteran senior advocate, and one of the only notary’s public we could locate on Friday afternoon to sign our marriage contract before we set out for Cheviot. Our wedding was on Saturday morning. Oscar, a grandfather figure, gave us sound advice, looked out for Minette’s interests in a final wording change in the contract and sent us on our way. The next morning we would get married!

THE TREEHOUSE LODGE

We did a last-minute booking in Cheviot at the Tree House Lodge of Sanna and Ellis. Unlike any other place, we have ever stayed, our home for the next few days was a small and very cosy room with a private bathroom, showers and a bed, suspended close to the ceiling with a ladder to climb up and down. Our own hobbits cove with a very friendly dog, a cat with a slight attitude and receiving a scrumptious breakfast every morning in a small basket, waiting for us outside our door with Gore Bay Kanuka Honey, homemade peanut butter, freshly baked bread and cereal from the amazing hosts on earth!

A friendship formed between us and Sanna and Ellis. We were scheduled to go on a hike after the wedding ceremony, but bad weather set in and they messaged us to say that they prepared the room for us again and we are welcome to spend the next two nights with them if we decide against the hike. That arrangement suited us brilliantly and Sally Handyside, our host for the hike graciously agreed to refund us our booking money! She will definitely see us on a future trip!

Over the next few days, we spend hours visiting, listening to Ellis and Sanna’s adventures and sharing ours. They are a famous couple but I don’t want to mention who they are. The thing that bonded us was not the National Geographic persona of Ellis, but their love for nature and the outdoor, their indomitable spirits and their belief that if one is going to do something, it should be done excellently. I told Ellis that he builds his house and creates his documentaries in exactly the way I believe food should be produced. Naturally and with care and excellence! This couple set the right tone for Minette and my life together and the perfect inspiration for our new venture!

THE BIG DAY

The big day.jpg

The rainy weather was setting in fast. Skies were dark and the wind picked up. Temperatures dropped. Around 9:00 on Saturday morning, the 28th, the bubbly Nike Newton showed up at the hobbits cove to do Minette’s hair. The brief I gave her telephonically on what to do was completely inadequate, but between Minette, Sanna, and Nike, they managed and Minette was looking beautiful! I got dressed in the pants I bought for our engagement and never got to wear on account of getting back from the mountain too late, I white shirt that we bought that week in Christchurch and off we went to Gore Bay Beach. Ange text me to say that the next beach is even more remote than Gore bay and we should meet at Manuka Bay beach.

We did not immediately find the beach, but an old man directed us further down and opened the gate. The storm was about to hit with full force. The skies were even darker. He jokingly asked if we are going diving and we shouted back in the wind, “We are getting married today!” “I will be your best man,” he replied. “I have a suite in the cupboard at home.”

The scene was one from a movie. In the cold, we took off our shoes and walked across the black pebbles to the small party of four awaiting us on the beach. Minette’s blue dress was beautiful against the dark background if the black beach, the skies, and the waves. I looked at her and thought how amazingly beautiful she is! There was not a single person on the beach beside us. It was perfect!

the big day 2.jpg

What follows is the actual content of the ceremony which I wrote on the steamer with major input from Ange over the previous few weeks; in between rushing to make the next transport. (5) Finally, the moment arrived. Ange had to raise her voice to be heard over the waves and the wind.

She started by welcoming us in the native tongue.

“E tu ake ana ahau ke te tautoko I nga mihi ki te Kaihanga.
E mihi ana ki nga maunga, nga moana, nga roto, nga awa me nga wahi tapu o tenei rohe.
Tenei te mihi ki a tatou katoa e hui tahi nei. Tena koutou, tena koutu, tena koutou katoa.”

She translated.

“I stand to support the greetings to our creator. I also greet/acknowledge the mountains, sea, lakes, rivers and sacred areas of this district.
I greet all of us gathered here together. I greet you. I greet you all.”

Kia ora, and Haere mai. Welcome. Today, on this beach, you are to be married.

“Minette and Eben, your true church is the mountains and valleys, the rivers and the deepest forests. These are the cathedrals where you worship. Every stone and insect, the content of the sermons you hear; every sunrise you witness from a mountaintop, the opening prayer. Each glorious sunset, the closing hymn.”

“Here, in nature, you hear a subtler music and see wider visions and are inspired by a loftier spirit. The tempest and the calm day alike is the inspiration and voice of the living god who empowers and revives you. Inspires you to live more fully. Love more completely. Lust with even greater fire! Embracing each, to breathe this great air together.”

“Your union happened without any ceremony or by human will. The powers that unite you are the same powers that we see and hear and feel around us here this morning. It is therefore fitting that nature should witness your formal union today. Not in a city or a man-made shelter, but in the bleak and cold autumn coastline of New Zealand. As Browning put it: “Here, here’s their place; Where meteors shoot; Clouds form; Lightnings are loosened; Stars come and go.””

She gave each of us the opportunity to re-tell the story of how we met and fell in love. “Where is it that you first noticed him and her”, “When was it that you started to fall in love?” “What makes you soul mates?”

“Minette Bylsma, do you choose Eben van Tonder as your husband and promise to do everything in your power to create a loving and lasting marriage?”

“Eben van Tonder, do you choose Minette Bylsma, as your wife, and promise to do everything in your power to create a loving and lasting marriage?”

“As chosen life partners, do you both promise to support and enhance each other’s unique identity through love and nurture, and allow each other individual freedom within this marriage?”

“Who is carrying the wedding rings?”

“These wedding rings serve as a symbol of the vows you have just taken. As circles, they are the symbol of the sun, the earth and the universe, and of whole and perfect unity. They are an outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible love which binds your hearts together. In your marriage, may you enjoy the wholeness of life, spirit, and purpose!”

“As you place these rings on each other’s fingers, repeat these words”

“Eben, please repeat after me:

eben to minette.jpg

“I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and trust, and the promise that we have made today. “

“Minette, please repeat after me:

minette to eben.jpg

“I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and trust, and the promise that we have made today.”

“This morning, many mountains and valleys from around the earth bare testimony of your love. I now call them as my witness with the spirit of your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, your brothers, and sisters, the children you love, and your dearest friends. These are witnesses of your eternal union and hear me when I now declare you husband and wife.”

“In the presence of all these many witnesses, Eben and Minette, please seal your union with a kiss.”

“Here are two cloaks. Wrap each other in these as the outward manifestation of your love always folded around the other. Feel the love, the warmth, the security, and strength. Wear these as we sign the official marriage papers.”

They sang a beautiful traditional love song. Angel voices in harmony with the waves and the wind! In my arms, my beautiful bride!

“Minette and Eben, you have declared your love for each other and exchanged your vows. Now you shall say to the world, this – is my husband, this – is my wife.”

“May the love that has brought you together, continue to grow and enrich your lives. May it give you courage, wisdom, and peace in your future together.”

It was magical! Words fail! Life became complete at that moment!

Anna took photos. She, like every single person who was involved in making this an unforgettable day, has been amazing.  As if nature and life itself taught us that we are gifts to each. Minette and I to each other, but broader to people around us.

The ceremony all done, we settled in for the wedding feast. The setting was not a grand banquette hall, but the grass and flowers next to the beach. Our chairs were wooden stumps and the blankets spread out over the grass. Here we shared stories and got to know our amazing witnesses and new-found friends. As we walked back to our cars, it started raining. Everything was perfect!

nz adventure 1.jpg

The New Zealand adventure was a celebration of nature and the best of humanity. Every single person we met along the journey was exceptional. The lady in our favourite Cheviot coffee shop who herself got engaged on Table Mountain many years ago. The supermarket cashier who offered us her transport so that we could get to the next town when she told us there are no banks for us to draw money. She offered for us to stay with her and her young son until we are able to make other plans. Of course, this was not necessary. We had transport and a very cosy hobbits cove to stay, but the fact that she offered! What a way to get married and to continue our life together! Every person we met touched our lives!

When we were alone, after the wedding, when Ange, Anna, and our witnesses were gone, Minette gave me two poems. One is Nuptials by John Agard. The first two stanzas stand out.

nz adventure 2.jpg

“River, be their teacher, that together they may turn their future highs and lows into one hopeful flow

Two opposite shores feeding from a single source. Mountain, be their milestone, that hand in hand they rise above familiarity’s worn tracks into horizons of their own Two separate footpaths dreaming of a common peak.”

I re-read the last two lines again. “Two separate footpaths, dreaming of a common peak!” Such a perfect description of our separate lives, united by shared love!

The other is Us Two by AA Milne

“Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, There’s always Pooh and Me. Whatever I do, he wants to do, “Where are you going today?” says Pooh: “Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too. Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he. “Let’s go together,” says Pooh.

“What’s twice eleven?” I said to Pooh. (“Twice what?” said Pooh to Me.) “I think it ought to be twenty-two.” “Just what I think myself,” said Pooh. “It wasn’t an easy sum to do, But that’s what it is,” said Pooh, said he. “That’s what it is,” said Pooh.

“Let’s look for dragons,” I said to Pooh. “Yes, let’s,” said Pooh to Me. We crossed the river and found a few- “Yes, those are dragons all right,” said Pooh. “As soon as I saw their beaks I knew. That’s what they are,” said Pooh, said he. “That’s what they are,” said Pooh.

“Let’s frighten the dragons,” I said to Pooh. “That’s right,” said Pooh to Me. “I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh, And I held his paw and I shouted “Shoo! Silly old dragons!”- and off they flew.

“I wasn’t afraid,” said Pooh, said he, “I’m never afraid with you.”

So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, There’s always Pooh and Me. “What would I do?” I said to Pooh, “If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True, It isn’t much fun for One, but Two, Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. “That’s how it is,” says Pooh.

FINALLY

I set out to find the secret of making the best bacon on earth and in the process, I not only started to discover the secret of bacon but also the magic of life. I can not imagine life without Minette! We started separately and had many issues to work through. Our relationship started as kids playing in the streets of old Cape Town and swimming in the Cape waters after dark. It grew through many days on Table Mountain and the mountains surrounding the Cape.  Despite our differences, what kept us together has always been stronger than what pushed us apart. All these years later, I can say, “So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, There’s always Pooh and Me. She is my greatest adventure, my highest passion, my most intimate moments.  She is my art of living!”

Our wedding gave us a chance to express our sincere thanks to the special people who are part of our lives and whom we met on this remarkable trip; who made our wedding beyond description; and unforgettable! To the Creator who arranged things better than we could have planned and given us a send-off like no other. To our friends and family, especially the kids and Minette’s parents, her sister, and brother, who encouraged us, thank you for allowing us to do this far away and for all the love and messages. We love you guys and will treasure your words forever!

Minette blows me away! I’m madly in love with her! The fact that she was game for this unique wedding tells a story in itself! This was not for other people. This was for us! It was perfect!

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Good Wishes from friends

Here are some of the well-wishes from friends around the world.  Adriaan and the Woody’s staff did this one! Thank you, guys! It was the best surprise to get the wishes from you guys!! Hanro Rossouw, Charl Le Roux, Valery Cloete, Debbie. Meneer Adriaan Oberholzer – wow! Baie dankie!

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My friends Oscar and Trudie Oscar En Trudie Klynveld and Trudie sent us this beautiful message.

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Willem Klynveld sent us this beautiful message.

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The message from our friends in Nepal, Ayush Rajbhandari and Silika Shakya Rajbhandari did not want to play, but we really appreciate the message! We were thinking of you guys!

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Another friend of ours, Dawie Hyman sent us a mad message but I subsequently lost it.  I am sorry Mr. Dawie!  However, we will see you very soon in America.  After we discovered everything else that life is teaching us on these amazing shores of New Zealand, we are coming to visit you!

Elmar and Juanita sent us a beautiful voice message which I will also try and combine into one message and post here.

There are many friends who sent us messages through other media. Kokkie Kok, Oom Jan, ek sal Oom s’n soek en ook hier post. Baie dankie. Oom se woorde het soveel beteken!

Last, but not least, my old friend and colleague, Ehrhardt Meyer.

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The message you guys sent us, Tristan and Lauren was very special.  We love you guys dearly.  You are our heartbeats and our soul!  Here is what you sent us:

Congratulations Eben and Minette on getting married yesterday!! I’m so happy for you two and it’s about bloody time!

You two have been through so much and it’s truly amazing to see how close you two have gotten over the years. I know you make each other super happy and I’m glad I could be around to see it ❤️ welcome officially to the family Minette ( even though you’ve been apart of it for so long 😏), really glad you’re in Lauren van Tonder and mines life❤️

I hope you two are having an amazing time in New Zealand, but hurry it up back so we can celebrate! Love both of you big time 🔥

Wedding Album

Landing in New Zealand was exciting.  Of course, we were brought here not only by the invitation of Stu but by the opportunity to see C & T Harris becoming a truly global company. More about this in my next mail.  For now, there is still a whole lot of “art of living” left before I return to the secrets of bacon!

The time we spend in Cape Town was again indescribable.  We miss you guys dearly and wish you were here with us.

Lots of love from Cheviot!

Dad and Minette


Further Reading

Our Amazing Wedding on Manuka Beach, Cheviot, New Zealand


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Notes

(1) Up till this point, Minette knew nothing about the plans. Ange strongly suggested that I tell Minette sooner rather than later. As the plane came in for landing I told Minette, “How about us getting married next weekend? In Cheviot? On the beach?” In a clear sign that we belong together, she was immediately insanely excited!

(2) Planning had to be quick! Luani, Minette’s sister liked the plan and gave me a dress and a ring to use. I picked the dress up the day before our flight. I did the application to the government online, two days before our flight out. In between the quick arrangements, I found time to call her parents and her brother and told them about the plan.

(3) In NZ, to select a marriage officer, one must also choose a location and all these have to be done well ahead of time. I was completely out of time! I was looking for a place outside Christchurch, somewhere remote. Christchurch is to city-ish for our liking. My first choice was Te Anau in the south, but I knew we would not have time to drive there. I did not like the look of the places south of the city. I wrongfully thought an old buddy of mine, Brendon and his family lives up in the Cheviot area and remember him telling me its the middle of nowhere. It turned out that I was wrong in thinking that he lives there, but right that it was the middle of nowhere and a beautiful and unspoiled location (in retrospect, I realise he was not even talking about Cheviot!) It is an amazingly wild area and the best thing about it is that it has a marriage officer, Ange!

(4)  She has done the Kepler hike which Minette and I did two years ago in two days!

(5) Also, between flights; during flights; in an airport lounge in Dubai

References

Encyclopedia of New Zealand, The Bridle Path,2010.

Photos

Christchurch, 1893. Lena Fuller, watercolor study of Christchurch signed and dated 1893

 

Chapter 11.00: Letters from New Zealand

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.


Letters from New Zealand

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The Calne experience came to an end, just as dramatically as it started. Upon our return from Dublin, Oscar was already waiting for us in Calne. We had an amazing time with John Harris, Mike Caswell, Anita Waite, and Susan Bodington. Minette and I decided to take Stu up on his invitation to visit New Zealand before we visit Dawie in America.

Lord Lansdowne on Saltpeter (3)

One afternoon, Mr Petty from Bowood called on us. Lord Landsdowne returned the previous day and invited Minette, Oscar and me to dinner. It was a grand affair and reminded me of the send-off that we received from Jeppe when we left Denmark. It was an honour meeting Lord Landsdowne. He struck me as a very intelligent man and a great sportsman! I could tell that his heart was in Canada! Of course, we discussed the saltpetre trade until deep in the night and as Viceroy of India, he knew quite a bit about the inner workings of the saltpetre trade.

I thought that where Denmark was my introduction to saltpetre and mild cured bacon, England was my schooling in salt, refrigeration, sugar, and mechanisation of every process on the bacon production floor. Pale dried bacon, arterial injection and the development of the English pig rounded an unforgettable time off in England. With our host that evening, the matter of saltpetre was back on the agenda!

Lord Landsdowne spend so much time in India that he acquired a unique birds-eye view of the world saltpetre trade. He told us that he knows that we have been well taken care of in England and that we received all the help we would need to plan our Bacon Processing plant in Cape Town. On his part, he has been informed that in Denmark we looked into the matter of the history of saltpetre and its use in meat curing and he was eager to have a discussion on the subject. I needed no persuasion. I rushed to my room to get my ever-present notebook and when I re-joined the dinner party, I prompted our host to continue.

“By far the largest natural known natural deposits of saltpetre to the Western world of the 1600s,” Lord Landsdowne started, “were found in India and the East Indian Companies of England and Holland plaid pivotal roles in facilitating its acquisition and transport. The massive nitrate fields of the Atacama desert and those of the Tarim Bason were still largely unknown. In 1300, 1400 and 1500 saltpetre had, however, become the interest of all governments in India and there was a huge development in local saltpetre production.”

“In Europe, references to natron emerged from the middle of the 1500s and were used by scholars who travelled to the East where they encountered both the substance and the terminology. Natron was originally the word that referred to saltpetre. Later, the word natron was changed and nitron was used.”

“At first, the saltpetre fields of Bihar were the focus of the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) and the British East Indian Company (EIC). The VOC dominated the saltpetre trade at this point. In the 1750s, the English East Indian Company (EIC) was militarised. Events soon took place that allowed for the monopolization of the saltpetre trade.  In 1757 the British took over Subah of Bengal; a VOC expeditionary force was defeated in 1759 at Bedara; and finally, the British defeated the Mughals at Buxar in 1764 which secured the EIC’s control over Bihar. The British seized Bengal and took possession of 70% of the world’s saltpetre production during the latter part of the 1700s. (Frey, J. W.; 2009: 508 – 509)”

Lord Landsdowne had an interest in bacon curing due to a business that he recently invested in and the fact that Harris set their curing business up on his lands. He told us with great authority that “the application of nitrate in meat curing in Europe rose as it became more generally available. Later, massive deposits of sodium nitrite were discovered in the Atacama Desert of Chile and Peru and became known as Chilean Saltpeter. This was only a re-introduction of technology that existed since 2000 BCE and possibly much earlier.”

I was very excited about this statement. I recounted what I learned in Denmark. That “the pivotal area where saltpetre technology spread from across Asia, India and into Europe, is the Turpan-Hami Basin in the Taklimakan Desert in China. Here, nitrate deposits are so substantial, that an estimated 2.5 billion tons exist, comparable in scale to the Atacama Desert super-scale nitrate deposit in Chile. (Qin, Y., et al; 2012)  (The Tarim Mummies of China)  Its strategic location on the silk road, the evidence of advanced medical uses of nitrates from very early on and the ethnic link with Europe of people who lived here, all support this hypothesis.”

The main course was served and Lord Landsdowne continued. “Large saltpetre industries sprang to the South in India and to the South East in western China. In India, a large saltpetre industry developed in the north on the border with Nepal – in the state of Bihar, in particular, around the capital, Patna; in West Bengal and in Uttar Pradesh (Salkind, N. J. (edit), 2006: 519). Here, it was probably the monsoon rains which drench arid ground and as the soil dries during the dry season, capillary action pulls nitrate salts from deep underground to the surface where they are collected and refined. It is speculated that the source of the nitrates may be human and animal urine. Technology to refine saltpetre probably only arrived on Indian soil in the 1300s. Both the technology to process it and a robust trade in sal ammoniac in China, particularly in western China, predates the development of the Indian industry. It is therefore unlikely that India was the birthplace of curing. Saltpetre technology probably came from China, however, India, through the Dutch East Indian Company and later, the English East Indian Company became the major source of saltpetre in the west.”

“To the South East, in China, the largest production base of saltpetre was discovered dating back to a thousand years ago. Here, a network of caves was discovered (1) in the Laojun Mountains in Sichuan Province. Meat curing, interestingly enough, is also centred around the west and southern part of China. Probably a similar development to the Indian progression.”

“In China, in particular, a very strong tradition of meat curing developed. Saltpetre was possibly first introduced to the Chinese sometime before 2000 BCE. Its use in meat curing only became popular in Europe between 1600 and 1750 and it became universally used in these regions towards the end of 1700. Its usage most certainly coincided with its availability and price.” Lord Landsdowne told us that he has not compared price and availability in Europe with the findings on its use in meat curing which is based upon an examination of German and Austrian kook books by Lauder  (2), but he is confident that when he gets to it one day, the facts will prove the same.

“The Dutch and English arrived in India after 1600 with the first shipment of saltpetre from this region to Europe in 1618. Availability in Europe was, generally speaking, restricted to governments who, in this time, increasingly used it in warfare. (Frey, J. W.;  2009) This correlates well with the proposed time when it became generally available to the European population as the 1700s from Lauder.” I again interjected that I believe that a strong case is emerging that the link between Western Europe and the desert regions of Western China was the place where nitrate curing developed into an art. The exact place, I believe, in Western China is the Tarim depression.

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, very typical use of saltpetre in dry-cured meat would be in “a mixture of salt and saltpetre which would be liberally rubbed over the meat. As it migrates into the meat, water and blood are extracted and drained off.  The meat is usually laid skin down and all exposed meat is plastered with a mixture of salt and saltpetre. Pork bellies would cure in approximately 14 days.” (3) (Hui, Y. H.,  2012: 540) He laughed and said to me, “By this time, Eben, Oscar and Minette, I don’t have to tell you this. It is you who can give me an overview of the different curing systems that have been used through the ages!”

We talked and shared stories till deep into the night. The evening ended too soon and I wondered if I would ever see Bowood and Lord Landsdowne again. 

Oscar was impressed with the work we have done. He had ample time with the engineering manager of C & T Harris and took with him back to Cape Town a suitcase full of engineering drawings and factory plans. Whenever we had a spare moment, we would work on the plans for our own small factory in Cape Town and he made sure to discuss the layout and factory flow with the people who matter before he left. He enjoyed Lord Landsdowne and Bowood! 

Farewell to England

Within a week we all set sail from England to Cape Town from where Minette and I would take another steamer to New Zealand.  In Cape Town, we spend a week with Tristan and Lauren and my parents. We managed another week with Minette’s parents and of course saw her twin sister, Luani, her husband Fanie, and Liam and Luan, their adorable kids almost every day.  I spend an afternoon with Oscar and David de Villiers Graaff where we took him through our factory plans, careful not to reveal too much to him. On Wednesday evening, 31 May 1893 we celebrated at the newly constructed Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. The big novelty was that it was the first hotel in Cape Town with running hot water. (4)

Photo of Mt Nelson, curtesy of Didi Basson. c 1900

New Zealand Awaits

On 1 June 1893, Minette and I greeted our families and set sail for the shores of New Zealand. What insane adventures await us and what great lessons to learn about bacon. What Minette did not know was that it would become more an “art of living” trip even though, at this point, I am not sure where our adventure with bacon ends and “the art of living” starts. It all blended for us into one!

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Let me set the stage for what is to come. In New Zealand Minette and I would not only have some of our most memorable adventures, we would also get married.

The southern coast of Africa – a unique place where human ghosts as old as 80 000 years walk the beaches. Minette and I got engaged here, celebrating those most ancient inhabitants on top of Table Mountain.

We chose a land where human ghosts only appeared around 1000 years ago to get married. The south island of New Zealand. Until the arrival of Polynesian colonists, who became the Māori people, the land didn’t know the footsteps of humans.

Even after the first colonists arrived on the South Island of New Zealand, they only moved through the Cheviot Hills and on its beaches very occasionally as nomadic hunters 730 years ago. Their main seat of occupation being the Kaikoura Coast. The Cheviot coast, including Manuka Bay where we got married, was less preferred for hunting and fishing. This makes the area one of the oldest permanently uninhabited places on earth. A fitting place to celebrate our union which we never saw as a celebration of humanity but rather nature. (Wilson; 1993)

When another group of colonist arrived recently in the form of Europeans, they thought the land to be completely uninhabited. Allen Giles wrote of his early years on Mount Parnassus in 1890 that the “Virgin South Island produced a feeling of “frightful loneliness.” He described it as “a brand new land… untouched by the ghosts of men and their traditions. There appeared never to have been men. All was clean, pure and emotionless; unsullied by man’s occupation.” (Wilson; 1993)

Hints of what the Cheviot area looked like before the fires of the Polynesians resulted in the replacement of forests with grasslands and scrubs that have been discovered in Treasure Downs. The discovery happened in 1986 when a farmer discovered moa bones on his farm in the hills east of Cheviot township. Moa is the giant flightless bird, endemic to New Zealand, hunted into extinction by the Maori and by 1440 the extinction was complete. (Perry; 2014) What was revealed through an official archaeological dig is that there once was a small, deep lake in a natural basin in limestone hills. The lake had a peaty margin, fed by underground springs. About 5000 years ago the dominant species had been matai (a black pine, endemic New Zealand), pokaka (a native forest tree of New Zealand), manuka, and flax and fern. Well preserved moa bones were also found in the former lake. (Wilson; 1993)

The Hurunui River Mouth – A Food Gathering Station

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Close to Manuka Bay is the Hurunui river mouth. Duff identified it as the location of a Māori food-gathering station. Other artefacts found at the river mouth were a number of adze-heads. They were made from baked argillite originating from the Nelson are and their shape identified them as from the moa-hunter period, six to eight centuries ago. In 1946, a farmer ploughed up a forty-eight kg block of obsidian on his farm at the river mouth. The block was used to make flake tools, even though most of these tools discovered at the river mouth were of flint rather than obsidian.

Manuka Beach – a stopover location

On Manuka Beach, Māori ovens and artifacts have been found. (Wilson; 1993) These ovens are found throughout the region and Nick Harris reports that there are Maori ovens on his farm in the area. These earth ovens were called hāngī or umu. Hāngī sizes varied depending on what was cooked – joints from moa and seals required large ovens, whereas fish or kūmara (sweet potato) could be cooked in smaller ovens. (Teara.govt.nz) These earth ovens were basically a pit, dug in the ground. Stones were heated in the pit with a large fire and baskets were placed on top of the stones. Everything was covered with earth for several hours before uncovering. Exact cooking times and pit design varied depending on what must be cooked and is in use till this day. The origin of the technology is Polynesian. (Ministry for Primary Industries, May 2013 and Genuine Maori Cuisine, 2012)

Ange Montgomery pointed out that there are karaka trees planted in the Cheviot area. The tree is native to the north island and its seeds were planted by the Māori at stopover places as a food source. Another clear indication locals using the area during migration and other movements. Apart from its fruit, this fascinating tree was used as a bait tree. It attracted other animals to feast on its fruits which in turn was caught for food. “Karaka kernel is highly toxic. Under the orange skin of the fruit is an edible pulp. The danger lurks in the kernel or stone of the fruit which contains the toxic alkaloid karakin.

The pulpy flesh can be eaten and to this day people harvest the berries and enjoy them. Some even use the flesh to make an alcoholic karaka drink. The Maori used to use the poisonous kernels as well. They used a special method to prepare the kernels which include soaking, boiling and soaking again as well as cooking in a hangi for 24 hours.” (stuff.co.nz). Ange points out how amazing it is that people were able to work this kind of thing out. The power of observation and careful analysis of the natural world by ancients never ceases to amaze me in a rushed world where we have largely lost this ability!

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New Zealand and Ancient Preservation Technology

In New Zealand, food was preserved amongst others, using fat. There is a story related to Lake Grassmere or Kapara-te-hau as the Maori’s call it. There is an account of the great chief, Te Rauparahara coming from the north “to take ducks to preserve in fat for winter food.” (theprow.org.nz)

The Māori preserved meat through smoking, sun drying, potting in fat and chilling by dropping containers with meat into water. Sweet potatoes were stored in underground pits, but whether they used these pits for meat is something I do knot know. Mutton birds were placed in inflated kelp and preserved in their own fat. Folded bark from the totata tree was used as containers to store meat, being preserved in fat. (Canterbury Museum)

Added salt would have been part of the diet of Māoris at the coast from seawater when they ate seafood. When they lived inland, no salt would have been added to their diet. Their source of sodium would have been that which is in the meat itself. This means that their diet was somewhat similar to the San and Khoikhoi of Southern Africa who also did not use salt, but there is evidence that they were occasionally exposed to salt traders from the north.

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The Polynesians

We were about to arrive at a land I knew nothing about and I was keen to learn as much as I could on the voyage from South Africa to New Zealand.  Who were the Polynesians who populated New Zealand?

I was fascinated by these proud and unique people and believed they had much to teach me. The examples given above would inspire me and I was eager to understand where these people came from. Which other influences shaped their later practices.

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First, we need to define what area we are talking about when we refer to Polynesia. “Polynesia is … the islands found roughly in a triangle formed by Hawaii, Aotearoa-New Zealand and Easter Island (Rapa Nui).” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

polynesia
The Islands of Polynesia (from Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

Now we can start looking at the neighborhood in which Polynesia is located. We begin by looking at human migration globally before we focus in on Polynesia and its neighborhood. Which were the original homelands of the people of Polynesia that would have impacted on their culture and technology?

Out of Africa

Let us remind ourselves of the current thinking of human migration through the ages to put the Polynesian migration into context. Many of my friends will take issue with the model presented below, but it will at least open the discussion.

out of africa

The dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa. (Graph from Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

Current data seems to indicate “a migration of anatomically modern humans out of Africa around 150,000 – 100,000 BP (Years Before Present), moving east towards Asia and north into Europe. Part of this migration reached South-East Asia by 60,000 BP. Populations of these stone-age hunter-gatherers then expanded from Southeast Asia into the Pacific through New Guinea to Australia and the Bismarck Archipelago by about 45,000 BP. Once in Southeast Asia and Australia, the movement of humans into new areas stopped for nearly 30,000 years. A later wave of expansion out into the rest of the Pacific took place began around 3,500 BP. In this migration, the people went east to Samoa and Tonga and from there north to Hawaii, further east to Easter Island and south to New Zealand. This was the last major human migration event.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

New look at likely migration patterns into Polynesia

Where did the Polynesians come from, genetically and what cultural influences did they have? How dynamic was the interaction between the different Polynesian communities which will give us an indication of the dynamics in cross-cultural exchanges? These are important questions since answering them will allow us to hone in on the right culture, at the right time in an attempt to understand the earliest humans who lived in New Zealand.

Cultural and linguistic analysis identified the Polynesian’s to have originated from Taiwan around 4000 years ago. Recent studies rely on the insight from the more reliable genetic code of current occupants of these lands as well as coding from Polynesian rats, dogs, and chickens and contradict this theory.

Two studies are of interest to us. The first is work (5) conducted by Lisa Matisoo-Smith, Professor of Biological Anthropology at the University of Otago and Principal Investigator in the Allan Wilson Centre. Her research focuses on identifying the origins of Pacific peoples and the plants and animals that travelled with them, in order to better understand the settlement, history, and prehistory of the Pacific and New Zealand. Her research utilises both ancient and modern DNA methods to answer a range of anthropological questions regarding population histories, dispersals, and interactions. I rely on lecture notes published.

“Her work led her and her coworkers to suggest a new model for Polynesian origins, based on an existing framework for Lapita origins suggested by Roger Green in 1991. The first human settlers of Remote Oceania are associated with the Lapita culture, which first appeared in the Bismarck Archipelago in Near Oceania around 3500 BP. (An archipelago is a chain or cluster of islands formed from volcanic activity).”(Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“The Lapita culture is named after the distinctive patterned pottery, which was first found at a site called Lapita in New Caledonia. Anthropologists are very interested in who the Lapita people were and what role they played in the settlement of the Pacific.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“Remnants of Lapita pottery are now found throughout many areas of Remote Oceania, which suggests that the Lapita people were the first to settle this area. The age of the pottery remains found in each area supports the idea that this settlement spread from west to east from Melanesia into Polynesia.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“Evidence such as this suggests that the Lapita people are the ancestors of modern Pacific peoples, but questions remain about whether there could also have been contributions from other populations from Asia and Micronesia at later times.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

Here are the key ideas of the new model for Polynesian origins developed by Lisa and her colleagues, based on an existing framework for Lapita origins suggested by Roger Green in 1991:

1. The Lapita colonists in West Polynesia and the rest of Remote Oceania look very much like the current indigenous populations of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and western Fiji.
2. Around 1500 BP a new population arrived in Western Polynesia with new and more typically Asian derived physical characteristics, and mtDNA lineages.
3. These new people also introduced new mtDNA lineages of commensal rats, dogs, and chickens.
4. There were intense and complex interactions with the existing Lapita-descended populations as they spread over West Polynesia.
5. This resulted in the formation of the Ancestral Polynesian culture, who then dispersed east, and north into the rest of Polynesia.

This possible scenario is shown in the figure below. The grey arrows show the initial Lapita expansion through Near Oceania and into Remote Oceania. The dotted arrows show the proposed arrival of new population (or populations) from Asia into West Polynesia. The black arrows show the settlement of East Polynesia and a back migration into Melanesia.

Population migration in Polynesia

A new model for the origins of Polynesians From: Addison, D. J., & Matisoo-Smith, E. (2010)

Secondly, I looked at a 2011 study by Soares, et al. (6), which proposes an East Indonesian origin for Polynesian migration. They talk about a ‘‘Polynesian motif’’ which they focused on in their research. The “motif” comprise a clade of mtDNA lineages that together account for >90% of Polynesian mtDNAs. Soares, et al. states that “for the last 15 years, it has been recognized that the age and distribution of this clade are key to resolving the issue of the peopling of Polynesia.”

They explain that “by analyzing 157 complete mtDNA genomes, they show that the motif itself most likely originated more than 6000 years ago (>6 ka) in the vicinity of the Bismarck Archipelago, [off the northeastern coast of New Guinea] and its immediate ancestor is older than 8000 years (>8 ka) and virtually restricted to Near Oceania (includes New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Bougainville, and the Solomon Islands). This indicates that Polynesian maternal lineages from Island Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysian Borneo) gained a foothold in Near Oceania much earlier than dispersal from either Taiwan or Indonesia between 3000 and 4000 years ago (3–4 ka) would predict.

china, australia, etc.

Map Showing China, Taiwan, MSEA, ISEA, Near Oceania, and Remote Oceania

Their work shows that there was a spread back through New Guinea into ISEA, which most likely took place approximately between 4000 and 5000 years ago (~4–5 ka). A more plausible backdrop of the settlement of the Remote Pacific is a model based on the idea of a ‘‘voyaging corridor,’’ facilitating exchange between ISEA and Near Oceania (see map above).

The work further suggests “a convergence of archaeological and genetic evidence, as well as concordance between different lines of genetic evidence.” The authors state that their “results imply an early to mid-Holocene Near Oceanic ancestry for the Polynesian peoples, likely fertilized by small numbers of socially dominant Austronesian-speaking voyagers from ISEA in the Lapita formative period, approximately 3500 years ago (~3.5 ka)”. They claim that their “work can therefore also pave the way for new accounts of the spread of Austronesian languages.”

A Grand Adventure

I only sent two letters back home from New Zealand. They are very personal and I continued to learn. My letters were a way to keep my notes safe and, at the same time, try and lure my kids into this magnificent world!


Further Reading

Bacon Curing – a Historical Review


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Notes

(1)  The discovery was made in 2003.

(2)  Lauder published in 1991.

(3)  The discussion is entirely fictional.  Lors Landsdowne was a very intelligent man and very fond of sport, but this discussion never took place.  Everything is from the research of Eben on the subject.

(4) The hotel was the first time opened on Monday 6 March 1899

(5) Extracts from the Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M. (2010) lecture notes.

Likely migration patters into Polynesia

“When looking at human settlement of the Pacific, anthropologists divide the Pacific into two regions namely Near Oceania, which was settled by humans by 30,000 BP and remote Oceania, which was not settled until around 3000 BP.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

Near and Remote Oceania

Near and Remote Oceania (from Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“The first human settlers of Remote Oceania are associated with the Lapita culture, which first appeared in the Bismarck Archipelago in Near Oceania around 3500 BP. (An archipelago is a chain or cluster of islands formed from volcanic activity).”(Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“The Lapita culture is named after the distinctive patterned pottery, which was first found at a site called Lapita in New Caledonia. Anthropologists are very interested in who the Lapita people were and what role they played in the settlement of the Pacific.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“Remnants of Lapita pottery are now found throughout many areas of Remote Oceania, which suggests that the Lapita people were the first to settle this area. The age of the pottery remains found in each area supports the idea that this settlement spread from west to east from Melanesia into Polynesia.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“Evidence such as this suggests that the Lapita people are the ancestors of modern Pacific peoples, but questions remain about whether there could also have been contributions from other populations from Asia and Micronesia at later times.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

The first study of Matisoo-Smith and Denny (2010) “looked at the variation in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of living populations of Pacific rats from islands around the Pacific. mtDNA is inherited only from the mother, therefore there is no mixing with the father’s DNA or recombination during meiosis. This means that differences in the mtDNA due to mutation can be traced back through the generations. Scientists use the variation in the mtDNA to work out the relationships between different populations.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“The results of this study suggested that it is highly likely that there were multiple introductions of the Pacific rat to the Pacific Islands. This raised the question, “did these introductions all occur at the same time or at different times?” If they were at different times then this suggests that another group of people migrated into the Pacific sometime after the Lapita people.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“This question cannot be answered by studying modern mtDNA, as variation in modern mtDNA only shows different origins,—it doesn’t show the timing. Ancient DNA, however, could be used to answer this question. Ancient DNA is any DNA extracted from tissues such as bone that are not fresh or preserved for DNA extraction later. When an organism dies, the DNA molecules immediately start to break down, which makes it difficult to extract good quality DNA for analysis. The hot and wet environment found in most of the Pacific makes it just about the worst area for DNA preservation. Despite this Lisa and other Allan Wilson Centre researchers have been able to obtain DNA from Pacific samples as old as 3000—4000 years.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“If the age of the remains is known then the likely date of the introduction of new genetic material can be estimated. The team next investigated ancient DNA from the remains of Kiore (Pacific rat) found in different archaeological sites around the Pacific looking for patterns in the haplotypes in mtDNA. A haplotype is a combination of alleles that are located closely together.

Lisa found three distinct groups of haplotypes, – shown as Groups I, II and III in Figure 7.

Polynesian rat distribution

Distribution of the three groups of Pacific Rat haplotypes in Near and Remote Oceania. From: Matisoo-Smith, E., & Robins, J. H. (2004)

“Three clearly different haplotypes (or genetic groups) is an indication that these populations of rats are likely to have quite different ancestral origins. Group III does not fit the expected pattern. It shows no genetic link with the haplotypes found in Near Oceania. This suggests that this haplotype may be the result of a later introduction of the Pacific Rat into Polynesia sometime after the Lapita introduction.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“To test this hypothesis Lisa and her team carried out similar studies of variation in both modern and ancient mtDNA in pigs and chickens. In both of these animals the results showed there are introductions that are consistent in geographic distribution and time of appearance in the archaeological record with a Lapita introduction. But other mtDNA studies on dogs of the Pacific, plus the rat and chicken data all indicate a second introduction. This suggests a second population migration out of Asia sometime after 2000 BP.” (Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.;2010)

“These results have led Lisa and her colleagues to suggest a new model for Polynesian origins. It is based on an existing framework for Lapita origins suggested by Roger Green in 1991. Here are the key ideas:

1. The Lapita colonists in West Polynesia and the rest of Remote Oceania look very much like the current indigenous populations of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and western Fiji

2. Around 1500 BP a new population arrived in Western Polynesia with new and more typically Asian derived physical characteristics, and mtDNA lineages.

3. These new people also introduced new mtDNA lineages of commensal rats, dogs and chickens.

4. There was intense and complex interactions with the existing Lapita-descended populations as they spread over West Polynesia.

5. This resulted in the formation of the Ancestral Polynesian culture, who then dispersed east, and north into the rest of Polynesia.

This possible scenario is shown in the figure below. The grey arrows show the initial Lapita expansion through Near Oceania and into Remote Oceania. The dotted arrows show the proposed arrival of new population (or populations) from Asia into West Polynesia. The black arrows show the settlement of East Polynesia and a back migration into Melanesia.

Population migration in Polynesia

A new model for the origins of Polynesians From: Addison, D. J., & Matisoo-Smith, E. (2010)

6. Extracts from a 2011 study by Soares, et al., proposing an East Indonesian origin for Polynesia and discounting the “Out of Taiwone model

A 2011 study by Soares, et al., proposes an East Indonesian origin. They talk about a ‘‘Polynesian motif.’’ The “motif” and its descendants comprise a clade of mtDNA lineages that together account for >90% of Polynesian mtDNAs. Soares, et al. states that “for the last 15 years, it has been recognized that the age and distribution of this clade are key to resolving the issue of the peopling of Polynesia.”

They explain that “by analyzing 157 complete mtDNA genomes, they show that the motif itself most likely originated more than 6000 years ago (>6 ka) in the vicinity of the Bismarck Archipelago, [off the northeastern coast of New Guinea] and its immediate ancestor is older than 8000 years (>8 ka) and virtually restricted to Near Oceania (includes New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Bougainville, and the Solomon Islands). This indicates that Polynesian maternal lineages from Island Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysian Borneo) gained a foothold in Near Oceania much earlier than dispersal from either Taiwan or Indonesia between 3000 and 4000 years ago (3–4 ka) would predict.

china, australia, etc.

Map Showing China, Taiwan, MSEA, ISEA, Near Oceania, and Remote Oceania

Their work shows that there was a spread back through New Guinea into ISEA, which most likely took place approximately between 4000 and 5000 years ago (~4–5 ka). A more plausible backdrop of the settlement of the Remote Pacific is a model based on the idea of a ‘‘voyaging corridor,’’ facilitating exchange between ISEA and Near Oceania (see map above).

How did the cultural markers and the linguistic similarities between these regions and that of Taiwan develop? Soares, et al. suggests that there is evidence of further small-scale bidirectional movements across this region when Austronesian-speaking voyagers integrated with coastal-dwelling groups in the Bismarcks, perhaps stimulating the rise and spread of the Lapita culture and the dispersal of the Oceanic languages. “Other lineages from Southeast Asia are also found at low frequencies in Near Oceania, and still, others are candidates for dispersal from Taiwan into eastern Indonesia via the Philippines, but they did not reach Oceania. Some of these may have also been involved in the transmission of Austronesian culture and languages, although they evidently had no demic role in the founding of Polynesia.

Thus, although the results of the Soares, et al. study “rule out any substantial maternal ancestry in Taiwan for Polynesians, they do not preclude an Austronesian linguistic dispersal from Taiwan to Oceania between 3000-4000 years ago (3–4 ka), mediated by social networks rather than directly by people of Taiwanese ancestry but perhaps involving small numbers of migrants at various times.”

“The mtDNA patterns point to the possibility of a staged series of dispersals of small numbers of Austronesian speakers, each followed by a period of extensive acculturation and language shift. Overall, though, the mtDNA evidence highlights a deeper and more complex history of two-way maritime interaction between ISEA and Near Oceania than is evident from most previous accounts. Archaeological and linguistic evidence for maritime interaction between ISEA and Near Oceania during the early and mid-Holocene is strengthening, however, and it has been suggested that contacts might have been facilitated by sea-level rises and improvements in conditions on the north coast of
New Guinea. Early to mid-Holocene social networks between New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago are marked by the spread of stone mortars and pestles,
obsidian, and stemmed obsidian tools from approximately 8000 years ago (~8 ka) until
before or alongside the advent of Lapita pottery in the Bismarcks at around 3500 years ago (~3.5 ka). The absence of early Lapita pottery on New Guinea suggests major disruptions to preexisting exchange networks within Near Oceania before or at approximately 3500 years ago (~3.5 ka), with increasing social isolation of some areas and increasing interaction between others.”

“There is also emerging evidence from both archaeology and archaeobotany for the spread of domesticates during the mid-Holocene, before the presumed advent of Austronesian dominance from approximately 4000 years ago (~4 ka). Molecular analyses suggest that bananas, sago, greater yam, and sugarcane all underwent early domestication in the New Guinea region. These cultivars and associated cultivation practices diffused westward into ISEA, where the plants and linguistic terms for them were adopted by Proto-Malayo-Polynesian speakers upon their arrival approximately 4000 years ago (~4 ka). The vegetative cultivation of these plants evidently occurred within ISEA before any Taiwanese influences became significant.”

The work suggests “a convergence of archaeological and genetic evidence, as well as concordance between different lines of genetic evidence.” The authors state that their “results imply an early to mid-Holocene Near Oceanic ancestry for the Polynesian peoples, likely fertilized by small numbers of socially dominant Austronesian-speaking voyagers from ISEA in the Lapita formative period, approximately 3500 years ago (~3.5 ka)”. They claim that their “work can therefore also pave the way for new accounts of the spread of Austronesian languages.”

References

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Jean-Michel Dupuyoo, 2007, Notes on the Uses of Metroxylon in Vanuatu, Jardin d’Oiseaux Tropicaux Conservatoire, Biologique Tropical, 83250 La Londe-les-Maures, France, Metroxylon in Vanuatu Vol. 51(1) 2007, PALMS 51(1): 31–38, jmdupuyoo@yahoo.fr

HuangFusan (2005), A Brief History of Taiwan: A Sparrow Transformed into a Phoenix, Taipei: Government Information Office.

Matisoo-Smith, L. and Denny, M.. 2010. LENScience Senior Biology Seminar Series Rethinking Polynesian Origins: Human Settlement of the Pacific. Copyright © Liggins Institute. http://LENS.auckland.ac.nz

Nakayama, T., (1959), “Taiwan’s Buckskin Production and Its Exports to Japan in the 17th Century,” (translated into Chinese), Volumes on Taiwan Studies, no. 71. Taipei: Bank of Taiwan.

Roberts, J. A. G., 2011. A History of China, 3rd ed., Palgrave Macmillan.

From the article, “Salt Production at a Post-Lapita Village in Nadroga.” https://coralcoastfiji.org/fiji-tradition-culture/salt-production-lapita-nadroga

Soares, P., Rito, T., Trejaut, J., Mormina, M., Hill, C.,Tinkler-Hundal, E., Braid, M., Clarke, D. J., Loo, J-H., Thomson, N., Denham, T., Donohue, M., Macaulay, V., Lin, M., Oppenheimer, S., Richards, M. B.; 2011. Ancient Voyaging and Polynesian Origins, AJHG, Volume 88, Issue 2, p239 – 247, 11 February 2011.

Taiwan Today, Publication Date: December 01, 1991; The Last Salt Farmers; https://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=12,29,33,45&post=22441Williams, T. 1858. Fiji and the Fijians. London: Alexander Heyland.Photo Credit: By Joseph Smit – http://www.50birds.com/extan/gextanimals10.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4383372

Photos

All photos from Maori lore, 1904, by Izett, James.