Thomas de Courcy (https://www.bakerspeel.com) asked a question about documentation for pastirma before 1600. Of course, that sent me down today’s research rabbit hole.

Wikipedia had some interesting links that focused on etymology but no actual recipes.  According to Wikipedia, “the word pastırma comes from the Turkish verb bastırmak which means “to press”. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink writes that pastırma is the word Ottomans used for a type of Byzantine cured beef that was called pastonThe Oxford Companion for Food says that a Byzantine dried meat delicacy was “a forerunner of the pastirma of modern Turkey”. According to Johannes Koder, an expert in Byzantine studies, paston could mean either salted meat or salted fish.

Other scholars have given different accounts of the historical origins of the Ottoman pastırma. The armies of settled, agricultural peoples had cereal based diet, and some Turkish and Bulgarian scholars have written that certain medieval fighters who kept dried and salted meat under their saddles had an edge over opponents who ate mostly cereals. Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that the Huns warmed this meat by placing it between their legs or on the backs of their horses.  Pastırma is mentioned in 11th C scholar Mahmud of Kashgars Diwan Lughat al-Turk and 17th C explorer Evliya Çelebis Seyahatname.”

Wikipedia also notes that “the word pastrami may be a Yiddish construction that combined salami with pastırma or one of the similar linguistic variations of the word (pastram in Romanian, pastromá in Russian and basturma in Armenian).”

Henry Marks, in Byzantine Cuisine, wrote about apoctia, which is pieces of meat prepared by removing them from the bone, covering them with salt and placing them in the sun. His source was a Greek author (Koukoule), who said that the original information comes from Geoponika. Unfortunately, my edition of Geoponika does not seem to include that information.

Andrew Dalby, in Flavours of Byzantium (p. 71) says that apokti, dried cured meat, is mentioned in the Book of Ceremonies of Constantine Porphyrogennetos. The modern recipe from the same book (p. 171) is a traditional one from Santorini. It uses pork loin that is trimmed, salted for a day, then steeped in vinegar for three days. Then it is removed from the vinegar, patted dry and rubbed with cinnamon and left for five or six hours. Then it is rubbed with ground black pepper, dried savory, and more cinnamon and hung to dry for several weeks.

In a different document (From Greeks Abroad: social organization and food among the ten thousand, 1992) Dalby notes in his Footnote 97 – “Turkish and Bulgarian scholars consider that the fact that their warlike medieval ancestors had a regular supply of meat, dried and salted under their saddles, contributed to their success against opponents who fought on cereal food. The method (said to be precursor of modern Turkish pastirma) is first recorded of the Huns by Ammianus Marcellinus 31.2.3, quam inter femora sua equorumque (Gardthausen; vaporumque or equorum mss.) terga suhsertam … calefaciunt, ‘[meat] which they warm by placing it between their own legs and their horses’ backs’, not, as Shaw (25) has it, ‘between the hind quarters of their horses’. On pastirma see Kaymak, M. G. in Türk Folklor Arastirmalari no. 208 (November 1966) Google Scholar; Riddervold, A., ‘On the documentation of food conservation’ in Food conservation: ethnological studies ed.  Riddervold, A. and Ropeid, A. (London 1988) 210–218 Google Scholar; L. Radeva, ‘Traditional methods of food preserving among the Bulgarians’ ib. 38–44.”

Since both the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey are largely Muslim, I decided to go with a beef version. http://www.grouprecipes.com/95661/pastirma.html. I now have beef being pressed in salt in my refrigerator. I’ll report back in a few weeks.


Today I participated in a demo at a festival, so I did some spinning, some naalbinding, and started drawing out and carving the design on my antler salt holder. The design on the original is quite worn in spots so I spent some time with a pen, trying to figure out exactly how the knotwork works, then transferring as much as I dared onto the antler. My piece of antler isn’t as big as the original, nor is it quite the same shape, so some will need to be filed off and redrawn. I used a sharpie so that I could soak the antler to soften it while carving. I struggle to follow patterns and put them into another medium, so I’m pleased with how it is working so far. I feel like putting knife to antler was a huge step. I may go back and clean out the inside more, but for now I intend to focus on the decoration.



Now I need to go through all my cookbooks and dig out these recipes to try.


German Sausage Stuffing Ring


This is a Wurstbugel, or sausage measure, found in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nurnburg. My friend Aelfwyn spotted this and shared it because she knows how much I love sausage things. This was a completely new tool to me, and now I want one. The information below is my best effort to translate the information on the museum’s website. The link above provides all the original text, plus some detailed photos.

The body of the sausage measure is a brass plate with a rectangular basic shape. Towards one end, the plate widens slightly conically and merges into a relatively large and approximately circular eye. The other end kinks almost at right angles and ends in a tapered tip, the so-called degumming blade. However, the cutting edge is dull and serves to allow the careful removal of the intestinal mucus from the sausages to be filled with sausage meat. Both sides of the sausage measure are richly engraved and each has a wreath running along the edge. The engravings on one side also show the date “1601” as well as a pig running from the tip of the slicer blade toward the kink. In addition, on this side of the hanger, a broad, short sausage is notched on the edge of the eye and the initials “FW” are notched in the middle. The engravings on the other side show a cow walking from the top of the slicer blade towards a butcher. The craftsman depicted in elaborate clothing holds a meat cleaver in one hand and an hourglass in the other hand. He is undoubtedly a butcher. Along the edge of the eye, a narrower, longer sausage is scored on this side compared to the other side. This richly decorated sausage measure shows that even small or utilitarian tools or tools may be elaborately decorated. The very beautiful overall maintenance of the piece speaks in any case for a very careful handling of it.

The term” sausage measure “most likely comes from the museum. When purchasing the implement in the year 1884 “Wurstmaß” was used to designate it. The once common, but forgotten and therefore correct term is “sausage bar”. This is in various dictionaries of the 18./19. Century. In the German Dictionary of the Brothers Grimm of 1854 there are references to terms such as “wurstbogen” (15th century) and “sausage bar” (worsteboghel, 14th century). In other encyclopedias, the term “sausage horn” is mentioned, if the device was not made of brass, but made of horn. In Johann Heinrich Zedler’s Universal Lexicon (1732-1750) it says: “sausage bar is made of brass, horn or wood ring, with a small handle, through which sausages are made by filling pig-guts. The butchers used the eye (hole) of the sausage measure as a size guide; the intestine could thus be filled to a constant diameter, and the length could be measured against the length of the sausage measure. After filling, the sausage strand could be pulled through the eye and reshaped as necessary. The blade-like kink on the other end of the device served as a sort of degumming blade for removing the intestinal mucus. With the disappearance of the device from the artisanal production since about the middle of the 19th C, the actual name “Wurstbügel” fell into oblivion, the new term “Wurstmaß” prevailed. Sausage measures were not official equipment for determining sausage sizes; they were simply helpful guides. Sausages were always sold by weight, not shape, so the official control devices were calibrated scales.

One of the earliest images of a sausage measures comes from Die Hausbucher der Nurnburger Zwolfbruderstiftungen, a book that has images of craftsmen who were part of this organization from the late Middle Ages until the early 1800s. The image of Hans Layr, from 1586, him holding several sausage measures. (http://www.nuernberger-hausbuecher.de/75-Amb-2-317b-46-r/data)


Siuts, Hinrich: Rural and handicraft tools in Westphalia. The old agricultural and agricultural implements 1890-1930, Münster 1986, p. 191;

Schmidt, Leopold: The History of sausage measure, in: people and homeland (12) 1959, S. 4-5;

Rumpf, Karl: Of the guild system of the city Alsfeld with special consideration of the guild signs in the museum, in: Hessian homeland (2) 1958/59, P. 13-17, here: P. 17;

Pierer’s Universal Lexicon, Volume 19, Altenburg 1865, pp. 395-396; Müller, Wilhelm / Zarncke, Friedrich: Middle High German Dictionary, Leipzig 1854-1866, p. 387;

Adelung, Johann Christoph: Grammatical-critical dictionary of the High German dialect, Leipzig 1793-1801, pp. 1633-1634;

Zedler, Johann Gottfried: Great Universal Lexicon, 26th volume, 1749, p. 211. – Gazetteer (11/12) 1884, p. 141;

What is German? Questions about the self-image of a pondering nation. Accompanying volume to the exhibition in the Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg, June 2 to October 3, 2006. Nuremberg 2006, p. 248;

Always the right measure. From sausage size to environmental analysis. History and Activities of Environmental Analysis Nuremberg. Nuremberg 2007, p. 64;

Schindler, Thomas: From the sausage bar to the sausage measure. Interpretations and meanings in tool science, in: KulturGut (24) 2010, pp. 10-12 (https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/kulturgut/article/viewFile/18782/12593);

Bauriedel, Rüdiger: “Get the sausage measure” when slaughtering. Funny slaughterhouse custom with forgotten real background. In: Hummelgauer homeland messenger, Jg. 24, No. 91, March 2011, P. 2-8;

Schindler, Thomas: Tools of the Early Modern Period in the Germanic National Museum. Inventory catalog. Nuremberg 2013, p. 260, cat. No. 545;

Schindler, Thomas: Sausage bar of the type Einöhrbügel with degumming blade. In: Zünftig! Mysterious craft 1500-1800. Edited by Thomas Schindler, Anke Keller, Ralf Schürer. Exhibition cat. Germanic National Museum. Nuremberg 2013, p. 144, cat. No. 2.49.


A few weeks ago, I got to spend two days hanging out with some of my favourite people, doing one of my favourite things – Viking Age reenactment. I spent most of my time working on my fishing net because I had a good place to hang it and work with my face to visitors. I calculated that it took me about half an hour to do a row, including time for chatting.This project had been going on for years, but it is finally starting to look decent. I reached a point last weekend that I could sit while working. I have learned a lot from a simple project that is basically just repetition of the same knot.

I have changed the knot so that it doesn’t slip. I have learned that sometimes a double loop on the knot is needed so that the net will be sturdier. Not being an actual fisher, it took me a while to figure out that my mesh actually has to be the right size to catch a particular fish. I have done work on the net now that I am comfortable working without a gauge to ensure each loop is the same size. I have gotten pretty good at working both from left to right and from right to left, so I don’t need to switch the net around or work in a place where I can have access to both sides of the net. My recollection of traditional nets is that they were often made or repaired while hung against something like a fence, so mastering this skill was important. Finally, I have timed myself making a single row, so I can now calculate how many hours of work will have gone into the net when it is complete. I still need to improve my repair skills, as there are lots of errors at the beginning where I messed up which previous loop I should have netted into, and then couldn’t figure out how to fix my mistake.

I spent time researching how nets were used during the Viking Age and before. The reality is that huge nets don’t make much sense because they are hard to haul into a boat. However, it appears the Vikings did do some netting from boats because remains of net, sinkers and floats exist. They also used weirs and probably netted in streams as well. My net would probably do quite nicely during salmon spawning season in the little stream that runs through l’Anse aux Meadows, right beside the original forge site.


Tonight, I got to do one of my favourite things – I spent an hour with a bunch of youngsters, sharing my love of medieval things. It was at an overnight church camp on a medieval theme. My audience was to be mostly girls between the ages of 7 and 14, many from low-income families. I was doing the demo on my own.

My solution was to pack up my Viking age kit (a sea chest, a basket, a stool) with a variety of items to show everyday life of a Viking woman. Over the years, my demonstration kit has evolved to highlight my interest in cooking, carving, fishing, and textile arts. Coincidentally, this means that I have a variety of tools and items made from bone, antler, wood, horn, hair, leather, wool, linen, hemp, and a bit of silk. I have lots of plain things and a few colourful bits. Since I also have a big interest in reducing waste, and reminding kids of where our food comes from, this has become known as 100 things to do with a dead animal.

Back row – wooden cup, spindle with a soapstone whorl, onion-skin dyed wool on a wooden stool; hemp fishing net with a wooden shuttle; woven basket with spindles with pottery, soapstone, antler and (medieval) metal whorls, undyed white and black wool, wool dyed with madder, purple loosestrife, Queen Anne’s lace, woad-dyed silk, undyed linen, and a pair of wool combs; bone line winder with a hemp fishing line and metal hook.

Front row: hemp netted bag, soapstone oil lamp, bone pin, bone lucet with some madder-dyed wool luceted cord, two bone buckles (one on a leather belt, one on cloth), a raw bone so kids can see what I started with, horse and cows tails, goose feathers – some made into quill pens, naalbinding strainer made from horse and cow hair sitting in the wooden cup; wooden plate holding two horn sausage stuffers and a horn spoon, wooden bowl and wooden spoon.22DD0830-B468-4C78-A154-26AC9A5CFCFE

To complete the demonstration, I had a linen dress and underdress, naalbinding socks and leather shoes, a necklace with glass beads and a bone cross, linen cap with linen braid ties and trim, a whetstone, metal snips, my wooden-handled eating knife, my bone case for holding metal needles, my antler carving knife, my bone comb and case, a bone ear spoon, and my metal toiletry kit (tweezers, earspoon, toothpick and mysterious object).


To finish off the evening, the kids were each allowed to try writing with the quill pens – a messy but fun experiment. I really enjoyed all the questions and interest in touching the different items, and demonstrating spinning and how long it would take to make a single shirt. Kids are always fascinated by bone and horn especially, and how many different materials could be used for items that are made of plastic today.

A little over a year ago, I spotted this object and I fell in love.

F578F886-5CC5-4A1E-A394-46D67FAEE60E You can read more about it here. T Shaped Antler Container.

I had to make one right away! So I challenged back into the Order of the White Wolf Fian, even though I didn’t need to challenge for almost two years. So here we are, a year later, and I am finally starting to work on it.

The first challenge was to find a piece of antler that would be a reasonable approximation of the original, which is 15 cm long. Eventually I found one that is a fair bit smaller to give the right proportions, but it will have to do. Today I sawed it to shape and now I am trying to clear the material from the core. This will be a challenge because the piece is too large for my little drill bits and I’m afraid to use a huge one in case I pierce the hard outer shell, or make it so thin that it cracks/punctures when I try to carve it. In addition, the smaller piece is not filed with the spongy core that is easy to remove, but rather hard antler that gums up the dril bit. So far, I have cleared some from each end, and I’ll keep twiddling away at it until I get brave enough to try a larger drill bit.