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Garum (Fermented Fish Sauce) - Ketchup of the Caesars

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My son is a budding Classicist and has developed an interest in ancient Roman cooking.  To that end he recently told me that he wanted to make Garum, also called liquamen, a fermented fish sauce that the Romans applied to everything. Garum is similar to asian fish sauces, but the flavor is supposed to be much deeper and more intense.


Our Garum is loosely based on a recipe described in a book titled A Taste of Ancient Rome by Giacosa and other various research on the inner webs.  


The base ingredient is a whole fresh mackerel, including head, tail and entrails - the whole damned fish.  We built successive layers of fish, herbs and salt in a one quart mason jar that is capped with an airlock. The herb base includes a generous mix of fresh thyme, fennel fronds, parsley, oregano, bay, rosemary, sage, and garlic - all items that would have been readily available to the ancient Romans.  We have seen discussions on the inner webs that recommended salt layers measured "two fingers deep." We saw another notation where someone used a 1:1 ratio of salt and commented that the salt taste was overwhelming.  We settled on an approximate ratio of 1 part salt to 2 parts fish and herbs.  Based on my experience making pickles and other assorted demented items, I expect it should be enough salt to retard the growth of the bad bugs, but not to much to inhibit the growth of the good lactobacillus that we need for the fermentation.


The jar will sit in the sun to "cook" for the next two weeks or so until everything liquifies.  After that, stir and put the mixture in a darker location and let it go for another several months.  The goal is to have it ready for Thanksgiving. Hopefully, the salt and the air lock will help keep the initial smell of the fermenting fish to tolerable levels and that it does not draw every feral cat, coon and yote in the immediate area to investigate.  Our Portuguese Water Dog Lola was very attentive during the entire process and was rewarded with the last remnants of fish scraps that would not fit in the jar.  


This is going to be interesting.  



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6 hours ago, daninpd said:

I have my favorite brand "3 Crabs" Vietnamese fish sauce.  Yours is looking interesting and a little bit Mark Twain's "Law and Sausages".  You don't want to see either one getting made.

I love that quote.  But I think everyone should see where their meat comes from.  I think it's important to realize how that nice package of steaks at the grocer starts out as a cow.  I think people would then appreciate their food a little more than they do.

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