13 July 2011

Flavour and Fragrance

Culinary and Fragrant Oils were one of the earliest items of commerce and were most likely spices, gums, and other fragrant plants.

Circa 1700BC fragrant plants and spices were being infused into fatty oils of olive and sesame for use in ointments who's main use at the time was for medicinal purposes. Around 3000BC in the Indus Valley (Pakistan) a teracotta perfume container and a primitive still were found. This places a still about 3,000 years before the date which was previously presumed. During the same period the Egyptians, as well as learning to write and make bricks were also importing large quantities of myrrh. Often famed for it's use in perfumes and medicine as well as finding fame for it's reference in the bible.
The Egyptians appear to have been the first civilisation to experiment and absorb perfumery into their culture. Several relics including a perfume vessel symbolizing unification from the reign of Tutankhamon have been found to all bear references to either perfume storage or perfume production.
  • The pots were made out of calcite and filled with spices such as frankincence which was preserved in fat. On openning the pots still gave off a faint odour, even after 3,000 years!
By 7th century BC Greece was established as a mercantile center for trading perfumes. Perfumes were sold in elaborately decorated ceramic pots, which are similar to jars you can buy in Athens today. Flavours most often sold included.
  • Lily
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Anise
  • Rose
  • Iris
  • The first real hard evidence of essential oils being distilled came from Herodotus' record of his methodology used in distilling Turpentine in 425BC

    The basics of perfumery looks to have begun around 300BC. As with many original methods of thought, at the time, Socrates was involved, if in an indirect way.

    His classmate Theophrastus was actually the first person to document all of the "perfume basics" including blending, shelf life, using wine with aromatics, substances that carry scent and the effect of odor on the mind and the body.

    By the 1st century AD, Rome was using about 2,800 tons of imported frankincense and 550 tons or myrrh every year. One Roman emperor spent the equivalent of $100,000 scenting just one party he was throwing. Apparently no "orgy" was complete without perfume.......I know that is my first priority when preparing such parties!.

    Mary The Jewesss
    We recently posted about the origins of the water bath its inventor and flash cooking, see the original post HERE. As well as being the creator of the "Double Boiler", or "Bain Marie", or "Marys Bath" she can also lay claim to being the creator of the first still, which she named the Tribokos. Consisting of copper tubing, ceramic pottery and metal, it was fairly crude compared to what we understand and use now days.

    Upon heating vapors from plant material and water would condense on the inside of the still, then trickle down and collect in a bottle. Not quite a Rotavapor but it served it's purpose.

    Her design, including many later modifications were used to distill essential oils, but also would prove useful for distilling alcohol. With this invention new doors were opening which invariably led to the birth of Alchemy.

    No comments: