From the shores of Portugal in the West to the river valleys of ancient Mesopotamia in the East; from the Scottish borders in the North to the upper Nile in Egypt in the South, the Roman Empire’s cooking depended upon one condiment – Garum, also known as Liquamen – a fish sauce that flavored food for the millions who called themselves Roman citizens for over 400 years.

Surprisingly, Garum is still made commercially today, as a bottled fish paté in Europe, though its use has waned since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Liquamen or Garum
This is based on an ancient Roman condiment - a fish sauce - that was the staple of food flavorings in ancient times, much as we use ketchup or Worcestershire.
Recipe type: Condiments
Serves: unknown
  • 500 grams small fish (smelt, sprat, anchovy, sardine), whole
  • 375 grams sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano with a top
  • water
  1. Rinse the fish under running water, leave them intact (do not remove gills, innards or whatever).
  2. Put fish, salt and oregano in a cooking pan, add enough water to cover the fish with one or two inches of liquid on top.
  3. Bring to the boil, let boil for fifteen minutes. The fish are cooked to a pulp. Crush the fish even more with a wooden spoon, continue boiling until the liquid starts to thicken.
  4. Now start straining. First use a coarse strainer or colander to remove all the larger bits and pieces. Then strain the liquid several times through a kitchen cloth until the liquid is clear. Depending on the fish you use, and how long everything has boiled, you'll end up with a pale yellow to deep amber coloured liquid.
  5. Let it cool completely, and keep it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It may be that salt crystals are collecting at the bottom of the jar.
  6. Because of the high content of salt, this sauce will keep for years. You'll need but a tea- or tablespoon full at the time. Take care that you use a completely clean spoon for taking garum out of the jar.


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