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Friday, August 26, 2011


Roman Fish and Garum Factory, Museu d’Història de la Ciutat, Barcelona
Urns for making Garum
Photo by: Sebastià Giralt

muria, salmurea, (“sal” [salt] + L. murĭa [brine], Gr ál-myrís (salt murri), Armenian murya, Ar. murrī, Fr. almori, Eng. fish murri, salt murri, an inferior fish garum sauce or paste made with tuna which was sold at a price in between expensive garum and liquamen. In Spanish there was no translation for “liquamen.” Hispanos adopted the Latin word for brine “murri” or “salt murri.” It was an aromatic brine added as a condiment to food preparations and used to preserve foods like legumes, fruits, olives, and fish. The process took several months to prepare as the undesirable parts of fish were sun dried for exportation or to make murri in fish factories established at Spanish fishing ports adjacent to salt beds and rivers where catches were cleaned and prepared for salting. Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans exported garum, fish murri and salted fish to their homes while Iberians added murri to dishes they prepared. All murris were consumed as medicinal food as they were thought to cleanse and warm the stomach, which aided digestion. Occasionally, sumac substituted murri. Due to the rigorous restrictions of the Church, Christians adopted murri readily for a pleasant change in cuisine on fast days. Abu Bakr Abd al Aziz Arbulo wrote a treaty in Almeria titled “Murri al hut” (fish murri) between 1414 and 1425 which indicates that this garum descendant was used in Spain during this time at least. See almorí, almorí macerado garum and liquamen. [Alonso, Martín. 1994:I:A:275; Anón/Huici. 1966:94:65:316:176-177 Bolens. Cuisine. 1990:195-196; ES: Anon/Perry. Sep 5, 02; ES: Lagóstena. Sep 6, 07; ES: Lord. Culinary. Mar 4, ‘08; García Rey. 1934:140; Gitlitz. 1999:19-20; and Ibn Razīn/Granja. 1960:156:26]


anchovies – not for the squeamish
Photo by: spanishsauce.wordpress.com

1 lb mackerel (or other dark-fleshed fish)

1/3 c salt


Sun and 104ºF weather or a yogurt maker set at 104º C

Wash fish but do not gut them. Place a layer of fish in a bowl, cover with salt and add another layer until all the fish and salt used up. (If more salt needed it is better to have too much than too little.) Leave this in the sun for one hour until salt is completely dissolved. 

Thoroughly stir the mixture with a sterilized spoon and leave in sun for three months. If sun and hot weather are not guaranteed place in a yogurt maker and cover. Let it ferment for at least 5 days or until the fish flesh was completely dissolved leaving only the bones. The longer the fish are left to ferment the richer the sauce will be. Remove the bones and put the top layer into a sterilized jar with a sterilized spoon.  

Should the mixture become cloudy throw it out.

For more recipes of murri see almorí and almorí macerado. 


  1. Could you tell please which is the second ingredient? For some mischievous informatic reason it's missing. Surely nothing to with fish, as this is a susbtitute for almorí de pescado. Is there any recipe with something like salted anchovies, mojama or bottarga in it?It is really interesting how Roman recipes arrived to the Middle Ages. I'll begin experimenting with this murri, as it seems the simplest of all. Thank you!

  2. The second ingredient is 1/3 c salt. Yes, now with the yogurt maker it sounds like something anyone can do now. I have a friend who let his fish ferment in a sealed ice chest in the trunk of his car, as his wife would have nothing to do with the smell.
    The Phoenicians introduced fish salting in Spain. The Romans set up fish salting factories at the mouths of rivers near salt beds and in windy areas.
    At the fish salting factories mojama would have been made. The Hispano Arabs liked it so much that they continued to make it and gave it the name masama. from which the name mojama is derived. This consists of salted and air-dried tuna loins. The process takes from 18 to 22 days. Fish murri or salmuera and garum are fish crushed in brine.
    Bottarga is roe, which is salted, air dried and pressed from tuna, swordfish, white ling or amberjack. This is of Egyptian origin. My article on anchovies will be published soon.
    I have not come across majama or bottarga in the medieval Spanish culinary texts that I have consulted. If anyone can give me a reference I would be glad to include them.
    Also, if anyone has any recipes that he or she would like to share you are most welcome!

  3. Now it is clear, thank you. I think coarse salt is better for this purpose. Anchovies / anchoas /boquerones are quite delicate and as every small fish they should be eaten in the shortest time after they are fished (they are quickly eaten too...). Even salted or canned anchovies are kept in the freezer in supermarkets, so imagine having them out in the sun for three months! I have seen the first step (cover the fish with salt) in Italy (Liguria) and Spain (Cantabria, Cataluña), but afterwards they put the glass jar in the refrigerator and wash a little the anchovies before using them. Perhaps this garum was the typical casual discovery of someone who forgot to take the fish out, or the result of a long journey on board a Phoenician vessel, which managed to sell the stuff convincing the buyers with their carachteristic Mediterranean locuacity? It`s funny to imagine...

  4. Garum and fish drying factories were next to salt beds at the mouth of rivers emptying into the Mediterranean (to use fresh water for cleaning fish). Salt for salting fish or making garum and its derivatives used was not refined by any means. It is obvious that all fish used for garum making, even covered for processing, stank as factories were always outsider cities like Cadiz and it still sticks for those trying to imitate it.
    Converted into modern terms, my mother could have been the inventor of a modern garum. One winter when mother was in a car pool to drive the neighborhood children and me to school we had to go with all the windows open when it was her turn to drive even though it was snowing because the car smelt so badly. Finally, mother found that some frozen lobster tails had “jumped out” of a shopping bag (it was Lent) and lay hidden under the driver’s seat. I guess that makes mother would be inventor of lobster garum had she only drowned them in salt! After that we asked the other mothers to make a Lentan sacrifice and not let mother drive during that period!

  5. Just let somebody try to make lobster garum adding salt and let us know the result!
    I forgot to say in my previous comment that if you want to make anchovies preserved (and not "garumed") in salt you must of course wash them very well and pull out the head and bones, letting the filets clean. One more question: did they ever use shellfish for garum? As your mother discovered, it ferments quickly!

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