Marinades, Their Uses, and Where They Came From
Have you ever wondered about the history of marinades and how they’ve evolved over the years? Learn about the history of marinades, which initially was saltwater rubbed on meat to help preserve it and, of course, impart the salt flavor.
Origin of the Word MarinadeSeawater led to the word marinade, which comes from the Latin word for the sea, mare. The verb form “marinade” appeared in the English language around the early 17th century, earlier than the noun marinade, which didn’t appear until the 18th century. According to some sources, the word may not have originated directly from the seawater connection, but from the French word mariner “to marinate” or from the Italian word, marinare, which means “to pickle.” The Oxford English Dictionary explained that the word, marinade, indicated something was briny, of salty water or the sea; this led to brining meats, treating food with brine or coarse salt to tenderize and flavor it. The difference is that brining doesn’t include using vast amounts of acid, as opposed to marinades, to help break down the connective tissue in the meat for tenderizing.
Marinating FoodGradually, the pickling or preserving process evolved to flavoring and tenderizing meats. It involved steeping meat and fish, among other foods, in a mixture of vinegar, oil, herbs, and other similar ingredients before cooking. The idea was that it would tenderize and add flavor to the foods, which led to the technique of adding flavor by liquid immersion. The process now lasts from minutes to days, and there are a plethora of marinades used in different cuisines. However, poultry and seafood require a shorter marinating time, since acidic ones can turn the meat mushy sooner. The rule of thumb is to marinate chicken for an hour, no more. Citrus juice, wine, yogurt, pineapple, and buttermilk denature the protein strings, unwinding them, to make the chicken soft and add flavoring.
Marinades in Ancient CulturesMost people believe marinades have only been around for a few hundred years or so and were discovered in Europe. However, they have originated from ancient Egyptian times. Asians have also been marinating their food for centuries with the popular ingredient, soy sauce. The Roman era added marinades to flavor their food with vegetables being the main dish in ancient times. The French began marinating their food in the 1300s, and the Mexicans have used papaya to tenderize their meat since before Columbus’s time. In the U.S., we started using bottled marinades since the 1800s, but marinating, in general, could have been used even before that. Specific ingredients in marinating solutions have been influenced by the country they originate from, as well as by the cooks. Because there was no refrigeration back then, marinating was mainly used for preservation. During the Renaissance era, they gained popularity in western cooking, when people used them on chicken and other meats to enhance the flavor, along with preserving it.