As some of you will know, I’ve had this thing for a while now that the natural processes which maintain a healthy body (be it porcine or human) do not immediately cease their usefulness upon death. In fact, the same vitamins, antioxidants, enzymatic processes, probiotic bugs etc, are invaluable for great curing.

This sometimes leads me to look in unusual places for inspiration. Small wonder then, that the wizardly whiskers were a-tingling with curiosity about Bath Spa.

The naturally hot spring at Bath is the only one of its kind in The Uk. It is best known as the site of a sacred roman temple and baths, but its history goes back much further. Any chef knows that food can only be as good as the ingredients. Water, is one such vital curer’s mainstay, often forgotten.

Legend has it, that one of Ancient Britain’s princes, named Bladud, was cast out as a leper and became a swine herd.

He began to take his pigs down to the mysterious land around the spring for foraging, mud, and to drink. He noticed after a while that his pigs were blessed with extremely good health and wondered if he too would benefit from whatever sacred forces looked kindly upon this place. He went to the source of the waters and bathed in them. And so was cured of his leprosy, able to return to his people as king.

Well I too went to the source of the spring today, and spent an hour walking round the rather excellent visitor centre. I drank some of the water too, which I found to be delicious. I had to go and pester someone who had better things to do that talk to some bacon-nutter, to find out what is actually in the water. So here it is:

The water is rich in sulphates, used today as a preservative and antibacterial, especially in fruit and wine. Next on the list is calcium from the rich limestone rock through which it has been steam-driven. I know that hard water is traditionally considered superior for Wiltshire curing (wet curing with a live brine)

So too are sodium and chloride (ie, salt) present in small but appreciable amounts: you can just about taste it.

There’s some bicarbonate, another useful tool in the preserver’s arsenal, a little magnesium and is fortified with enough iron to colour the stones.

All in all, I reckon a brine made from the waters of this very special site would be pretty damn good. It does also seem to be genuinely good for you both internally and for the skin.

So would the water preserve pork on its own, given a chance?

Nope, ‘fraid not. I am going to write to the appropriate authority and see if I can do a small project there for the sake of interest. But I’m sorry to say that had any of Prince Bladud’s pigs drowned by chance, they would not have handily emerged as self-made bacon or ham. Just very healthy (if you can call dead, healthy) clean pork.

Still, you can’t underestimate the importance of the different waters around the world. Brewers across all the UK religiously add gypsum and other minerals to copy the water of Burton (on Trent) the natural home of our rich brewing history. Maybe Aqua Sulis’s first encounter with pigs still points the way for me. I’ll let you know, of course.

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