6 Chapter 6: THE MASTER BUTCHER FROM PRAGUE

The ether around Prague and the Bohemian people was right for a company or an individual to step forward and take up the challenge to work out the details of how to use sodium nitrite directly in meat curing.

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Into this advanced and scientifically and industrially mature environment, Ladislav Nachmullner was born on 2 April 1896.  (Eva’s Beloved Dad)

In 1912, the Bohemian boy, Ladic (Ladislav) NACHMÜLLNER  was 16 years old.  His dad tragically burned to death four years earlier, in 1908, when his clothes caught fire in his home.  His mother had just passed away from tuberculosis and as the oldest child, the responsibility fell on him to care for his siblings.

Ladic got an opportunity to learn the art of meat curing to provide for his siblings in a land where chemistry was well understood, salts were of a high quality, sodium nitrite was widely available and there was an appetite for and a culture of innovation in food production.  He was taught the art of curing by a well known butcher,  Josef Pazderky from Praha, almost 600km from Prague.  He was an unusually gifted young man who learned fast and an illustrious career followed.[1] At the young age of 19 he invented Praganda, which would become the most successful curing brine of its day, containing sodium nitrite.  This was the year 1915 when he also started writing his book on Praganda.

How his invention happened is not known, but possibly very early in his employment he was introduced to the use of sodium nitrite for meat curing.  Ladic himself gives important clues.

He says that he discovered the power of sodium nitrite through  “modern-day professional and scientific investigation.”  He probably actively sought an application of the work of Haldane. Ladic quotes the exact discovery that Haldane was credited for in 1901 that nitrite interacts with the meat’s “hemoglobin, which is changing to red nitro-oxy-haemoglobin.”  This must have made a profound impression on him which explains why he never forgot it.  If it was not him personally, it must have been his mentors in Prague who decided to start experimenting with sodium nitrite to develop a meat curing brine.

The “modern day professional investigations” that he spoke off would have been the input of master butchers who was not primarily interested in a quicker process, but in a better end product.  Saltpeter is potassium nitrate.  The butchers did not like it due to the slightly bitter taste of potassium.  Butchers who used Ladic’s brine would later put signs in their shop windows that their meat is free of saltpeter.

Another point that Ladic specifically addressed in his nitrite-based brine is the use of as little nitrite as possible.  This shows an advanced understanding of the chemistry or curing and an ability to apply this to his trade.

His fame as curer spread and he received employment offers from more countries.  He moved to Austria and then, Switzerland for the duration of the war.

He received offers for management positions from all over Germany, France, England, Holland, Switzerland, Romania, Yugoslavia , Poland and as far afield as America and China.

 

Praganda

 

He says that he invented Praganda in 1915 (when he was 19 years old) and at a time when the use of nitrites in food was not legal in Germany.

We know that it was not legal in Germany before August 1914 when Walther Rathenau who created the War Raw Materials Department (Kriegsrohstoffabteilung or KRA) restricted the use of saltpeter to military purposes only and the use of nitrites in food were allowed.    Germany again banned its use some time during the war.  The concession on sodium nitrite’s use in food was reversed after an accident in Leipzig where sodium nitrite was mistaken for table salt and 34 people died.  (Concerning Nitrate and Nitrite’s antimicrobial efficacy – chronology of scientific inquiry)  This must then have happened some time in 1915.

The impression one gets from reading his life story through the writings of his daughter Eva, is that he probably learned the basics of nitrite curing early on and this “paid his way” on many travels through Europe.  Along the way, he must have continued to refine and perfect his formulations and solve the many challenges of using such a potentially dangerous chemical. (For a detailed analysis of the technical challenged facing him and how he dealt with it, see Ladislav NACHMÜLLNER vs The Griffith Laboratories.)

His move to Switzerland for the remainder of World War One is of interest.  In Switzerland, the Polish chemist, Prof. Mościcki of the University of Freiburg, invented a process to use atmospheric nitrogen to produce both nitric and nitrous acid  (US patent US1097870) in 1901 through the use of an electric arc in a closed container. (cesa-project.eu)

In 1910, a factory opened in Switzerland, Chippis, in Wallis canton, where the world’s first nitrous acid was produced using Prof. Mościcki’s electric arc process.  (cesa-project.eu)  This means that a factory producing nitrite was in operation in the same country where Ladislav lived, during the war.

It is equally important that Prof. Mościcki opened another  factory in Poland during the War, the Azot nitrogen factory near Jaworzno.  (cesa-project.eu)  Jaworzno is less than 460km from Prague.

From the evidence of his life, handed down to us by his daughter, Eva, he returned to Prague from Switzerland in 1929 and set up his first outlet where he sold Pragnada and ham moulds which he invented.

It makes Prague the center of the development to add sodium nitrite directly to meat, other than canned meat.

(All information and pictures about Ladislav Nachmüllner and Praganda, from Ladislav Nachmüllner vulgo Praganda. Nachmüllnerová, Eva, Editor, 2000, Translated by Monica Volcko)

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Notes:

1.  The Professional Career of Ladic

After his apprenticeship he worked in several factories in Praha  (Kracik, Beranek, Ugge-Sitanc and Miskovsky) as an assistant.  His first work as a specialist in his field was with A. Chmel, Fr. Hlousek in Paha, Fr. Strnad in Lazne Luhacovice, and later in Germany, at the factories of Josef Sereda, Fr. Seidl, Zemka and Leopold Fisher in Berlin.

He worked as a “cellar man” at  Josef Cifka, Vaclav Miskovsky in Praha, Kat. Rabus & Son in Zagreb, Jugoslavia,

Later he worked as a Foreman (Workman Leader) for  the companies, Fr. Maly, Vacl. Havrda, A. Kadlec in Praha and Alexander Brero, Hard a/Bodensee Vorarlbersko and, in the end, he worked  as a “Quick Production Specialist” for the export of hams for Carl Jorn A.-., Hamburg, Germany, Herrmann Spier, Elberfeld, Westfalsko, Karl Frank, Urach b/Stuttgart, Wurttemberg, A. Brero & Co, St. Margrethen, Switzerland. BACK TO POST

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The Naming of Prague Salt Copyright © 2016 by Eben van Tonder. All Rights Reserved.

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