What is saltpeter ?

A more or less “not Greek” page;

I learned to use saltpeter in Gothenburg, Sweeden, in December 1977. My mother in law bought a whole pig for the winterfood, and she said we had to make the Christmas Ham! What an unforgettable experience!


Every year since then I have made my Christmas Ham, and tried to find saltpeter. The ham has to be cured in sugar, salt and saltpeter for about 4 weeks. This makes the ham lovely soft, not too salty and it looks likes a kind of pink. One can keep the meat in the brine as long as one likes, – you know it was invented before the refrigerators!

I get my saltpeter from Sweden, because in Norway they are not allowed to sell it, due to EU regulations! How come? Norway is not in the EU, but Sweden is!!!

Suddenly, after all this years, I wondered, where does saltpeter come from?
I do not know if this interest you, but I like more and more to find out things about things that I kind of took for granted!

Here is what I found on https://sciencing.com/info-8501630-natural-places-saltpeter.html :

«Natural Places to Find Saltpeter

By Maria Kielmas; Updated January 09, 2018

Saltpeter is the popular name for the chemicals potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate. It is an important component of fertilizers, explosives, food preservatives, propellants and toothpaste for sensitive teeth. A concentrated solution of potassium nitrate speeds up decomposition of vegetable matter such as tree stumps. It has oxidizing properties that make it useful as a rust inhibitor for metals. Potassium nitrate also has a medical use in the treatment of high blood pressure and angina.

Bird Guano

The largest occurrence of natural saltpeter as sodium nitrate and associated compounds is in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Called Chile saltpeter, it derives from deposits of bird guano. Chemical processing of these deposits isolates the potassium nitrate.


Ordinary saltpeter in the form of potassium nitrate occurs in the sap of plants such as sunflower, common borage, celandine and tobacco. Vegetables such as spinach, celery and cabbage contain significant amounts of potassium nitrate.»

It can also come from limestone caves and soil. I think it is easier to get my Swedish friends to bring it to me! Thanks a lot! Strange I have never thought about where it comes from before! I have never found it in Greece, but


From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_nitrate I found:

Major uses of potassium nitrate are in fertilizers, tree stumpremoval, rocket propellants and fireworks. It is one of the major constituents of gunpowder (black powder) and has been used since the Middle Ages as a food preservative

Yes, already used in the Middle Ages!

Have a wonderful rest of the 3rd Sunday of Lent,
and try to be nice ;o)

2 thoughts on “What is saltpeter ?”

  1. Hei Nana! Du spør etter salpeter, det kan kjøpes på apoteket her i Norge. Ønsker dere ei god jul og et godt nyttår til deg og din mor.


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