- So, I've finally managed to get my hands on some emmer. If you live in
the Chicago area, you can buy it at Sam's Liquor, of all places
(despite its shady sounding name, that is a really amazing store). In
the deli section they have vacuum-sealed bags of "farro" (but it is
definitely emmer, not spelt, because the binomial scientific name
"Triticum dicoccum" is listed on the back). These are rather expensive,
I think about $10 each, but since the stuff is so hard to find anywhere
I didn't mind.
So all this time I kept thinking to myself how many more recipes I
could make authentically if I had some emmer, but now that I finally
have it, I can't figure out what I want to make. Any suggestions?
Something simple preferably.
And a question: farro is of course sold as whole groats. What do I have
to do to make it into "alicae"? I've never quite had a full grip on the
definition of that term. Isn't it basically roughly pounded
groats--large broken pieces, rather than a finely ground powder? I
don't have any convicts I can chain to a tree trunk, but I guess I have
a small mortar and pestle ;)
And to make it into "far" my understanding is that I would need to
toast it, then grind it into a fine powder. Correct?
- I've been busy, and I somehow missed the description of Alicae. I've been gathering sources on it myself, and I would be happy to share my own English translation of Pliny.
Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.29.112—116:
Alica fit e zea, quam semen appellavimus. tunditur granum eius in pila lignea, ne lapidis duritia conterat, mobili, ut notum est, pilo vinctorum poenali opera. primori inest pyxis ferrea. excussis inde tunicis iterum isdem armamentis nudata conciditur medulla. ita fiunt alicae tria genera: minimum ac secundarium, grandissimum vero aphaerema appellant.
nondum habent candorem suum, quo praecellunt, iam tamen Alexandrinae praeferuntur. postea, mirum dictu, admiscetur creta, quae transit in corpus coloremque et teneritatem adfert.
invenitur haec inter Puteolos et Neapolim in colle Leucogaeo appellato, extatque divi Augusti decretum, quo annua ducena milia Neapolitanis pro eo numerari iussit e fisco suo, coloniam deducens Capuam, adiecitque causam adserendi, quoniam negassent Campani alicam confici sine eo metallo posse. — (In eodem reperitur et sulpur, emicantque fontes Araxi oculorum claritati et volnerum medicinae dentiumque firmitati.) —
Alica adulterina fit maxime quidem e zea, quae in Africa degenerat. latiores eius spicae nigrioresque et brevi stipula. pisunt cum harena et sic quoque difficulter deterunt utriculos, fitque dimidia nudi mensura, posteaque gypsi pars quarta inspergitur atque, ut cohaesit, farinario cribro subcernunt. quae in eo remansit, excepticia appellatur et grandissima est. rursus, quae transit, artiore cernitur et secundaria vocatur, item cribraria, quae simili modo in tertio remansit cribro angustissimo et tantum harenas transmittente.
alia ratio ubique adulterandi ex tritico: candidissima et grandissima eligunt grana ac semicocta in ollis postea arefaciunt sole ad dimidium rursusque leviter adspersa molis frangunt. ex zea pulchrius quam e tritico fit tragum, quamvis id alicae vitium sit. candorem autem ei pro creta lactis incocti mixtura confert.
Alica is made from zea, which we called seed. Its grain is pounded in a wooden mortar, so the hardness of stone will not crush it, with a movable pestle, as is well known, by the penal work of chained convicts. The tip contains an iron pyxis. When the hulls have been beaten off by this (pestle), the "marrow" (i.e. soft inner part), stripped of this armor, is chopped. Thus are the tree kinds of alica made: "minimum" ("smallest") and "secondarium" ("second-class"), and they call the greatest (kind) aphærema.
They do not yet have their brilliant whiteness, for which they are notable, but they are already preferred to the Alexandrian (variety). Afterwords, amazingly enough, chalk is mixed in, which becomes part of the mass, and brings the color and fineness.
This is found between Pozzuoli and Naples in the hill which is called Leucogæum, and there exists a decree of the Divine Augustus, in which he commanded that 200,000 be counted for the Neapolitans every year from his purse, sending out the colony of Capua, and he added the cause for this maintainence: because the Campanians had said thatalica could not be made without this quarry. In the same (place) is also found sulfur, and the sources of the Araxus spring (from it, being good) for the clarity of the eyes, and the treating of wounds, and the firmness of teeth.
Fake alica is made mainly from that zea which grows degenerately in Africa. Its ears are wider and blacker, and its stem is short. They pound it with sand, and even so they grind off the hulls only with difficulty, and the measure of the naked (grain) is only half (what it was before the process), and after words a fourth part of gypsum is sprinkled in, when it has stuck together, and they sift it with a flour-seive. That which remains in it is called excepticia, and is very large. On the other hand, that which passes through, is sifted with a finer (seive) and is called secundaria. Likewise cribraria ("sievish") (is) that which has remained in a similar manner in a third, very narrow sieve, which allows only sand through.
There is another way of making fake alica everywhere: they select the most brilliant white and largest grains, and they dry them, after they've been half-cooked in pots, in the sun to half, and then when they have been lightly sprinkled again they break them up in mills. A nicer tragum is made from zea than from wheat, even if it is a fault ofalica. But a raw mixture of milk imbues it with its brilliant whiteness, rather than chalk.
zea— as I understand it, a general term for far "emmer" and tiphe "einkorn." In other words "hulled wheat." (Though I don't know that "spelt" is ever included in this term.)
pyxis— in other contexts would be translated "box" or "can" or the like. But I have left it untranslated to avoid implying a specific shape. Note that modern scholars use the term for a specific type of Greek pot, for which see the Wikipedia entry—this does seem like a logical shape, doesn't it?
aphærema— Greek ἀφαίρεμα, literally "taking away." According to the LSJ (Greek dictionary), in other contexts this term implies a "choice part," and is also used for "tribute" or "deduction."
leucogæum— Greek λευκόγαιον "white earth."
decree— as I understand this, Augustus is sending a yearly rent to Naples to pay for the state's use of the Leugogæan hill.
to half— possibly "to half their size"? I.e. they parboil them and they swell up, then sun-dry them until they're back down half?
lightly sprinkled again— with water to rehydrate??
fault— is this another way of saying "fake alica"?
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