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Moretum

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  • Justin Mansfield
    In a message dated 12/8/99 6:16:08 AM, you wrote:
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 8, 1999
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      In a message dated 12/8/99 6:16:08 AM, you wrote:

      <<From: Sallygrain@...

      Hi

      I just looked at the text of moretum and it does appear that while 4
      heads
      are picked one grass grown? bulb is used. It seems very odd to pick four
      and
      only use one clove so it must mean one head surely. >>

      At least. I mean, if "my" reading is correct, what does he do with the
      other three heads? It seems stupid for a poor farmer to waist them!

      << We simply dont know how
      fat their garlic was. >>

      What about the evidence from, e.g., the ruined gardens at Pompeii? I
      remember seeing a reconstructed pleasure garden they had built by
      examining the imprints of the roots to determine what kind of plants had
      been there. Do we have any herb gardens or farms that were volcanically
      preserved? I'm assuming not, but just thought I'd ask.



      << I settled on 4-6 cloves at least. The next question is
      how much cheese is meant and that is where taking a recipe from the poem
      is
      so difficult. There is no indication of size. I also took the
      assumption
      that the mixture he was making was a daily chore as was the bread so the
      amount made each time would not be great. This is open to question I
      >>

      The first time I made moretum I tried to do it by hand. My GOD did it
      take forever, of course I'm a lazy bastard and am not accustomed to
      using my hands, let alone a mortar & pestle. A stout yeoman (wordplay
      intentional) would no doubt be able to do this faster.


      << realise. By my original reckoning 2oz of cheese would take 4-6
      cloves. It
      was hard strong cheese though that I am sure Any kind of ricotta would
      be
      too mild. All the ingredients are strong flavoured including the herbs
      and
      they need to balance. >>

      To be fair to Giacosa, the Ricotta was for Apicius' moretum, not
      Virgil's. Of course for Virgil she says to use "fresh soft cheese" so
      your criticism still stands.
      So you're pretty sure that for a moretum to be a moretum it needs
      garlic? I was thinking that all that was needed was cheese and herbs,
      and that Apicius' moretum represents an entirely different ball of
      fromage, so to speak ;)


      << The best thing to do is find a balance that pleases you >>

      Well, once I get my herbs growing nicely again- I've suffered some
      setbacks recently, e.g. I killed my poor rue -I may experiment with
      putting more herbs in to get through the garlic, or reducing the garlic
      so my girlfriend will actually eat it ;)


      -JDM
    • Hilary Cool
      Perhaps Sally is right when she said earlier that the important thing was to find a balance that suited the individual rather than agonising about precise
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 9, 1999
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        Perhaps Sally is right when she said earlier that the important thing was to find a balance that suited the individual rather than agonising about precise proportions. Emily Gowers in her book The Loaded Table (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1993) is quite interesting on the poem itself (especially pages 46-8), and elsewhere on the symbolic role of garlic in literary works of antiquity (for example p. 290 onwards). It is after all a poem written for a reason other than to give a recipe.

        Hilary Cool
      • Justin Mansfield
        ... But that s not what she s saying. She s saying moretaria means that, and it s not a moretum til you put the cheese in. So you told me you were batting
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 4, 2000
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          > IVSTINVS,
          >
          >
          > > Oops, forgot to point out in my reply: Giacosa
          > > (Taste of Ancient Rome) translates moretaria as
          > > "ingredients for a moretum", which nicely
          > > explains the absense of cheese- that's
          > assumed.>>
          >
          > This just helps me belive that moretum was a
          > basic recipe for "mashed greenish mixture" (my
          > new favorite term). It could be used as it was,
          > or have other ingredients added to it.

          But that's not what she's saying. She's saying moretaria means that, and
          it's not a moretum til you put the cheese in.
          So you told me you were batting about the idea of writing your own
          cookbook. Since you've been railing against translating moretum as
          garlic cheese, will you call it "MORETUM (Mashed Greenish Mixture)" in
          the book? ;)

          >
          > > This is, of course, paralel to how Apicius
          > > often omits the main ingredient from a recipe,
          > > assuming you know from the title to put it
          > in.>>
          >
          > Let me show my ignorance again. I have heard
          > this before (I even think I may have read it),
          > but were can I find this bit of info referenced?
          > I readily see it in such instances as "A Sauce
          > for Boiled Fowl" and such, but what about main
          > dishes (if this makes any scence).

          Of the top of my head, note how the lenticula dishes never specify to
          add lentils. They do sorta imply it though, by opening with "accipies
          caccabum mundum" ("take a clean pot").


          > Also (just
          > playing devil's advocate), if moretum is not
          > spelled out as a cheese dish, how would someone
          > know to add it to those ingredients?

          OK, so if it IS a cheese based dish, an ancient cook would not
          necessarily need to be told. But you're probably asking how do WE know,
          in which case I'll have to say that as far as I can tell, we don't
          know... unless there are more descriptions of moretum out there that
          we've been failing to notice. I'm thinking that a moretum has cheese, or
          some other base in it. Moretaria are a sauce mixed with a base to get a
          moretum. But I cannot prove this absolutely.



          From some of your other posts:

          > I did this with about five on-line versions. I
          > typed in moretum, alium, the word for cheese
          > (can't remember how to spell it), correus, etc.
          > and each time I got the phrase "no matches
          > found". Maybe I am doing it wrong. I was hoping
          > that some one had an on-line source they have
          > used consecutively with good results.

          OK, then try the following links:

          http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/lexindex?lookup=moretum&type=begin&options=Sort+Results+Alphabetically&lang=la

          http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/lexindex?lookup=allium&db=ls

          http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/lexindex?lookup=caseus&type=begin&options=Sort+Results+Alphabetically&display=&lang=la

          http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/lexindex?lookup=correus&type=begin&options=Sort+Results+Alphabetically&display=&lang=la
          [Ah... did you pick that word deliberately??]


          > Greetings!
          >
          > I found these on amazon.com and thought I would
          > pass them along.

          Don't forget this one, also availible on Amazon.com (I saw it in the
          library and enjoyed it, but it's too expensive for its size for me to
          buy)

          Dieting for an Emperor : A Translation of
          Books 1 and 4 of Oribasius' Medical
          Compilations With an Introduction and
          Commentary (Studies in Ancient med

          by Oribasius, Mark Grant
        • Ross
          Green garlic season is over, but the farmers markets right now have young garlic which I like much more. Young garlic has small heads (just one inch across)
          Message 4 of 4 , Jun 19, 2013
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            Green garlic season is over, but the farmers' markets right now have young garlic which I like much more. Young garlic has small heads (just one inch across) with distinct cloves which are not separated by dry, papery membranes. There are membranes but they are completely edible. They are usually sold with stems, scapes and flowers still attached. The flowers should not be opened.

            I saw these in the farmers' market last saturday and of course I thought of moretum. I bought four of them and I made the moretum the next day.

            Parenthetically the scapes can be used to make the easiest and tastiest stir fry you've ever made. Slice the scapes into 3/4" lengths, remove the stems from 5 oz. of cheap white button mushrooms and thickly slice the caps. Stir fry in 3 Tbs. of peanut oil until mushrooms have some color and smell very mushroomy. Plate and season with a little sea salt. The salt is the only seasoning and it is delicious.

            Back to the Romans: the kind of cheese to use posed a dilemma. "...cheese is added, hard from taking up the salt" is what Virgil said. What does this mean? Soft cheese (I imagine) might mean cheese which doesn't keep its shape, which is easily spread on bread to give the bread savor. If my supposition is correct then "cheese... hard from taking up the salt" might be describing something similar to Bulgarian Feta.

            I did initially intend to use Bulgarian Feta in my moretum but I eventually decided that a drier, harder cheese would be better. I've made alioli before (described by Pliny the Elder btw) and I know that pounded garlic is just liquid. I DID want to end up with something which could be formed into, well, a cheese ball. So I settled on Pecorino Toscano.

            Fortunately there was a small bag of fresh rue leaves in the refrigerator, left over from our recent Roman feast and still good. :-)

            The specific recipe is based on Mark Grant's ("Roman Cookery" pp. 68-69), but he uses too much vinegar and not enough olive oil. I alter the sequence in which ingredients are added, Virgil calls for the cheese to be added almost immediately, I add it at the last.

            I did not have any fresh celery leaves, but I DID have some dried celery leaves, and I used them all. Unfortunately I didn't weigh them before chopping them up...


            INGREDIENTS:

            Four young garlic bulbs from the farmers market, stems, scapes and flowers still attached, flowers not opened, individual cloves not separated by dry papery membranes. Each bulb only one inch across. Raw of course.
            1/2 teaspoon or so kosher salt
            3 tablespoons (not four) champagne vinegar
            4 tablespoons (not two) top quality olive oil
            30 g fresh coriander leaves and stems, minced very fine (about one third of a bunch)
            7.5 g fresh rue leaves and small stems, minced very fine
            4 g (?) dried celery leaves (about 20) minced very fine
            7.5 oz. Pecorino Toscano cheese, grated fine


            METHOD:

            Did not even attempt to separate, much less peel, individual cloves (there was a baseball game on and I was in a hurry). Bulbs topped and tailed, exterior membranes of bulbs with "ribbed" appearance removed.

            Pounded with salt.

            Proceeded as if making alioli: Added all vinegar at once, added olive oil a quarter or half teaspoon at a time, continually stirring clockwise with the pestle.

            All olive oil added and it was a nice emulsion. Added all herbs. Pounded and pounded some more.

            Added cheese. Pounded. Wicked with finger. Formed into a ball. Licked fingers. Washed hands. Covered and tossed into refrigerator (it was late).

            Preliminary impressions formed from licking fingers:

            Extremely good! Tasty and savory! Better than any cheese dip (or cheese ball...) I've ever had! Neither too bitter nor too salty nor, IMO, too alliaceous (albeit I do have garlic in my soul). Only one small complaint... despite reducing vinegar from four tablespoons to three tablespoons, it was still a little too vinegary!

            . . .

            I was busy the next night, I eventually got to try it on bread more than 40 hours later. Just some simple white rolls from Zaro's Bread Basket. The emulsion had held up nicely (no doubt the herbs and hard cheese helped a lot). No liquid had separated from the ball. Not a drop. This alone made me feel pretty good.

            The garlic had a strong presence but it was not harsh or unpleasant in any way. Smooth, even creamy. In fact it was hard to tell where the cheese stopped and where the galic began!

            The vinegar had mellowed somewhat while in the refrigerator. When spread on bread (as intended) it did not seem vinegary at all. It wasn't bitter either (I had to really think about it to taste the rue, and I thought I had used a lot).

            My final verdict is that it is good and worth making... but maybe too dry? It doesn't really want to stick to bread? If I can find such good young garlic again this summer, I'll experiment with using Bulgarian Feta instead. :-)
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