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This webpage reproduces a Book of the
De Re Coquinaria


published by Walter M. Hill, 1936

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Book II

De Re Coquinaria

 p45  Book I. The Careful Experienced Cook
Liber I. Epimeles

1 Fine Spiced Wine
Conditum Paradoxum

The composition of this excellent spiced wine is as follows. Into a copper bowl put 6 sextarii1 of honey and 2 sextarii of wine; heat on a slow fire, constantly stirring the mixture with a whip. At the boiling point add a dash of cold wine, retire from stove and skim. Repeat this twice or three times, let it rest till the next day, and skim again. Then add 4 ounces of crushed pepper,2 3 scruples of mastich, a drachm each of nard or laurel leaves and saffron, 5 drachms of roasted date stones crushed and previously soaked in wine to soften them. When this is properly done add 18 sextarii of light wine. To clarify it perfectly, add crushed charcoal3 twice or as often as necessary which will draw the residue together and carefully strain or filter through the charcoal.

1 Sextarii. Tor. partes XV; G.‑V. pondo XV; List. partes XV . . . pondo lib. . . . qui continent sextarios sex. One sextarius (a "sixth") equals about 1½ pint English.

2 Pepper. Piperis uncias IV — ordinarily our black or white pepper grains, but in connection with honey, sweets, and so forth, the term "pepper" may just as well stand for our allspice, or even for any spicing in general.

3 Charcoal. Still a favorite filterer for liquors.

List. Apicius is correct in starting his book with this formula, as all meals were started with this sort of mixed drink.

Tor. deviates from the other texts in that he elaborates on the cooking process.

2 Honey Refresher for Travelers
Conditum Melizonium1 Viatorium

The wayfarer's honey refresher (so called because it gives endurance and strength to pedestrians)2 with which travelers are refreshed by the wayside is made in this manner: flavor honey with ground pepper and skim. In the moment of serving put honey in a cup, as much as is desired to obtain the right degree of sweetness, and mix with spiced wine not more than a needed quantity;  p46 also add some wine to the spiced honey to facilitate its flow and the mixing.

1 Tor. Melirhomum; non extat. G.‑V. M. perpetuum, i.e., having good keeping qualities.

2 Tor. reads thus whereas others apply "endurance" to the honey itself. The honey could not be preserved (perpetuum) by the addition of pepper. Any addition, as a matter of fact, would hasten its deterioration unless the honey were boiled and sealed tight, which the original takes for granted.

3 Roman Vermouth
Absinthium Romanum1

Roman vermouth or Absinth is made thus: according to the recipe of Camerinum2 you need wormwood from Santo3 for Roman vermouth or, as a substitute, wormwood from the Pontus4 cleaned and crushed, 1 Theban ounce5 of it, 6 scruples of mastich, 3 each of nard leaves, costmary6 and saffron and 18 quarts of any kind of mild wine. Filter cold. Charcoal is not required because of the bitterness.

1 G.‑V. Apsinthium.

2 The mention of a name in a recipe is very infrequent. Camerinum is a town in Umbria.

Thayer's Note: in Antiquity Camerinum was in Regio VI Umbria; the modern Camerino is now in the Italian region of the Marche.

3 Now Saintonge, Southern France.

Thayer's Note: Saintonge — assuming the translation is good — is considered western France; between south and north, though, it identifies rather as northern.

4 Black Sea Region.

5 Weight of indefinite volume, from Thebae, one of the several ancient cities by that name. List. thinks it is an Egyptian ounce, and that the author of the recipe must be an African.

6 Wanting in Tor.; G.‑V. costi scripulos senos.

4 Rose Wine1

Make rose wine in this manner: rose petals, the lower white part removed, sewed into a linen bag and immersed in wine for seven days. Thereupon add a sack of new petals which allow to draw for another seven days. Again remove the old petals and replace them by fresh ones for another week  p47 then strain the wine through the colander. Before serving, add honey sweetening to taste. Take care that only the best petals free from dew be used for soaking.

1 Used principally as a laxative medicine. List. These wines compounded of roses and violets move the bowels strongly.

5 Violet Wine

In a similar way as above like the rose wine violet wine is made of fresh violets, and tempered with honey, as directed.

6 Rose Wine without1 roses
Rosatum sine Rosa

Rose wine without roses is made in this fashion: a palm leaf basket full of fresh citrus leaves is immersed in the vat of new wine before fermentation has set in. After forty days retire the leaves, and, as occasion arises, sweeten the wine with honey, and pass it up for rose wine.

1 A substitute.

7 Liburnian Oil
Oleum Liburnicum

In order to make an oil similar to the Liburnian oil proceed as follows: in Spanish oil put the following mixture of elecampane, Cyprian rush and green laurel leaves that are not too old, all of it crushed and macerated and reduced to a fine powder. Sift this in and add finely ground salt and stir industriously for three days or more. Then allow to settle. Everybody will take this for Liburnian oil.1

1 Like the above, a flagrant case of food adulteration.

8 To Clarify Muddy Wine
Vinum ex atro candidum facies

Put bean meal and the whites of three eggs in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly with a whip and add  p48 to the wine, stirring for a long time. The next day the wine will be clear.1 Ashes of vines have the same effect.

1 Ex Lister whose version we prefer. He says, Alias die erit candidum while Tor. adds white salt, saying, sal si adieceris candidum, same as Tac. This is unusual, although the ancients have at times treated wine with sea water.

9 To Improve a Broth1
De liquamine emendando2

If broth has contracted a bad odor, place a vessel upside down and fumigate it with laurel and cypress and before ventilating3 it, pour the broth in this vessel. If this does not help matters4 and if the taste is too pronounced, add honey and fresh spikenard5 to it; that will improve it. Also new must should be likewise effective.6

1 List. Liquamen, id est, garum. Goll. Fish sauce.

2 Tor. Qui liquamen corruptum corrigatur.

3 Dann. Ventilate it. Goll. Whip the sauce in fresh air.

4 List., G.‑V. si salsum fuerit — if this makes it too salty — Tor. si hoc nihil effecerit.

5 Tor. novem spicam immittas; List. Move spica; Goll.‑Dann. stir with a whip.

6 A classic example of Apician confusion when one interpreter reads "s" for "f" and "novem" for "move" and another reads something else. Tor. is more correct than the others, but this formula is beyond redemption. Fate has decreed that ill-smelling broths shall be discarded.

10 To Keep Meats Fresh without Salt for any Length of Time
Ut carnes sine sale quovis tempore recentes sint

Cover fresh meat with honey, suspend it in a vessel. Use as needed; in winter it will keep but in summer it will last only a few days. Cooked meat may be treated likewise.

 p49  11 To Keep Cooked Sides of Pork or Beef or Tenderloins
Callum porcinum vel bubulum et unguellae coctae ut diu durent

Place them in a pickle of mustard, vinegar, salt and honey, covering meat entirely. And when ready to use you'll be surprised.

V. Method still popular today for pickling raw meats. The originals treat of cooked meats (Tor. nucula elixa; G.‑V. unguellae coctae; Tac. nucella cocta). Dispensing with the honey, we use more spices, while pepper, cloves, bay leaves, also onions and root vegetables. Sometimes a little sugar and wine is added to this preparation which the French call marinade and the Germans Sauerbraten-Einlage.

12 To Make Salt Meat Sweet
Ut carnem salsam dulcem facias

You can make salt meats sweet by first boiling them in milk and then finishing them in water.

V. Method still in practice today. Salt mackerel, finnan haddie, etc., are parboiled in milk prior to being boiled in water or boiled or fried.

13 To Keep Fried Fish
Ut pisces fricti diu durent

Immediately after they are fried pour hot vinegar over them.

Dann. Exactly as we today with fried herring and river lamprey.

14 To Keep Oysters
Ostrea ut diu durent

Fumigate a vinegar barrel with pitch,1 wash it out with vinegar and stack the oysters in it.2

1 Tor. vas ascernum, corrected on margin, ab aceto. List. vas ab aceto, which is correct. G.‑V. lavas ab aceto; V. the oysters? unthinkable! Besides it would do no good.

2 Goll. Take oysters out of the shell, place in vinegar barrel, sprinkle with laurel berries, fine salt, close tight. V. Goll.'s authority for this version is not found in our originals.

V. There is no way to keep live oysters fresh except in their natural habitat — salt water. Today we pack them in barrels, feed them with oatmeal, put weights on them — of no avail. The only way English oysters could have arrived fresh in Imperial Rome was in specially constructed bottoms of the galleys.

 p50  15 Making a Little Laser Go a Long Way
Ut nucia1 laseris toto tempore utaris

Put the laser2 in a spacious glass vessel; immerse about 20 pine kernels (pignolia nuts).

If you need laser flavor, take some nuts, crush them; they will impart to your dish an admirable flavor. Replace the used nuts with a like number of fresh ones.3

1 List. and G.‑V. uncia — ounce. Making an ounce of laser go a long way. Tor. nucea; Tac. nucia. Lister, fond of hair-splitting, is irreconcilably opposed to Tor., and berates Caspar Barthius for defending Tor.

List. Quam futilis sit in multis labor C. Barthii ut menda Torini passim sustineat, vel ex hoc loco intellegere licet: Et enim lege modo uncia pro nucea cum Humelbergio, & ista omnia glossemata vana sunt.

V. both readings, uncia or nucia are permissible, and make very little difference. We side with Tor. and Tac. because it takes more than an ounce of laser to carry out this experiment.

Thayer's Note: What true laser (silphium) might have been is, despite reams of conjecture for hundreds of years, unknown, and provides no grounds for taking sides. Good Latin strongly suggests uncia, though, and it's downright peculiar of Vehling to affirm that more than an ounce of laser is needed when no one knows what the stuff was.

The statement commonly seen these days (and in note 3 below), that silphium was asafoetida, is quite untenable on several grounds. Silphium is repeatedly stated to have been an expensive plant growing only in the North African province of Cyrene, whereas asafoetida is common and cheap, growing over vast tracts of central Asia; and there is general agreement among the ancients themselves that silphium became extinct in their own time: Strabo reports shortages (XVII.3.22) and a black market (XVII.3.20) in it, and Pliny (XIX.39) states that the last known single stalk of silphium was sent to the emperor Nero.

At the same time it seems clear that a substitute was found, which may have been asafoetida. For an overview of the problem, see Maria Lykoudis' essay, "In Search of Silphion".

2 Laser, laserpitium, cf. dictionary.

3 V. This article illustrates how sparingly the ancients used the strong and pungent laser flavor [by some believed to be asa foetida] because it was very expensive, but principally because the Roman cooks worked economically and knew how to treat spices and flavor judiciously. This article alone should disperse for all time all stories of ancient Rome's extravagance in flavoring and seasoning dishes. It reminds of the methods used by European cooks to get the utmost use out of the expensive vanilla bean: they bury the bean in a can of powdered sugar. They will use the sugar only which has soon acquired a delicate vanilla perfume, and will replace the used sugar by a fresh supply. This is by far a superior method to using the often rank and adulterated "vanilla extract" readily bottled. It is more gastronomical and more economical. Most commercial dishes are synthetic, some injurious. To believe that any of them impart to the dishes the true flavor desired is of course ridiculous. The enormous consumption of such extracts however, is characteristic of our industrialized barbarism which is so utterly indifferent to the fine points in food. Today it is indeed hard for the public to obtain a real vanilla bean.

Cf. also notes regarding flavoring to Nos. 276‑7, 345 and 385.

16 To Make Honey Cakes Last
Ut dulcia de melle diu durent

To make honey cakes that will keep take what the Greeks call yeast1 and mix it with the flour  p51 and the honey at the time when making the cooky dough.

1 Tor. and Tac. nechon; G.‑V. cnecon; Dann. penion.

17 Spoiled Honey Made Good
Ut mel malum bonum facias

How bad honey may be turned into a saleable article is to mix one part of the spoiled honey with two parts of good honey.

List. indigna fraus! V. We all agree with Lister that this is contemptible business. This casts another light on the ancients' methods of food adulteration.

18 To Test Spoiled Honey
Mel corruptum ut probes

Immerse elecampane in honey and light it; if good, it will burn brightly.

19 To Keep Grapes
Uvae ut diu serventur

Take perfect grapes from the vines, place them in a vessel and pour rain water over them that has been boiled down one third of its volume. The vessel must be pitched and sealed with plaster, and must be kept in a cool place to which the sun has no access. Treated in this manner, the grapes will be fresh whenever you need them. You can also serve this water as honey mead to the sick.

Also, if you cover the grapes with barley bran you will find them sound and uninjured.

V. We keep grapes in cork shavings, bran and saw dust.

20 To Keep Pomegranates
Ut mala granata diu durent1

Steep them into hot sea water, take them out immediately and hang them up. They will keep.

1 Tor. conditura malorum Punicorum; Tac. mala granata; G.‑V. mala et mala granata.

 p52  21 To Keep Quinces
Ut mala Cydonia diu serventur

Pick out perfect quinces with stems1 and leaves. Place them in a vessel, pour over honey and defrutum2 and you'll preserve them for a long time.3

1 V. Excellent idea, for the stems, if removed, would leave a wound in the fruit for the air to penetrate and to start fermentation. Cf. also the next formula.

2 G.‑V. defritum, from defervitum; defrutum is new wine, spiced, boiled down to one half of its volume.

3 This precept would not keep the fruit very long unless protected by a closefitting cover and sterilization. Cf. No. 24.

22 To Preserve Fresh Figs, Apples, Plums, Pears and Cherries
Ficum recentem, mala, pruna, pira, cerasia ut diu serves

Select them all very carefully with the stem on1 and place them in honey so they do not touch each other.

1 See the preceding formula.

23 To Keep Citron
Citria ut diu durent1

Place them in a glass2 vessel which is sealed with plaster and suspended.

1 Tor. conditura malorum Medicorum quae et citria dicuntur. V. Not quite identified. Fruit coming from Asia Minor, Media or Persia, one of the many varieties of citrus fruit. Probably citron because of their size. Goll. Lemon-apples; Dann. lemons (oranges). List. Scilicet mala, quae Dioscorides Persica quoque & Medica, & citromala, Plinius item Assyria appellari dicit.

2 G.‑V. vas vitreum; Tac. and Tor. vas citrum; V. a glass vessel could not be successfully sealed with plaster paris, and the experiment would fail; cf. note 3 to No. 21.

24 To Keep Mulberries
Mora ut diu durent

Mulberries, in order to keep them, must be laid in their own juice mixed with new wine boiled down to one half in a glass vessel and must be watched all the time so that they do not spoil.

V. This and the foregoing formulae illustrate the ancients' attempts at preserving foods, and they betray their ignorance of "processing" by heating them  p53 in hermetically sealed vessels, the principle of which was not discovered until 1810 by Appert which started the now gigantic industry of canning.

25 To Keep Pot Herbs
Holera ut diu serventur

Place selected pot herbs, not too mature, in a pitched vessel.

26 To Preserve Sorel or Sour Dock
Lapae1 ut diu serventur

Trim and clean the vegetable. Place them together; sprinkle myrtle berries between, cover with honey and vinegar.

Another way: Prepare mustard honey and vinegar also salt and cover them with the same.

1 The kind of vegetable to be treated here has not been sufficiently identified. List. and G.‑V. rapae — turnips — from rapus, seldom rapa, — a rape, turnip, navew. Tac. and Tor. Lapae (lapathum), kind of sorrel, monk's rhubarb, dock. Tor. explaining at length: conditura Rumicis quod lapathon Graeci, Latini Lapam quoque dicunt.

V.: Tor. is correct, or nearly so. Turnips, in the first place, are not in need of any special method of preservation. They keep very well in a cool, well-ventilated place; in fact they would hardly keep very long if treated in the above manner. These directions are better applied to vegetables like dock or monk's rhubarb. Lister, taking Humelbergius' word for it, accepts "turnips" as the only truth; but he has little occasion to assail Torinus as he does: Torinus lapam legit, & nullibi temeritatem suam atque inscientiam magis ostendit.

Now, if Torinus, according to Lister, "nowhere displays more nerve and ignorance" we can well afford to trust Torinus in cases such as this.

27 To Keep Truffles
Tubera ut diu serventur

The truffles, which must not be touched by water, are placed alternately in dry sawdust; seal the vessel with plaster and deposit it in a cool place.

Dann. Clean [peel] the truffles . . . in another vessel place the peelings, seal the vessels . . . V. this would be the ruin of the truffles, unless they were "processed" in the modern way. Our originals have nothing that would warrant this interpretation.

 p54  28 To Keep Hard-skinned Peaches
Duracina persica ut diu durent

Select the best and put them in brine. The next day remove them and rinsing them carefully set them in place in a vessel, sprinkle with salt and satury and immerse in vinegar.

29 Salts for many ills
Sales conditos ad multa

These spiced salts are used against indigestion, to move the bowels, against all illness, against pestilence as well as for the prevention of colds. They are very gentle indeed and more healthy than you would expect. [Tor.] Make them in this manner: 1 lb. of common salt ground, 2 lbs. of ammoniac salt, ground [List. and G.‑V.] 3 ounces white pepper, 2 ounces ginger, 1 ounce [Tor. 1½ ounce] of Aminean bryony, 1 of thyme seed and 1 of celery seed [Tor. 1½ ounce]. If you don't want to use celery seed take instead 3 ounces of parsley seed 3 ounces of origany, 1 ounce of saffron [List. and G.‑V.] rocket, 3 ounces of black pepper,1 1½ ounces rocket seed, 2 ounces of marjoram [List. and G.‑V.] Cretan hyssop, 2 ounces of nard leaves, 2 ounces of parsley seed and 2 ounces of anise seed.

1 In view of the white pepper as directed above, this seems superfluous. White pepper and ginger omitted by Tor.

This is one of the few medical formulae found in Apicius.

Edward Brandt, op. cit., Apiciana No. 29, points out the similarity of this formula with that of the physician, Marcellus, who lived at Rome under Nero, Marcell. med. 30, 51.

30 To Keep Green Olives
Olivas virides servare

To keep olives, fresh from the tree, in a manner enabling you to make oil from them any time you desire just place them in brine.1 Having been kept thus for some time the olives may be used as if they  p55 had just come off the tree fresh if you desire to make green oil of them.

1 The original does not state the liquid in which the olives are to be placed.

Hum. in illud, legendum puto, in muriam.

Hum. is correct. Olives are preserved in brine to this day.

Schuch's version of this formula (his No. 27) follows our No. 28, together with his own No. 28, To Keep Damascene Plums [etc.] which is wanting in List., G.‑V., and all the earlier editions because it is from the codex Salmasianus and will be found among the Excerpts of Vinidarius at the end of the Apician recipes.

31 Laser Flavor

Tor. Laser is prepared in this manner: laser (which is also called laserpitium by the Romans, while the Greeks call it silphion) from Cyrene1 or from Parthia2 is dissolved in lukewarm moderately acid broth; or pepper, parsley, dry mint, laser root, honey, vinegar and broth are ground, compounded and dissolved together.

1 Cyrene, a province in Africa, reputed for its fine flavored laser.

2 Parthia, Asiatic country, still supplying asa foetida.

The African root furnishing laser was exterminated by the demand for it. Cf. Laser in Index.

32 Another Laser

Another laser flavor which takes pepper, caraway, anise, parsley, dry mint, the leaves1 of silphium, malobathrum,2 Indian spikenard, a little costmary, honey, vinegar and broth.

1 Tor. Silphij folium; List. Sylphium, folium; G.‑V. Silfi, folium, the latter two interpretations meaning silphium (laser) and leaves (either nard or bay leaves) while both Tor. and Tac. (silfii folium) mean the leaves of silphium plant.

2 Malobathrum, malobatrum, malabathrum — leaves of an Indian tree, wild cinnamon.

 p56  33 Wine Sauce for Truffles
Oenogarum1 in tubera

Pepper, lovage, coriander, rue, broth, honey, a little oil.

Another way: thyme, satury, pepper, lovage, honey, broth and oil.

1 Also Elaeogarum.

V. Directions are wanting whether the above ingredients are to be added to the already prepared garum, which see in dictionary. Gollmer gives the following direction for garum: Boil a sextarius of anchovies and 3 sextarii of good wine until it is thick purée. Strain this through a hair sieve and keep it in a glass flask for future use. This formula, according to Goll. should have followed our No. 9; but we find no authority for it in the original.

Oenogarum proper would be a garum prepared with wine, but in this instance it is the broth in which the truffles were cooked that is to be flavored with the above ingredients. There is no need and no mention of garum proper. Thus prepared it might turn out to be a sensible sauce for truffles in the hands of a good practitioner.

Note the etymology of the word "garum," now serving as a generic name for "sauce" which originally stood for a compound of the fish garus.

Cf. Garum in index.

34 Oxyporum

[Tor.] Oxyporum (which signifies "early passage" so named because of its effect, takes 2 ounces of cumin, 1 ounce of ginger [List.] 1 ounce of green rue, 6 scruples of saltpeter, a dozen scruples of plump dates, 1 ounce of pepper and 11 [List. 9] ounces of honey. The cumin may be either Aethiopian, Syrian or Libyan, must be first soaked in vinegar, boiled down dry and pounded. Afterwards add your honey. This compound, as needed, is used as oxyporum.

Cf. No. 111, A Harmless Salad.

Bran. op. cit., p25‑6, of Greek origin.

35 Hypotrima1

[Tor.] Hypotrima, meaning in Latin a perfect mess of potage, requires this: Pepper, lovage, dry mint,  p57 pignolia nuts, raisins, date wine, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, broth, wine, oil, must or reduced must.2

1 List. and G.‑V. Hypotrimma.

V. This formula, lacking detailed instructions, is of course perfectly obscure, and it would be useless to debate over it.

2 Tor. and Tac. cariotam; Sch. cariotum; List. and G.‑V. caroenum. This (carenum) is new wine boiled down one half of its volume. Cariotum is a palm wine or date wine.

Thayer's Note: cariotum is not in Lewis & Short; the manuscripts also read, or are made to read, cariotam, a type of date (Greek: καρυῶτις), elsewhere translated by Vehling by the curious phrase "fig date".

36 Oxygarum, an aid to digestion
Oxygarum digestibile

[Tor.] Oxygarum (which is similar to garum or rather an acid sauce) is digestible and is composed of: ½ ounce of pepper, 3 scruples of Gallic silphium, 6 scruples of cardamom, 6 of cumin, 1 scruple of leaves, 6 scruples of dry mint. These ingredients are broken singly and crushed and made into a paste bound by honey. When this work is done or whenever you desire add broth and vinegar to taste.

Cf. Note to No. 33.

37 Another Oxygarum1

1 ounce each of pepper, parsley, caraway, lovage, mix with honey. When done add broth and vinegar.

1 Wanting in Torinus.

38 Mortaria1

Mortaria are preparations made in the mortar. Place in the mortar [Tor.] mint, rue, coriander and fennel, all fresh and green and crush them fine. Lovage, pepper, honey and broth2 and vinegar3 to be added when the work is done.

Ex Tor. first sentence wanting in other texts.

1 List. and G.‑V. moretaria, from moretum.

2 Dann. calls this "Kalte Schale" which as a rule is a drink or a cold refreshing soup, popular on the Continent in hot weather. Not a bad interpretation if instead of the broth the original called for wine or fruit juices.

V. Mortaria are ingredients crushed in the mortar, ready to be used in several  p58 combinations, similar to the ground fine herbs, remoulade, in French cuisine that may be used for various purposes, principally from cold green sauces.

3 Wanting in Tor.

39 Cumin Sauce for Shellfish
Cuminatum in ostrea et conchylia

[Tor.] Cumin sauce (so called because cumin is its chief ingredient) for oysters and clams is made of pepper, lovage, parsley, dry mint, malabar leaves, quite some cumin, honey, vinegar, and broth.

40 Another Cumin Sauce1

Pepper, lovage, parsley, dry mint, plenty of cumin, honey, vinegar and broth.

1 Wanting in List.

The cumin sauce formulae are under chap. XV in G.‑V., following our No. 30.

End of Book I
Explicit Apicii epimlesº liber primus [Tac.]

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