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Bill Thayer

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Chapters 70‑73

This webpage reproduces a section of
De Agri Cultura

Cato the Elder

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1934

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapters 91‑103

Marcus Cato
on Agriculture

[link to original Latin text] 74 1 Recipe for kneaded bread: Wash your hands and a bowl thoroughly. Pour meal into the bowl, add water gradually, and knead thoroughly. When it is well kneaded, roll out and bake under a crock.

 p83  [link to original Latin text] 75 1 Recipe for libum:​73 Bray 2 pounds of cheese thoroughly in a mortar; when it is thoroughly macerated, add 1 pound of wheat flour, or, if you wish the cake to be more dainty, ½ pound of fine flour, and mix thoroughly with the cheese. Add 1 egg, and work the whole well. Pat out a loaf, place on leaves, and bake slowly on a warm hearth under a crock.

[link to original Latin text] 76 1 Recipe for placenta:​73 Materials, 2 pounds of wheat flour for the crust, 4 pounds of flour and 2 pounds of prime groats for the tracta.​74 Soak the groats in water, and when it becomes quite soft pour into a clean bowl, drain well, and knead with the hand; when it is thoroughly kneaded, work in the 4 pounds of flour gradually. From this dough make the tracta, and spread them out in a basket where they can dry; and when they are dry arrange them evenly. Treat each tractum as follows: After kneading, brush them with an oiled cloth, wipe them all over and coat with oil. When the tracta are moulded, heat thoroughly the hearth where you are to bake, and the crock. Then moisten the 2 pounds of flour, knead, and make of it a thin lower crust. Soak 14 pounds of sheep's cheese (sweet and quite fresh) in water and macerate, changing the water three times. Take out a small quantity at a time, squeeze out the water thoroughly with the hands, and when it is quite dry place it in a bowl. When you have dried out the cheese completely, knead it in a clean bowl by hand, and make it as smooth as possible. Then take a clean  p85 flour sifter and force the cheese through it into the bowl. Add 4½ pounds of fine honey, and mix it thoroughly with the cheese. Spread the crust​75 on a clean board, one foot wide, on oiled bay leaves, and form the placenta as follows: Place a first layer of separate tracta over the whole crust,​75 cover it with the mixture from the bowl, add the tracta one by one, covering each layer until you have used up all the cheese and honey. On the top place single tracta, and then fold over the crust​75 and prepare the hearth . . . then place the placenta, cover with a hot crock, and heap coals on top and around. See that it bakes thoroughly and slowly, uncovering two or three times to examine it. When it is done, remove and spread with honey. This will make a half-modius cake.

[link to original Latin text] 77 1 Recipe for spira: For the quantity desired do everything in proportion just as for the placenta, except that you shape it differently. Cover the tracta on the crust thickly with honey; then draw out like a rope and so place it on the crust, filling it closely with plain tracta. Do everything else as in the case of the placenta, and so bake.

[link to original Latin text] 78 1 Recipe for scriblita: Follow the same directions with respect to crust, tracta, and cheese, as for the placenta, but without honey.

[link to original Latin text] 79 1 Recipe for globi: Mix the cheese and spelt in the same way, sufficient to make the number desired. Pour lard into a hot copper vessel, and fry one or two at a time, turning them frequently with two rods, and remove when done. Spread with honey, sprinkle with poppy-seed, and serve.

 p87  [link to original Latin text] 80 1 Make the encytum76 the same way as the globus, except that you use a vessel with a hole in the bottom; press it through this hole into boiling lard, and shape it like the spira, coiling and keeping it in place with two rods. Spread with honey and glaze while moderately warm. Serve with honey or with mulsum.77

[link to original Latin text] 81 1 The erneum is made in the same way as the placenta, and has the same ingredients. Mix it in a trough, pour into an earthenware jar, plunge into a copper pot full of hot water, and boil over the fire. When it is done, break the jar and serve.

[link to original Latin text] 82 1 The spaerita78 is made in the same way as the spira, except that you shape it as follows: Mould balls as large as the fist, of tracta, cheese, and honey; arrange them on the crust as closely as in the spira, and bake in the same way.

[link to original Latin text] 83 1 Perform the vow for the health of the cattle as follows: Make an offering to Mars Silvanus​79 in the forest during the daytime for each head of cattle: 3 pounds of meal, 4½ pounds of bacon, 4½ pounds of meat, and 3 pints of wine. You may place the viands in one vessel, and the wine likewise in one vessel. Either a slave or a free man may make this offering. After the ceremony is over, consume the offering on the spot at once. A woman may not take part in this offering or see how it is performed. You may vow the vow every year if you wish.

 p89  [link to original Latin text] 84 1 Recipe for the savillum:​80 Take ½ pound of flour, 2½ pounds of cheese, and mix together as for the libum; add ¼ pound of honey and 1 egg. Grease an earthenware dish with oil. When you have mixed thoroughly, pour into a dish and cover with a crock. See that you bake the centre thoroughly, for it is deepest there. When it is done, remove the dish, cover with honey, sprinkle with poppy-seed, place back under the crock for a while, then remove from the fire. Serve in the dish, with a spoon.

[link to original Latin text] 85 1 Recipe for Punic porridge: Soak a pound of groats in water until it is quite soft. Pour it into a clean bowl, add 3 pounds of fresh cheese, ½ pound of honey, and 1 egg, and mix the whole thoroughly; turn into a new pot.

[link to original Latin text] 86 1 Recipe for wheat pap: Pour ½ pound of clean wheat into a clean bowl, wash well, remove the husk thoroughly, and clean well. Pour into a pot with pure water and boil. When done, add milk slowly until it makes a thick cream.

[link to original Latin text] 87 1 Recipe for starch:​81 Clean hard wheat thoroughly, pour into a trough, and add water twice a day. On the tenth day drain off the water, squeeze thoroughly, mix well in a clean tray until it is of the consistency of wine-dregs. Place some of this in a new linen bag and squeeze out the creamy substance into a new pan or bowl. Treat the whole mass in the same way, and knead again. Place the pan in the sun and let it dry; then place in a new bowl and cook with milk.

[link to original Latin text] 88 1 Recipe for bleaching salt: Break off  p91 the neck of a clean amphora, fill with clear water, and place in the sun. Suspend in it a basket filled with common salt and shake and renew from time to time. Do this daily several times a day until the salt ceases to dissolve for two days. You can find when it is saturated by this test: place a small dried fish or an egg in it, and if it floats you have a brine strong enough to pickle meat or cheese or salted fish. Place this brine in flat vessels or in pans and expose it to sun. Keep it in the sun until it solidifies, and you will have a pure salt. In cloudy weather or at night put it under cover, but expose it to the sun every day when there is sunshine.

[link to original Latin text] 89 1 To cram hens or geese: Shut up young hens which are beginning to lay; make pellets of moist flour or barley-meal, soak in water, and push into the mouth. Increase the amount daily, judging from the appetite the amount that is sufficient. Cram twice a day, and give water at noon, but do not place water before them for more than one hour. Feed a goose the same way, except that you let it drink first, and give water and food twice a day.

[link to original Latin text] 90 1 To cram squabs: After catching the squab feed it first boiled and toasted beans, blowing them from your mouth into its mouth, and water the same way; do this for seven days. Then clean crushed beans and spelt; let one-third the quantity of beans come to a boil, then pour in the spelt, keeping it clean, and boil thoroughly. When you have turned it out of the pot, knead it thoroughly, after greasing the hand with oil — a small quantity first, then more — greasing and kneading until you can make pellets. Feed the food in moderate quantities, after soaking it.

The Editor's Notes:

73 The libum and the placenta, especially, are important, as these cakes are employed in religious services. Horace, EpistlesI, 10, 10‑11, compares himself to the runaway slave of the priest, who refuses liba, as he needs plain bread, which is better than mellitis placentis. Varro, I.2.28, is amused at the idea of treating such subjects in a work on agriculture. It should, of course, be remembered that honey took the place of our sugar. But even so, these recipes cannot be considered alluring.

74 Seemingly bits of pastry.

75 The word solum seems to be used of the bottom crust, (p85)while the balteus (belt) is used of the crust folded over; but the directions are vague.

76 The word is the Greek ἔγχυτον, literally "cast in a mould." Compare Athenaeus 644C.

77 A mixture of boiled must and honey.

78 σφαιρίτης: a kind of round cake.

79 W. Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People, identifies Silvanus with Mars (pp132‑3), and is supported by Burriss, Classical Journal, XXI, 3, p221.

80 savillum — some kind of sweet cake (suavis), "a cheese-cake."

81 ἄμυλον (sc. ἄλευρον) is a fine meal or "starch," so called because it was not ground in a mill in the ordinary course.

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Page updated: 8 Mar 20