Pork Laureate – Porcellum Laureatum – Ancient Roman Saturnalia Recipe


Welcome to our kitchen. Today we prepare an ancient Roman pork roast. A flavorful and aromatic roast with bay laurel leaves and berries. We start with the ingredients. We need pork (we are using pork collar), olive
oil, garum (we’ll talk later about it), red wine, raisin wine, and the spices: asafoetida, long pepper, caraway, celery seeds, cumin, and bay laurel berries. And then the bay laurel leaves. The little unripe berries on the branches
haven’t yet developed their full flavor, so we are using the dried berries we picked the last year. First, we parboil the pork collar for 15 or
20 minutes, depending on the size. This recipe is part of the cookbook conventionally attributed to Apicius, the most famous ancient Roman cook. In Apicius’ cookbook we find many recipes
with pork, one of the meats ancient Romans preferred, cooked in many ways: roasted, stewed or used as an ingredient for sausages, meatballs, and other preparations. For this recipe, you can choose the cut you prefer, but we suggest using one with a good amount of fat for a better outcome. Meanwhile, we grind in the mortar the bay
laurel berries and the spices. Bay laurel is the main aroma that characterizes this roast. Laureatum, indeed, means seasoned with laurel,
but it could be interpreted also as a sort of joke, and probably our ancestors found
it funny. For example, 17th century author Giulio Cesare
Croce wrote a short humorous essay, The Excellence and Triumph of the Pig, to praise the pig:
it appears crowned with bay laurel as a poet, and cooking its liver with bay laurel leaves
is a form of celebration of its extraordinary importance. Ancient Greeks and Romans considered bay laurel
a plant with a deep symbolic significance. Greeks linked it with prophecy and poetry, while for Romans it meant also military triumph and victory. For example, emperors were crowned with a
bay laurel wreath. For this reason, we thought this roast would
be perfect for the Saturnalia, one of the most important ancient Roman festivities. Then, we add a bit of garum, red wine, raisin
wine, and olive oil. Garum was an ancient sauce used by all Mediterranean populations, prepared with salt and fish fermented together, sometimes adding spices and aromatic herbs. The few recipes survived show that the simplest
versions of garum were made in the same way as still today South-East Asian populations prepare their traditional fish sauces, the best modern substitute for garum. If you prefer, you can always use a pinch
of salt instead. We grate a bit of asafoetida. Asafoetida was one of the two used varieties of silphium, one of the spices more used in the ancient Mediterranean. While the most prized silphium, called laser Cyrenaicum, was no more produced after the first centuries of the Common Era, laser Parthicum, called for centuries asafoetida, is still used in many Eastern countries. We drain the pork collar, saving the broth,
we’ll need it later. And place it in a pan over a layer of bay
laurel leaves, then we cover it with the remaining bay laurel leaves. Then we roast the meat in the oven. The cooking time depends on the size and the cut you choose, we roasted the pork collar for about 1 hour. Saturnalia were celebrated originally the
17th of December, but after the reform of the calendar made by Julius Ceasar, the festival was extended until the 23rd of December. Saturnalia were characterized by great banquets
and exchange of gifts, not to mention that it was the only moment of the year in which slaves were allowed to seat with their masters at dinner. The laureate pork seems to be perfect for
this time of collective celebrations, considering also that the month of December, from the
Antiquity to the Modern Era, was the period in which pigs were traditionally slaughtered and salted, though ancient Romans had at disposal pork meat all year round, and the whole roast pig was frequently one of the main courses in a convivium, as explained by Pliny. Meanwhile, we cook the sauce. We need to reduce it just a bit. If you want to prepare a Saturnalia banquet we suggest pairing this pork roast with lucanica (an ancient Roman sausage) and fava beans, 2 typical gifts for Saturnalia, as reported in the 1st century by the Latin poet Martial. You’ll find the links to the recipes at
the end of this video. Now, we remove the bay laurel leaves, as suggested by Apicius. This quantity of leaves, mixed with the juices of the roast, is giving to the pork a mouthwatering fragrance. We let the pork collar cool a bit then cut it, and plate it with the sauce and a bit of broth to dilute a little the intense aromatic
taste of the sauce, and bring out the flavor of the pork roast mixed with the fragrance of the bay laurel leaves. This flavorful porcellum laureatum is a delicious way to experience the aromas of an ancient Roman Saturnalia feast. If you’re interested in ancient foods and flavors, or you’re just looking for unusual and delicious recipes, please subscribe our channel.

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