Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Roman Cheese
#1
Since there has been plenty of talk on Roman bread. Lets discuss the cheese to go with that bread.

Are there any extant descriptions of Roman cheese? Do we know what types the Romans produced?
"...quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit, occidentis telum est."


a.k.a. Paul M.
Reply
#2
A fairly wide variety. I'll check details later, but it appears that goat and sheep as well as cow milk were used to make cheese, with the curd drained and pressed into pottery moulds (hence 'formaticum', from where we get the modern fromaggio and fromage), then salted and dried or smoked. Roman cheeses apparently were mostly on the portable side, not like our monster cheesewheels, but there are mentions of very large ones.

I haven't seen any surviving recipes, though.
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
Reply
#3
Had a little more time now (what an unusual feeling)

CHeese was made from cow, goat and sheep milk, but it seems that goat and sheep were preferred, possibly ecause of the creamier consistency and easier digestibility of the cheese compared to cow's milk, but also because cows were generally not kept for milk, so there wasn't that much available. It was usually made from the whole milk (not, as is common in much of Europe today, from the skimmed milk or buttermilk), so it would have had a higher fat content than most north European cheeses. IIRC most sheep and goiat cheeses are still made that way.

The curdling could be effected by natural souring, in which case the result would be a fresh, sour curd not suitable for aging (lac concretum, possibly similar to melca, a Germanic loan word) but sometimes eaten with herbs (Columella describes curdling milk together with mint, coriander and oregano) or oil (as recommended by Apicius). Anthimus recommends 'melca', which is probably a kind of sour milk more akin to yoghurt or skyr, with honey.

For less perishable cheeses, curdling was initiated by an agent, usually rennet (Columella favour lamb rennet, Varro that of hares or kid), though fresh acidic plant juices are also recorded, fig juice the favourite.

THe consistency of the final product determines whether it is then aged dry, preserved by brining or püicckling, or eaten fresh. Columella says that a cheese that is too thin needs to be sold immediately. Thick curds could be draineed of the whey and pressed in cheesemoulds that could have all manner of shapes, though cylindrical, conical or bowl-shaped are most common in the archeological record. One dsrained and pressed, the fresh cheese loaf could be salted and dried in the open air to make a kind of soft cheese. If a hard cheese was desired, it would be stored cool and dry for several days before a second pressing, then aged. It could be wrapped in aromatic leaves or smoked during the process. Waxing is not mentioned.

Fresh cheese could also be brined in salt water or pickled in vinegar to preserve it, much as modern feta is. Pliny recommends a mixtrure of two parts vinegar to one part brine. Columelly also recommends preserving sliced fresh cheese in grape must.

Cheese could be seasoned and apparently was, inventively so. Columella merela recommends 'any seasoning' that is liked. It was also smoked or air-dried.

Romans were generally conoisseurs of cheese and traded hard cheeses over great distances (Pliny mentions cheeses from Southern Gaul and all over Italy). CHeese is also much used as a baking ingredient in the agricultural writers, though Apicius uses it less (perhaps because it is a bucolic, rural luxury, not a refined Graecising gourmet pleasure).

Cheese, presumably mostly the hard, durable kind, were eaten quite commonly by soldiers. I have no evidence whether it was eaten on or with bread, but can attewst to the fact that a meal of hard cheese, wheat bread, and pickled olives eaten al fresco is a very satisfying lunch.


edit one: cheeses could be made in very large sizees - Martial mentions a 1,000 lb block. He also states that it would make meals 'for a thousand slaves', which sounds like he regarded a Roman pound - about 375g - as a reasonable amount for one person. Ample, but if it's your only protein and fat source, not excessive.

edit two: the ancients were aware of lactose intolerance, which seems to have been more common than in modern Greece and Italy, and knew that some people found cheese gave them extreme digestive trouble. Apparently, it was good manners to provide 'cheese-free options' like moderns do vegetarian.
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
Reply
#4
That's made me very hungry.
TARBICvS/Jim Bowers
A A A DESEDO DESEDO!
Reply
#5
Quote:That's made me very hungry.

[Image: wngwensleydale_2.jpg]
"...quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit, occidentis telum est."


a.k.a. Paul M.
Reply
#6
"Arson!"

"Someone's arson about."
TARBICvS/Jim Bowers
A A A DESEDO DESEDO!
Reply
#7
Quote:
Tarbicus:2lg596h9 Wrote:That's made me very hungry.

[Image: wngwensleydale_2.jpg]

YOU EVIL B****RD!

I've got a fresh cut in my face. I'm not supposed to laugh!
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
Reply
#8
Salve,

I'm sure there is an Appicius recipe that mentions garlic cheese.

I will see if I can find it.
Memmia AKA Joanne Wenlock.
Friends of Letocetum
Reply
#9
SALVETE OMNES!

Sorry for chiming in so late on this.

There is a Yahoo group devoted to roman food and cooking, here's a link:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Apicius/

The garlicy cheese you mention is called Moretum. There are many recipes for it on the Apicius site. There are just as many debates about it, and Garum, as there are about Roman military tunic colors!!

Here are a couple of links dealing with Moretum. The second is from Sally Grainger, one of the most noted Roman food historians. She is also a member of the Apicius group.

http://la.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moretum

http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/AAzLRo7zjG ... ORETUM.doc
VALETE
CORREVS·APPIVS·IVLIANVS·APICIVS
(a.k.a. Larry Simpson)

The truth may be boring, and even unpleasant: But it is always better than half truths and out right lies.
Reply
#10
Thanks Larry!
Laudes to you.
I couldn't find the source after posting that, I remember finding it on the internet once but then it seemed to disappear!

Cheers!
Memmia AKA Joanne Wenlock.
Friends of Letocetum
Reply
#11
I aim to please! Big Grin

I would encourage you to join the Apicius group. The e-mail volume is low most of the time.

I'm making a guess here, but do you live in the UK? Sally Grainger, from the UK, is on the list and is a wealth of knowledge.

May Janus smile on you!
VALETE
CORREVS·APPIVS·IVLIANVS·APICIVS
(a.k.a. Larry Simpson)

The truth may be boring, and even unpleasant: But it is always better than half truths and out right lies.
Reply
#12
Fresh Roman cheese is really easy to make - we made some saturday for a banquet in the evening.

Just heat up whole milk to warm & add vinegar to curdle it - it doesn't really affect the taste. Then scoop up the solids and drain them through cheese cloth or muslin, add chopped herbs or onion of any other flavouring and press for a couple of hours to remove the last of the liquid.

Then it is ready to eat
Semisalis Abruna of the Batavi iuniores Britanniciani
aka Nick Marshall
Reply
#13
Okay, I have never tried making home-made cheese other than yogurt cheese.

Could you be more specific as to quantities? How much vinegar to how much milk etc.?

It would be appreciated......
VALETE
CORREVS·APPIVS·IVLIANVS·APICIVS
(a.k.a. Larry Simpson)

The truth may be boring, and even unpleasant: But it is always better than half truths and out right lies.
Reply
#14
Quote:Fresh Roman cheese is really easy to make - we made some saturday for a banquet in the evening.

Hey Nick, good to hear from you again. DO tell us more about that banquet? Confusedhock:
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Reply
#15
Without any evidence that Romans made cheese like this, I'd like to suggest that you can make the same thing with lemon juice instead.

I've used vinegar, but don't like the flavor of the resulting cheese much. On the other hand, a half gallon of whole milk and the juice of four lemons makes a really wonderful cheese, sliceable when chilled and spreadable when room temperature.
Aurelia Coritana
aka Laura Sweet
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.theromanway.org[/url]
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.legionten.org[/url]

Si vales, gaudeo. (If you are well, then I am happy.)
Reply


Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Cheese Decimus Aurelius Varus 1 2,758 03-28-2008, 09:15 PM
Last Post: jvrjenivs

Forum Jump: