At the beginning of the 2nd book of De Re Coquinaria, the widest source of ancient Roman cuisine, the author, allegedly Marcus Gavius Apicius, describes the methods of various kinds of meatballs and sausages, using fish, meat, but also eggs. Sausages and meatballs were common dishes in ancient Rome, eaten with a puls (a cereal or legume porridge typical of ancient Rome) or used to prepare more complex dishes.
We chose for this week to prepare the lucanica, a kind of smoked sausage whose name still exists today in Italy, generally in the spelling variation luganega, even though the method now is simpler. We find lucanica quoted a few times by other authors, in particular, Martial, who gives us important details: in his Epigrams, he calls the lucanica “daughter of a Picen sow”, eats it with a puls nivea (a white porridge), and lists this sausage among the gifts for the Saturnalia received by Sabellus. This last information is fascinating: as well as modern-day cured meats, also ancient lucanicae were preserved for a while after being smoked.
To prepare Apicius’ recipe, we chose to use pork meat, tenderloin and belly. The author doesn’t specify the kind of meat, but we supposed, thanks to Martial, that pork would be a good choice. We suggest watching the video for the more complex steps, like the filling of the sausage.
We served the lucanica with two kinds of ancient Roman mustard. You can also pair it with barley polenta, taro, or fava beans.
Below, you will find a note about the ingredients and the original text with the translation into English. Enjoy!
sheep sausage casing
spices (black pepper, cumin, bay laurel berries)
fresh herbs (mint, parsley, rue)
Boil for a few hours the laurel berry for gathering the thin layer of oil that forms on the surface. In the meantime, soak the sausage casing in cold water for a few hours to rehydrate it, then put it in warm water just before using it.
Grind in the mortar black pepper and cumin, then add the herbs finely minced.
Mince the meat and add it to the spices and herbs, pouring a bit of garum and a few drops of bay laurel oil. Add to the mixture pine nuts and whole black pepper grains.
Now, fill the lucanica. Put the casing on a funnel and fill it with the meat, pressing the stuffing with your fingers or a pestle, tying a knot to close the two ends of the casing.
Then hang the sausage over the smoke for a few hours, then grill it and serve.
Note about the ingredients
Rue was one of the most used herbs in ancient Roman cooking. Its flavor, bitter and intense, could easily overpower the other aromas: use just a few leaves. It could be difficult to buy, so we grow a few plants in our aromatic garden. If you don’t find rue, you can either skip or substitute it with other fresh herbs.
Garum was an ancient-Mediterranean fermented fish sauce, used frequently by Apicius. Today there are few producers of garum. If you don’t find it, you can substitute garum with a South-East Asian fish sauce, produced in the same way as some kinds of garum according to the ancient recipes we can find in the Latin and Greek sources. As an alternative, you can use salt instead.
You can use other meats (for example, chicken or mutton) and sausage casings. Apicius doesn’t give directions about this: the words he uses are pulpa (that means lean meat), pinguetudo (fat), and intestinum (casing). With a pork casing, you will obtain a bigger sausage.
Apicius doesn’t give us the recipe of the condimentum bacae lauri. Condimentum is a word that usually means oil, drippings, sauce for this author. In this case, it means bay laurel oil. We found the recipe in Palladius agriculture book, that reads: “boil in water many ripe bay laurel berries. When they are cooked for a long time, gather the oil swimming on the surface with a feather and put it into vessels” (lauri bacas quam plurimas et maturitate turgentes in aqua calida bullire facies et, ubi diu ferbuerint, olei, quod ex se dimiserint, supernatantis undam pennis leuiter cogentibus in vasa transfundes).
We suggest do not grind the herbs with the spices to prevent the lucanica from becoming green, but just mince them.
Lucanicae. Teritur piper, cuminum, satureia, ruta, petroselinum, condimentum bacae lauri, liquamen, et admiscetur pulpa bene tunsa, ita ut denuo bene cum ipso subtrito fricetur. Cum liquamine admixto, pipere integro et abundanti pinguedine et nucleis inicies in intestinum perquam tenuatim productum, et sic ad fumum suspenditur.
Lucanicae. Pound black pepper, cumin, savory, rue, parsley, bay laurel oil, liquamen. Mix well-minced lean meat, so that again it will absorb well the spices. Mixed with liquamen, whole black pepper, abundant fat, and pine nuts, filling carefully the sausage casing, then hang the lucanica over the smoke.
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