Medieval Lettuce and Pork Soup


This week we prepared a delicious soup with lettuce and pork from Anonimo Toscano‘s manuscript, written in the 14th century, a rich and intensely flavored dish specifically recommended for the month of April by the author.
There are several recipes for soups with vegetables, legumes, and meat, sometimes fish, in this book, most of them translations into Tuscan vernacular from the Liber de Coquina, with some original additions and changes, like this plate and others that we prepared in the past, such as cabbage, turnip, and onion soup.
The recipes for lettuce that we find in the Italian manuscripts are for the cooked vegetable, to prepare soups and side dishes. Lettuce, indeed, is more nourishing if simmered, according to the physicians, for instance Michele Savonarola.
We prepared this simple soup, based on lettuce, spices, and goat milk, with pork ribs. The author does not specify which cut of pork to use, writing just to add carni di porco. We chose the deliciously fat flavor of the ribs, but if you prefer, use leaner cuts, such as pork leg or loin.
The author recommends using fresh pork fatback, but we used it cured, to give more sapidity and flavor to the plate, We chose some of the spices used by this author, but you can use the ones you prefer among the most common in the Middle Ages, such as pepper, cinnamon, or ginger.

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pork ribs
egg yolks
goat milk
cured pork fatback
spices (cloves, nutmeg, cardamon)

Remove the core from the lettuce and mince it and the pork fatback. Melt the fatback and add the ribs searing them, then the lettuce and the goat milk. Cook the soup and grind the spices in the mortar.
When the soup is almost cooked through, add the spices and then the yolks. We used two yolks for half a kilo of ribs and cooked them for a little more than an hour, but the cooking time may change depending on the size of the ribs.
Serve the soup still hot.

Original text
De le lattuche. Togli lattuche con latte fresco di capra, del mese d’aprile, con spezie e torli d’ova, e lardo fresco, e carni di porco. Questo mangiare si chiama mangiare di lattuche, perciò che si fa di midolle di lattuche.

Lettuces. Take lettuces with fresh goat milk in the month of April, with spices and egg yolks, and pork. This dish is called mangiare di lattuche, since it is made with the core of the lettuces.

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Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes

Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-2
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano – first part (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)

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