Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Moretum Experiment

My first batch of moretum!
The moretum, served on half of a pretzel roll
Ever since I read Pass the Garum's recipe for how to make moretum, an ancient Roman style cheese spread, I've been eager to try it out for myself.  This afternoon turned out to be a good time to do so.  Photographs of the fruits of my labors appear with this post. 

By and large I followed the Pass the Garum recipe, but differences in taste and the supplies I had available resulted in a few exceptions, as follows:

1.   Garlic.  I used a full clove of garlic, though a small one.

2.  Cheese.  Pass the Garum suggested using a "cheese spread", which seemed too much like cheating--isn't the point of the recipe to make a cheese spread?  On the other hand, the recipe seems to require a soft cheese, rather than a hard one.  I would have used what we now call "farmer's cheese"  except the ones I could find were a bit expensive.  So I compromised by using a soft goat cheese, which I could conveniently buy in small quantity (about 4 tablespoons worth, or two batches according to the recipe).

3.   Olive Oil.  Unfortunately, I did not realize until after I had started that I was almost out of olive oil.  I could only manage to get about 2/3 of a tablespoon of oil out of the bottle, so I made it do.

4.  Coriander seeds.  I had ground coriander seed to hand, so I used it.  Because I figured the raw seeds would grind up to a much smaller pile of spice than ready-ground powdered spice, I used only a teaspoon. 

5.   Mortar.   I originally had a mortar and pestle set, but my pestle (the bowl part) broke long ago.  So I used an ordinary ceramic bowl instead.  The bowl was flatter on the bottom than a true pestle, which made it more difficult to use, but I was eventually able to get the celery, garlic and other spices to form a rough paste, to which I added the cheese, oil, and vinegar.

The goat cheese blended very nicely with the oil and vinegar into a mixture with a nicely spreadable consistency.  My only regret was that I didn't mash the celery longer, since the odd lumps of celery marred the texture of the finished product slightly.  It helps to dice the celery finely before adding it to the mortar for mashing.  I diced my celery into half-inch thick chunks, but in retrospect, I should have diced it into even smaller pieces, each perhaps as thin as an eighth of an inch.   

I found that the moretum is garlicky, all right, but the primary taste note in the batch I made was sourness.  (My use of goat cheese may have had something to do with that.)  Since I happen to enjoy sour flavors, I was very  pleased with the result, and didn't feel impelled to add black pepper (though I may add some the next time I eat more of it).  What I likely will do when I make my next batch is add more parsley, which I think goes a long way toward balancing out the garlic bitterness (and possibly even the effect on one's breath). I suspect the moretum would have tasted even better on a coarse, crusty, whole-grain bread than on a pretzel roll, but since I was making this only for me to eat (my husband detests cheese)  I was looking for a small roll to eat it on, and the pretzel rolls were the most appealing rolls of the right size that my supermarket had this afternoon. 

I would be delighted to hear about any readers' experiments with similar recipes, or to answer questions about my little experiment, in the comments.


  1. hmm, the version I used of moretum used pecorino (and just as much garlic), which is anything but soft, and makes a much firmer spread. It worked well, and the pecoriino stood pu to the make a good rounded flavour.Oddly, I found that when I took t to an event all of the children adored it, but the adults wouldn;t touch it. I think I used sally graingers recipe from one of her books. it sort of reminded me of an c18th poted cheese recipe, designed to amke a hard, possibly past its best, cheese, soft and palatable again

  2. this is the one I used. 2 heads garlic, 8o z pecorino romano, l;arge handful coriander leaves, 2tsps rue, 2tsps celery leaf, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil. pound the dry ingredients, then add the liquids and make it into a ball. I'd highly recommend this version

    1. I don't much like pecorino, so I probably wouldn't have thought of trying it for this, but since you've said it works I may experiment. Thanks for your comment.

      By the way, where did you obtain your rue?

  3. I wonder if moretum is nice made with labneh, or if its flavour would be too mild for this recipe. Must give it a try next time I make labneh.

    1. Not sure that I have ever tasted labneh, so I can't answer your question; maybe you should whip up a batch and see!

  4. On the theme of 'making hard cheeze palatable again', I'd try making moretum from one of the packages in the 'lunch meat ends' you'll find some days at some supermarkets (Us poor folk keep track of such things ;-) ) - will recon the ShopRite near Games Keep the next time I'm in neighborhood.