Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Two Quick Food Experiments--Punic Porridge and Posca

About six weeks ago, I decided to make two of the recipes featured on the Pass the Garum website, namely, "Punic Porridge" and posca.

Punic Porridge is a recipe Cato attributed to the Carthaginians.  It is a blend of wheat groats, cheese, and egg, sweetened with honey and flavored, only a bit speculatively, with cinnamon.  Pass the Garum recommended bulgar wheat or semolina and ricotta cheese (which predated the Romans), I used buckwheat groats and part-skim milk ricotta in my porridge.

The resulting porridge was soupy rather than creamy, with the groats still a bit chewy.  It was slightly sweet, but mostly bland.  If I make it again, I'll probably use more groats, even though doing so would abandon the 3-to-1 ratio of cheese to groats found in Cato's recipe.  Other possibilities include: 1) I used too much water; 2) I did not cook the groats for long enough. I can experiment with changing those variables another time.

Posca, the archetypal non-alcoholic drink of the Roman legionary, was something I'd been tempted to try for a while now.  Pass the Garum's blog included three possible recipes:  just water with vinegar; vinegar water with a bit of honey added; and vinegar water with honey and cardamom seeds added.  I opted for the vinegar and honey without other seasonings.  Pass the Garum's recipe calls for red wine vinegar, but apple cider vinegar was what I had available, so I used that.

My first problem with the recipe was in getting room-temperature honey to diffuse through cold water.  My honey was in a plastic jar that couldn't be microwaved, but microwaving the mug containing the posca itself helped a bit.  I didn't want to microwave it too much, though, because I didn't want the resulting beverage to be warm or hot.  Unlike the author of Pass the Garum, I couldn't taste any sweetness in the resulting liquid; it was very sharp.  The sharpness was not unpleasant at first, but it became increasingly hard to tolerate by the time I had finished the cup.  I will try making posca again with wine vinegar sometime; that may be less sharp than the cider vinegar.  In addition (or instead), I might also halve the amount of vinegar while leaving the amount of honey the same, and see whether I find the resulting flavor more appealing.

If any of my readers has tried either of these recipes, or has experimented with posca, please feel free to tell me about your results in the comments.

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