It’s that time again, when the craving for tasty tasty piggy comes about. So we return to our old hunting ground of recipes by the Romans for insperation. This tasty tidbit came about by accident. I was looking to do a very period recipe called Glires ( Stuffed Dormice). The original Dormice are cute fluffy tailed small rodents that fit into the palm of a hand. Dormice were raised by the Romans on large farms (called Glirarii) in great quantity, like chicken and rabbits, with the fattest of dormice being in the most demand. They were such a popular dish that the consul Marcu Aemilius Scaurus issued a sumptuary law that attempted to prohibit the consumption of dormice, but the law was ineffective due to the popularity of these tasty morsals. (Herklotz, pg 75) When I tried to get actual Dormice for this recipe there was a monkey pox going on (No, I didn’t make this part up!) and had to substitute some thing else. At the original making of the recipe, I had a pork loin on hand and decided to use 1″ cuts to act as the “Dormice” body while keeping to the pork filling. Here is my take on an old time favorite by the Romans with tasty tasty piggy.
1). Doormice: Stuff dormice with a pork filling and with the meat of whole dormice ground with pepper, pine nuts, silphium, and garum. Sew up, place on a baking tile, and put them in the oven; or cook the stuffed (dormice) in a pan. (Herkotz, pg. 75)
*Silphium: the Greek name for laser; a plant of the genus Ferula, now extinct. Garlic juice is used as a substitute. (or crushed garlic)
2). Stuff the dormice with minced pork, the minced meat of the whole dormice, pounded with pepper, pin-kernels, asafetida, and liquamen,. Sew up, and place on a tile, put in the oven or cook, stuffed, in a small oven. (Flower, pg. 205)
3 – 1 1/2” pork rounds 1/2 cup ground pork (plain pork meat)
¼ cup pine-nuts 1 tsp pepper
1 tsp fish sauce 1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp thyme (optional)
Romans’ were notorious for substituting so I have no qualms when substituting pork in the place of rodent. I really did try for the original meat but was thwarted by a plague…ok a monkey pox.
The actual pork meat is 1 1/2″ thick cuts of pork loin though a thick cut pork chop would work as well.
The pork filling is actually a pork chop ground fine in a little Cuisinart I have on hand. Modern sausage could be used, though I’ve found the spices to be overbearing to the more subtle tastes of the nuts, pepper and garlic.
Here is the ground pork chop used for the stuffing with the spices, fish sauce and pine nuts. Mix together.
I tried to stick to the period recipe as close as possible with the exception of adding a tsp of thyme. The thyme is optional. Period Roman sausage or sausage stuffing included a plethora of ingredients: “Lucanian sausages:…Pepper is ground with cumin, savory, rue, parsley, condiments, bay berries and garum. Finely ground meat is mixed in, then ground again together with other ground ingredients…” (Herklotz, pp. 182) The addition of thyme is acceptable as would be a host of other items though I would suggest moderation so as to not overpower the over all taste. Experiment, but experiment with a light hand!
This is the mixture with everything incorporated into the finely ground pork.
The next step is to take the pork loin rounds and slice into the sides; roughly 2 1/2 – 3 inches wide. Cutting into the pork loin along the sides and end with out cutting through to form a pocket on the inside of the meat. (The picture is a little blurry…hard to handle the meat and take a picture at the same time).
Take the pork filling (about 1/3 of the mixture) and stuff into the opening of the pork loin, which will bulge out the side a little bit like an over stuffed wallet.
I place the stuffed loins on their bottoms instead of laying them on the side. I did not want any of the stuffing falling out but did want all the taste and juices to stay in the pork loin pockets. I place at the bottom of the baking dish (no cooking tile was on hand to bake these on) a little mead I had on hand.
These bad boy stuffed piggy posing as Dormice are now ready to be placed into the oven for 30 minutes (or until thoroughly cooked) at 350.
I like the little extra sweetness when eating pork. So did the Romans as the suggested sauce for Dormice is honey with poppy seeds drizzled over the tidbits, which is suggested by Pliny in Herkotz.