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Recipe for
Cochleas lacte pastas
(Milk-fed snails)

by Apicius, VII, XVI, 323

During the late Republic and the Empire, the Romans loved eating snails. Fluvius Hirpinus has been credited with making snails a popular dish shortly before the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey (49 BC). While the common people might eat snails gathered in a garden, the elite ate snails raised in special enclosures called choclearia and carefully fattened.

Some were fattened with sapa, the honey-like liquid produced by boiling freshly pressed grape juice to reduce it to one third the original volume. The sapa was mixed with flour before feeding to the snails.

Others were fattened with milk, as in the following recipe from Apicius.

Original recipe: Accipies cochleas, spongizabis, membranam tolles, ut possint prodire. Adicies in uas lac et salem uno die, ceteris diebus [in] lac per se, et omni hora mundabis stercus. Cum pastae fuerint, ut non possint se retrahere et ex oleo friges. Mittes oenogarum. Similiter et pulte pasci possunt.

Translation: Take snails and sponge them; pull them out of the shells by the membrane and place them for a day in a vessel with milk and salt. Renew the milk daily. Hourly clean the snails of all refuse, and when they are so fat that they can no longer retire to their shells fry them in oil and serve them with wine sauce. In a similar way they may be fed on a milk porridge.

Ingredients

  • 20 snails
  • 2 pt (1,1L) milk
  • garum
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine

Preparation

  • Remove the membranes from the snails to enable them to come out of their shells easier
  • Put the snails into a pot and cover with the milk
  • Leave for 2 days. Once an hour take the waste material the snails produce from the milk. (The servants can do this) Change the milk daily
  • After the seven days, the snails will have absorbed the milk, and they will not be able to get back into their shells
  • Remove the now fattened snails from their shells and fry in oil
  • Serve with the anchovy essece and the wine.
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