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Recipe for
Aliter elixis
(Sauce for roast wood pigeons)

Aliter elixis (Sauce for roast wood pigeons)

by Apicius VI, IV, 2

Wood pigeons have a strong, almost beefy flavour. wild wood pigeons are now almost disappeared — their flesh is dark in colour with a flavour both gamey and like liver. If you do come across wild pigeon, choose only young birds.

Pigeons are a red meat bird and should be eaten somewhere around medium. What’s more, they are rarely fat, although once in a blue moon you’ll find a pigeon so morbidly obese you have no idea how it flew. (Those are a treat for the table, by the way.)

Incidentally, if you like doves you will like pigeons. Pigeons are to doves what hares are to cottontails, or geese are to ducks: Bigger, smarter, tougher, older. Where most doves barely live a year, the average lifespan in the wild of a typical pigeon is five years. Yep, that’s older than most deer you shoot.

You can sometimes tell if you have old birds. Their feet look like they’ve been walked on for years and their keelbones are super hard. Young birds have a flexible keelbone and are just generally fresher looking. They also tend to have lighter colored meat. But it’s not an exact science.

Pigeon is meaty, but not so much as venison or beef. Very tightly grained, especially the breast meat. It takes salt and vinegar very well, and is “gamey” only in the sense that it tastes like something, not like flaccid, corn-fed, penned beasts.

Original recipe: Piper, careum, apii semen, petroselinum, condimenta moretaria, caryotam, mel, acetum, uinum, oleum et sinape.

Translation: To the boiled fowl add pepper, carraway, celery seed, parsley, condiments, mortaria, dates, honey, vinegar, wine, oil and mustard.


  • ½ t. ground pepper
  • Pinch of caraway
  • Pinch of celery seed
  • 2 t. parsley
  • ¼ c Country Mint Sauce
  • ¼ c. stoned dates
  • 1 t. honey
  • dash of wine vinegar
  • ¼ c. white wine
  • 2 t. olive oil or butter
  • Pinch of mustard seed
  • 1 c. chicken stock with pan drippings


  • In a mortar, grind pepper, caraway, and celery seed.
  • Add to parsely, Country mint sauce, and chopped dates.
  • Combine with honey, vinegar, wine, oilive oil (or butter), mustard seed, and stock.
  • bring to a boil, then gently simmer for 25 minutes to rduce before serving.
  • Pour over roast pigeons and serve.
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