Friday, January 27

Podcast from Italy: Sausages, Salami & Strikes

Jason, Dr. Gaggi & Vittorio prepare the meat for curing salami, Le Marche Italy
Start your day with a cappuccino and get into the Italian state of mind as we talk about our favorite winter activity - sausage & salami making! Jason shares our simple recipe and explains how simple sausage making is. Currently there are 90 kilos of meat curing in the rafters upstairs! We laugh as we retell stories of Doctor Gaggi & his impromptu sausage tests he gives Jason, not ready to hand-over the reigns. Chat about the 'charm's of country living in the winter - it may be romantic stone farmhouse, but its hard as hell to heat! We recap some of winters events and don't miss the fitting word of the week.

Thursday, January 26

Buon Giorno - Mornings Make Me Happy

photo along our road - via Candigliano

Good morning from Le Marche. (Yup, that's it)

Monday, January 23

Unearthing A Culinary Rarity: Cheese from a Pit with Vittorio Beltrami, Le Marche


 The Italian Einstein of cheese, Vittorio Beltrami, recognized as one of the best, most well-respected & charismatic cheese makers from the Marche region graciously invited us to a special event, centuries old, at the Beltrami oil mill in Cartoceto - the unearthing of the famous formaggio di fossa (pit-aged cheese).

Formaggio di Fossa is considered one of the most delicious culinary rarities from Romagna and Marche. According to legend, it seems that the origin of the cheese dates back to the 1400’s when farmers would defend themselves & their supplies by hiding in pits. Then months later after the war ended & the cheese was unearthed they were met with a flavorful surprise!  

the pit and the cheese, Le Marche Italy
Centuries later the method of cheese curing is still practiced. In late August the cheese is prepared and placed in cloth bags. The pits are dug to a depth of several meters and then filled with wheels of cheese and beds of straw. Then the pits are sealed with a wooden lid and then plaster atop. The cheese remains underground for 90 days during which it acquires the characteristic aroma of moss, sulfur and truffle making it incredibly pungent & unique. The pits are open for the feast of St. Catherine and the cheese is removed.

Freshly removed cheese from the pit, formaggio di fossa in Le Marche, Italy
We descend into the cavern that houses the pits below the floor, the air fills with musty mold and cold stone. We peer deep into the the hole amazed that such a simple thing - literally a pit, can create the perfect climate to create a delicious & unique tasting & smelling cheese.  Because of this rich flavor it is best to eat this cheese with fruit & honey, broken into wedges with bread or grated atop pasta and pairs perfect with crisp Pecorino or a rich round red like a Lacrima Superiore.

As Vittorio address the room, he proudly acknowledges the work of his sheep without them there would be no cheese, he looks up with a smile & trademark twinkle in his eyes!

Lunch lasted more than 3 hours of cheeses with apples, lentil soup, panzanella, pasta with formaggio di fossa and you guessed it, cheese for dessert. We helped ourselves to bottles of local wine - reds, whites & rose, just grab a bottle & bring it to your table. At one point Vittorio enters the room and introduces an artisan pasta maker from the region thanking him for contributing to lunch, proclaiming how pasta was first created in Le Marche! I don’t know if its true, but he got the reaction he was looking for - knowing nods of approval, as if to say "Of course pasta was made here!"

Like Jason & I, Vittorio is not only proud of what he produces, but of all the other fabulous artisans surrounding him - if there was a theme to this lunch it was all things local: local apples, local lentils, local wine, local bread, local produce, local people. And this is wonderfully typical in Le Marche.

The atmosphere was festive & flavorful - filled with pride for all the delicious treasures this region has to offer!

Vittorio Beltrami and his wife serving lunch
  No matter what time of year, it is worth a visit to Gastronomia Beltrami to meet the Beltrami family, taste their delicious cheeses and discover a true Italian artisan and culinary legend at work. Cheese Master Vittorio Beltrami also produces extra virgin olive oil with selected olives grown and harvested in Cartoceto as well as jams and jellies prepared to suit each individual cheeses unique flavor.

If you are visiting Italy in the fall, then don't miss Cartoceto (Le Marche) on the last Sunday of November to take part in Vittorio Beltrami’s pit-opening; his pits are located on the site of the Frantoio della Rocca. It will be an unforgettable experience!

Saturday, January 21

Home Cured Meat: 100+lbs of Sausages Hanging from the Rafters


It's our fourth year making homemade sausages, salami, lonzo & prosciutto, slowly curing the meats over the winter from the rafters of our farmhouse in Italy. Read stories from past years: Meat Curing 101: Homemade Sausages & Salami  and Charcuterie in Italy: 150lbs of Sausages & Salami

Well, you'd think we were from Texas because our slogan seems to be: go big or go home! And we tend to go BIG especially when it comes to meat. Walk into one of the bedrooms on the 2nd floor and you'd think you entered a meat locker. The smell draws you in and you eyes can't imagine it to be true - row upon row of sausage links dangling from the rafters - a mighty meaty view if you were lying in bed!

This year we have more meat to cure than ever as the requests have been pouring in from friends & neighbors requesting 10 kilos at a time on-top of our normal allotment for guests, dinners & gifts. So this year we are doing it in batches making over 200 lbs in total!

Round 1: 50 kilos of sausages: ground, stuffed & hanging to cure.
Reward: Dinner is on - fresh made sausages, grilled on iron in the kitchen fireplace!!
There's no place like home...

Wednesday, January 18

Italian Sloe Liquor: A Rare & Exquisite Digestivo (After Dinner Drink)


Our woods are filled with plump deep blue sloe (blackthorn) berries, prugnole (or in local dialect brugnole). With stained sticky fingers, I gather them just in the nick of time during the late fall, waiting for them to be soft but not mealy and more importantly before the other booze makers can get to them! 

That's right, just like local ladies have done for centuries I collect kilos of prugnole to be soaked in pure alcohol and made into a delicious port-like after dinner drink (digestivo) known as a prugnolino.  I am very proud of my boozing because I can't cook, this is what I proudly contribute to the table. This is also an honored tradition to continue making homemade liquors and brings with it serious bragging rights when done right. The secret to creating a nice smooth flavor is time - the longer it sits, the better it tastes.
 
Sloe Gin of Italy
Prugnolino - recipe from the Candigliano Valley
1 kilo of sloe
1 litre of pure grain alcohol (or gin)
1/2 liter of white wine
250 grams sugar

Wash the sloe well.
Mix together & let sit 30-40 days in air tight jar - mixing every so often.
Filter well with cheese cloth.
Let sit in cool dark place - Wait for another year to start serving,  however some start drinking immediately. I think over time the flavors round out so nicely.

Spiced Sloe
500 grams sloe
250 grams sugar
750 ml pure grain alcohol (or gin)
cinnamon stick
4 cloves
oranges zest

Clean sole berries/fruit well. Using a tooth pick, prick the sloe here & there so the alcohol can really penetrate the fruit.
Mix together all the ingredients in an large air tight jar.
Let sit in a cool dark place for 3-6 months, mixing every so often.
Filter well with cheese cloth into serving bottle.

Monday, January 16

Cooking with Spring’s Wild Edibles in Le Marche, Italy

Foraging for wild radicchio under the Castle of the Sheep Herder
Fields of wild radicchio ready to be picked, young nettle perfect for tongue tingling ravioli, rich & creamy artichoke risotto - the flavors of Spring in Le Marche.  Learn to cook with the seasons - artichoke risotto, asparagus with salsa verde, grilled wild radicchio crostini with cherry tomatoes, stinging nettle & ricotta ravioli, delicate frittata with wild greens & aged traditional balsamic vinegar.
 
29 March - 2 April  2012 (4 Nights) from 490 Euro/ Person

 4 nights accommodations, guided wild edible walk, 2 half day cooking class with apron & cookbook gift, two meals with wine, five course dinner and breakfast daily. (Price based on apartment PESCA, double occupancy.)

For more details: info@latavolamarche.com


Friday, January 6

Taste Italia - 4 Winter Recipes


Pick up the January 2012 Issue of Taste Italia packed with over 50 Italian recipes including a few favorites from our farmhouse: Fennel with Blood Oranges,  Stuffed Eggplant, Duck Ragu with Tagliatelle and Lavender Orange Cake. 

This is my last column for Taste Italia, I am excited to announce that I have been asked to return to Italia! Magazine & I'm bringing my column, "Notes from Le Marche, from Field to Fork" with me!
Don't miss a bite - starting in the March 2012 Issue of Italia!

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