Tag Archives: tradition

From necessity to art form.

Coppa, delicious on an antipasto platter

Italians are very proud of their centuries-old tradition of curing meat, especially pork. The practice especially provided a way of making full use of the meat of the pig, traditionally slaughtered in the autumn, given that the fresh meat had to be eaten within a short time. Preserving the meat by salting and drying it into hams, sausages and other products not only extended the period over which it could be consumed, but created different tastes and textures to be enjoyed. Continue reading

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Feeling hot, hot, hot.

Deep in Italy’s rugged south west – the ‘toe of the boot’ – the Calabrian summers are dry and hot. Very hot. Perfect conditions for growing the region’s best-loved ingredient – chillies. The fierce sun pumps the fruits full of flavour and chilli-heat and then slowly dries the picked chillies to intensify their potency even further. Come late summer, strings of home-grown fiery red peperoncini hang at almost every door and window; they’re traditionally reputed to ward off diseases.

Such is the passion for the peperoncino here that L’Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino (The Italian Chilli Academy) has been established to promote the gastronomical and medical properties of chillies. Each September it organises the annual chilli festival: a feast and street party not for the faint-hearted, and even less for those with sensitive palates. Continue reading

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Spreading it about a bit.

The Italians have a knack of turning the simplest of ingredients into the most wonderful things to eat. Probably because for a long time in rural Italy, sparse ingredients were all they had. So spaghetti with cheese and pepper, pizza topped with simply tomatoes and mozzarella have become classics. And bread, sliced and toasted and topped with simple, natural bits and pieces. Bruschetta and crostini, now a popular start to a meal, almost certainly derive from a time when the slices were less dainty (and probably not so fresh), and made a handy and hearty snack for agricultural workers. If they were lucky they may have been topped with a bit of cheese or cured meats, or perhaps simply salt and olive oil, and garlic. (It used to be said that garlic is the peasant’s spice cupboard.) I’m rather partial to garlic, so I guess that puts me in my place! Continue reading

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Support our pig farmers. Make porchetta.

Travel almost anywhere in central Italy and it probably won’t be long before you encounter a white truck parked in a square or at a roadside, usually with a picture of a pig on the side. It will most likely have attracted a small crowd, smoke will be rising lazily from the chimney on its roof, and on the air will drift the irresistible aroma of roasting pork. This is the porchetta van, and if you ever come across one, stop, order a porchetta panino and savour the salty, herby, succulent pork inside.

Porchetta’s culinary status in Italy is recognised by no less an authority than the Italian Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali as a traditional agricultural-alimentary product, and one of a long list of time-honoured Italian foods determined to have cultural relevance. Traditionally a suckling pig is used, boned, stuffed with wild herbs and spit-roasted to deliciousness over a wood fire. Continue reading

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Shortbread. But not as we know it.

Some like it hot: the Italians like it sweet. Throughout the country the tradition of visiting la pasticceria – the pastry shop – is alive and kicking. In the morning people drop in for a pastry and maybe a coffee if the shop is a bar pasticceria, in the afternoon and evening, for sweets and biscuits. And a few pastries or biscotti are commonly bought as a small gift, or token of thanks. We sell a small range of the kind of things you would find in an Italian pasticceria in the Everything Sweet section of our online shop.

Now we’ve discovered a biscuit maker in the south of Italy who is producing some wonderful products using purely natural ingredients. When we were there recently we were like, well… kids in a biscuit factory. (It was a bit like a scene from Willy Wonka!) Continue reading

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Wake up and smell the coffee.

Saccaria's fresh coffee beans are carefully sourced from South America, India and Africa.

We know the stretch of Italy’s eastern coastline between Ancona and Fano pretty well. It was Danilo’s stomping ground as a boy. He was born and brought up in the village of Montemarciano, in the hills a short distance from the sea. The colour of the Adriatic changes according to the time of year, from grey and green to a deep azure blue in the summer, but at all times it’s beautiful, against the white shail of the long, straight beach. The railway line runs within sight of the sea here, parallel to the lungomare. The train from Ancona trundles through sleepy stations until it reaches Senigallia, where the brisk smell of the sea mingles with another, enticing aroma: roasting coffee. Because here are the unassuming headquarters and production facilities of Caffe Saccaria, one of Italy’s oldest established coffee businesses. Continue reading

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