ITALY’S OLDEST CHRISTMAS CAKE: THE FRUSTINGO
The origins are ancient, it comes from the Picenes, and it remained in its origin area: Le Marche. Here are the history and the recipe of the frustingo
Frustingo is probably the oldest Christmas cake in Italy. If, in fact, the mostaccioli have Roman roots, the frustingo comes from the Etruscans and passed through the hands of the Picenes, who then handed down to posterity.
The Picene origin of the frustingo is traceable even today, given that it is a typical dessert of Le Marche (you can find it in the Abruzzo region as well, but only in the small villages close to the border with Le Marche).
It is absolutely not a commercial Christmas cake: the frustingo, in fact, requires a long preparation and is made of a large number of ingredients. All this makes it quite expensive to buy (and not even easy to find).
The history of the frustingo
Frustingo (fruštìnghë or fristingo in Ascoli Piceno and San Benedetto del Tronto dialect, frustingu in Fermo and bostrengo in the Pesaro area) is a dessert of Etruscan origin first and then Picene, which was described for the first time by Pliny the Elder in the “Naturalis Historia.” On the work of the great naturalist and Roman magistrate, who lived in the 1st century AD, we read that the picentinus bread (from Picene area) is prepared with grape juice and then eaten after having sopped it in honey milk.
The name frustingo, then, derives from the Latin frustum, small, battered, but which in our case would be related to frustum panis, small bread, or piece of bread.
According to the recipe of Pliny, then, the ancient bread of the Picene provided for alica mixed with the juice of raisins and cooked in clay pots. The alica was nothing but semolina made from spelled, barley, durum wheat, spelt, and soft marzipan wheat.
The fristingo recipe today
The grandmothers and mothers of Le Marche region, for two millennia, began to prepare the frustingo months before by leaving the figs dry, an essential ingredient also for the current frustingo, which initially was mainly made of stale bread (still today, many use bread crumbs, especially those who love a less soft frustingo).
The preparation is done by adding the fig juice to the stale bread finely cut and softened in a sort of dried fig broth mixed with cooked must (in the Marche it is called sapa, and it also derives from an ancient Roman recipe) to which are added dried fruit, chocolate, and spices (without forgetting a sprinkling of anisette, used in many desserts from Le Marche).
The preparation is very long, but the dessert, like many of those born in antiquity such as the mostaccioli, lasts for a very long time (at least a month).
The ingredients vary from area to area and from house to house. Still, we can say that basic figs, sultanas, type “0” flour, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, candied fruit, citron, walnuts, almonds, cocoa, chocolate, coffee, mixed liqueurs.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)