GASTRONOMIC ITINERARIES: SALERNO, CILENTO AND THE AMALFI COAST
Salerno is the heart of a province rich in culinary treasures. Gastronomically, the Amalfi Coast and the Cilento are in line with the city that gives its name to the Gulf. Let's begin a journey into this beauty
SALERNO TRADITION AND GASTRONOMY
Hard to say. If the genius loci exists, it is likely in its proximity to Naples and its geography. Like Naples, the city rises on a gulf: the sea seems to want to enter and gain the Lattari mountains, which also react by trying to circumvent the waves. Nature, so maternal in form and manly in essence, has shaped a stubborn, welcoming, and concrete people. Concrete precisely to spite Naples, which has a reputation as the homeland of the imagination. And of course contradictory as a gulf (example of elements in the struggle), despite the Salerno inhabitants say to prefer the sea over the land only to slight those “rustic people” from Avellino. Localist (of course!), Proud (always!): Salerno is like all the Italian provinces and cities, proving that the experience of the free Municipalities has yet to end.
Salerno, a double city, made of land and sea, like its people. And like the Salerno cuisine.
Before starting our foodie itinerary in the province of Salerno, it is good to point out one aspect. In this section, we will not only talk about traditional dishes and recipes from Salerno. In this first part, in fact, we will focus on local products, because the territories of Salerno, the Amalfi Coast, and Cilento are rich in excellent raw materials. Don’t worry: for those who want to try to prepare the Cetara anchovy sauce or the limoncello we have also added the production technique and methods. The recipe, in short.
The “zizze,” in Neapolitan dialect means breasts. What? The breasts, the boobs, or whatever you call it. The zizzona is a giant Mozzarella. In short, an exaggeratedly large buffalo mozzarella, whose weight may vary from 1 to 15 kg. In general, the one from Battipaglia weighs 5 kg. Precisely for the size (beyond the creaminess and the “nipple” that decorates the top), this mozzarella could not be added in the P.D.O. buffalo mozzarella specification, which imposed the limit of 800 grams.
Coming from the ancient Roman garum, the Cetara anchovy sauce is an amber liquid extract, which is obtained by dipping the anchovies of the Amalfi coast into a container saturated with water and salt. The anchovies are those fished along the famous coast between March 25, Feast of the Annunciation, and July 22, day of Saint Mary Magdalene.
Offal and head should be removed from the freshly caught anchovies. Immediately after, they are kept in containers with plenty of sea salt for at least 24 hours. Then they are moved into small chestnut or oak barrels, the so-called terzigni, in which they are placed alternately with salt. Once the terzigno is full, the barrel is closed with a weight, a little at a time, the water emerges, and it is collected to get the base for the extract. This base is poured in glass jars and, when exposed to the sun, the extra water evaporates. Once the concentration of the product is increased, after 4 or 5 months from the start of the process, the pouring is put back into the wooden barrels with the anchovies and passed through a hole. The liquid thus takes an excellent flavor: at this point, the preparation is simply filtered with a linen cloth (to eliminate impurities) and, after about six months (around December) the Cetara anchovy sauce is ready. It has the P.A.T. mark, traditional food products.
The whole Amalfi coast is full of lemon trees, where ais produced one of the finest fruits of Europe and Italy. In the area, the cultivation of lemons, also through terracing, dates back to the 1500s, and the Sorrento variety is a femminiello lemon, also called “Ovale di Sorrento” (literally Sorrento Oval). It differs slightly from its cousin from Amalfi due to a more acidity of the juice. Rich in vitamin C, the Sorrento lemon, like the Amalfi Coast, has earned the P.G.I. certification (Protected Geographic Indication).
Of course, from a similar richness, there is another one deriving, the limoncello. In general, the rind of about fifteen large lemons is used for 750ml of alcohol. They are left to infuse for about 80 days in total. Once the 40-day infusion is over, a syrup is made with water and sugar, let it thicken on the stove and then, once cooled, add it to the infusion of alcohol and lemons together with 750ml of alcohol. Leave to rest for 40 days, then filter it and pour it into the bottles.
The Corbara tomato is mainly produced in Corbara (hence their name), located in the province of Salerno. Generally, cultivation does not provide artificial irrigation aid, and the harvest takes place in just two months a year. It is, therefore, a very resistant plant, which grows on volcanic soils and the hills of the Lattari Mountains. With the increase in demand for this tomato with a strong sweet-and-sour taste, production has also moved to the plains, although the quality is not the same as of those crops that can enjoy the sea breeze, rich in iodine and volcanic soil (with lapilli and lava stone).
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