The cheeses, salumi, olive oil and wine have been stacked away, but on my kitchen table are more products (pasta!) we brought back from Italy. Garfagana is noted chestnut country – hence the chestnut pasta made with chestnut flour. But, it is also a territory where a particular type of farro is produced – emmer wheat rather than the usual spelt.
Of course, mushroom season was under way. Did you know there were different classes of dried porcini? There is a first class and a second class – easy to spot the difference with the broken bits and a higher percentage of darker stem in the second class and lovely slices of creamy dried mushroom cap in the first class. I suspect the second class dried porcini is the stuff that is commercially exported. Feeling very chuffed with my large packet of first class dried porcini!
Of course, you can’t go to chestnut country without acquiring chestnut honey. It is dark and has a strong taste. I’m not overly fond of it slathered on my morning toast, but it is divine drizzled on pecorino cheese.
It is also possible to track our progress home via produce purchased in the brilliant motorway services that usually have a prodotti tipici regionali section. Ligurian pasta: spindly twisted Trofie and round stamped Croxetti (or sometimes spelled Crozetti). Both of these pastas are eggless, but the croxetti are an oddity that I’ve never seen outside of Italy. Apparently they are a speciality of Genoa and served with pesto (naturally!), a walnut or mushroom sauce. Even the ornate stamp has a function – to provide ridges for the sauce to adhere. Our local supermarket used to stock trofie, which I would buy regularly, but it seems to be a thing of the past. I guess we’ll just have to travel back to Liguria to stock up.
Further north in the Peidmont, we stopped overnight in the small town of Ivrea. Walking into the centre of town from our B&B, we spotted a lovely Frutta e Verdura shop. We stocked up on local pears and apples for that day’s journey that would take us up to the Val d’Aosta, through the Mount Blanc tunnel and into France. On the shelf of that Frutta e Verdura were jars of homemade jams – produced at the same farm where most of the local produce in the shop came from. I couldn’t pass up a jar of confettura di mirtillo, blueberry jam.
On our last leg of the journey, we stopped just outside Dijon – obligatory mustard purchases.
Back home again, I’ve been dropped into the deep end, dealing with the garden’s fruit bounty. I made damson cheese from some of the pulp I froze just prior to leaving for holiday (see my post Damson Glut). The quinces were ripe when we returned home – more membrillo, possibly. But, since there is still membrillio in the refrigerator from last year’s batch, it is more likely to be cakes or tarts, or even more jam. Still pondering possibilities.
The garden also yielded lots and lots of tiny yellow crabapples. They are packed with pectin. It is easy enough to extract: simply cook your cleaned and de-stemmed crabapples with about 500ml water per kilo of apples for 30 minutes or so until the apples are reduced to mush. Strain the thickened pectin liquid using a cloth lined colander; squeeze as much of the pectin out and discard the pulp. It can be “canned” (or as the British say, “bottled”) into vacuum-sealed jars for future use in jams and jellies. So, you can probably guess what these crabapples have been made into!