Thursday, May 13, 2010

Everything elderflower 1: Elderflower jelly

I love elderflower!
I love it in cakes (just add a fistful of dried flowers to your favourite plain cake batter), I love elderflower cordial during summer with fizzy water, I love it with white wine for a different aperitivo or dessert wine, I love elderflower jelly and elderflower liqueur.

First of all you have to collect the elderflowers, the flowers have to be fully but just about open, make sure that the elder does not grow very near a busy road or any other dirty place because you can't wash the flowers.
Dry the elderflowers: I usually make small bunches of 10-12 flowers that I tie with a string and hang on a clothes-horse (heads down). Make sure that you put some paper or a cloth underneath because they loose some pollen while drying.
Now you have the elderflowers, ready for any of the uses mentioned above.


For the elderflower "juice"
1/2 liter of water + approx 100g
200 gr of sugar
15 flowers
1 lemon

For the jelly
800 gr of elderflower "juice"
800 gr of sugar
1 sachet of pectine
(or use the amount of "juice", sugar and pectine suggested on the package).

Prepare the "juice" by boiling the water with the sugar until the sugar is well dissolved, put the elderflowers and the hot syrup in a bowl (that you can cover), squeeze the lemon and add the juice and the whole "leftover" rind of the lemon to the bowl.
Cover and let sit for 24 hours.
Filter the syrup and use some warm water (approx 100 ml) to "wash" the flowers, squeeze well and filter and obtain 800 gr of liquid (syrup + "washing" water). I normally use a cloth for the filtering that makes the washing and squeezing easier.
Let cool and use as you would use any fruit juice to make a jelly!


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Caprifoglio, my favourite flower

Wild honeysuckle is in bloom outside my house.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Fermo Province: hilltop-towns, ceramics and the best organic salamis

Yesterday I had to go and provide some pork goodies for the season at the Locanda. My favourite producer in the world is Doriano Scibé, from Grottazzolina in Fermo Province.
Fermo is the latest Le Marche Province, created only a few years ago, but the area "il Fermano", formerly included in the Ascoli Piceno Province, has always had a strong character: an interesting dialect, yummy gastronomic peculiarities and probably the highest ratio of hilltop-towns in the world... about 90% of the villages are called Monte-something... Montottone, Montappone, Monte Giorgio, Montefortino... and I could go on for a while! :)
The drive is about 2 hours, so I decided to take it easy and spend the day visiting a few things in the area.
In spite of the high number of hilltop-towns, the first place where I stopped was Servigliano, a very flat and very unusual village, entirely built during the XVIII century: the plan is square and very regular and scientifically calculated.

Next on the list was the village of Montottone, where I know a great pottery producer.
Montottone hosted, until just after WW2, 48 pottery producers that created pots, dishes, jugs and much more for the whole area. This tradition is currently pursued by the Bozzi family.

Emanuele, showed me some pieces that were traditionally used for producing cheese, the milking "pail", the "pigna", where the milk curdled, and the containers used to drain the cheese.

I love cheesemaking (I also make a very simple fresh cheese) so I couldn't resist and ordered a whole set, made just for me! I'll post pictures as soon as they arrive.
Finally, I headed towards Grottazzolina to buy some Pancetta (amazing pork belly cured with salt, pepper and orange rind), Capocollo, Ciauscolo (a typical very soft, fresh and spicy "salami") and my personal favourite: Salsiccia di Fegato (liver sausage) that is apparently not a hit outside the area because of the strong flavour... My suggestion is: if you happen to be in the area, DO TRY IT, it's gorgeous!

A great day in a different part of Le Marche... every time I venture in other areas of this region and appreciate the diversity of landscapes and traditions I remember why it has been defined "Italy in one region".