Regional Flavors of Italy – Tuscany

By Alessandra Bianco, MA 2013-14Over the next several weeks, Marist Italy will be posting about the gastronomical specialties of the 20 regions of Italy. Since we are based in Florence, we’ll start with Tuscany.

tuscany

Toscana

Salumi: (Toscana) Chianti Wine Salami – Dry-cured salami infused with the finest Italian wines. Like other salami, this is made from fresh pork with no additives. Crusty bread and soft cheeses are the perfect match.

(Tuscany) Prosciutto Toscano DOP – This raw, aged ham is exclusively produced in Tuscany. Production regulations influence the breeding and raising of livestock, and the aging, treatment, and final properties of the meat itself. The round, red meat is typically between 8 and 9 kilos in weight when finished. Prosciutto Toscano has a delicate, savory flavor with a remarkably fragrant aroma.

(Toscana) Lardo di Colonnata IGP – This is lard, from the village of Colonnata, was named after a group of slaves was brought to the area by Romans to work the marble quarries. The lard is actually both cured and aged in marble tubs. Whenever work at the marble quarries came to a halt in the Middle-Ages, people from the area persevered due to their skill in breeding pigs and working with their meat. The town still holds an annual lard festival, which falls on the day of Saint Bartholomew (patron of butchers). Lardo di Colonnata is placed within marble tubs within 72 hours of being trimmed. Layered with the lard are seasonings such as sea salt, ground black pepper, fresh rosemary, and roughly minced garlic. Lardo di Colonnata is aged for six months.

 

Tuscan cured meats
Tuscan cured meats

Want more about cured meats? http://garrubbo.com/salumi-italian-cured-meats/.

Florentine Specialties

Lampredotto- Panino (sandwich) made with the fourth and final stomach of a cow, the abomasum. “Lampredotto” is derived from the Italian word for lamprey eels, lampreda—once very abundant in the waters of the Arno River—as the tripe resembles the inside of the mouth of a lamprey in shape and color. It consists of a thin part, the gala, and a fat part, the spannocchia. It is cooked in water along with tomato, onion, parsley and celery, and then served, usually on a crusty bun that has been dipped in the cooking broth, with a choice of salt and pepper, parsley green sauce and hot chilli sauce.

Bistecca Fiorentina– Organic Chianina beef (a huge T-bone steak) grilled over coals and served very rare on the inside but seared on the outside.

Wines

Long before the first Etruscans made their appearance, wild vines grew in abundance all over the sunny rolling hills of Tuscany. The Etruscans are believed to have domesticated and bred the forbearers of such grapes as the Sangiovese and the Lambrusco from those early feral grapes. The hilly soil and the weather conditions of Tuscany are ideal for grape growing and, with the passing centuries, the numerous types of grapes grown gave rise to some rare and much loved varieties. Tuscany’s winemaking industry counts on one of the most noble and ancient traditions that pre-dates the universally known Chianti wine that often springs to mind when this region is discussed. The most famous grapes grown in the region are: Chianti, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Canaiolo Ciliegiolo. There are also blends made with these grapes: Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, Carmignano and, of course, the signature Tuscan wines, the Chianti and Chianti Classico, which probably are the best known Italian wines in the world

For dessert you can sample some Vin Santo – A precious bottle of liquid gold, Vin Santo is made from a 15-200 year old “mother” and fermented in vats for five years. This syrupy, balanced, golden vin santo is something special. “Holy Wine” is a dessert delicacy usually made from Trebbiano grapes that have been left to dry in an airy place until the start of Holy Week before being made into wine.

A traditional bottle of Chianti
A traditional bottle of Chianti

To learn about Tuscan wines visit http://www.winecountry.it/regions/tuscany/

Cheese

Goats cheese from Podere le Fornaci, Greve in Chianti: Whether you find it at the weekend farmers markets in nearby towns (Florence, Pisa, Prato, Greve) or visit personally, any lovers of goat cheese should make it a point to eat one of these creamy, wrinkly, tangy beautiful caprini.

Pecorino di Pienza is a cheese made from sheep’s milk, and named after the Tuscan town of Pienza, a small town near Montepulciano. This cheese was a favorite of Lorenzo il Magnifico de’Medici, and is aged anywhere from 40 to 60 days for the youngest version of the cheese, to 18 months, at which point it is excellent for grating.

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