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Typical local products in the lag territory

The local products typical to the LAG on the Latium side of the National Park of the Abruzzi, a diet which is still closely bound to its deep rural roots.

Up until the Fifties, our families based their survival on the products that they managed to cultivate themselves, while exchanging with other families the products of their land: olives, grapes, wheat, rye, legumes and, in the mountain areas, potatoes of an extremely high quality.  They raised cattle, which were also used for ploughing the fields, sheep, goats, donkeys, chicken and pigs.  The families in the area used to help each other when working the fields (with a system of "loan days", a sort of modern time-bank) and festivals were organised at grain threshing time, and during the harvesting of maize or grapes, when the hard days' work ended with a glass of wine and accordion music. Once a week, the women kneaded bread by hand, generally using maize flour since the wheat was often sold to buy salt or furniture.

The situation changed radically after 1950 and yet, miraculously, not all the knowledge has been lost.  There are still young producers who revive ancient recipes:  pecorino and ricotta cheeses, oil, truffles, sweetmeats, bread and sausages tell stories that relate the close link between nature and the environment.  In this millennium, the history of traditions and products which our territory has been able to preserve must be enhanced in value: by increasing food safety and certificates of quality; by reaching new markets; and by establishing the bases for a rural Europe that pays attention to environmental sustainability and the values of solidarity and peace.  The LAG is also working towards these objectives.

HIS MAJESTY .... THE TRUFFLE OF CAMPOLI APPENNINO

Ministerial decree 18 July 2000, Gazzetta Ufficiale no. 194 of 21/08/2000

The truffles found on the hillsides between Campoli Appenino and the other villages in the Abruzzi Park are a prized variety of  extremely high quality, even though not yet universally recognised, and are mostly exported.  The Campoli truffle collectors who have been working in this sector since the 1500s and were suppliers to the royal house of Naples and to the Vatican, dig up their truffles, both the prized black truffle (Tuber Melanosporum Vitt), and the white truffle (Tuber Magnum Pico), in their municipal territory and in other nearby boroughs, from October to January.  In spring, you can savour the whitish truffle or marzuolo (Tuber Borchii Vitt), whereas in summertime the scorzone truffle (Tuber Aestivum) is widespread.  Truffles, which are subterranean fungi, grow in symbiosis with the roots of certain trees, generally oaks: if they are not harvested, on reaching maturity they decompose, scattering millions of spores in the ground and thus safeguarding the species.

The truffle is an extremely refined condiment, appreciated at the tables of the nobility  from ancient times. Its rarity justifies its high cost on the market but it is nonetheless widely used in local restaurants. There is an extremely varied local gastronomic heritage based on truffles: from the simple seasoning used in fresh pasta dishes to the sauces for flavouring canapés or second courses, to the sweetmeats made from this precious tuberous mushroom.

CABERNET ATINA DOC

The production of wine, headed by the Cabernet of Atina, but reinforced by the presence of numerous noble vineyards planted in the 19th century by the famous vintner, Visocchi, has achieved prestigious levels in the national and international field.  In Lazio and particularly in Atina, the French grapes have been acclimatised for more than a century and the Cabernet was an extraordinary discovery made at the "Vinitaly" in Verona, the most important wine show in Italy: its intense colour and rich and lasting flavour make the Atina Cabernet a first-rate wine.  As well as Atina, the boroughs directly involved in the Atina Doc (certification in 1999) are Alvito, Belmonte Castello, Casalattico, Casalvieri, Gallinaro, Picinisco, San Donato Val di Comino, Sant'Elia Fiumerapido, Settefrati, Vicalvi and Villa Latina.
Atina Cabaret wine is created from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes (minimum 85%) as well as other species of black grape from the area (maximum 15%).  The Atina Rosso wine comes from the vines Cabernet Sangiovese (minimum 49%), Syrah (minum 10%), Cabernet Franc (minimum 10%).  Of a ruby-red colour with purplish-blue reflections, full flavour and body, the Cabernet of Atina is making a name for itself in the world.

MARZOLINA GOAT'S CHEESE

Ministerial decree 18 July 2000, Gazzetta Ufficiale no. 194 of 21/08/2000; Atlas showing typical local products in Italian parks, Ministry of Environment 2001, Presidio Slow Food

The production of marzolina goat's cheese had all but disappeared until a local producer discovered the original recipe in the Parco degli Aurunci, and with the support of the LAG (Leader II programme), Slow Food and the Coop, some farms began to raise goats, reviving the tradition of mature goat's cheese. The marzolina is a small cheese which was once produced only in the initial milking period (in the month of March in fact).  The milk obtained after milking the goat twice is coagulated with goat rennet creating a 'dough' which, after it separates, is left to dry in cylindrical forms: later it is pressed by hand and dry-salted or covered with brine. Marzolina can be eaten fresh, but it is traditionally left to season on wooden slats and then, once it is completely mature, preserved in glass jars under extra virgin olive oil.
In the Presidio Slow Food, Marzolina has been added to a list of about 100 Italian products in the Arca del Gusto which it is hoped to save from the 'flood' of standardisation.

THE SHEEP'S CHEESE AND RICOTTA OF PICINISCO

Ministerial decree 18 July 2000, Gazzetta Ufficiale no. 194 of 21/08/2000; Atlas showing typical products in Italian parks, Ministry of Environment 2001.

The pecorino di Picinisco, is a cheese made by hand with fresh sheep's milk, warmed and with the addition of lamb's and/or kid's rennet.  The origins of this cheese probably date back to the Samnites who settled in this area in the Iron Age.  The milk, which is not pasteurised, maintains the flavour and scent of mountain pastures and also fully preserves its nutritional properties.  The pecorino is made entirely by hand; the curds are put in wicker baskets (fiscelle) and then immersed in boiling whey  (the scottatura process).  They are then salted before being set to mature on wooden boards in well-ventilated rooms.  Of a full and intense flavour, the pecorino is also aromatised with thyme, marjoram, oregano, chilli pepper or truffles.  An ancient Roman recipe advises eating pecorino with a thin layer of honey and juniper berries, but there is a much better known local saying:  "Don't let the countryman know how good pecorino is with pears".
When the whey left in the container (originally made of copper but today substituted with stainless steel) is brought to the boil, after about 20 minutes it forms a ricotta which can be eaten alone or flavoured (with cocoa, ground coffee, centerbe, honey, jam or wild strawberries). Has obtained DOP certification from the EU.

THE SWEETMEATS AND NOUGATS OF ALVITO

Ministerial decree 18 July 2000, Gazzetta Ufficiale no. 194 of 21/08/2000; Atlas showing typical products in Italian parks, Ministry of Environment 2001.

Don Pasquale asked Vittorio to go to Rome: " You now know all the secrets of pasta reale (marzipan), you know how to make torroni (nougat), and I have nothing more to teach you".  They were recipes dating back to the 1700s when Alvito was still part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  Now it was the '30s, people rode down Via Veneto on bicycles, and Vittorio at that time was little more than twenty years old.  He stayed in Rome for almost five years, immersed in the smell of chocolate, the architectural displays of meringues and bignés, the art of painting cakes as though they were a painter's palette, with flavours that recalled autumn or spring, blending colour and taste.  But then he came home with a devastated knee and a leg that he could no longer bend.  And he learnt to experiment, which is the true art of a pasticcere.  He found an old Alvitan recipe which no-one remembered anymore: the torrone regina (queen's nougat), a homage made by one of his sweetmeat-making ancestors on the occasion of a royal visit.  The queen must have been the wife of a Bourbon (Ferdinand, Francis?)  Almond paste with pine nuts.  With icing?  No, better chocolate to cover the torrone.  And pasta reale flavoured with coffee, pistachio, hazelnut, rum, bergamot.  Improve the mixture, refine it, cover it with purer and purer chocolate to exalt the taste of the almonds.  
It is a challenge to the customs of our times which seem to have forgotten their own traditions, the heritage of a past which appears increasingly misty.
These words today accompany the famous sweetmeats and torroni of Alvito throughout the world.

ORGANIC HONEY

Atlas showing typical products in Italian parks, Ministry of Environment 2001.

Honey, an extraordinary product obtained from the transformation of nectar and pollen by bees, rich in minerals and vitamins as well as sugars, protein and organic acids, has tremendously therapeutic properties.  Numerous beekeepers work in the territory of the LAG, some of whom have used Leader funding.  Many varieties of honey are produced in this territory because of its rich biodiversity: from the highly scented honey obtained from the thyme and santoreggia that grow on sunny calcareous rock slopes; to chestnut honey, a circulatory stimulant; and the aromatic wood honey, honeydew (melata di bosco); and of course mixed flower honey (millefiori), the most complete and rich in therapeutic virtues because it stems from numerous species of flowers.

ORGANIC EXTRA VIRGIN  OLIVE OIL

Organic agriculture is a method of production defined within the Community at legislative level by the regulation Reg. CEE 2091/91 and at national level by the Ministerial decree 220/95

The extra virgin olive oil of Valle di Comino, Arpino and  the entire  territory of the LAG is famous thanks to the climate and  orography, as well as the refined and extremely ancient techniques used in olive pressing.  Extra virgin olive oil is obtained through the process of cold-pressing the fruit of the olive tree.  
The cultivation of olives started 6000 years ago, but the plant which originally produced little fruit and was full of thorns, became productive  thanks to the Palestinians and inhabitants of Syria.  It was introduced into Spain in about 1000 BC and subsequently arrived in Italy.
Extra virgin olive oil is certainly considered to be one of the leading products in the range of agricultural and food produce from the GAL territory, because of its quantity and quality, even though it has not yet obtained certification (studies are under way for the DOP certificate).  In recent years, many farms have obtained the organic certification from authorised inspection organisations: one  of the LAG's next objectives is to see that organic extra virgin olive oil is used both in school canteens and local restaurants.

NATURALLY LEAVENED BREAD BAKED IN WOOD FIRED OVENS.

Once upon a time ....the story of bread is not the beginning of a children's fairytale but has a long history waiting to be discovered in the LAG territory, particularly in the numerous bakeries of Veroli which still use wood-fired ovens to cook their naturally leavened bread.  The recipe for bread leavened with sour dough and cooked in wood-fired ovens has already been admitted into the GAL census and put on the list of traditional agricultural and food products (Ministerial decree 18/7/2000), and IGP (Geographically Protected Indication) certification is currently under study, which will guarantee the specific quality of a product that is prepared in the old way.  In collaboration with the bakers of Veroli, the certification will also permit the bakeries to be promoted as a tourist attraction.  Besides its bread, Veroli is famous for its "ciambelle ritorte all'anice", an exquisite aniseed-flavoured bread circle, which the housewives of S. Croce used to bake in wood-fired ovens.

THE CANNELLINO BEAN OF ATINA

The Cannellino beans of Atina are grown on the damp, alluvial soil deposited by the Melfa and Mollarino rivers.  They are particularly tasty and tender beans with a delicate flavour and an extremely thin skin. The Cannellino is a local ecotype, shaped like a slightly flattened circle (average length 13-13mm).  There are historical records of the Cannellino of Atina in Demarco (1811) whereas Cirielli in "The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies" (Vol. III 1855/60) offers statistical data and mentions the Cannellino bean production in Atina as being equivalent to 2500 tomoli per year.  In 1883, about 16 tomoli were held in the warehouses of the Visocchi House.  The Cannellino bean of Atina is listed among the indigenous genetic resources of agrarian interest. Has obtained DOP certification from the EU.

THE CHESTNUTS OF TERELLE

The village of Terelle is associated with its centuries old chestnut forest, one of the most beautiful in Lazio: chestnut trees that are true natural monuments (with a circumference of more than ten metres) and extremely long-lived, some being thousands of years old.  An important event is the festival of the chestnut, with vast quantities of 'pizzutelle' and 'peloselle' chestnuts offered to the numerous visitors. The chestnuts, called 'tree bread', were once an irreplaceable resource for country people.  The "patient fruit", as the poet Attilio Bertolucci defined it, needs only a few fundamental interventions, such as pruning the trees or clearing the undergrowth at least twice a year.  In the past, even the most distant woods were always maintained, and the chestnuts were eaten boiled or roasted, or as the basis of tasty dishes with legumes, or in the various types of sweetmeats.

SAUSAGES 'A PUNTA DI COLTELLO' UNDER LARD

Ministerial decree 18 July 2000, Gazzetta Ufficiale no. 194 of 21/08/2000; Atlas showing typical products in Italian parks, Ministry of Environment 2001.

Pigs are still raised by many families in the area and are fed with the organic leftovers from the house, or with acorns and bran.  The pigs are killed between December and March and left to hang in well-ventilated rooms for 48 hours, after which they are cut up to make sausages, salami, ham, cotechini and liver sausages.  The preparation of sausages is an extremely long process because most of the fat and nerves must be removed from the meat otherwise the sausage would be rather tasteless.  The meat, which is finely chopped by hand with very sharp knives, is seasoned with salt and black pepper, and after being left to stand, is packed into the same animal's well-washed intestine.  To make the sausages even more tasty, braziers that give off olive leaf smoke are  placed  in the well-ventilated rooms for the 15 days needed to cure them. The sausages are then packed into glass jars, covered in warm lard from the same pig, and preserved in cool, dark cellars.
The boroughs where pig-raising is most common are those of San Donato Val Comino, Picinisco, Setterfrati, Campoli Appennino, Alvito, Villa Latina, Vallerotonda.

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