Thursday, April 28, 2016

Limoncello recipe

Our friend Christine makes an excellent limoncello, not too sweet. This is her recipe:

  • 400 ml alcohol
  • 5 lemons (unwaxed)
  • 500 ml water
  • 200 gm sugar
  • Remove the zest from the lemons
  • Put the zest in a jar with the alcohol
  • Leave in the dark for 15 days
  • Strain out the zest
  • Dissolve the sugar in the water
  • Combine the sugar syrup with the alcohol
  • Leave in the dark for one month
  • Drink
Not being sure of the lemons in the market we stole five lemons from Chris's tree (with her permission). Guaranteed unwaxed and pesticide free.

One unusual feature of Italian supermarkets compared to the UK is that you can buy pure alcohol (95%) for culinary purposes in just about any store. Some recipes suggest using vodka, if neat alcohol is not available, but that will be 30% water so you would only need about 300 ml of the sugar syrup to keep the ratio of alcohol to water correct.

Then all you need is a jar or two and a zester. You could use a knife but a zester allows you to precision de-rind the lemon without any bitter pith.

Two weeks later and the alcohol has leached out the oils and flavours from the zest.

Chris's recipe only uses 200 gm of sugar but some I found on the internet that used nearly 5 times that amount! If it is too tart you can always add more sugar later but you cannot take it out if there is too much.

The combination of the water and the oils makes limoncello turn the typically cloudy appearance.

Now all I have to do is let it mature in the dark ready for our next visit.

Update: After five years I tweaked the recipe reducing the alcohol from 500 ml to 400 ml. It was a bit too fiery and the syrup came out at about 600 ml so the final mix wouldn’t fit in a 1 litre bottle which bugged me. Now it’s just right, to my taste. 
Also I have been experimenting with orange-cello and lime-cello. The orange version is now my go-to recipe as we are frequently offered limoncello in restaurants here in Puglia and it is nice to have something different at home. Using soft brown sugar or Demerara sugar for the syrup gives it a distinctly marmalade-like flavour.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

San Giorgio Patron Saint of Locorotondo

Puglia, Italy. 23-April-2016.

Saint George is not just the patron saint of England but a large number of patronages around the world including Locorotondo's Mother Church of "St. George the Martyr".

We were lucky enough to be in Italy at the time of the Locorotondo's saint's day. In typical Italian tradition this involved a service followed by a parade of the statues around the town on the shoulders of the faithful. Not only Saint George but also the Blessed Virgin Mary - two statues for the price of one.

I am almost starting to feel like a local. Whilst standing there we bumped into two Italian friends, Tonino the butcher and Michele who rotavates our trulli garden. It is a small community and this event ensured a good turn out.

The procession was candle-lit, many of the people were carrying torches, and there was a small band playing a march. Once the parade vanished off down the narrow, paved alleyways we headed home for a nice bottle of local red wine and supper.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Trullo Azzurro flooring

When we originally bought the Trullo Azzurro and had it done up we told the architect to leave the flagstones (chianchi in Italian) because we figured that if they lifted them they would never be able to get them back down in the right place again.

Recently we had some plumbing work done in the bathroom and they did a good job of lifting and re-laying the tiles. We also discovered that the flagstones were laid directly onto the clay - no wonder the building was always a bit cool and damp over the winter.

So we asked Saverio our builder to quote for installing under-floor heating and a second boiler. That turned out to be very expensive. Also the flagstones are too thick for under-floor heating so would have had to be taken away to the quarry for slicing in half with risk of breakages.

In the end we arrived at a compromise: lift the floor, dig down and prepare the ground with damp-proof course and an insulating layer, then re-lay the original floor. Whilst this was being done we paid to have pipes put in place for normal radiators so if we changed our mind later and put in a second boiler we wouldn’t have to re-dig up the floor.

The room with flagstones lifted…

… and all neatly stacked in the courtyard

Then they dug down 30-40cm

Pipework for a possible future heating system.

Insulating expanded foam “igloos”. They also allow for some air circulation.

Flagstones re-laid

Floor re-grouted

Furniture back in place as if nothing had happened.

It was quite a logistics exercise because, before they could lift the flagstones, they had to clear out all the furniture including the wood-burning stove then put it all back when they were done.

It turns out that this under-floor layer is what a number of fellow Trulli owners have done. Now they tell us! We should find the place drier, warmer and easier to heat.

Whilst the builder was there we got him to improve the lane up to the Trullo as the winter rains had eroded some of the surface.

So all is looking spick and span for our first guests which will be my sister Jane and second cousin Effie next week.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Fiat 500 Rally in Cisternino

Ciisternino, Puglia, Italy. Sunday 03-April-2016.

We knew something must be up because bunting appeared across our road the day before. The next morning we went out to discover a rally of Fiat 500's and some other vehicles besides. Just up and across from our front door this beautiful old car was the first thing we saw.

Along the main Via San Quirico the whole street was lined with Fiat 500's in a rainbow of colours. Some were carefully restored to original condition, some had been pimped with special paint jobs, luxury leather upholstery and fancy steering wheels.

They are rear-engined like the VW Beetle and a number of cars had the cover up to reveal gleaming, polished engines.

The car parking space between the two bars, History and Mozarella, was double stacked with historic vehicles.

There was even a Fiat 500 people mover though you wouldn't want to move a Rugby team in it.

The view from The Bridge as the upper level part of Via San Quirico is known.

Then our local Ferrari did a drive past. It may have a Rome number plate but the car (and presumeably the owner as well) lives in the town. Not the first time we have seen this car.

There also some vintage Moto Guzzi dating from the 1930's all in immaculate condition.

A pleasant surprise to see such fun, always nice to stumble across something unawares.

Pasqua in Puglia 2016

Carovigno (BR), Italy. Tuesday 29-March-2016.

Men in Tights and Girl Groups.

As it is Easter weekend and Italy is a good Catholic country each village has the usual marches and parading statues of the Madonna. This is in the nearby town of Carovigno where there is an unusual flag twirling ceremony called “Nzenga” – the local dialect for flag.

The local legend is that a mediaeval lord had a vision in which he was told to go seek a shrine to the Madonna to cure his ailment. In his search he met a cowherd whose heifer had gone missing. The cowherd found the cow in a cave kneeling to a stature of the Madonna. He was so overjoyed he ran out blowing his whistle and throwing his multi-coloured headscarf into the air. The lord followed into the cave and was cured of his illness.

In celebration of this the locals have, since the 12th century, been dressing up in mediaeval costumes and twirling multi-coloured flags accompanied by fife and drum bands.This has now turned into a major competition between the locals to see who can be the best and highest flag twirler, both between individuals and teams.

After mass in the church they parade the Christ and Madonna into the main square preceded by girls and boys dressed up as lords and ladies, the bands and the flag twirlers. Because all the local lads take part in the flag twirling it is left primarily to the girls to form the pipe and drum bands.

Banners and statue of Christ being carried into the square

Ditto for Madonna del Belvedere

Then it is the flag waving competition. The man in the white shirt in the centre has just thrown his flag up. You can just see the flag level with the top of the dome of the bandstand.

Here they do some low level moves with the flags around and between the legs.

Finally they all parade through the town. Local lads waving flags.

More men in tights twirling flags.

All followed by a delightful lunch down at the seaside with our friends who live nearby.

PS. for videos of flag waving and band marching see previous post: Pasqua in Puglia 2010: Carovigno Easter parade