Spring sprang or is that sprung or had sprung ? Pontelandolfese were springing over hill and dale hunting for spring vegetables. The favorite being wild asparagi! Thin, supple, dancing in the breeze – just like my fantasy of me – these delicious wild asparagus are prized among the gatherers. When I spy a smiling forager, I know that they have filled their baskets with asparagus. Some people just seem to know where to look.
I’ve spotted pokey amounts along the side of the road. Local wisdom has it that you shouldn’t pick stuff close to the roads – unless you’re starving. Makes sense to me – exhaust fumes cough, cough – have coated the wild sprigs. Real gatherers head for the hills. Fresh air, healthy hike and yummy finds make those a great experience.
Did I go? Seriously? It sounds lovely but I had to wash my hair. Actually, having had Lyme Disese twice, I am afraid of ticks and don’t forage in tick land. The other reason I didn’t go was simply, my lovely neighbors and friends fear that since I am always off doing something, Jack will starve. If baskets of greens aren’t dropped near my door, they will find poor Jack on the veranda writhing with hunger. I love this myth!
My friend Nunzia appeared with not only a basket of wild asparagus picked by her charming husband, Amedeo, but also some in bottles covered in oil – sott’olio. Canning to me sounds complicated. I am afraid that I will kill people with tasty botulism or something equally gruesome. What everyone does here is not really canning but oiling. WHAT. Sounds like a spa gone wrong. This is so easy and so right that even I can do it. Folks in Pontelandolfo jar eggplant, asparagus, artichokes, sun dried zucchine and more sott’olio. I asked a couple of people to tell me how they do it. Everyone starts with uber fresh vegetables. I mean picked today or last night. All are washed, cleaned and chopped into little pieces. After talking to my friends and tasting what they jar, I realized there seems to be the only a few differences in the methods.
Thank you Nunzia for the jar of asparagus! Jack scoffed them down – he will not starve this week. Here is how she does it. This technique can be used for a variety of produce including artichokes, eggplant and zucchini. After you have prepped the asparagus, pour one liter of vinegar, half liter of water and a teaspoon of salt into a big pot. Bring it to a boil and dump in the asparagus. Cook them for a scant 4 or 5 minutes. Drain them and them lay them out on a clean dishtowel and thoroughly dry them. When they are dry put them in your recycled but clean jars. Leave a wee bit of room at the top. Cover them completely with olive oil. Then bang the jar – don’t break it – so that the vegetables move and mush down a bit. Or with a clean fork push them down. Make sure they are all totally covered in olive oil. Then put the clean lid back on and put them in the cupboard until you need them.
Cousin Carmella is my go to person for cooking questions. She is one of the home cooks that the culinary adventurers for our September 7 – 14 2019 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo will get to cook, laugh and eat with. Her sott’olio method for asparagus was a little different from Nunzia’s. The prep is the same. In a big pot bring to a boil two parts water and two parts vinegar with enough added salt to your taste. When it is boiling, add the asparagus and push them down to the bottom. They will rise up to the top. When they do push them down to the bottom again. Do this three times and drain them in a colander. When they are cool, put them in a bowl and toss them with olive oil. Next, put them in the jars and push them down lightly before covering them with olive oil. Carmella’s husband Mario forages for mushrooms and she does the same process for them. She noted that mushroom and asparagus cook in just a few minutes. Other types of vegetables need to boil longer. She feels that the vinegar is a better conservation method than using wine. Wine make give it a better taste but you have to eat the items sooner
Besides the fact that we buy wine by the five liter jug, you may be wondering why I asked her about using wine in the process. Another great cook and lover of eating out in new restaurants with me, is my pharmacist pal, Adele. One day she brought over a jar of artichoke hearts sott’olio. Ha! She thought Jack would add them to his lunch time salad. I ate every last one, they were delicious. When the baby artichokes are plentiful in the market, she buys a bunch to put away and use in future dishes. She had us over for her homemade ravioli stuffed with artichokes and we both loved them. Her technique for sott’olio is a different. Remember she makes a huge batch! The first thing I noticed is that she strips away virtually all of the outer part of the artichoke and is left with the small center. Prep for artichokes includes soaking them in water an lemon for at least an hour. This is too keep them looking pale green and lovely. After the lemon soak, place each one upside down on a clean dish towel to drain. Her canning formula mixes 1 liter of vinegar with 1 liter of white wine and a half liter of water. She tosses in some salt and brings it to a boil. When the liquid begins to boil again, time the cooking. Boil the artichokes for only 5 minutes and using an colander promptly drain them. Then put each one upside down on a clean dishtowel so that all of the liquid drains out. Dry them too. When they are completely cold put them in clean, sterilized glass jars and cover them with – not olive – sunflower seed oil! Adele uses sunflower seed oil which makes her process really different. She too uses the same process for different vegetables but alters the time.
I have been so fortunate to have met people who want to feed me. All of the vegetables I have tasted processed like this have been a little crunchy, tangy and wonderful. Try it this summer and let me know how it works out for you!
SPECIAL COOKING IN THE KITCHENS OF PONTELANDOLFO DEAL ALERT!!!!
We have room for two more culinary adventurers for our September 7 – 14, 2019 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo session. I want to see the session filled so I am doing something we have never done – HAVING A SALE! Send me an e-mail ASAP to be one of the two and receive a delightful discount! HOW DELIGHTFUL? 10% OFF DELIGHTFUL! THAT IS A €€€€ SAVING! Contact me to find out just how great it is.
Info@nonnasmulberrytree.com. Do it today and have the cooking time of your life this fall.