“…AT CHRISTMAS PLAY AND MAKE GOOD CHEER, FOR CHRISTMAS COMES BUT ONCE A YEAR…” (Thomas Tusser 1557)
Christmas, as many now know, is a Christian festivity, however, it has ancient roots dating back to pagan Roman winter festivities, called Saturnalia, which were held in honor of Saturn, the pagan god of agriculture, of harvest, of gold, and patron of shepherds. The Roman winter celebrations were held between the 17th and the 23rd of December of each year. When Emperor Constantine (around 330 A.D.) decided to celebrate Christ and his conversion to Christianity, Romans begun including the event of the birth of Christ which led to Christmas. During the season of the pagan event, especially on December 21st, when the winter solstice gave way to longer days of light and sun shine, Roman citizens and inhabitants of the capital were used to exchange small gifts, such as candles, little clay figurine, walnuts, dates, and honey which with its golden color reminded of gold.
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Apostles who followed Christ never recorded the year of Christ’s birth, and when the monk Dionysius Exiquss came up with the first Christian calendar the date was set without approximately. Later, scholars believed the birth of Christ being between 7 B.C and 4 B.C. The exact date of the Lord’s birth remained unknown and somehow around 400 A.D. Christmas’s date was set on the 24th of December. The date was kept on Roman Christian calendars while the Greek Orthodox Christians who follow the old Julian calendar Christmas begun celebrating Christmas on January 7 of each year.
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The widespread Christian tradition of celebrating Christmas with a nativity scene goes back to the 12th century and to Saint Francis who, according to legend, experienced Christ’s nativity vision and built a cradle for Him.
History does not report any gifts associated with the celebration of Christ’s birth until people begun associating sharing gifts with the gesture of the Three Kings. According to the Gospel, the Wise Men brought Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. Surely other worshipers had other things for the Holy Child and for the Holy Family. Today sharing gifts, caroling, placing a nativity scene somewhere, may be near a decorated tree are part of a cherished tradition. Dressing the tree with lights came later, in the 16th and 17th century, after the Reformation when German Martin Luther led the way to do things in a new way. Legend has it that he set up an evergreen decorated with lights in order to remind his own children that Christ, in spite of a changed Church, was still the light of the world (the Book of Holidays by Walker McSpadden p. 177-186).
For your merry making, in case you have forgotten a few words of the famous carol, which in the 18th century had caught even Mozart’s attention, here it is, my favorite tune:
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
This the season to be jolly, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
Don we now our gay apparel, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
Troll the ancient yuletide carol, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
See the blazing yule before us, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
Strike the harp and join the chorus, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
Follow me in merry measure, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
While I tell of Christmas treasure, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
Fast away the old year passes, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
Hail the new! Ye lads and lasses; FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA …
Sing we joyous all together, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA …
Heedless of the wind and weather, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…
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MARCHIORI DALL’ALTA VAL DI NON – I BUONI SALUMI – SPECK, MORTANDELA AND OTHER PORK PRODUCTS, Localita’ Fanch, 1, 38013 FONDO (TRENTO); Tel. 0463 831119 or Fax 0463 83 9336 or firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.salumimarchiori.it
NORTHERN ITALIAN SPECK and regional pork products, such as PROSCIUTTO HAM and MORTANDELA [which is not Mortadella Bolognese], or regionally produced wines, sparkling spumantes, grappas and regional spices are among the common gifts given and received during the Christmas festivities throughout the Northern Italian regions.
SPUMANTE CLASSICO DEL TRENTINO – ABATE NERO TRENTINO DOC S. a. S di de Castel Terlago E. & C. Sponda Trentina, 45, 38121 (Trento) Italy- To order contact: Tel.+ 39 0461 246566 or Fax + 39 0461 247819 or email: email@example.com
DAL MASSIMO GOLOSO – MACELLERIA SALUMERIA – SPECK, MORTANDELA, PROSCIUTTO AND OTHER PORK PRODUCTS FROM THE REGION OF TRENTINO ALTO ADIGE
COREDO, PIAZZA CIGNI 6, 38010 COREDO (TRENTO); Tel. 0463 536 129 or PELILIZZANO (TRENTO); Tel. 0463 750853 or at http://www.dalmassimogoloso.com or email: macelleriacorra.tin.it
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPECK, PROSCIUTTO AND MORTANDELA DELLA VAL DI NON:
SPECK is a smoked slab of pork labeled IGP (agricultural product limited to a certain determined geographical area – Trentino Alto Adige) eaten either as it comes, sliced thin or cut in match stick form, or used in the typical regional dumplings called Speck-Knoedel. The pork product is “protected” by the Italian Minister of Agriculture and is not German speck. It is also not prosciutto or pancetta. It is boned smoked with a dark bottom rind and an upper part that is red and white, lightly salted, seasoned, flavored with juniper berries. It is a specialty produced in the Northern Italian region dating back to at least the 13th century (Italian Trade Commission 1999; p. 65). The name of Speck might have originated during Roman times when ancient terms such as “Baco” (from there the Anglo-Saxon term “bacon”), “Perna” or “Venter Porci”(in Latin: belly of the pork) or “hamme”(from there the term ham) was also known as Speck to differentiate it from pieces of pork that were either pickled or cured and smoked with the bone, or cooked or turned into head cheese, oil, lard, all regulated commercially by ancient rules to guarantee a fair market price for pork meat (Rachewiltz p. 72).
PROSCIUTTO is cured aged hind leg of the pig also labeled IGP according to where it comes from (for example, Parma, San Daniele etc.). Generally prosciutto hams are cured and aged rather then smoked. Rubbed with special mixtures of salt and spices, or placed in brines containing salt, sugar, water, and spices they are aged in special rooms at determined temperatures until they loose weight and gain the special pink or red raw flavor and appearance. The preparing of Northern Italian prosciutto occurs in special smoke houses where various woods (apple, chestnut, juniper) are burned to produce the smoke that will gradually “smoke” the meat. Northern Italian prosciutto is available as crudo (raw or cold smoked) or cotto (cooked and smoked).
MORTANDELA SAUSAGE, ALSO CALLED MORTANDELA DELLA VAL DI NON, is not the same as Bologna’s Mortadella. It is a very firm, dark, ground pork meat patty pressed together with corn meal, spices, herbs, and smoked over beech wood and aromatic herbs. It is known as a Northern Italian Val di Non specialty. The sausage looks like a chubby hamburger patty. It is generally either fried and served with polenta or used in specialties that call for spiced pork meat or cooked in dishes such as risotto.
MORTANDELA RISOTTO WITH RADICCHIO ALSO CALLED RISOTTO CON MORTANDELA E RADICCHIO
400 gr. or about 4 cups of risotto rice (possibly Arborio)
3 Tbsp light olive oil
1 3-4 oz onion, trimmed, peeled, minced
100 gr or about 4 oz. mortandela, chopped
½ head of radicchio, trimmed, rinsed, chopped
Salt to taste or about 1-2 tsp) and freshly ground pepper
2 cups either chicken or beef broth, defatted, heated
1 cup red Teroldego wine
1-2 tbsp butter
Enough grated cheese to top the risotto before serving it (about ½ cup)
In a medium large sauce pan heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until glossy and limp. Add the rice and stir it into the sautéed onion until all rice kernels are shiny. Season with salt and gradually while stirring constantly pour the wine into the broth and pour 1 cup of broth wine at the time. Add and stir the rice and the liquid until the rice has absorbed almost all the broth and wine. Add the mortandela and the radicchio and cook at least 5 more minutes. The risotto is almost ready to be served when the rice kernels are “al dente” (firm but not hard to the bite). Before turning off the heat add the butter and stir the rice; turn the heat off and cover the risotto allowing the butter to melt into the rice (about 2 minutes). Distribute in serving plates and dust with abundant grated cheese (preferably Trentin Grana). Serve as a first course.
MORTANDELA SAFFRON RISOTTO ALSO CALLED RISOTTO CON MORTANDELA E ZAFFERANO
Proceed as described before; however, use 3 instead of 2 cups of hot broth, eliminate the wine and steep a good pinch of saffron in the hot broth before using it.
GRAPPA AND DISTILLED PRODUCTS – BAILONI DISTILLERIA – Since 1953, a family run grappa distillery
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SPECK BACON AND ONION QUICHE, ALSO CALLED TORTA ALLE CIPOLLE CON SPECK
This type of quiche turns out best if baked in a 9-10 inch (about 22-25 cm) spring pan. It is hearty and satisfying and definitively Northern Italian.
For the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup olive oil
3-4 Tbsp ice water
For the filling:
2 large onions (about 1 lb), trimmed, peeled, sliced, sautéed
¼ cup olive oil
8 oz speck (chopped)
1 cup fresh snipped chives (you may substitute with chopped parsley)
16 oz (about 2 cups) fresh ricotta
4 whole eggs, whisked
2 tsp powdered caraway seeds
Brush the pan with oil. Mix the flour with the salt and add oil; mix these ingredients until the fat has been absorbed by the flour. Add the whisked egg and one by one the tablespoons of ice water; knead to a quiche crust. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.
Sauté the sliced onions in the olive oil until they are limp and translucent. In a mixing, when the sliced onions have cooled off, add the chopped speck, the chives, the fresh ricotta and the caraway; mix all ingredients and set them aside. Between two sheets of wax paper, on a working surface, roll out the quiche dough to a circle of about 12-14 inches (about 30-35 cm) in diameter or to fit the spring pan brushed with oil. When the circle of crust has the desired size, turn the spring pan upside down in the center of paper and holding the bottom sheet of paper and the spring pan with two hands, turn the pan over. Gently remove the other layer of wax paper and line the bottom and the sides of the pan with the quiche dough.
Place the rack in the middle of the oven, preheat to 325 degrees F (about 165 degrees Celsius). While the oven is heating, put the filling on the dough in the lined spring form. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry. Let the quiche cool off before serving it lukewarm, cut in slices, with a salad of fresh greens and a glass of ABATE NERO Spumante Classico del Trentino.
Enjoy and have a good time…Cheers!!!!! (((-: Elisabetta