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Digital Subscriptions > Italia! > Sep 2019 > Preserving Summer

Preserving Summer

Mario Matassa teaches us how to turn a glut of fresh fruit and vegetables into wonderful preserves that will see us through till next summer

A TASTE OF ITALY

Italians love to preserve. It seems that every day of the summer just takes them one step closer to the day when the whole family will gather in the back garden for the annual passata fête. It’s a big day on the family culinary calendar, one of those national events that speaks of childhood memories with nonno in the vegetable garden picking the ripest tomatoes, while nonna is at the stove hovering over a cauldron of gently simmering tomato sauce, mamma is diligently peeling a mountain of tomatoes with her closest friends, and papà is stood by a smouldering grill with a glass of wine in one hand and a spatula in the other.

For Italians, preserving was once a necessity, a means of ensuring that there would be enough to feed the family over the lean winter months. Today, albeit no longer a necessity, the enthusiasm, traditions and the skills hold strong. From early August through to late September supermarkets and local shops all stock a wide range of preserving jars, a sure sign that it’s time to get out your scales, stainless steel pans and funnels, and start preserving.

Every Italian family with a cantina will have a list of recipes handed down from one generation to the next

There are obvious reasons why Italians preserve. There’s the assurance that comes with knowing the provenance of what’s in the jar. Moreover, preserves generally offer a healthy option, with fresh produce used at its very best and without the help of chemical preservatives. It’s economical, of course, to make use of cheap, seasonal foods, especially when there are gluts of certain fruits and vegetables. Many Italians tend to an orto, vegetable garden, over the summer and will deliberately grow more than they require, the excess being preserved to stretch through to the following summer. But even those without a garden can be spotted by the roadside, wicker basket in one hand, a handful of blackberries, wild strawberries or whatever happens to be in season in the other.

Of course, while homemade jams, chutneys and pickles offer an economical option, the fact is that ultimately the majority of Italians take the trouble because something preserved at home is always going to taste better than a shopbought variety. The natural flavours, aromas, colours and textures are evident the moment a jar is unsealed. Every Italian family with a cantina laden with preserves will have a secret list of recipes handed down from one generation to the next. And every family will swear that their preserves are like no other.

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About Italia!

Our September issue is all about getting active and making the most of what the outdoors has to offer as we move into autumn – so let’s begin in the Dolomites: famous as a top ski destination, but equally stunning without snow, when it becomes a green and pleasant land with plenty to do for the whole family.