Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti | Photography by Lauren Volo

Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti | Photography by Lauren Volo

By Jacqueline Greaves | Recipe by Domenica Marchetti

Domenica Marchetti – the Art of Preserving, Italian Style

Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 2016)

I am writing beneath a tree in Italy and thinking about the wonderful visuals and aroma of fruits and vegetables that abound throughout the Italian summer season. I desperately want to pull out my copy of Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions, but it is in New York, as is my kitchen, So, for now, sadly there is no possibility of experimenting with new ideas and thoughts resulting from the wonderful family and Italian memories that Domenica associates with her many and varied home-preserved recipes. When I return to New York it will be almost at the end of the season and I envy all of you near farmers’ markets filled with delicious fruits and vegetables – hopefully organic – and your kitchens. Here I am in Italy surrounded by all these mouthwatering fruits and vegetables and yet I am completely at a standstill. It makes me want to cry.

 Photos from Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti

Photos from Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti

So, this collection of personal recipes is a must, and Domenica has given me a few fun and flavorful suggestions for the high season of canning, curing, infusing and bottling.

-       Eggplant in oil – p. 36

-       Sweet and sour roasted peppers with capers – p. 38

-       Sweet and spicy pickled melon – p. 68

-       Sour cherry spoon fruit - p. 87

-       Fig jam with orange zest – p. 95

-       Passata di Pomodoro (tomato sauce) – p. 117

-       Oven-roasted tomatoes in oil – p. 132

-       Peaches in grappa-spiked syrup – p. 264

-       Her nonna’s amarene sotto spirit (sour cherries in boozy syrup) – p. 267

These are handy and versatile preserves to have on your shelves - your children are home from college, friends or family drop by unexpectedly, and why not, treat yourself. I think just the act of being able to see the fruit – pardon the pun – of your labors is worthy of you creating a few appetizers just for yourself and opening a bottle of your favorite rosé. My choices would be sweet and spicy pickled melon wrapped with prosciutto, eggplant in oil topping a crostini, or fig jam with orange zest topping your favorite cheese (mine is Manchego aged for 8 months – I know, Spanish and not Italian, but I am very global). Domenica says the aroma of roasted vegetables naturally recalls Italy. In my Italian family, sweet and sour bell peppers are served sometimes with homemade brioche – Neapolitan style. Try it on a crostini or cracker. Think about vanilla ice cream topped with her nonna’s sour cherries in boozy syrup to complete the menu of your personal indulgence. Those cherries are what got Domenica started on her research as the last bottles made by her grandmother’s preserves were jealously guarded by her mother and aunts, and no one had the recipe.  Family memories are a great stimuli for cooking, as both are incredibly comforting and a source of inspiration and creativity.

These recipes are fun, even though preserving in its many forms might seem daunting. To be honest I have only so far had the nerve to try the citrus infused olive oil (p. 153) as well as the citrus salt (p. 145). They are fabulous and my friends love to open the bottles and smell the citrusy perfume that comes forth. There are a few other recipes that I plan to attempt when I return to New York, like the Tropea onion jam (p. ), the porchetta salt (p.146) and even the pear mostarda (p.146). A definite must is the Abruzzese pesto (p. 172) – the Italian holy trinity of flavor base according to Domenica. It is a great start for many a Caribbean dish so will make a great addition to other items in my refrigerator.

Look for the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens in which there is a lovely spread on zucchini as envisioned by Domenica. I am so excited to read it. Also click on the video of an interview I did with Domenica at the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò in which we discuss her love of preserving.

Tropea Onion Jam (MAKES 1 1/4 PINTS)

by Domenica Marchetti

I first tasted this sweet, garnet-hued jam as part of a cheese antipasto at Osteria Morini, in Washington, D.C., with extra-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Toscano, and pungent Gorgonzola. I'm grateful to executive sous chef Ben Pflaumer for sharing the recipe. Tropea is an ultra-sweet red onion. If you're a gardener, you can grow your own (see Sources page 292). Otherwise, choose good, firm young red onions. This jam is fantastic on beef burgers with blue cheese (see page 193).

1 poud (454 g) Tropea or other red onions, cut into small dice

2 cups (400 g) sugar

1 cup (237g) Sangiovese or other sturdy red wine

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

10 whole peppercorns

1 whole clove

1 bay leaf

1-inch piece vanilla bean

1/2 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

EQUIPMENT

4-inch square of cheesecloth and a length of kitchen twine

Instant-read thermometer (optional)

2 sterilized 1/2 pint jars and 1 sterlized 4-ounce jar, and their lids

Basic water-bath canning equipment (see page 15)

  1. Combine the onions, sugar, wine, and salt in a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Use the cheesecloth to make a sachet for the peppercorns, clove, bay leaf, vanilla bean, and cinnamon stick and tie it up with the kitchen twine. Put the sachet in the pot with the other ingredients.
  2. Bring the onion mixture to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook at a simmer, stirring often, until the jam has thicken and reaches 222 to 225 F and you can drag a path along the bottom of the pot with a silicone spatula, about 20 minutes. Or use the freezer plate method to test for doneness as described on page 83. Stir in the vinegar and remove from the heat.
  3. Ladle the jam into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspae. Wipe the rums with a clean, damp cloth, if necessary, and screw the lids on the jars. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes (see Water-Bath canning, page 15). Remove the jars and set them upright on a clean kitchen towel. Let cool to room temperature before storing in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate once opened, and use within 6months. If any jars have failed to seal properly, store them in the refrigerator and enjoy those first.

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