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Surviving an Italian Feast

Surviving an Italian Feast

To say that Italians love their food is quite the understatement.  Like saying that Greenland is a little chilly or a few people live in China.  Traditional Italian family meals might be considered feasts in other countries.  Copious quantities of pasta, meat, salad and wine.  Followed by dessert, cheese and nuts.  No wonder then that they sometimes overdo it.  And so also no wonder that they came up with an elegant and fun way to deal with excess-related indigestion.

 

Galeffi Effervescent Granules

There are plenty of solutions to indigestion and heartburn.  But the Italian method is arguably the best.  Simply dissolve a few Galeffi Effervescent Granules in a glass of water, and drink while the liquid is still bubbling.  Fast acting relief from heartburn, indigestion or generally upset tummies.  And it even tickles on the way down.  Plus with its slightly lemony tang it is an excellent palate cleanser.  And also an incredibly thirst-quenching beverage.  Like sipping freshly made lemonade on a hot summer’s day.

But what are these Galeffi Effervescent Granules?  Well they’re pretty much just Sodium Bicarbonate (AKA bicarbonate of soda or simply baking soda) and very little else.  A slight lemony flavour is about it.  But they’ve been around long enough to qualify as part of traditional Italian cuisine.  Likely being first developed in the decades before the modern state of Italy was unified in the late 19th century.

They were initially a purely luxury item.  Though now they are far more common, found in most good Italian supermarkets.  Though abroad they can only be found in quality Italian Delis like Limoncello.  They were never sold or marketed as a medicine.  But nor as a sweet/candy.  Instead being somewhere in between.  Many Italians will tell you how as children they enjoyed Mama placing a single granule on their tongues to fizz away.

 

A Healthy Option

No-one really understands why, but many Italians tend to have sensitive stomachs.  More than for many other nationalities.  Perhaps it is a result of their diet.  But since food gives them so much pleasure, finding a way to live with occasional indigestion is generally held as superior to switching to a bland diet.  And who can blame them?

After all, it is well known that switching from ending a meal with tiramisu to ending it with half a grapefruit will remove up to 90% of the joy left in your life…

And for this, effervescent solutions in general do tend to be superior to tablets or pills.  They dissolve in water quickly and easily, resulting in a homogenous solution the gut finds easy to absorb.  This makes them both fast acting and efficient.  Plus they are great for rehydration and easier to swallow than pills – often a problem when you’re feeling poorly.  And the granules themselves are hardly delicate, and so are easy to store.

All in all, Galeffi Effervescent Granules are an elegant solution to issues of indigestion.  A very Italian solution to a very Italian problem.  And where can you find them locally?  Limoncello, of course.

 

Credit: Thomas Farley

Balm for the Tastebuds

Balm for the Tastebuds

Grapes have many uses.  From eating them with delicate cheeses to their use as projectile weapons in food fights.  They can be used to make fine wines.  Or they can be distilled into brandy.  In fact the best brandies in the world cost thousands of pounds. Their quality and scarcity are a result of a process taking many years to ferment, distil, age for perhaps decades in barrels before lovingly blending the tiny portion remaining from what you started with.

But who would take similar time and effort to produce a humble vinegar?  Why, the Italians, of course!  And where can you buy it?  Limoncello, of course!

 

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

The word “traditional” is thrown around a lot.  Often meaning very little.  “Traditionally made” vodka isn’t likely to taste any better than untraditionally made vodka.  And “traditional” dances are more often than not made up for tourists to come watch.

But when we’re taking about “Traditional Balsamic Vinegar” (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale) it makes a huge difference.  Because this isn’t just a description but also a trademark of excellence under the European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system.  And if you’ve never tasted real Balsamic vinegar, you have no idea what you’re missing.  Comparing it to the cheap stuff you find in supermarkets is like comparing a Wagyu steak to a fast food joint burger.

Real Balsamic vinegar is slightly sweet, dark and richly flavoured.  It has been produced in the area around the city of Moderna in Emilia-Romagna for perhaps a millennium.  The word Balsam means “an aromatic and usually oily resinous substance” from plants used to make a balm.  Which gives a good inclination to the texture of the finished product.

 

A Traditional Process

The grape growing region of Emilia-Romagna specialises in Trebbiano (white) and Lambrusco (red).  Every year some of the Trebbiano grapes are set aside for the production of Balsamic vinegar.  First the must is slowly cooked down to the consistency of a syrup, thereby concentrating the flavour, colour and aroma.

It is then cooled and moved over to wooden barrels in which the cooked must undergoes a slow fermentation process, producing alcohol.  This alcohol is in turn fed upon by acetic bacteria, slowly converting wine into vinegar.  This is then followed up by a lengthy barrel aging process of at least 12 years.

During this time some of the barrel’s contents will evaporate, and be progressively transferred to smaller barrels of different types of wood.  This causes the gradually concentrating liquid to leach out flavours and colours from multiple different types of wood, such as chestnut, cherry, ash, mulberry and juniper.  Ultimately, multiple different casks of different ages are blended in a system similar to the Solera system for Rum.  The absolute minimum age for each cask before blending is 12 years, with the maximum being a lot higher.

This makes a comparison between Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and top shelf dark spirits quite reasonable.  Both cost a lot and take many years to produce.  But both also enjoy so many subtle layers of taste, texture and aroma that they are worth it.  As such, Balsamic vinegar should be treated as you might treat a fine wine.  Carefully, and with respect.  We recommend drizzling some over aged cheeses or rich, gamy foods.  Or perhaps used as a base for salad dressing, sauces or marinades.

However you choose to enjoy your Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, you’ll find it in Limoncello.

 Credit: Thomas Farley

The Power Of The Sun

The Power Of The Sun

Here at Limoncello we enjoy being outrageous in a truly Italian manner.  Making bold and ridiculous claims and flirting with everything that moves.  And some things that don’t.  So we’re proud to announce that we have harnessed the ultimate power in this world – the Sun itself!

Or, more prosaically, we’ve installed some solar panels.  Since we are located in Cambridge we also need a little wry British understatement from time to time.

 

Solar Power

It’s no exaggeration to call the sun the ultimate source of power.  After all, it is a truly ancient and incomprehensibly vast nuclear fusion explosion.  The sheer scale of energy in produces makes all those nukes we worry might one day destroy the world look like firecrackers.  The only reason it seems so benign and life-giving to us is because it’s a very very long way away.

But in truth everything does ultimately come from the sun.  The plant kingdom is defined by its ability to directly use sunlight via Photosynthesis.  A process that both produces the Oxygen we need to breathe and the biomass animals can then feed upon.  Even the energy stored in fossil fuels like oil or coal ultimately came from the sun – a few million years ago.

And what else ultimately comes from the sun?

Tomatoes.  Olives.  Basil.  In fact so much of what makes Italian cooking so special are plants which grow best in the sunny Mediterranean climate.  That, and an easy going attitude that developed because who wants to rush when it’s so hot outside?  So in a way Italian culture and cuisine has always been solar powered.  So by tapping into that power, we at Limoncello already feel closer to our Italian roots.

 

Close to Nature

Yet we also have the stereotypical British urge to simply install some solar panels, keep a stiff upper lip, and carry on.  And certainly make no fuss.  We’re not entirely sure that we can pull off this international bipolar personality trick but…we’ll try.

However, it is very British to deeply enjoy the sunshine.  And in a very different way from how Italians do.  Down in Italy the sun is hot and ever present.  Not taken for granted, but definitely reliable.  In England we take advantage of all the sunshine we can as we never know when we’ll see the sun again.  It’s telling that while the word umbrella is originally English, the word parasol is not.  Para Sol, from the Spanish.  Because in England the idea of actively avoiding what little sunshine we get is practically heresy.

At Limoncello we try to merge these two attitudes.  Yes, by optimistically installing solar panels in the hope for Italian weather. And because we feel that decreasing our carbon footprint is an inherently good thing.  But also by creating our sunset terrace.  A relaxed outdoor space that can take full advantage of Italian weather yet not be spoiled by British weather.  A truly cosmopolitan environment.

 

 

Credit: Thomas Farley