02 February 2014

Febbraio


I don’t like February.

Yesterday, the first day of the month was dreary and wet, today is the same and the short range forecast doesn’t look much better. There are areas up and down the peninsula that are dealing with flooding from this weather. I have no fond memories of this month.

January is the optimistic start of the new year while February is only the month before the promise of better weather that March brings.  Fortunately this is the shortest month of the year and we will soon be looking back on winter and looking forward to spring.

11 January 2014

La Birra

The first tasting

Our neighbors and friends regularly bring us things from the bounty of their gardens or their grape harvest. If you read the guides about Basilicata they claim the Lucanian are a poor people but the people of Trivigno are generous with what they have and always wanting to share.

We had been trying to think what can we do to repay this generosity? We don’t have a “campagna” where we can grow fruits and vegetables to share with others. We don’t have the equipment to produce vino, even if we bought grapes as some people do. We do however have an abundance of cantine - cool dark places that are perfect for keeping things at a constant temperature.

The "kit", fermentation stage

We were in a shop in Ascoli Piceno where we saw a beer making kit with just about everything needed to make some homebrew. I figured my ancestry is about 75% German so shouldn’t beer making just come naturally to me?! The shop even offered a video on the process. We bought the kit and some other starter supplies and headed on our way.

Preparing the malt

In October, Oktoberfest seemed like the opportune time, I started to collect empty bottles from one of the local bars and began the homebrew process. The malt and hops come in a syrup form that you add sugar to and stored in our cantina to start the fermentation. I would check daily to make sure nothing looked amiss.

Bottling day

One bottle at a time

After 2 weeks the beer is drained into another container and some more sugar added for carbonation and then bottled. This whole process requires a lot of cleaning and keeping things sterile – everything I’ve read said otherwise your results will be “skunk beer”.

Another 4 weeks in the bottles and my first try was ready for a tasting. We were pleased with the results. This pilsner had a crisp clean taste and an alcohol content just under 5%. I have taken some bottles to friends’ houses for pizza and to a birthday party and everyone has commented positively on the results. Word is getting around town about my beer and several have inquired when they can sample some of my dwindling supply

Our friend Tonino sampling the Pilsner

My second try is a European lager, which is a little stronger than the pilsner but better for fermentation in the cooler winter temperatures. Just a matter of days to sample the results.

06 December 2013

San Nicola - Feast Day


San Nicola with his attributes

Today is the traditional feast day for San Nicola, who is considered the model for the modern Santa Claus. As the holiday shopping season ramps up San Nicola can be a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.

Basilica di San Nicola di Bari

21 November 2013

New Mexico or Southern Italy?


 
Look at this bell tower, sure looks like some that I remember from New Mexico. Perhaps a Santa Fe or Taos style with the stucco and soft curves. However, we found this on the chiesa madre in Rocca Imperiale, Calabria.
The chiesa madre
 
The church and lower tower of this hill town are typical stone but this unique top makes for an interesting contrast.

Rocca Imperiale

04 November 2013

Ionian Gem


The closest sea to us is the Ionian which is at the bottom of the Italian “boot”. We have not seen all of the coast but for the most part we have been unimpressed with the Taranto Gulf area. The Adriatic and Tyrrehnian coasts have some unique beaches and areas where the mountains appear to dip into the water. Around the Taranto Gulf it is mostly low plains that meet the sea where the water is relatively shallow and usually not the deep blue you will find in other areas.

This past weekend we took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and drove along the coast a little into Calabria and found a pleasant surprise at Roseto Capo Spulico. Here the water is a clear deep blue with some rock outcrops. The most impressive part is the castello that is perched on an outcrop of stone overlooking the beach. The castello is privately owned with an upscale restaurant that also offers banquet facilities. This would be a unique location in the summer to enjoy the sun, the deep blue waters and have the castello as a picture perfect backdrop.

Unfortunately it would be a bit far for us to be making any day trips to this beach next summer.

Enjoying the Sun