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Stop #14: Morgan’s pickles, a vegetable garden in a jar @ Malo (Vicenza)

Russi-Malo

We said goodbye in autumn with Marangoni’s chocolate-covered fruit and now, after many months and some vicissitudes, the Travelling Delights are back at their best, with a north-bound trip looking for Morgan and his magic Pickles.

As soon as we get to the headquarters of the company, Luciana, Morgan’s wife, welcomes us with lots of energy, smiles and words. In the small office, also used as company shop, surrounded by colorful jars filled with vegetables, we meet the man who gives his name to the pickles. The passion which moves him clearly shows through his blue attentive eyes, even before than through his words.
In the warehouse used for the various activities, he begins to tell us his story.

L'ingresso del magazzino

The hall of the warehouse

Morgan was born in Friuli as a chef, he travelled the world to better himself and at some point of his life he stopped in Veneto where he opened the restaurant “5 Sensi”. It’s not hard to imagine him cooking and studying new original recipes, changing them at the last minute in order to follow his inspiration. The role of the chef, as he often states, is full of fantasy, and needs both passion and technique, but leaves an edge of freedom where to express one’s flair.

Polipo con giardiniera di Morgan tritata

Octopus with lentils, polenta chips and pickles

One day, Luciana suggested Morgan to prepare some jars of pickles: she used to make them at her place with her roommates during the electronic ingeneering studies at university. She gave her husband her recipe, and he immediately challenged her saying that it was good but he could makeit better. So, after many tries, the recipe of Morgan’s pickles was born, and they began to sell them in a small shop at the restaurant.

Giardiniere in fila

Morgan’s Pickles (La Giardiniera di Morgan)

At some point, Morgan and Luciana noticed that some clients came back from all over Italy not only to eat at the restaurant, but mainly to buy some jars of pickles! In that moment, the spouses understood that it would have been right to give them the space they deserved… so, complicit some circumstances in favor of this decision, the restaurant was closed and Morgan’s activities moved to the industrial area near Vicenza.
Since he didn’t want to abandon completely his activity as a chef, he maintained the “5 sensi” alive and it continues to produce, among other things, a high-level catering service for ceremonies and private events.
Simultaneously, Morgan’s pickles evolved giving birth to many other products, each of which is based on the same philosophy but has got specific characteristics.

Giardiniere esposte

The small Morgan and Anna’s pickles (Giardiniera di Anna di Morgan) and two other kinds of pickles

But what is this philosophy? First of all, at its base there’s the choice of excellent products and their respect. The vegetables (peppers, carrots, cauliflowers, fennels, green beans, onions…) come from small and big companies of the area, some of them are organic and they follow as much as possible the periodicity. The first thing that happens, immediately after the arrival of the loads, is the tasting: everything, before being put into the productive chain, passes through Morgan’s teeth so that he can evaluate the product and make sure it’s tasty and crunchy.

Paola e Morgan alle prese col cavolfiore

Morgan and Paola cut the cauliflower

After it, the vegetables are cleaned and precisely cut by hand by some diligent guys, very young and accurate in their job. It’s important that the final size of the vegetables is the right one to allow a perfect final product.
The following step is the steam cooking, that happens separately for each vegetable. Right after it, the vegetables pass through the blast chiller, so that their color and consistency stay the same.
In the end, they are potted in specific percentages and left to macerate in their seasoning, then pasteurized – in other words, the jars are put into big ovens for some hours, in order to make their hearts reach the temperature of 85/90°. In this way you provide for the complete lack of chemical additives and preservatives, which is a characteristic of these pickles.

La pulizia dei peperoni

The guys who clean and cut peppers

Apart from the processing, aimed to the preservation of the vegetables’ properties, the secret of Morgan’s products is obviously the seasoning in which they macerate… every kind of pickles has its own seasoning, obtained with different percentages of vinegar, oil and spices – and the recipe is clearly secret.

Paola alle prese con le verdure

Paola cutting vegetables

But Morgan’s genius also gave him the idea to dedicate a kind of pickles to every important person of his family. The first one was Luciana, sweeter and “well rounded” than the usual pickles; than it was the turn of Giada, dedicated to the firstborn: fanciful and colored, characterized by a cap which is blue like the girl’s eyes; then Anna was born: it’s still in the testing stage, it has a small and roly poly jar like she is, with a fresh and strong flavour thanks to the ginger and whole chili peppers. The only missing one is the pickle dedicated to the little Giovanni that – they say – will be the craziest one.

Giardiniera Giada di Morgan

Morgan and Giada’s pickles (La Giardiniera Giada di Morgan)

In addition to these, the other specialties are the purple onions, the “pioppini” mushrooms, the white asparagus and the chicory from Treviso… so there is really something to suit everybody’s fancy and every match!

Giardiniere esposte 2

A wall of colors… purple onions, carrots and pioppini mushrooms

Yes, because what Morgan wants to communicate with its work is that pickles are not only something to eat in winter with boiled meat, but on the contrary it’s a great way to include vegetables and their colors all year round, turning them into appetizers, matching them with meat and fish or using them as a salad seasoning.
Morgan put the vegetable garden in a jar, and gave it a new life.

Assaggio di giardiniera Anna di Morgan

A tasting of Morgan and Anna’s pickles (Giardiniera di Anna di Morgan)

We’re sure we made your mouth water, right?
So don’t hesitate, step by La Delizia (in Russi, near Ravenna) where you can find different kinds of Morgan’s pickles… they will satisfy your curiosity and your taste!

 
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Pubblicato da su 19 luglio 2014 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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Stop #7: The honey of Mieli Thun @ Vigo di Ton (Trento)

After a break, we’re ready to tell you other wonderful things about Italian food and wine.
We restarted in the best way, with a dream visit at the famous company Mieli Thun, which makes honey of the highest quality and is located in Val di Non.

When we arrived, feeling peaceful thanks to the perfect weather and landscape that sourrounded us, we were stunned by the beauty of the building – where you can find the offices, the machinery for the processing of honey, a shop called “A_tipico” (“A_typical”) where they sell products made by excellent friends from all over Italy, and “Honey Park”, an area where you can find – and taste – both the jars of honey by Mieli Thun and the ones by other national and worldwide producers, in addition to different kinds of products that contain honey.

After taking a peek, Andrea Paternoster – owner of the company – took us out for a quick visit to the Thun Castle, in order for us to have an idea of the environment in which the company is located… it’s always a huge emotion to overlook the valley from the balcony of a castle, and from there you can understand how this can become a source of inspiration for realizing one’s own life projects!

The company takes life from Andrea’s devotion for the bees and their world. He perfectly knows them, he aknowledges their enormous talents, he knows how precious they are for our ecosystem and when he talks you can feel that he’s thankful for this reason. He interacts with them without fear but, on the contrary, with deep love – so much that at a certain point he tells us that, if he could, he would kiss all of them!

The company, deeply rooted in this enormous passion, proposed a re-evaluation of honey to all the people that used to consider it only as a cure for sorethroat. Andrea, who perfectly knows all the qualities and characteristics of the mono-floral kinds of honey that can be obtained, looked for a way to communicate them also to the not-insiders, conveying the message that honey is much more than people think. It’s nobler, more versatile, more precious, more multifaceted, “younger”, richer in potential.

So he chose the places where to put the hives – literally located all over Italy, starting from the cold northern mountains to get to the hot sicilian valleys – and he spends his life moving up and down the Country in order to follow and help the job of his beloved bees.

During our visit, we had the chance to personally observe how these insects busily work, building perfect wax cells, every one of which is hexagonal and has a gradient of 13° – the ideal slope to prevent the honey from drain out – that then will be filled with the queen bee’s eggs or with pollen or honey by the worker bees.

We managed to see the bees while carrying pollen agglomerates, the marking of the queen bee by Andrea – who in this way will recognize her in the next years – and also the birth of a bee! Not only, but from the upper part of the hive – the one that hosts the frames where the bees will deposit honey – we took out a comb full of millefiori (multi-floral) honey and we enjoyed the privilege of tasting the honey that directly poured from it. These experiences don’t happen every day, and they leave us open-mouthed! Nature is something superlative…

From the hives in the various locations, Andrea goes and collects the combs full of honey, in different periods of time based on the flowering of plants. The comb is then scratched with a sort of a fork, in order to remove the wax that plugs the cells, and then it’s spinned so that the honey can come out. The wax is then pressed in order to extract even the last drops of honey, then it’s processed by other companies.

The honey subsequently slides in a serie of descending pipes, until it gets to a tank where it’s stored at a temperature of about 14 Celsius degrees, before being filtered and then left to settle in very wide basins.

The different kinds of honey by Mieli Thun are not processed in any way, not even pasteurized: they stay exactly the same product that the bees have made. Before the confection, they’re brought to crystallization, so that they can release their flavours, then they’re taken to room temperature in order to preserve their qualities in the best way. Honey could already be preserved potentially forever, so it’s perfect and it doesn’t need anything more than the properties that bees already gave to it.

We have to point out that the labels are put on the jars one by one by hand… the employees of Mieli Thun are busy workers just as the bees!

Our visit to the company ended with a wonderful honey tasting. Elegantly put into small goblets, whe warmed them up by moving them with a spoon in order to appreciate their olfactory flavours in the best way – and we found out that, for exemple, dandelion’s honey smells like vinegar and eucalyptus’ one as dried boletus mushrooms! – and in the end we tasted them, fully realizing how many different shades of flavour they can offer, and letting ourselves go into the sceneries that they evoked.
Andrea’s purpose is to hold in his different kinds of honey the taste of the pure flower nectar, and after this tasting we can testify that he totally made it.

There are really a lot of types of honey by Mieli Thun, both mono and multi floral, and they also offer a serie – called “Quintessenza” (Quintessence) – that contains the best of mono-floral honey obtained from their beekeeping: the combs are collected in the very few specific days when the flowering is at its peak, so the honey is as possible pure and not contaminated by the nectar of other flowers.

I’m not exaggerating if I say that tasting one of the kinds of honey by Mieli Thun is really like to directly suck the nectar out of the flower… in this case too, what makes a difference and permits to reach an excellent quality is the total devotion to one’s world – here the beekeeping – and the absolute simplicity – without intervening in the already perfect bee’s product.

Are you curious to try these types of honey and to let them surprise you? So all you have to do is to step by La Delizia in Russi (Ravenna) and provide yourself with some jars… we wait for you!

 
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Pubblicato da su 8 agosto 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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Stop #1: Branchi’s cooked ham @ Felino (PR)

Our travels across flavours start with the King of delicatessen: ham.
First stop: Felino – a small town in the province of Parma, famous for its salami – in order to visit the small Branchi company, specialized in high quality cooked ham.

The factory is located in the center of the town, but we only knew how to get to the main square. As we got there, we met a Branchi truck and we decided to ask the driver for some infos… and, how we later found out, he was Mr. Tito Branchi in person, current owner of the company. Who could show us the way better than him? Indeed, we didn’t have any problem in finding the plant: 100 mt away, rusty gate, nr. 11.

The first thing I noticed was the front of the house (that we later got to know is still occupied by Tito Branchi’s old mother): a pale, clean facade, with a small plant of climbing roses, their color perfectly matched with the window green. A poetic sight, symbol of the simpleness and the authenticity of the company and of their products. And its romanticism too, because there surely is a lot of love in the devotion that the Branchi’s put in their job.

In the courtyard, we found a welcoming Giovanni, Tito’s son and brother of Franco, the three pillars of the company.
After taking us to a cellar converted into a meeting room, soflty enlightened and full of family heirlooms, he started telling us the story of their business.

The firm started in the Fifties maturing ham. After a while, the family – because, we need to underline this, it’s a family-owned business – decided to specialize in cooked ham and to abandon the maturing activity.

Giovanni, in particular, has been a rugby player at a semi-professional level until the age of 29. Then he graduated in Food Science and Technology, he left rugby and he decided to dedicate himself to the company. They updated everything, in order to create a more modern series of products even if keeping on respecting all the criteria of homemade production.

That’s how they gave birth to Magnolia Cooked Ham, the series of the Smoked ham and the one of the Specials – High Quality: the Classic Local Printed Cooked Ham, the Hand-Tied, the Cooked Culatta (made with a fine part of the thigh) and the Mec Special (the only one made from non-local thighs). Every local ham has the P.P. brand, which stands for “Parma Production”, and the meat is personally chosen by Franco, who goes on purpose to the slaughterhouse every week.


The latest launched is also the flagship of the Branchi production: the “Cotto ’60” (“’60 Cooked ham”). It was born in 2010, and it’s a completely natural product, cooked inside the typical can used in the Sixties for this kind of production. It was subject to various tests, but even the very first version revealed itself as a world-beater: it was indeed awarded – by the prestigious “Gambero Rosso” magazine – as the best cooked ham in Italy in July 2010, after it was introduced to the market at Taste exhibition in April of the same year.

After this introduction, it came the moment to go and visit the real plant, quite small in its genre – it’s about 1100 square mts – and suitable for a company that, as we said, is an artisan and family enterprise.
The production is not very extensive, we’re talking of about 500 pieces of ham per week… which are a lot anyway, if you think of all the hand-made actions that Giovanni and the employees do!

Our tour started in a cold store where the fresh thighs were hanging. Everyone of them was marked, so that their origin and characteristics are recognizable.

Then Giovanni let us see the “ribollita”: a huge pot full of very dark water, which was the concentrated infusion of spices, used to season the pieces of ham. Real spices, that we later saw with our eyes and profusely smelled, which are mixed following a secret family recipe and then boiled to extract their essence. No flavourings, normally used in the industrial output, nor other weird brew to make the meat damper and heavier – at the expenses of quality and above all of our health! The Branchi’s only use their secret spices, salt and water in a sufficient but not excessive quantity: the pieces of ham loose a bit of weight compared to the fresh thighs, but they absolutely gain quality.

The brine is injected in the meat with a multi-needle technology, the femoral arteries are hand-cleaned one by one and the thighs are manually salted, then they are churned – that is they’re put in a kind of a “concrete mixer” which massages and softens them, and finally they’re put into the molds – or into the cans if it’s the “Cotto ’60” – and cooked for about 24 hours.

For the smoked series, the smoking is done on the raw meat by burning beech wood, then the pieces of ham are cooked.

Once ready, the products get to the small room where a brisk worker hand-packs them, sticking every single label on the bag and then wrapping the pieces of ham.

The last step is the pasteurization, and after that the products are ready to be sent to the addressees!

Addressees among which stands also Paola, who cuts and sells Branchi’s cooked ham in her shop “La Delizia” so, if you got fascinated by this story of complete devotion of Branchi’s family towards their products, if you’re looking for absolute quality which respects both the meat they use and the consumer, if you want an excellent product both in the processing and in the flavour, you ought to know that you can find it in Russi (Ravenna), always at your disposal!

Believe me, after getting to know this kind of reality, seeing how they treat their products and, instead, listening to how ham is processed in the industrial production, you couldn’t desire nothing but a few good slices of artisan cooked ham, made in accordance with the rules… like this!
So when you’re around you should run to “La Delizia” to taste it! 🙂

 
10 commenti

Pubblicato da su 27 maggio 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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