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May 31

Homegrown and Homemade in Puglia – Olive Oil and other Earthly Delights

In Alberobello, it seems self-sufficiency extends to everything from olive oil to limoncello – from filling the fridge to supplying the liquor cabinet, everything is homegrown and homemade in Puglia.

In Alberobello, there are only a couple of supermarkets and one market, and there’s no need for more because here it appears everyone grows what they need for themselves.

When the caretaker of our trullo, Maria, visited us the first day she gave us a bottle of her own olive oil, the next day when she came to teach Terence how to make pasta she hung a colossal bunch of pomodorini up in our kitchen (her own homegrown tomatoes), and on her next visit (the pizza-making day) she left us a giant jar of marinated olives and her own dried oregano.

On our drive to Maria’s trullo another day for yet another cooking lesson, she pointed out her own olive groves, her cherry trees, her grape vines, and her vegetable garden, and during lunch she served up her own wine.

When Maria and Anna, our guide to the trulli of Alberobello, took us to Anna’s family’s restaurant, Ristorante Paradiso di Puglia, her parents Maria and Michele served us a plate of fresh vegetables to try, including the best radishes and cucumbers we’ve ever tasted, that they had grown in their own garden.

They served us their own wine, a delicious fig cake and other delights made from their own dried fruit, and they even served us their own liqueurs, with scrumptious biscuits of their own making of course.

Maria makes a potent, fragrant limoncello while Michele’s specialty is a cherry liqueur. These generous people shared their recipes with us, so we thought we’d do the right thing and share them with you too:

Maria’s Limoncello
Skin of 6 green lemons
700 grams sugar
1 litre of alcohol
1 litre of water

Soak the finely shaved skins of the lemons in one litre of pure alcohol in a container for 48 hours. Boil the water and sugar for 10 minutes then cool. Mix the water and sugar with the alcohol and strain to remove the skins. Bottle it. Should make four bottles. Chill it. Serve it. With biscuits!

Michele’s Cherry Liqueur
2 litres of red wine
800 grams sugar
1 litre pure alcohol
2 kilos of sour black cherries

Combine all the ingredients in a container and store in the fridge for 8 days. Strain the liquid to remove the cherries. Bottle it. Chill it. Serve it icy. Also delish with biscuits!

My Russian grandparents used to make their own vodka when I was growing up in Sydney, Australia, and they, and my Australian grandparents also had their own vegetable gardens in their suburban backyards. Terence grew his own tomatoes and radishes as a teen and his parents also had a go at making their own wine at their home in the Brisbane suburbs.

It seems there’s something of a return to growing vegetables at home and making home-made products like pickles and preserves but we’re wondering just how widespread the trend really is. Do you grown your own fruit and veg? Do you make your own liqueurs or wines? If you do, we’d love to hear from you. And feel free to share or link to your own recipes in the Comments below.

Ristorante Paradiso di Puglia di Rosato
Via Alberobello 13, on the way to Martina Franca
080 440 0576
www.paradisodipuglia.it

5 comments

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  1. Katja

    I made limoncello earlier in the year – and very successful it was too! The recipe I used was pretty similar to Maria’s, and was so easy I don’t know why I’d never done it before. Actually, I do know why – it’s because I’ve never lived somewhere I could use lemons fresh from the tree before.

    At home in England I’ve grown veg with varying degrees of success – I even managed tomatoes in my north-facing London garden one year, which was something of an achievement. Most of them ended up in green tomato chutney in September, though, as they clearly weren’t ever going to get any riper. Sunshine is a *big* help when it comes to being green-fingered, I’ve found.

    1. Terence Carter

      What a great story Katja – nice photos too. Incidentally, the limoncello we had was made from *very* green lemons – the shot of Maria peeling the lemons was to show us how thin a slice of the lemon they take. You could really tell the difference between it and the store-bought version. I’ll take the home-made one anytime!

      Cheers,

      T

  2. jessiev

    YUM!! since we don’t drink much, we haven’t made any liquers, but i DO love lemon anything. ooh the pictures look fantastic!

  3. Heather on her travels

    This approach to local food is so true of Greece too where everyone has their little patch behind their house or Olive grove in the hillside – fresh tomatoes, onions, olive oil, lemons, thyme – it’s what decides the menus of the locality

  4. Sarah Chambers

    My partner and I are trying our hand at some tomatoes, pepper and a chilli in pots this year, which are all doing really well (tomatoes are showing already, very exciting!). We also have mint and chives in the garden, and he’s brewing his own beer in the shed (but we bought a special kit, does that count?!). He loves lemons too, so I may have to try out the limoncello for our own taste of Italy on the patio!

    My parents (or rather my Dad) also grows a lot of veg in their garden too, although that is considerably bigger than ours. He has runner beans, big and small onions, cabbages, potatoes, carrots and rhubarb. I think my Mum has tried jam a few times too, but not with much success (tips, anyone?!) and they generally do their own pickled onions or shallots at Christmas.

    Another friend has also just given up the UK for a ‘self-sufficient’ life in Spain, so I’d say it is definitely a growing trend!

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