Chocolate Figs, the tradition to donate them

9.12.2019

Dried figs filled with chocolate in Calabria are donated to relatives and friends, or however tasted during the Christmas holidays, because they can be kept for months, if stored in tin boxes and covered – once dried – with sheets of baking paper.

Dried figs filled with chocolate are a must of the Calabrian Christmas gastronomy, a gift of Mediterranean civilization to South of Italy, to Italy and to the world (they are very appreciated in London, for example).

It is a healthy and delicious sweet to eat in just one mouthful. They can be covered either with dark chocolate or with white chocolate, depending on personal taste. For the filling it can be used both almonds and walnut kernels.

The traditional preparation period for this typical Calabrese dessert is September, a period of abundant figs. In this way, a delicious idea was devised to preserve and enjoy them throughout the year, even in the coldest months.

Furthermore, born as poors food, today it has become an elite product!

Figs as gift

GENERAL PREPARATION OF DRIED FIGS

The figs are cut in half, leaving them united in the narrowest part, that of the petiole. Hence the name crocette, that is the cross-shaped name they take after the filling and pressing. Figs are dried in the sun on special reeds.

A selection therefore takes place because the figs destined for the preparation must all be of the same size. After the selection the figs are stuffed according to tradition with a preparation of sugar and cinnamon, with the addition of walnuts or almonds and orange and lemon peel. They are then pressed manually so that the two open parts of the fig are perfectly matched.

Once the figs are stuffed they are baked and cooked at 200 °C, then the product is sterilized. Immediately after cooking, they are cooled in special rooms and then packaged. The dried fig crosses are packaged with three different preparations:

  • the first involves the use of almonds for the filling of figs,
  • the second the use of walnuts and
  • the third instead involves covering the product with dark chocolate.

SPECIAL RECIPES

Skewers of dried figs (“schiocche”)

The Schiocche are skewers and are made from dried figs baked in the oven, then skewered on two sticks alternating the fruits on the right and left so as to make a sort of pigtail.

“Schiocche” as collars of Figs

Figs stuffed with Walnuts

They are dried figs stuffed with walnut cooked in the oven, then skewered in sticks alternating the fruits on the right and left. This combination of dried figs and walnuts is excellent in terms of nutrition. In addition to the excellent energy and nutrient supply, thanks to the omega 3 contained in the nuts, the intake of this food product helps to reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and also thanks to the fiber content there is a better control of blood sugar levels.

Figs stuffed with Walnuts

Crocette“, Crosses of figs with Nuts

The largest pieces of figs are used for figs stuffed with dried fruit, spices and citrus fruits. In the Calabrian tradition we find the crosses, prepared with four figs. The fruit is opened in half leaving the part of the petiole joined, it is usually filled with walnuts, carnation, cinnamon and citrus peel, orange or lemon. Open figs are placed in a cross shape, two below and two above.

Stuffed Figs: Almond Crocette

The fruit is opened in half leaving the part of the petiole joined, it is usually filled with almonds, carnation, cinnamon and citrus peel, orange or lemon. Open figs are placed in a cross shape, two below and two above Figs, even if you think they have many calories, it is a fruit that can be consumed by adults and children, it has no dyes or preservatives, it has digestive properties. The Calabrian crosses can be consumed instead of a snack.

Stuffed Dried figs, covered with Chocolate

The chocolate-covered figs are real pleasures of gluttony. Serve as a dessert, they cannot be missing from the Calabrian table where figs are an ancient and traditional food. Figs can be processed in many different ways.

The figs are first cut in half and then filled with a filling:

  • of hazelnuts,
  • cocoa,
  • aromas including carnation, cinnamon and citrus fruit peel.

Everything is mixed with the cooked wine which gives it a unique and particular taste. Finally they are covered in chocolate and packed in 250g boxes.

Crosses of Figs

Variously stuffed Figs

In the Calabrian tradition we also find the flavored figs, prepared with the fruit that is opened in half leaving the part of the petiole joined, it is usually stuffed and flavored with:

  • nuts,
  • carnation,
  • cinnamon
  • citrus peel (orange or lemon).

Almond flavored figs

In the Calabrian tradition we also find the flavored figs, prepared with the fruit that is opened in half leaving the part of the petiole joined, it is usually stuffed and flavored with:

  • almonds,
  • carnation,
  • cinnamon,
  • citrus peel (orange or lemon).
Variously stuffed

Figs stuffed with Almonds

They are dried figs stuffed with almonds cooked in the oven, then skewered in sticks alternating the fruits on the right and left. This combination of dried figs and almonds is excellent in terms of nutrition. In addition to the excellent supply of energy and nutrients, thanks to the omega 3 contained in the almonds, the intake of this food product contributes to reducing the bad LDL cholesterol and also thanks to the fiber content there is a mile control of blood sugar levels.

HISTORY

Li Ficu siccati” (the dried figs) are one of the most famous sweets in Calabria.

Introduced at the time of Magna Graecia, fig cultivation has been documented in the province of Cosenza since the 1500s. The Figs of Cosenza Dop are a fascinating and historically significant production in Calabria. The denomination “Fichi di Cosenza“, as stated in the production disciplinary, refers exclusively to the dried fruits of domestic fig “Ficus carica sativa” (domestic L.), belonging to the “Dottato” variety. In the Cosentino area, and especially in the Valle del Crati, the Dottati varieties have found an ideal habitat, in a moderately ventilated hilly environment, not arid but not too rainy.

Fico di Cosenza” (Ficus carica sativa )

For the rest, the great Mediterranean culture and civilization has given to Calabria and the world an ancient plant: the fig has evidence of its cultivation dating back to the first agricultural civilizations of Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt, from which it subsequently spread throughout the basin of the Mediterranean Sea.

If by definition it is called “Fico Mediterraneo“, it is also considered historically a native and common of the Caucasian regions, and of the Black Sea. In Italy the Fico existed before the foundation of Rome (it is in the shadow of this plant that Romulus would have been suckled and Oar).

Despite its ancient and noble origins, fig is now considered a “minor fruit”, as it is classified in modern fruit-growing treaties. After having played a leading role, today it has remained more tied to the memory than to the reality of Mediterranean agricultural productions such as the olive tree and the vine.

The fig tree arrived in Calabria in an uncertain period, probably at the time of the Greco-Roman civilization by the Phoenician travelers who used it as barter goods or who, in the dry version, used it as a reserve of calories for the labors of the crew. From then on its cultivation quickly took hold, particularly in the province of Cosenza, thanks to an ideal pedoclimatic situation.

FICO DI COSENZA, PROTECTED BY THE QUALITY MARK “DOP”

The peculiarities of the “fico di Cosenza” have been recognized in 2010 with the quality label “DOP” (In Italian: “Denomination of Protected Origin”). The typicality is related to the Valle del Crati (CS), where a hilly environment with a temperate climate has created the right conditions for optimal vegetation.

The Fichi di Cosenza PDO are of an elongated drop shape, sometimes slightly flattened at the apex. The peduncle is always present, short and thin. They are fruits with a very sweet taste of small size, with elastic skin, soft pulp and very small seeds. They are marketed after being dried in the sun on “cannizzi” (reeds) or wooden boards or even in the oven. With the typical golden color, dried figs have a higher yield than other varieties and are full, fleshy, mellow, soft, plastic, very white, highly sugary and easy to preserve.

The production, processing and packaging area of Fichi di Cosenza PDO includes several municipalities considered in their entirety or only in part of the province of Cosenza, located between the mountainous area of Pollino and the Sila Plateau, in the Calabria region.

Crosses of Figs stuffed with Almond

Drying and processing of dried figs in Cosenza is a tradition, handed down from father to son in the south: the heat is used to eliminate the humidity inside the fruit and to obtain a product that can be conserved for the rest of the year.

Traditional fig dishes are present in festivals and fairs in the province. In particular that of St. Joseph, which is celebrated in Cosenza at least from the mid-nineteenth century.

In the kitchen, at the beginning or end of the meal, the Fico di Cosenza PDO is the protagonist of many traditional productions: montagnoli, crocette, nocchette, stuffed figs, baked figs, balls, braids, corollas, salami and fig honey. These figs are an indispensable ingredient for preparing a classic dessert for the holidays, the “pitta ‘mpigliata” or “pitta’ nchiusa“.

PROPERTIES OF FIGS

The benefits of figs are many:

  • Excellent for reducing symptoms of fatigue because it is a highly energetic and complete food with all the nutrients
  • Rich in mineral salts and Vitamin C and A
  • Easily digestible
  • Thanks to the presence of the fibers they help the normal intestinal functions.

Vibo Valentia, The Valley of the Mills

19.11.2019

The province of Vibo Valentia is certainly known to most for the wonderful Costa degli Dei. Capo Vaticano, Tropea, Ricadi, Pizzo, Zambrone, are the most famous tourist resorts for the beauty of the crystal clear waters that bathe them.

Mount Poro: Costa degli Dei

However, Calabria, beyond its splendid coasts, has a very rich natural heritage in the form of a predominantly hilly and mountainous area, rich in biodiversity. Characteristic flora and fauna that can best be observed with a trekking path, guided by one of the local expert environmental guides.

Cascade along the Valley of Mills

This terrific trekking between nature and food and wine will take you on the peak of the Mount “Poro”.

Down from the hill of Mount Poro

THE MOUNT PORO

Mount Poro can be defined as the fulcrum of the Vibonese hinterland. It overlooks the splendid landscape of the Costa degli Dei, set in a panoramic position between the mountains and the sea, and is characterized by very extensive meadows that are still used today for grazing.

Meadows of Mount Poro

The altitude, 700 meters above sea level, not being very high, allowed the development of a rich vegetation among green pastures, olive groves, vineyards and rows of poplars.

Famous Mount Poro’s pecorino

RECOMMENDED PATH

The excursion to Mount Poro will start from Spilinga, a very well-known location for the production of ‘nduja, which is located at the foot of Monte Poro, just 11 km from Tropea and 10 km from Capo Vaticano.

From Spilinga, going along a mule track, it is possible to go up the bed of the Ruffa river.

The seaside of Mount Poro

It is with this path that it is possible to admire precious historical testimonies and natural wonders and to arrive to the remarkable village of Sorianello.

The village of Sorianello

THE REMAINS OF THE NINE MILLS

During the trek, the remains of Nine Mills will appear along the so called “Valle dei Mulini“.

Their origins date back to around the 7th-10th century; during the era of the Arab invasions the mills were improved and increased and were a very important resource from the economic point of view for this territory up until the 1950s.

Ruins of a Mill near Sorianello

Along the way an expert guide can illustrate the rich heritage of the flora that includes both the most known Mediterranean scrub, such as oak, elm, laurel, strawberry trees, myrtle, blackberries, wild fennel, oregano and others. But above all very particular plants such as Mediterranean orchids, including the “orchis italica“, also called “naked man“. You can also observe the “Woodwardia Radicans“, a tropical fern with a very beautiful and unique appearance.

Woodwardia Radicans

THE RARE GIANT FERN

This plant certainly deserves a brief study. It is a Rare Giant Fern, whose fronds can reach a length of three meters.

In Italy we can find it in Sicily, in some gorges of the Peloritani and in some areas of Campania, but above all it is present in Calabria, on Mount Poro and in Aspromonte.

Mill in the trekking path

Along the Stilaro river, near the Marmarico waterfall, near Bivongi, there are numerous specimens. However, it is precisely along the banks of the Ruffa stream, and near the Milo river, that more than 2000 specimens of Woodwardia radicans grow. It is the most impressive concentration of this rare plant so far discovered in the world. The cause of this concentration is precisely the microclimate of this territory, which represents the ideal habitat of this plant. High humidity, poor direct lighting and temperatures between 10 and 25 degrees.

Milo River

A REMARKABLE FAUNA HERITAGE

Also noteworthy is the wildlife, consisting of wild boar, badger, fox, stone marten, weasel, hedgehog, dormouse and others.

Sight of Stromboli Volcano From Mount Poro

Depending on the period in which this excursion is made, thrushes, marsh harriers, snipes and larks can be spotted at different times, precisely because this valley represents a transit and wintering area for these animals. Moreover, among the birds of prey, you can admire the buzzard, the owl, the barn owl and the kestrel.

THE PECORINO OF “MONTE PORO”

Returning to Spilinga, it is possible to visit the local shops of typical products, like Cirò wine, ‘nduja, salamis, capicollo, soppressata, some of them also preserved in oil, and the delicious pecorino cheese of Mount Poro.

Pecorino Cheese

Pecorino del Monte Poro” is considered by many to be the best pecorino cheese in southern Italy. The milk from local farms is made special by the essences of the plateau, on which extensive grazing is practiced.

Creamy and soft: Pecorino of Mount Poro

This cheese, protected by the special mark “DOP,” represents a local excellence that differs from other similar products due to some precautions during the production process, by the traditional processing and, finally, by the special aging techniques of this genuine cheese…