Chestnut season

Due to its imposing size, the chestnut tree in ancient times was considered holy to Jove, king and father of the deities and protector of human beings and its fruits were called lovis glandes, Jove’s acorns. For centuries chestnuts have been one of the most important food for the Tuscan country folk and the mountain population. They were eaten roasted, boiled,

as stuffing and in stews; a considerable quantity was transformed into flour, a basic ingredient for bread, cakes and noodles.  As late as the forties on the Tuscan hills and the Apennine Mountains, at least two meals a day were made from chestnuts. In order to vary this rather monotonous menu those assigned to the kitchen had to employ all their imagination. The result was amazing and the list of recipes with Jove’s acorns is still

noteworthy. During the chestnut season you won’t find a  restaurant without at least a couple of dishes with chestnuts as a basic ingredient. One, common for Tuscans but definitely interesting for the tourists from all over the world is the preparation of “necci” respecting the ancient tradition. Using an appropriate implement, the cook places in a pile a very hot, deliberately rounded stone, two or three dried, oiled chestnut leaves, a ladle of a

slightly liquid dough made of chestnut flour, water, a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. This mixture must be covered with more chestnut leaves, on top of which another burning hot stone must be laid, which presses the dough transforming it into a thin disk. On the basis of the smoke and the smell , the expert’s well trained eye and nose know exactly when it is time to remove a package or another from the pile of hot stones. Now it is sufficient to remove the chestnut leaves and voilà a delicious “neccio”, good to eat as it is or served with fresh, preferably sheep ricotta. Delicious!

Anneliese Rabl …. finding a life in Tuscany

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