Trentino Alto Adige - Food and Wines - Food
Mountains, valleys, winter sports centers with splendid ski runs, cheerful houses, sharply slanting roofs to fend off the snow, balconies always decorated with lovingly cared-for plants and flowers. This is the area of Trentino - Alto Adige. As for their cooking, there are two distinct gastronomic traditions: tridentina, with Venetian roots, and altoadesina, with German roots.
Smoked meat reigns in Alto Adige, typical of cold climates, from cattle used to spending long nights outdooes and grazing on fragrant grass in the fields at high altitude.
There's nothing tastier than the local "speck", boneless pork meat cut in small square pieces and placed in saltpeter with garlic, laurel, juniper, pepper and other herbs that vary according to secret family traditions handed down from one generation to another. The "speck" is then hung in the smokehouse which must be well aereated. The smoke grazes the meat only a few hours a day and the temperature must be low.
Each farmer has his secrets: the wood must be sweet and enriched with branches of fresh juniper. The best "speck" is homemade and is ready in the autumn because the slaughter usually takes place in February. In Alto Adige "speck" is eaten for breakfast, at noon as an antipasto, and as an afternoon snack.
The cuisine of Alto Adige has a German influence and it's hard to find the typical Italian flavours. Ingredients, spices, and combinations unknown to the other regions are used here. There are few greens and soups, but dishes such as canederli, large balls made with stale bread, flour, milk, and eggs with liver, bacon, salame and even greens. Depending on the ingredients the name of the dish changes: canederli di fegato, tirolesi, neri, etc. Canederli are served as a soup, boiled in water or broth and placed in a tureen with boiling broth, or boiled and then served with goulash. They can also be prepared with dried prunes where the pitted prune is inserted in the cenederli, dipped in crumbs, and boiled.
Desserts are soft and frothy and whipped cream forms clouds on top of fragrant hot chocolate in porcelain cups. How can one resist a "strudel" or a slice of "zelten," a kind of pizza dough with dried fruit conserved for the entire winter? Sweets in this cold climate are more than a tradition: sugar, whipped cream, chocolate, and dried fruit fight the cold better than a wool sweater.
The basic element of the cuisine of Trentino is "polenta", an Italian version of corn bread, which is prepared and enriched with different ingredients according to the area. In some valleys corn meal is mixed with flour from saracen wheat, producing a strongly-flavoured polenta in a darker color. In other areas the polenta is prepared with potatoes and local cheese served with cucumbers, pickles, or bean salad.
Trento's market is famous throughout Europe for the great variety of products including flavorful apples from Val di Non which helped contribute to the creation new dishes made with apples. Mushrooms are used to make delicious sauces served with polenta and pasta, or used as the base for certain meat dishes. Some 250 varieties of mushrooms are sold, with the careful supervision of experts from the surrounding areas.
The vegetables used tend to come from below the ground, nourished by the rich salty soil, grown to maturity in the winter. The place of honor goes to the potato, white turnips and red beets second, and Savoy cabbage which is served after a soaking in brine.
Trentino's sweets are similar to those of the Veneto. The "fregolotta cake" is a mixture of flour, sugar, and almonds. When baked it becomes crisp and crunchy. "Grostoli" are blended drinks made with flour, milk, eggs and grappa flavored with orange and lemon peel. Other desserts include lightly fried fruits, jams, pies, and cakes made from chestnuts covered with whipped cream. All these sweets contribute to the atmosphere of these friendly people who like to spend long evenings around the table.