history

Renaissance festival in Bavaria

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Mindelheim is one of those old towns in Bavaria that man could just fall in love with. This Swabian village (it’s just 90 kilometers far from München) has been around for the better part of several thousand years, yet is incredibly modern and an all around great place to hang out for a few days. Besides the fun festivals and astonishing Bavarian countryside, the museums here are just aces.

Let’s begin with the city tour: the town center of Mindelheim reflects the typical structure of a medieval settlement. The most important municipal buildings such as the town hall or churches are arranged around a central market square. Like many other German cities, Mindelheim’s used to be surrounded by a city wall. As in most cases, this wall is now incomplete as it was partially torn down in the 19th century to make room for modern buildings. Nevertheless, the remaining parts of the wall and some gates give a good impression of the original state.

And what medieval town is complete without a castle? Above the city the Castle Mindelburg is a striking 12th century beauty that was once used as an army hospital Sorry, there’s not too much visiting inside, because it’s now housing the offices of a book publishing company and a restaurant, but at least you can have all the “Kodak Moments” you want outside. The castle was not changed much in the last centuries. The complete annex displays the typical structure of a European fortress, including a donjon. This architectural ensemble is used to stage several festivals and markets such as the Georg Frundsberg’s festival which is held every three years.

What else you can see before participating in the festival?

The Textile Museum has a relatively new exhibit on religious garments from the Middle Ages to modern day. Another exhibit takes a look at clothing trends from the late 19th century to the early 20th; great for the fashionista in all of us.

One of the more unique museums you’ll find in all of Germany is the Swabian Tower Clock Museum. Housed in the old Silvester kirche (Silvester Church) are some of the oldest watches and other instruments of time telling, the oldest dates to the 16th century. However Mindelheim’s Local History Museum is filled with other displays of cultural life, including traditional Bavarian costumes, and art.

The South Swabian Archaeological Museum has exhibits on life here in the Alb during the days of the last Ice Age, when the Romans traveled the area, and daily life of the early Middle Ages.P1160068

And what medieval town is complete without a medieval procession?

The Frundsberg Festring Mindelheim which is celebrated every three years was founded on July 19, in 1977 by initiative of seven inhabitants of Mindelheim as a public, incorporated association listed in the register of associations without any confessional or political motivation whatsoever. The Frundsberg Festring is committed to the maintenance and continual further development of the Frundsberg Festival, the reenactment of the medieval times in tradition, music and all sorts of performances as well as the preservation of Mindelheim living carnival tradition. For these purposes, the association pursues the foundation and promotion of historical and musical groups, the planning, organization and performance of the triennially Frundsberg Festival and engages in permanent quality-improvement activities. Besides, the Frundsberg Festring acts as a holding organization for several different historical and two carnival departments as well as numerous sections. People of Mindelheim celebrate the Frundsberg Festival a whole row of medieval shops, medieval craftsmen at work, and the great parade is the medieval procession.

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In sticking with Mindelheim’s medieval feeling, the Frundsbergfest was a big fun way of looking at medieval life (fun now, but life was hard back then) and a celebration to Knight and Field Captain Landsknecht of George von Frundsberg (who was a German military leader in the 16th century in the service of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the Imperial house of Habsburg). There were plenty of historical costumes, good hearty local food (wild bore), concerts, and all out revelry for a few days around the town.

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Tutzing, the fishing village with the castle

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Tutzing is a municipality in the district of Starnberg in Bavaria, Germany, on the west bank of the Lake Starnberg. Just 40 km south-west of Munich and with good views of the Alps, the town was traditionally a favorite vacation spot for those living in the city. The town of 7,000 is home to many commuters to Munich, as well as to retirees.  Tutzing station is both a terminus of Munich’s S -Bahn rail network and a regional train hub serving Innsbruck, Mittenwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Reutte, Kochel and Oberammergau.

Tutzing is equipped with a regional hospital and various clinics. It hosts the conference centre Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, founded in 1947. Tourists and cyclists continue to visit, often while circling the lake or starting or ending a hike. Horseback riding is possible from a number of nearby farms.

The history of Tutzing

The fishing village of Tutzing was first mentioned in a chronicle of the monastery of Benediktbeuren in the 11th century. In this chronicle a place called “Dutcingun” was mentioned in connection with donations to the monastery. The castle comprised a farm, a mill and six half farms in those days. Around the year 1480 the Munich patrician family called Dichtl purchased the village of Tutzing. In 1519 Bernhard Dichtl, the senior, obtained jurisdiction of the county and was thus entitled to raise taxes from his people and to enforce law and order. The county existed for more than three centuries until the year of the revolution 1848 and was ruled by its authorities living in the castle.

The Hallberger period

The ingenious publisher Eduard von Hallberger (1822- 1880), deriving from an old Swabian-Franconian line of priests, was owner of the Tutzing castle from 1869 to 1880. The founder of the Deutsche Verlagsanstalt publishing company, Stuttgart rebuilt this property and turned it into a luxurious meeting facility for the world of literature and upper class society. Southern flair was given to the property by Eduard Hallberger in 1878. The publisher ordered the building of a lake terrace and the pergola of columns by the shore in 1878. Palm trees, cherubs, vases and fountains added an interesting variety to the newly designed park. Coloured engraving by Julius Lange (1874).

In 1873 Johannes Brahms spent four summer months in Tutzing, completing his String Quartets Opus 51 and writing the Haydn Variations. A small lakeside park is dedicated to him, and a plaque stands near the large house where he lived and worked.19575188_1912858708962275_2373205786108314369_o

Tutzing castle-a place of arts
The heirs of Eduard Hallberger were not able to keep the property. Therefore it was sold in the year 1921. Marczell von Nemes (born as Moses Klein), son of a Jewish choirmaster with Hungarian roots, bought the Tutzing castle and park to have a location in order to present his extensive collection of art pieces originating from various parts of Europe to an interested public. Nemes is considered to have rediscovered El Greco which is why he became well-known in the history of art. Most pieces attracting the attention of art enthusiasts in the castle and park found their places here during the Nemes era. Marczell of Nemes died in 1930.
During the period of the Third Reich the castle was property of the Hackelsberger family. A memorial plaque reminds of the industrial and catholic politician Albert Hackelsberger in the inner court yard. He lost his life in a prison of the German Gestapo in 1940. During the Nazi period, Trutskirch-Tutzing (Dornier), a forced-labor factory for the Dornier-Werke GmbH aircraft concern, was a sub-camp of Dachau Concentration Camp. The town was also a stop on the “trail of tears” of inmates forcibly marched south in 1945; a plaque at the town hall commemorates them.19620573_1912859552295524_8415665676496435158_o

The Evangelische Akademie Tutzing
In the 1940-ies Tutzing castle was owned by the Kaselowsky family and Rudolf Oetker, who was a baking powder producer from Bielefeld. However, the two owners soon left it to the Innere Mission (i.e. a German charity organisation) as a recovery facility for soldiers who had returned from war until bishop Hans Meiser purchased the property for the Protestant-Lutheran church in Bavaria in 1947. Since then the traditional castle of Tutzing has served as a conference location to the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing. The Evangelische Akademie Tutzing offers you the premises of the Tutzing castle for events during the week from Monday to Friday.

The Tutzing castle has its own restaurant with a capacity of 110 seats available as well as additional rooms for banquets, buffets, concerts and other festive events. Moreover you will find a number of local restaurants offering Bavarian and international cuisine in the vicinity of the castle. The best ice cream parlor is the Eiscafé Corallo where my favorite ice cream is the watermelon and almost all of what the Italian profi makes.

The most famous festival is the Fishmonger’s Wedding, it’s a historical event organized every four years by the city Tutzing.

Maria Callas footsteps in Italy

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Italy was where Maria Callas began her career, lived in many cities, fell in love, and sang

The “La Divina” arrived in Verona from the U.S. New York in 1947 because she had to meet Giovanni Zenatello, impressario of the Arena Opera Festival who engaged her for La Gioconda, the opera to be performed that season. On June 27th Maria Callas had already been in Verona, she’s staying at the modest hotel Accademia, (today a luxury hotel). For dinner she went to Pedavena restaurant in Bra square, almost in front of the Roman amphitheater (today in the beautiful building where Pedavena was, there’s a restaurant). There she met Giovanni Battista Meneghini, a wealthy industrialist, with a passion for the opera who soon began courting her. In August Maria Callas song in the Arena directed by Tullio Serafin.
Reviews were good but success didn’t come yet. In 1947 she song in Florence and in many other Italian cities. Two years later in 1949, unable to find a replacement for Carosio, Maestro Serafin asked Callas to sing Elvira in I Puritani at La Fenice in Venice. It’s an enormous success, it was the turning point in Maria Callas career.
In 1950 she debuted at the Scala theater in Milan and it’s the beginning of a long period of success in which both the audience and critics loved her.

The Wedding at Filippini Church

In the meantime, after a long courtship, Maria Callas accepted to marry Giovanni Battista Meneghini. The wedding was celebrated in a side room of the church of Filippini in Verona. Maria’s a Greek orthodox Christian, and she didn’t want to convert to Catholicism so that the wedding couldn’t be performed as an official rite. Meneghini left the management of his factory and became the manager of his wife.

Maria Callas in Zevio

When she’s not on a tour, Maria Callas lived with her husband in his villa in Zevio, in the countryside south of Verona. Her years in Zevio were quiet and serene. She practiced in the beautiful park of the villa. People of the village climbed on the wall surrounding the building to hear her singing.
When she’s not too busy she enjoyed cooking, she prepared typical dishes of Veronese cuisine: pearà, risotto al tastasal, pastissada.
She liked the bar Sport on Santa Toscana square and bar Commercio on Marconi square and she visited them quite often with her husband.
Now, the town of Zevio, together with the Maria Callas Foundation has undergone an important project to celebrate the presence of the “Divina” in the Veronese countryside.
In the old town hall a museum was created in which the collection of Maria Callas memorabilias are displayed collected in more than 40 years by one of Maria Callas greatest fan, Giancarlo Tanzi. It’s a collection of thousands of pictures, old records, magazines, dresses of the great singer. The museum has been operating for December 2007 and it’s followed by a concert hall hosting operas and international events.P1150616

Maria Callas in Sirmione

Maria Callas and Giovanni Battista Meneghini spent few weeks in their villa in the heart of  Sirmione at Lake Garda, away from the crowd. Maria Callas arrived at Sirmione for the first time in 1952 and spent 7 summer holidays there (until their bitter divorce). Today, in the heart of Sirmione peninsula, people still admire the beautiful and elegant villa in which Maria Callas spent the best years of her life. Local people still remember her as a simple and friendly lady. She often stopped for an aperitivo at Caffé Grand Italia.
But in 1959 Maria Callas met Aristotele Onassis and left her husband. It’s the beginning of that tragic relationship that would lead her to downfall and she never came back to Sirmione, but she always missed Lake Garda and its atmosphere.

The transformation

Callas’s international career began in 1947 when opera singers were expected to be overweight. But at 108 kg Callas felt miserable and regarded herself ugly and unlovable. When the director Luchino Visconti told her to lose 30 kg before he would work with her, she dropped 40 kg. She then went on to lose another 8 kg. When she lost that incredible 40 kilograms in one year she transformed herself from fat and dowdy opera singer into svelte and elegant diva. But the pressure to stay thin was tremendous for the food-lover soprano, whose newly published personal papers show how she tried to comfort herself during her tormented battles with her weight.

According to legend, Callas’s enormous weight loss came about because she deliberately swallowed a tapeworm. Bruno Tosi, president of the International Maria Callas Association, said she did have to have treatment for worms, possibly because of her fondness for raw steak, but she dropped the weight by following a diet based on consuming iodine.

“It was a dangerous treatment because it affected the central nervous system and changed her metabolism, but she turned into a beautiful swan”- said Tosi.

Callas began a habit of meticulous recipe collecting, scribbling down instructions for her favorite dishes as she traveled the world. She would ‘steal’ recipes from famous cooks in hotels, writing them on scraps of paper and stuffing them into her handbag. But they were for food she herself would never eat. “She loved food, especially cakes and puddings, but lived mostly on steak and salad”- said Callas expert Bruno Tosi, who was allowed the handwritten recipes to publish for the first time in Italy. “Writing down these recipes was a vicarious pleasure because she rarely allowed herself to taste any of them.”

Callas never ate pasta and favored meals of rare beef or steak tartare. However all the time -and during her love affair with the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis – she collected recipes: tomato omelettes, veal l’oriental, bechamel sauce with capers, mustard sauce, golden pound cake, chocolate beignets and a cake she called ‘my cake’ which was heavy and laden with sugar. The recipes were sent back to her personal cook, who served them at Callas’s dinner parties. While her guests tucked in, Callas ate only a few morsels. She rarely drank wine, but liked champagne because it was less calorific. She was like many women, struggling her entire life with her weight,’ said Tosi.

In spite of her diet Callas died at age of 53, in Paris in 1977, still heartbroken at Onassis leaving her to marry Jackie Kennedy. But in Italy, 41 years after her death, Italians still love her. In Venice the Ponte della Fenice bridge was renamed Ponte (Bridge) Maria Callas after 100,000 signatures were gathered by the Maria Callas International Association. In Sirmione, park, restaurant, streets are called after her.

 

 

 

 

 

Italian lemon cake for mother’s day

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The classic,Tuscan-born tart, Torta della Nonna has to be one of the most widespread and well-known Italian desserts. Its success likely lies in its simplicity: it consists of nothing more than two sheets of slightly leavened sugar pastry enclosing a creamy heart of lemon-scented custard. The top is studded with crunchy pine nuts and dusted with icing sugar, and no variants on this theme have ever gained much momentum. Although the name might suggest otherwise, Torta della Nonna (Grandma’s cake) isn’t a homestead creation; it wasn’t, in other words, invented by some pastry-savvy grandmother somewhere in the hills of Chianti. Rather, it appears to come from the kitchen of a restaurant. The origin is actually contentious, and is still reason for much debate between the provinces of Arezzo and Florence, each claiming this tart as their own brain child.

The most accredited version states that it was a Florentine chef who first coded it – Guido Samorini of restaurant San Lorenzo. Rumor has it that he put the tart on the menu to jazz up the slightly monotone dessert list, and that the tart became an instant hit, so much so that it was never taken off the menu ever since.

Be that as it may, the combination of pastry, custard and pine nuts seems to have been around since much before Samorini; at least since the late 1800s, as Artusi mentions he tasted such pasticcio (hash) in one of his travels across the peninsula. And it is precisely by Artusi that my recipe for Torta della Nonna is inspired. The pastry is a slight riff on one of his three pasta frolla (sugar pastry) recipes, (with the only difference of a pinch of leavening added to the dough). As for the custard, Artusi scents his solely with vanilla, while a classic Torta della Nonna filling has a bit of lemon zest thrown in there, too, so I worked it in his crema pasticcera recipe. And finally, a trick to prevent the pine nuts from burning is to rinse them thoroughly in cold water: they’ll come out of the oven perfectly golden, and just on the right side of toasted.

This sumptuous Torta della Nonna recipe from my friend Valentina Z. offers a slice of Tuscan indulgence, with a sweet pastry base giving way to lemon-and vanilla-scented custard filling. Topped off with a thin layer of pastry and crunchy pine nuts so this tart is a real treat.

Ingredients for the pastry: 300g of 00 flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 130g of caster sugar, 150g of unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes (plus extra for greasing the tin) 1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked 1 un-waxed lemon, zested 

for the custard filling: 5 large egg yolks, 100g of caster sugar 30g of 00 flour, 600ml of whole milk 1 un-waxed lemon zest peeled into thin strips 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped

To serve: 80g of pine nuts, rinsed in cold water icing sugar, for dusting

 

It looks like you’ve already signed up to our newsletter. If you have not already, why not register for an account hereMethod: Start by preparing the pastry. Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Add the egg, the yolk and the grated lemon zest, and knead until the dough comes together into a smooth ball. Wrap it in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, make the custard. In a medium glass bowl, whisk the yolks with half of the sugar until the sugar has dissolved completely. Slowly add the flour and keep whisking until fully combined. Pour over 60ml of the milk, whisk it in and set the bowl aside temporarily

Place the rest of the milk in a saucepan with the rest of the sugar, the lemon zest strips and vanilla seeds. Set the saucepan over a low heat and bring to a slow simmer. Remove from the heat, discard the lemon zest and pour the hot milk over the custard base in the glass bowl in a thin stream, whisking continuously until smooth

Place the custard back in the saucepan and set it over a low heat. Cook the custard until dense and glossy, stirring frequently and trying not to scorch it (don’t let it boil). Once thickened, remove the custard from the heat and place in a clean glass bowl

Set the bowl over an ice bath so the custard can cool more quickly. Cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool to room temperature

Next, preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Butter and flour a 26cm deep tart tin and set it aside Take the pastry out of the fridge and divide it into 2 pieces, one being 2/3 of the total. Roll the larger piece into a 2mm-thick circle that is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tin. Flip it onto the tin, press it with your fingertips so it sticks to the surface of the tin and cut off any overhanging. Pierce the surface all over with a fork

Fill the pastry shell with the cooled custard and level the top. Roll the remaining pastry into a thin circle that is large enough to cover the top of the tart completely. Trim any excess, then pinch the top and bottom edges together

Top the surface of the tart with the slightly damp pine nuts and press them down gently so as to make them adhere to the pastry

Bake the tart for 45 minutes, or until deeply golden all around. Allow the tart to cool completely before dusting it with icing sugar, slicing and serving

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La Crostata di Saraceno Italiano (Buckwheat cake)

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As I mentioned in my previous blog I decided to keep moving northwards in Italy, and ended up all the way in Trentino (Alto Adige), an autonomous, German-speaking region stuck right up under Austria. Needless to say, it’s gorgeous. I should go to visit these area more often and not only because of the nature but also because of the excellent food. I have to make a confession, one of my weakness is the sweet stuff so that I’ve sampled a few of the cakes and sweets on offer in the malghe from sweet omelettes with lingonberries to cherry strudel but my favorite by far became the Buckwheat cake (la Crostata di grano Saraceno). First I found it in the bakery of a local shop and it was so good it almost made me feel like I’d like to stay here forever because of the cake. It was so good that I went in search of it every day during my 10 days staying. So good that I called my Italian friend, Valentina whose husband has a restaurant in Pontremoli (Tuscan village) and she had to search for me in her Italian cookbook for the recipe so that I can recreate it at home. She told me the secret of the cake is that it’s made with the combination of buckwheat flour and almonds (ground). It’s moist and rich but not heavy at all or cloying. In true country fashion the main ingredients (butter, sugar, flour, almond meal) all weigh the same are easily thrown together. And the result you really can taste the country. It’s earthy and complex but I doubt it would scare away an even-keeled 5 years old. Valentina told me that the cake is filled with lingonberry jam, sprinkled with icing sugar and served with a big dollop of lightly whipped cream. In other word, this cake is a perfect pick-me-up during a long, romantic, high altitude walk (Monte Baldo-Mount Bald in Malcesine) or whenever you feel like going back in time! Here is Valentina’s recipe:

TORTA DI GRANO SARACENO (Buckwheat Cake)

Serves at least 12

Ingredients:250 grams (1 1/3 cups) sugar, 250 grams (2 sticks + 2 tbl) butter, softened, 6 eggs, separated, 250 grams (2 cups) buckwheat flour, 250 grams (1 cup)almond meal (or finely ground almonds, 500 grams (one big jar) lingonberry jam (available at IKEA or substitute blackcurrant, cranberry or similar), icing sugar (for dusting) whipping cream (to serve it’s optional)

Methods: Preheat the oven to 325°F/170°C. Butter and flour a 9″ springform cake pan. This cake will stick if you don’t.

In a large bowl, use a hand held beater to cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolks in slowly, and beat until they are completely incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the buckwheat flour and almonds. It will be pretty heavy and sticky.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until it’s stiff, about 5 minutes. Gently fold the stiffened egg whites into the batter. It will be a bit tricky, but just keep folding until it’s all incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Once cool, slice the cake in half horizontally and spread the bottom half with ample lingonberry jam (or a close substitute like cranberry, blackcurrant or cloudberry). Place the top half back on top, dust with icing sugar through a sieve and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.P1150554

Taralli or tarallini the Italian snack

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I’m just back from my Italian vacation loaded with beautiful memories. I’ll tell you more about my adventures later because now I just want to share the story of my one day trip to the mega rich family’s island with a private jet.

On the third day of my staying at the Lake Garda in Malcesine I discovered a program about a guide tour to the gardens of Isola Del Garda! The price (33 Euros or 27 Euros it depended from which city the bout or private jet had you to pick up) included the bout journey, the guided tour, a welcome drink and the olive oil tasting. It sounded so interesting to me so I decided to participate on it.

The island is inhabited by the Borghese Cavazza family and they open their home for guided tours from April to October. During the visit, which took us through an untouched park, the gorgeous Italian and English gardens,-we could discover the rich history of this spectacular place that has housed many famous names from the Roman period to the present day. The tour also included to visit two rooms from the neo-gothic Venetian style villa from the early 1900’s, currently still lived by the owners, princess Charlotte Chetwynd-Talbot from England and Camillo Cavazza and their seven children who run different businesses in Garda city such as olive oil company, lemon industry etc. What was really amazing during our guided tour was the wine and olive oil tasting. As a snack we got a typical Italian delicacy, the Taralli!  Its simplicity but extremely unique flavor just enchanted everyone. I asked for the recipe from our Italian guide and she provided me with her own grandma’s! Here it is!

Be aware! This is an old recipe, hence the enormous measurements. Makes enough for a huge Italian family or for a party! You can half the ingredients of the recipe; but keep the amount of yeast and eggs the same. They are excellent with wine or coffee, and make good snack biscuits if you leave out the fennel seeds.” P1150587.JPG

Ingredients: 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast, 1 1/2 cups water, 1/4 cup margarine, 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 egg, 5 pounds all-purpose flour, divided, 1/2 cup fennel seed, ¼ cup water

1.      In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand for 5 minutes.

2.      In a large bowl combine butter or margarine, sugar, salt, and egg. Add yeast mixture and 1/2 of the flour and mix until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour and the seeds. Mix in additional water as needed to make a stiff dough.

3.      Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead well. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn once to coat surface. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.

4.      Roll dough into short ropes about 1/2 inch thick. Join ends to form donut shape. Set aside to rise for a few minutes.

5.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

6.      Fill a large saucepan half full of water; bring to a boil. Drop Taralli into water and boil for 1 minute. Remove from water, letting both sides dry on a sheet of waxed paper.

7.      Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) on a lightly greased cookie sheet, turning a few times during baking until medium brown and crisp.

 

 

 

Tartiflette with Reblochon cheese

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Tartiflette is a dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions. The word tartiflette is derived from the Arpitan word for potato, tartiflâ. The modern recipe was inspired by a truly traditional dish called “péla”: a gratin of potatoes and onions (without cheese) in a long-handled pan called a pelagic (shovel) in the Provence region of France. It was developed in the 1980s by the Union Interprofessional Reblochon to promote sales of reblochon, as is confirmed also by Christian Millau (of the Gault-Millau Guide) in his gastronomic dictionary.

The Tartiflette was first mentioned in a 1705 book, Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois, written by Francoise Massialot and his assistant cook B. Mathieu. The name derives from the Savoyard word for potatoes, tartifles, a term also found in Provençal. As with many traditional dishes in the region, the potato is a staple ingredient. Savoy was historically part of the  Holy Roman Empire and discovered the  tubers earlier than the French. The Savoyards first heard of tartiflette when it began to appear on the menus of restaurants in the ski stations, conveying an image of authenticity and mountain territory.

A common related preparation found throughout the region is the Croziflette. The format of this adheres to that of the original dish in everything but the use of potatoes, in place of which are found minuscule squares of locally produced pasta,  crozets de Savoie (usually made from buckwheat but sometimes durum). The name of this dish is a blend of “crozet” and “tartiflette”.

And what is Reblochon?

It is a soft washed-rind and smear-ripened French cheese made in the Alpine region of Savoy from raw cow’s milk. It has its own AOC designation. It has a nutty taste that remains in the mouth after its soft and uniform center has been enjoyed. It is an essential ingredient of tartiflette, a Savoyard (Alps)  gratin made from potatoes, bacon (lardons), and onions (and you can also add spinach).

The history of the cheese

Reblochon was first produced in the Thones and Arly valleys, in the Aravis massif. Thônes remains the center of Reblochon production; the cheeses are still made in the local cooperatives. Until 1964 Reblochon was also produced in Italian areas of the Alps. Subsequently, the Italian cheese has been sold in declining quantities under such names as Rebruchon and Reblò alpino. Reblochon derives from the word “reblocher” which when literally translated means “to pinch a cow’s udder again”. This refers to the practice of holding back some of the milk from the first milking. During the 14th century, the landowners would tax the mountain farmers according to the amount of milk their herds produced. The farmers would therefore not fully milk the cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The milk that remains is much richer, and was traditionally used by the dairymaids to make their own cheese.

In the 16th century the cheese also became known as “fromage de dévotion” (devotional cheese) because it was offered to the Carthusian monks of the Thônes Valley by the farmers, in return for having their homesteads blessed.

The cow breeds best for producing the milk needed for the Reblochon cheese are the Abondance, Tarentaise and the Montbéliarde. This cheese measures 14 cm (5.5 in) across and 3–4 cm (1.2–1.6 in) thick, has a soft center with a washed rind and weighs an average of 450 grams (16 oz). As proof of its being well-aged in an airy cellar, the rind of this cheese is covered with a fine white mould. The optimal period to savor this cheese is between May and September after it has been aged six to eight weeks. It is also excellent from March to December.

 

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