If you’re having a walk in the Marche countryside you will probably come across some curious little trees which, “instead of growing piramidally like the other cherry trees, grow larger with a rounded crown that make them look solid and about to fall”. This is how Giorgio Gallesio describes these trees in Pomona Italiana ossia Trattato degli alberi fruttiferi (Pisa 1817-1839). In Italy they are called viscioli: they have a rich dark green foliage which at the beginning of summer shows some intense ruby red dots.
Visciolo in fiore. Ph: Simona Pezzotta
The Visciolo is a Prunus cerasus, also known as sour cherry tree.
Cherry trees are usually divided into groups basing on the taste of their fruits, which can be sweet or sour. All the varieties that produce drupes with a sweet taste are Prunus avium, while the ones producing drupes with an intense sour taste are Prunus cerasus. Within the cerasus species there are three more groups:
- Amarene (black cherry) : rounded form a bit flattened at poles, with a light red coloured pulp and a slightly sour taste. These are the best to consume fresh.
- Marasche: small form, dark red coloured pulp with a highly sour and bitter taste. Used in the production of maraschino.
- Visciole: rounded form, intense red coloured pulp with a slightly sour taste. They are largely used in the production of jam, jelly, syrup and liqueur. Visciola di Cantiano variety is especially appreciated and is registered in the official list of Marche traditional agroindustrial products.
Visciole have the lead role in a traditional recipe of Marches which is really easy to make: visciole in the sun. This is my family recipe.
VISCIOLE IN THE SUN
Wash the visciole and dry them delicately. Remove the stalk without pressing and put them into small pots of glass, previously sterilised. Cover with sugar. How much? The quantity is quite a vague idea so the experience of the executor will be pretty important for this recipe more than ever. Everything has to be done “a occhio” which means “roughly”, “measured at a glance”. But let’s try to help whose eye is not trained: the sugar should be up to 50%-60% of the total weight of the visciole in the pot. Of course by raising the amount of sugar we’ll have a sweeter product and a thicker syrup, but don’t go too far: the result could be too sweetish.
Now close the pots and place them outside, in a sunny place sheltered by the wind and the rain. Little by little the sugar will turn red and gradually dissolve. In order to encourage the sugar dissolving process tip over and shake the pots properly every two days. In about 40 days visciole will be ready: the sugar will be completely dissolved replaced by a red scented syrup with alcoholic notes. My advice is to wait at least a month before consuming them. The pots can be kept in a fresh and dry place even for a few years.
Visciole in the sun are a traditional and unique product. Unless other fruit conservation methods in ‘visciole in the sun’ recipe the syrup is not a ready made thing to add to fresh fruit later. On the contrary it is the result of the slow and natural process of the visciole dehydration. Infact when placed in a sunny side they gradually lose their juice, which helps in creating the syrup. The unique character of this preparation together with the absence of added water (the syrup is nothing but visciole juice and sugar) make ‘visciole in the sun’ a product that is worth getting to know better and to love.
Visciole al sole. Ph: Simona Pezzotta
Visciole in the sun fit many different uses: enjoy them plain or eat them with ice creams, desserts with ricotta or creams. They will lend fruit salads a distinctive flavour and summer drinks an unusual taste. Then why not tasting them on a slice of bread with a drop of syrup? You’ll be surprised!
Articolo di Muscosa
Traduzione a cura di Alessandra Evangelisti – firstname.lastname@example.org