The squacquerone of Romagna
The “Squacquerone di Romagna” (Squaquaron in dialect) is a fresh cheese with ancient origins, typical of the rural environment, where it was customary to produce and consume it during the winter (thanks to the possibility of keeping it cool for a few days).
It is a soft table cheese, obtained from whole cow’s milk coming exclusively from farms located in the typical production area. It has no rind and is pearly white in color, fundamental characteristics for recognizing the authenticity of the product.
The white truffle
The white truffle is the most precious of the so-called hypogeal (underground) mushrooms. Particular qualities have always been attributed to this truffle, including being an aphrodisiac product and a gift from the gods, so much so that the poet Juvenal claimed that the “Tuber Terrae” was born from a thunderbolt thrown by Jupiter near an oak tree.
With the arrival of autumn (from October to December), crowds of researchers set out in search of the precious fruit, celebrated in numerous local festivals and fairs.
In the Romagna Apennines this type of truffle, unlike the black one, does not blend with the other ingredients of the recipe, but dominates them with its aroma. The correct maturation is not deduced from the color, which depends on the tree with which it lives, but from the design of the inside, which must show clearly differentiated veins.
Beef of the Romagna breed
The Romagnola is a bovine breed typical of Romagna.
Peculiar are the characteristics of breeding and feeding of these animals, today presidium of “Slow Food”.
“Extensive” grazing is widely practiced and lasts for at least six months a year; in addition, the calves are reared with their mothers until they reach the fifth / sixth month and then sent to the stables equipped for fattening. Particular attention is paid to the diet with which the animals are raised: hay, field beans, corn, barley and bran guarantee an excellent quality of the meat derived from calves (males) and scottone (females), which are lean and low in cholesterol.
The meat of the "Mora Romagnola" pig breed
The Mora Romagnola is a prized pig breed native to Romagna, originating in the areas of Ravenna, Forlì and Cesena. Initially there were 3 variants, the forlivese, the most valuable (black coat with light patches), the faentina (light red coat) and the riminese (red coat and white head).
This meat is distinguished by its wilder and spicier flavor, almost attributable to that of wild boar, and is particularly suitable for the production of fine cured meats such as culatello, raw shoulder, roasts, grills and chops.
The typical meats of the Romagna valleys
The typical meats cooked in the Romagna valleys are stews, roasted chicken, rabbit, lamb or pork. Dishes based on game are also very appreciated: hares, white meat birds (pheasant, partridge or grey partridge) and black meat ones (woodcock, thrush, quail and wood pigeon). Among the game meats, cooked especially in autumn and winter, wild boar and hare deserve a special mention.
Pork is also often the protagonist of the Romagna table: a thriving sausage industry produces exquisite salamis, hams with a strong and seasoned taste, as well as fragrant coppa, cotechini and bacon.
Chestnuts have always had a great importance in the peasant economy. Perhaps inherited from the era of Roman domination, the cultivation of these autumn fruits has had a notable development and for centuries chestnuts have fed the inhabitants of this Apennine area rich in woods and thermal springs.
The chestnuts (the largest and sweetest ones) are eaten boiled or roasted in the embers, while the smaller ones are generally dried; after further processing, a sweet flour is obtained with which polenta and cakes are made. Harvesting is generally done towards the end of September.
The Castrato is a fresh meat obtained from male sheep subjected to the castration process, as long as they are of suitable weight and age. It is traditionally produced from male animals of breeds specialized in meat production or derived from crosses aimed at meat production.
In addition to grazing, the castrato is raised in stables or sheepfolds.
The woods on the hills, in the Casentino Forests and on the whole Apennine ridge, between Tuscany and Romagna, offer an ideal climatic habitat and undergrowth for the growth of mushrooms. One of the most widespread and appreciated varieties is the porcino mushroom, which is fleshy, finely scented and endowed with a persistent taste.
Other valuable qualities are blackthorn, cockerels, prataioli (firm in consistency and excellent sautéed) and ovoli (very tasty raw in salads, on the grill or even in a pan with butter). Common are the chiodini (excellent base for the preparation of sauces), finferli and mazze da tamburi.
Beekeeping in Romagna is practiced both as a hobby and professionally with the aim of producing honey, royal jelly, pollen, propolis, beeswax and queen bees.
Honey is produced in the spring-summer period and the major varieties are: acacia, millefiori, medica, sulla, linden, chestnut, forest honey, fir honeydew. Among the polyfloras a millefiori is produced in the field.
Many farms and agritourisms produce and sell honey jams directly.
Extra virgin olive oil
The particular climatic conditions of this area make it possible to produce a particularly valuable olive oil, with excellent chemical and organoleptic characteristics. It is light, pleasant to the taste, with a slightly bitter and aromatic flavour, obtained by mixing the fruits of different varieties of olive trees: Correggiolo (minimum 60%), Leccino (maximum 30%) and to a lesser extent (about 10%) Pendolino, Moraiolo and Rossina.
The olive harvest (whose cultivation on the hills of this part of Romagna has very ancient origins, dating back to the Etruscans) is carried out manually every year during the fall (mid-October – mid-December). After a process of defoliation and washing, in the following days the oil is extracted exclusively through physical and mechanical procedures.
The extra-virgin olive oil has recently obtained the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) “Hills of Romagna”.
In cooking, it is excellent both raw and cooked.
Since March 10, 2011, the Castrocaro bread has been included in the National List of traditional food products.
After 125 years, the recipe based on the water of Castrocaro, local wheat flour, a pinch of salt and yeast, combined with the skill of local bakers, still allows today to bake the renowned Castrocarino or Pane di Castrocaro every day.
Raviggiolo is a fresh white cheese obtained from the curdling without breaking of raw cow’s milk; it comes in rounded shapes; its texture is tender and with a delicate and slightly buttery flavour.
It is so sweet and fresh that it can also be eaten between meals, perhaps for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Due to its delicate characteristics it is excellent if matched with light, slightly sparkling and faintly fragrant wines. Its shelf life is limited to a few days.
It is a “Slow Food” Presidium product.
The Saba, or Sapa, of Romagna is a sweet brown syrup. It is combined with many dishes such as chickpeas, beans, chestnuts and stuffed pasta but also ravioli and tortelli, fruit, vegetables, bread and polenta.
Savor is a homemade sweet preserves typical of Romagna’s peasant tradition, linked to ancient rural customs, prepared in the period just following the harvest. Being a very caloric food, it was consumed in wintertime, from September to spring, when significant energy was needed to work in the fields and resist the cold.
The basic ingredient is “saba” or concentrated must, long cooked and narrowed, to which many different fruits are blended; as in the past, it can be enjoyed accompanied by snacks, desserts or appetizers.