Europe

July 19th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Tips To Create Fresh Liqueurs With A Tuscan Spirit

 

 

 

Travelers who spend more than a few weeks in Italy likely will find themselves around a local family’s dinner table, sipping homemade liqueur.

Initially invented for medicinal purposes by 13th-century Italian monks, liqueurs (liquore in Italian) have become a source of regional pride, with Italians still drinking and customizing those original recipes today.

In Montelupo, a small town located on the lush, hilly outskirts of Florence, a trio of Italian herbalists have spent the past 15 years sorting through the bounty of Tuscan gardens to create fresh, updated versions of this quintessential Italian drink.

The group, improbably called the Gruppo Micologico Naturalistico Empolese (Natural Mycological Group of Empoli), originally formed to go wild mushroom hunting. This being Tuscany, however, they quickly were drawn to the abundant wild herbs, flowers and fruit — lemons, kumquats and apricots – that thrive in their backyard gardens. That soon led the trio to developing liqueurs.

AUTHOR


Zanna McKay

Zanna K. McKay is a multimedia NextGen Reporter for Round Earth Media who divides her time between Italy and New York. Twitter: @bozannza

Limoncello, anise liqueur

Like all good Italians, founding members Pietro Terreni and Nicola Daraio grew up sipping anise liqueur at weddings and limoncello on visits to the Amalfi Coast. Member Andrea Heinisch, originally from Germany, enjoys limoncello and has been crafting variations of it since joining the group 10 years ago. For these three, making a liqueur presents a unique opportunity to be traditional and innovative at the same time.

Liqueur is typically made by infusing near-pure alcohol with natural flavors, then adding ingredients to sweeten the drink and dilute the alcohol content. Nearly every region in Italy produces a distinctive drink that uses local, seasonal fruits and herbs.

The simplicity of this basic liqueur recipe encourages creativity by even the most timid mixologist; and it is wonderfully adaptable to every environment and season.

Terreni sees the use of seasonal fruit as integral to the drink’s lingering aroma. “You have to pick your flavoring materials at the right moment,” he says, “because the summer sun and air all become part of the liqueur in the end.

“When I was little, we used to take fruit to our local pharmacy, where they would prepare it with pure spirits,” Terreni remembers. “Then, during winter when it got really cold, we would have a little glass of this liqueur with a few of the fruits or berries in it.”

Go natural

The group claims their liqueur blends retain their flavor and color longer than supermarket-made brands, because the group’s artisanal preparation methods call for the use of nonsynthetic flavors and colors. Natural ingredients hold up better once the bottles are opened. (Traditionally, Italians keep their liqueur in the freezer and pull it out when visitors arrive.)

Each member of the group has his or her own favorite recipes. For example, Daraio favors anything made with fennel (“good for digestion”) and a family recipe for orange-coffee liqueur. Heinisch has experimented with fruits as well as herbs that grow on her property. She recommends fresh mint (with about 1½ tablespoons of anise seeds), thyme (combine with 3 whole cloves, use equal measures of white wine and neutral alcohol and let it infuse for two months), rosemary (use white wine with 2 ounces of neutral alcohol, plus 2 teaspoons of lemon zest), and honey with a profusion of herbs (recipe below).

The three herbalists agree, however, that there is nothing quite like sipping homemade limoncello straight from the freezer after a leisurely lunch on a hot summer day. As the group surveyed the woods near Heinisch’s house, they contemplated ingredients for future concoctions, perhaps using rosehips and lavender. And that illustrates what makes a great liqueur: creativity, experimentation and locally grown ingredients.

Rather than sell what they make, the group exchanges batches — and recipes — with friends.

Tips from the experts

Advice for creating your own liqueur:

  1.  Use fruits, herbs and spices that are free of chemicals. It is best if these items are grown away from roads or grazing pastures, where they could be contaminated by vehicle exhaust, pesticides or animal waste.
  2.  Use ingredients that are in season, for maximum freshness.
  3.  Keep preparation areas and tools, including cutting boards, free of other flavors and chemicals. Jars and bottles should be made of glass and rinsed well. Make sure towels and filtering products (a cheesecloth or metal strainer are best) are cleansed of soap and bleach. (“When I first started,” Heinisch says, “I made the mistake of trying to filter with a regular, clean dish towel. The laundry soap dissolved with the alcohol, and the liqueur tasted like my soap.”)
  4.  Store liqueur in the freezer for best taste and texture.
  5.  In Italy, liqueur are usually made with 190-proof alcohol.

liqueur4

Cream of Wild Fennel Liqueur

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: About 2 (0.75-liter) bottles

This recipe comes from Nicola Daraio, who brought it to Tuscany from the southern Italian resgion of Basilicata. It tastes like caramel. Substitute water for the dairy and it is more refreshing but a little less indulgent, suitable for the end of a particularly large meal. Total time does not include 3 days to infuse flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 190-proof Everclear or similar
  • Whole leaves and a few stalks of wild fennel; the leaves and stalks should just be covered by the alcohol
  • 4 cups pasteurized skim milk
  • 1 ⅔ cups sugar

Directions

  1. Wash and dry the wild fennel. Place the fennel in a glass jar with a cork or tight-fitting metal lid. Cover the fennel with the alcohol and let sit for three days.
  2. Put the milk and sugar in a steel pan, bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, then let cool.
  3. Filter the infused alcohol, mix with the milk-and-sugar mixture, place in a clean bottle, store in the freezer.

Lemon-Saffron Liqueur

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes (plus 15 days to infuse flavor)
Yield: About two quarts

Andrea Heinisch created her lemon-saffron version of limoncello as a winter counterpart to the traditional lemon-only recipe. The cinnamon and clove are classic holiday flavors, while the saffron balances out the tang of the lemons, creating a complex drink that warms you, even when poured straight from the freezer.

Ingredients

3 organic, in-season lemons
2 cups 190-proof Everclear or similar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 whole clove
10 threads of saffron

For the simple syrup:

1¼ cup sugar
2½ cups water

Directions

  1. Wash the lemons, then zest them, taking care to get only the yellow rind, as the white pith is bitter.
  2. Place lemon peels and spices in a glass jar with a cork or tight-fitting metal lid and add the alcohol.
  3. Infuse for eight days in a dry, dark place, gently shaking the jar once a day.
  4. Make the simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
  5. After eight days, add the syrup to the alcohol and lemon peels. Let mixture sit for another eight days in a cool, dry, dark place continuing to gently shake the jar once a day.
  6. Filter, place in a clean bottle, store in the freezer.

 

Honey Herb Liqueur
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes (plus six days to infuse the herbs)
Total Time: 20 minutes (plus six day to infuse the herbs)
Yield: 2 (0.75-liter) bottles

Each Gruppo Micologico Naturalistico Empolese member has a variation of this liqueur, which recalls the drink’s original medicinal purpose. Consider this a boost for the immune system, with a sweet, herbal taste. As much as possible, use fresh herbs.

Ingredients

3½ cups 190-proof Everclear or similar
½ cup honey
6 basil leaves
5 St. John’s Wort leaves
6 culinary sage leaves
Leaves from 3 small stalks of rosemary
6 mint leaves
6 black tea leaves
6 lemon tree leaves
6 bay leaves
6 chamomile leaves
6 juniper berries
2 whole cloves
½ teaspoon saffron
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the simple syrup:

3½ cups water
3 cups sugar

Directions

  1. Wash the herbs carefully, place them in the alcohol for six days, turning the container a few times each day.
  2. After six days, make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves, then add the honey as the mixture cools.
  3. Mix the liqueur mixture and the simple syrup, filter the infused alcohol, place in a fresh bottle, store in the freezer.

Main photo: Cream of fennel, myrtle berry and saffron-lemon liqueurs, with lemon leaves and flowers, sprigs of wild fennel and myrtle leaves. Credit: Zanna McKay

Zanna K. McKay is a multimedia NextGen Reporter for Round Earth Media who divides her time between Italy and New York. Twitter: @bozannza

July 14th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Eating with our Next Gen Tyler Kelley: knishes stuffed with stories.

This article was published by Zester Daily on July 2, 2014.

KnishesKnishes are packed with more than flaky, potatoey deliciousness. “The knish is really stuffed with stories,” said Laura Silver, author of the new book, “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food.” Her many pilgrimages on behalf of the knish — “a pillow of filling tucked into a skin of dough” — took Silver from Poland to Israel. But the story really began with Mrs. Stahl’s of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, the knish-maker her grandmother loved best. The shop’s demise in 2005 is what ignited Silver’s obsession to get inside this dense, satisfying “potato pie.”

One stop on her quest was the town of Knyszyn, Poland, home to Silver’s ancestors and some knishlore. There she heard the legend of a king who was traveling, tired and hungry, through a forest. He emerged in a hamlet where he was served a tasty dumpling called a knish. He liked it so much he named the place after it.

Round Earth Media’s Tyler J. Kelley reported the story of The Knish: Cute As A Dumpling And Filled With Tradition for Zester Daily, read it HERE.

 

July 14th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

The Knish: Cute As A Dumpling And Filled With Tradition

This article was published by Zester Daily on July 2, 2014.

Knishes

Knishes are packed with more than flaky, potatoey deliciousness. “The knish is really stuffed with stories,” said Laura Silver, author of the new book, “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food.” Her many pilgrimages on behalf of the knish — “a pillow of filling tucked into a skin of dough” — took Silver from Poland to Israel. But the story really began with Mrs. Stahl’s of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, the knish-maker her grandmother loved best. The shop’s demise in 2005 is what ignited Silver’s obsession to get inside this dense, satisfying “potato pie.”

One stop on her quest was the town of Knyszyn, Poland, home to Silver’s ancestors and some knishlore. There she heard the legend of a king who was traveling, tired and hungry, through a forest. He emerged in a hamlet where he was served a tasty dumpling called a knish. He liked it so much he named the place after it.

Tracing knish history

The food’s precise origin is unknown, and Silver speculates broadly, but the earliest mention places it somewhere between a Polish poem from 1614 and a Polish town with a knish-related name dating to 1347 (Knyszynlanded on the map later, in 1569). In present-day Poland, Silver concluded, the knish has disappeared. She carried pictures of the storied pastry with her in lieu of a translator, but no one recognized it.

Silver also learned that knishes weren’t necessarily a Jewish food; in early references they are filled with meat and eaten on All Saints’ Day, November 1. In fact, theknish was “severely underrepresented” among the stuffed-dough options she found in Israel. Apparently when Europe’s Jewish families emigrated to the New World, theknish went with them. It flourished in the first half of the 20th century, when it was a popular street food in New York’s teeming immigrant neighborhoods.

(more…)

May 27th, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

This rapper speaks to Italy’s unemployed youth

By ZANNA MCKAY

This article was published by PRI’s The World on May 01, 2014.

 It’s a staggering statistic. In Italy, more than 40 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 24 can’t find work.

In the southern region of Campania, the youth unemployment rate is a whopping 48 percent. It’s something that rapper/hip-hop artist Clemente Maccaro — known as Clementino — tackles head on. He grew up near Naples in the Campania region, and that’s where his latest music video was filmed.

His song “O’ Vient” is about the desperate situation faced by Italian youth, especially those living in the south.

Earlier this year, Clementino opened his first tour across Italy in Milan, and fans came from as far south as Sicily. Many waited hours to buy a ticket. With a near-full house, Clementino bounced onto the stage in a flat-brimmed New York Yankees cap, tattoos covering both arms.

At 31, Clementino is just becoming recognized throughout Italy, but Giuseppe Forino says he’s been a fan since Clementino put out his first album seven years ago.

(more…)

May 4th, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

From our young journalists in Italy — here’s a story they could uniquely report

In Milan, Clementino at the opening concert of his first Italy-wide tour, with a flat-brimmed New York Yankees cap and tattoos down his arms.  Photo: Zanna McKay

In Milan, Clementino at the opening concert of his first Italy-wide tour, with a flat-brimmed New York Yankees cap and tattoos down his arms. Photo: Zanna McKay

 

In Italy’s southern region of Campania, the youth unemployment rate is a whopping 48 percent. It’s something that rapper/hip-hop artist Clemente Maccaro — known as Clementino — tackles head on. He grew up near Naples in the Campania region, and that’s where his latest music video was filmed.  His song “O’ Vient” is about the desperate situation faced by Italian youth, especially those living in the south.

Round Earth’s Zanna McKay and Guia Baggi teamed up to bring Clementino’s message to audiences in the United States via PRI’s The World and in Italy via WIRED Magazine in Italian.

Click HERE for  Zanna’s story.

And HERE for Guia’s.

For more on Round Earth’s ground breaking partnership model — and more about Zanna and Guia —  click HERE.

 

 

November 21st, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Next Gen Journalists in Italy

Zanna and Guia

Zanna Katlyn McKay and Guia Baggi

 

Guia Baggi is a Milanese raised in Tuscany, early-career reporter. A year and a half ago she co-founded together with seven other journalists the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), a centre for investigative journalism based in Italy. Before embarking in this experience Guia studied in three different European universities for a two-year Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme in Journalism and Media within Globalisation, having the chance to examine for her MA thesis the organisation, the motives and the practices of nonprofit investigative journalism centres in the US and in Europe. Her journalistic experience has been mainly within local news media in Florence.

Zanna Katlyn McKay is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she designed a major in multimedia journalism and also studied film. Her thesis, for which she received High Honors, was a combination long-form written and radio piece about the housekeepers at Mount Holyoke. She now lives in Siena, Italy.

Recently, Guia and Zanna met at a café near where Guia works at La Nazione in Florence to set down in writing some of the interesting conversations they have had since becoming Next Gen partners for Round Earth Media. They are looking forward to going to Milan at the beginning of December to collect material for their first story together.  Here’s their interview of each other!

(more…)

October 25th, 2011  |  By Round Earth Media

Juries Come to Georgia Republic

In the Republic of Georgia in Eastern Europe for the first time ever (starting October 1, 2010), defendants have the option of being tried by a jury of their peers. This staple of the American court system was made part of the Georgia constitution six years ago. It’s only just now being offered on a limited basis. But as Mary Stucky reports, the United States has been part of a rather unconventional effort to get the country ready.

(more…)

Support more stories about Europe from Round Earth Media!

Our not-for-profit model is emerging as a way to provide high-quality global reporting to a broad audience, information upon which an interconnected world depends.

Your contribution is tax deductible. Please, join us!

Archives

Our Partners

Round Earth Media is a worldwide partnership. For more on our partners -- media outlets, funders and academic institutions -- click on this link.