A territory in an event: Chiaramonte Gulfi
Selected as the area in Sicily that offers the best food and wine products, Chiaramonte Gulfi now showcases these products from the Hyblaean Mountains with the Terra Matta culinary contest.
It all began three years ago when Chiaramonte Gulfi, a town in the province of Ragusa known also as the “balcony of Sicily, being situated at 668m above sea level, was selected in the Best in Sicily contest as the town offering the best food and wine in Sicily. This, along with other official recognitions (Slow Food Presidium for its PDO Monti Iblei extra-virgin olive oil and IGP Modica chocolate), convinced Chiaramonte producers to unite under the aegis of quality food.
Local writers had already written memorable pages on the area’s culinary traditions and a text by Vincenzo Rabito, a semi-illiterate road inspector born in Chiaramonte Gulfi in 1899, Terra Matta (Crazy Land), was chosen as the symbol of this food and wine renaissance. The name was adopted three or so years ago for the Terra Matta National Wine and Food Contest, an event organized by the Chiaramonte Gulfi producers’ association to highlight the quality of prime ingredients found in the Monti Iblei (Hyblaean Mountains). It has expanded every year and the last edition, in December 2018, was opened for the first time to six historic Italian restaurants, which faced off against each other with their own chefs to compete for the prizes for the best traditional recipe and the most innovative one. The contest was judged by a composed of expert Sicilian chefs and journalists from all over Italy.
The prime ingredient for this first contest was the meat of the Nebrodi black pig, to be accompanied by at least 80% of other typical Ibleo ingredients.
The prize for the best traditional recipe was won by Daniele Guidantoni of the Casa Vassani restaurant, in Baschi in the province of Terni, who presented “pork sweetbreads with soft and crispy saffron rice”, while Angelo Del Bianco of the La Subida restaurant in Cormons, in the province of Gorizia, won the prize for the best innovative recipe with his “I put my heart into the pork” dish. Runners up were the promising young chefs: Angelo Bencardino (Al Convento, Cetara, SA), Valerio De Angelis (Andreina, Loreto, AN), Marco Cervi (Antica Corte Pallavicina, Polesine Parmense, PR) and Angelo Corelli (Mercerie, Rome).
Iblei (Hyblaean) products:
The Nebrodi black pig, recognized by Slow Food Presidium, is the undisputed prime ingredient in Iblean cuisine and is found in almost every recipe. It is used to make cold cuts, pork chops, sausages and pork in aspic and the meat is distinguished by its tenderness and aromatic intensity. This is the result of the rather small, semi-wild and black-coated pigs, similar to boars in temperament, being raised under almost free-range conditions.
Sicilia cuisine has a secret ingredient: extra-virgin olive oil. Monti Iblei PDO oil stands out for its intense scents of tomato, aromatic herbs and almond as well as for its aromatic flavor and pleasing spiciness. It is a blend of the cultivarstonda iblea, nocellara etnea, morresca, biancolilla, siracusana and nocellara messinese, all cultivated in the district of Monti Iblei as well as the provinces of Ragusa, Siracusa and Catania, for a total of some 19,000 hectares.
The limestone Monti Iblei tabelands have narrow valleys that collect particularly fertile, dark soils, the perfect habitat for Cipolla di Giarratana, an onion typical of the town of the same name. Recognized by Slow Food Presidium, it is known for its large size (from 500g to 2kg) as well as its sweetness and delicacy which make it a suitable for all kinds of recipes.
The raw milk from Sicilian cows, in particular the Modicana breed typical of the area of Modica, is the basic ingredient for Ragusano PDO, one of Sicily’s oldest stretched cheeses evidence of which can be found as far back as the 16thcentury. It is only produced in the province of Ragusa and the towns of Noto, Palazzo Acreide and Rosolini in the province of Siracusa and after a particular lush season in the Monti Iblei tablelands. Although it is traditionally hung like a caciocavallo cheese, this has a parallelepiped shape and can weigh from 1-16kg. The cheese has a golden-yellow color and its sweet and aromatic flavor becomes sharper with age.
Modica is also home to Modica IGP chocolate, made with unsweetened cocoa powder under temperatures that never exceed 40°C. This means the sugar never fully dissolves and gives the bars their distinctive grainy texture. The chocolate can be aromatized with either spices or dried fruit. The chocolate dates back to Spanish rule in Sicily in the 16th century and was a variation of the preparation method used by the Aztecs.
Last but not least is another excellent product, the only Sicilian wine to be given, in 2005, a DOCG classification: Cerasuolo di Vittoria. It is exclusively a blend of Nero d’Avola (a minimum of 50% and maximum of 70%) and Frappato (minimum 30% and maximum 70%) that has a transparent, ruby color, fruity aromas (cherry and strawberry) and an excellent balance between the tannins and acidity in the flavor, this thanks to the chalk in the soil that also ensures a long lifespan for the wine. The wine usually matures in stainless steel vats but if it is made in the historic area of production (the towns of Vittoria, Comiso, Acate, Chiaramonte Gulfi, Santa Croce Camerina and in parts of Niscemi, Gela, Caltagirone and Licodia Eubea) it can also be matured in wood for a Classico version, which reaches the market on March 31 in the second year after harvest.