Mondine, music, sausages and Christmas decorations – now what kind of title to an article is that ? The regulars of Aristo’s bar in Barga Vecchia during the autumn months sit outside the bar in the piazza and roast chestnuts 2 or 3 times a year. It is a time for all the families to get together and join in preparing the nuts and fire, and then roasting and eating the chestnuts around the fire to the sound of music supplied by local musicians.
Just last week they held their first roasting (article here) It was very successful but they did slightly over exaggerate on a) the quantity of wood needed and b) the amount of sausages needed to satisfy the hungry hoards … at the end of the day, there was still a large pile of wood sitting in the corner of the piazza and a fridge full of sausages in Aristo’s bar.
No problem, a good enough excuse to organise another event a week later.
And the Christmas decorations? Workmen were busily stringing up the decorations in Barga Vecchia while the roasting was taking place . Christmas seems to have come early this year.
So just what are Mondine ?
Mondine are made by roasting chestnuts in a special steel pan, shaped like a deep sided frying pan with holes in the bottom. The chestnut are first castrate (castrated) by having a small incision made with a knife cut into them, removing a small portion of the skin so that the chestnuts do not explode in the heat of the fire. They are then placed in a pan which is held over an open fire.
The pan has a long handle, about a metre long allowing a good distance from the fire. As the skin on the chestnuts closest to the bottom of the pan becomes burned the chestnuts are flipped over allowing the ones on top to become cooked. This process is repeated until all the skins are crisp and practically burnt off.
Depending on which tradition is followed, a small glass of red wine is also tipped onto the chestnuts before a final roasting on the open flames. The chestnuts are then either tipped onto a table or sometimes into a hessian sack which is agitated between two people until the remaining skins on the chestnuts have been removed.
These are the mondine and they are now ready to eat.
The following morning the fire was still smoking and so rather than waste all that heat, a half a dozen potatoes from the giornaledibarganews vegetable garden were wrapped up in silver foil and buried in the hot ashes … an hour later, they were cooked and ready for the table. Split in half, a dollop of salted butter and nothing better in this world – tasty hot baked potatoes.
That afternoon, the fire was still going, it must have been some pretty good seasoned wood, so a final pan of roast chestnuts were quickly roasted and handed round before as darkness fell and the flames finally died down to reveal glowing embers, perfect for roasting sausages but a small problem arose – no grill to put them on.
This was solved by placing two found terracotta tiles onto the embers and cooking the sausages directly on the now heated tiles. Necessity is the mother of Invention after all.