In Italy, October is a fantastic month for those into food. The raccolta, or collection season begins and if your anything like me you love a bit of tradition! In the north, farmers begin to collect apples and other fruits, in the warmer parts of the country people shake trees to retrieve olives to make olive oil in the family mill and all over many families join together to collect grapes to make their yearly supply of wine.
Seeing productions like these can bring a little bit of hope back to the traditional farmer. A natural process that requires few steps, the only way food should be produced.
Last friday, I met with a friends – dads – brothers family to make wine. It was the only day of the week they had predicted sunshine, it is much better to collect the grapes on a sunny day as with the rain you risk breaking the fruit. We parked the car and walked up a small slope where the family vines sit, and admired the full bunches of merlot grapes that were ready to be picked. Surrounding the vineyard were numerous fruit trees, lines of lettuce and other vegetables. Anna and Pier explained to me this year there was no need to buy fruit and vegetables as their whole family can live from their garden. Anna couldn’t even remember the last time she had been to a supermarket.
They explained to me how to cut the bunches from the vines, remove any fruit that was mouldy or dry and add it to the bucket. ‘We don’t add anything to our garden, what you see is what you get’, Pier continued to work as he explained these vines are those of his grandparents, untouched and completely natural. We were in five, and with many hands had the job finished within a few hours. We then loaded the grapes into the back of a mini truck, that wound itself back down the hill to the family ‘canteen’, a room full of home-made preserves, jams and last years wine.
Making the wine was simple. We poured all the grapes into a machine that separated the fruit from the stems, crushing the fruit before it falls into a container. Once this was done we moved the juice into an open vat, which is left to ferment. Now all is needed is time, Pier predicted that the wine will be ready to drink next easter. We had made approximately 300 litres from the afternoons work.
Anna sent me home with a collection of jams, made from fruit that was grown on their land. I was’t allowed to leave until I had listened to the recipe and promised to make some myself, as I walked out the door a voice yelled “everything in that jar is natural”, words from a traditional farmer.