Slow food: the main Presidia of sicilian excellence
Have you ever heard the term “slow food“? Well no, it is not a nutritionist’s advice, but it has to do with the production and the rhythms of the past, with the slow consumption of food that should be savored, not devoured.
We are talking about genuine foods cooked with care and dedication, foods capable of giving authentic flavors and taking us back centuries. If we want, “slow food” is the exact opposite of “junk food”, because it sides with good food, local producers and territorial excellence.
In order to promote it, we also, and above all, talk about Slow Food and sustainable agriculture.
Yes, the Slow Food movement is linked to the land, to the territory, to traditions, to the trades of the past and to small producers who, because of the pressure of industrial production, consumerism, excessive costs and the rules imposed by the market, have stopped producing – from one day to the next.
Tasting Slow Foods means discovering or rediscovering a place and its history, and it means tasting flavors that we have completely forgotten over the decades. We, as perfect gourmets, lovers of Sicilian tradition and ambassadors of sustainable agriculture, want to take you into the world of Slow Food, sustainable food products and the most famous Sicilian slow food.
It will be a great trip, we promise.
Slow food movement: when and why it started
The Slow Food movement has rather recent origins. It was born in the 1980s thanks to its founder Carlo Petrini who, in those years, promoted a new model of agriculture capable of safeguarding biodiversity, supporting local producers and defending all those products of excellence that risked extinction.
Thanks to this movement, in 1999 the first Slow Food Presidia were born. And not only in Italy, but all over the world. The Slow Food Presidia overcome the logic and the market rules imposed by the European Union to protect the PGI and PDO brands for the defense of Made in Italy in the world and support all those products that have remained outside the mechanism of large-scale distribution.
About Slow Food Presidia
Without going into the matter of production, let’s talk about Slow Food Presidia and their more technical meaning. Slow Food products are products carefully selected by the Slow Food Foundation, a non-profit association that for years has been committed to the promotion of genuine and healthy food products, in total respect of producers, territory and environment.
To become part of this great list of Slow Food Presidia and therefore in the association, of course, you need to have important requirements. All small agri-food companies that want to promote and enhance the products of their territory can join.
Every Slow Food product must be at risk of extinction, have organoleptic qualities and be strongly linked to the territory where it was born. Moreover, it must be produced in limited quantities by small local producers and in full respect of environmental and social dynamics.
Slow Food Presidia in Italy and Sicily
In Italy, there are more than 300 Slow Food Presidia, divided by region and origin. An intense work that, since 1999, has allowed to protect and safeguard agri-food products and breeds of animals destined to disappear, as well as to make known products whose existence was unknown.
But which are the slow food products in Sicily? Let’s discover some of the Sicilian sustainable food products that have returned to be an excellence of the territory!
Slow Food desserts in Sicily
The first Slow Food desserts of this long list was born in Delia, it is believed at the time of the Sicilian Vespers inside the medieval fortress that overlooks the city. We are talking about the Cuddrireddra of Delia, a typical sweet made with durum wheat flour, fresh eggs, sugar, a little lard, red wine, cinnamon and orange peel.
The dough, worked on a wooden board called scanaturi, is cut in small pieces and rolled around a stick in order to give it its classic “bracelet” or spiral shape.
The next sweet we will know comes from an extraordinary territory which has seen different people, traditions and cultures follow one another: Alia. In this mountain town with an Arabic name, on the slopes of the Madonie Mountains, the Scattata di Alia was born.
This typical sweet with its irregular shape (hence, “scatta“) is made from almonds, grown in local almond groves, peeled, chopped and toasted, wheat flour, sugar and then, optionally, cinnamon and lemon peel.
Another slow food sweet with exceptional qualities is the Manna delle Madonie, which today is cultivated in an area that goes from Pollina to Castelbuono. Brought into vogue by the Fiasconaro panettone and the town of Castelbuono, this Presidium has ancient origins.
Sicilian Slow Food fruits and derivates
There are many Slow Food Presidia regarding fresh and dried fruit and its derivatives. We know some of them very well, such as the Bronte Green Pistachio, which spread from Iran to Central Asia, the Far East and then the Mediterranean.
But we must also mention the Ancient Apples of Etna, the Strawberry of Sciacca and Ribera, the Tardivo (late) Mandarin of Ciaculli, the Melon of Paceco and the White Plums of Monreale.
Another very particular slow food fruit is the Pesca nel sacchetto (peach in a bag), which was born in the hills of Leonforte and takes its name from the method of preservation: peaches with yellow pulp and intense flavor are harvested and closed in a paper bag and then left to ripen for several months.
Sicilian Slow Food dairy products and cheeses
These are the Presidia that, in addition to the method of processing and the most ancient crafts, have brought to light breeds of animals that were almost extinct.
This is the case of the Ragusa donkey and the Girgentana goat which, today, risk extinction. The first one, more than 30 years ago, was widespread in the countryside of eastern Sicily and its milk has similar characteristics to the human one. Because of its unique properties, at the time it was an excellent alternative to mother’s milk. The Girgentana goat was brought to Sicily by the Arabs in 800 AD and, besides its unmistakable beauty, gives a balanced milk with an intense flavor.
Other Slow Food Presidia include cheeses such as Maiorchino from Messina, Piacentinu from Enna, Provola from Nebrodi and the delicious Vastedda from Valle del Belìce!
Slow Food legumes and vegetables of Sicily
From Carrazzo beans from Nebrodi, Polizzi Generosa and Scicli to Fava beans from Ustica, Leonforte and Modica, as well as the typical Black Lentil from Enna‘s hills and Villalba Lentils.
Among the Slow Food Presidia that we love the most and that have returned to be protagonists of traditional recipes, we find the Red Garlic of Nubia and the Thorny Artichoke of Menfi. Not only in Sicily, but also beyond the regional borders, the Pizzutello Tomato of the Ericine Valleys and the Siccagno Tomato of the Belìce Valley are known for their unique taste.
Slow Food meat, cold cuts and fish
In Sicily, meat lovers have returned to appreciate traditional local dishes. Especially in the mountain areas, from Madonie to Nebrodi.
Amongst the slow food products which have become excellent again, we must mention the black swine of the Nebrodi, which today allows the production of many products such as salami and meat sauce, and the Sausage of Palazzolo Acreide, which dates back to the arrival of the Romans on the island and which is still today seasoned with wild fennel from the Iblei Mountains, hot peppers and red wine from the Val di Noto.
Among the excellent fish dishes, we find the salted Alaccia of Lampedusa and Masculina da magghia (mesh, fishnet). The latter, also called by fishermen anciuvazzu or anciuvurineddu, is mentioned in I Malavoglia and fished with particular mesh nets during the night.
The practice of fishing is not well seen by animal rights activists, as the anchovies remain imprisoned in the net and die by exsanguination, but it is a very ancient tradition and widespread throughout the Mediterranean which makes it however an excellence to be preserved.
Honey and Slow Food Insects
For years, honey has been one of the most loved products of the territory. There are many entrepreneurs, even young ones, who decide to dedicate their lives to the production of honey and to the protection of bees.
We all know that, for environmental issues, bees represent a precious good to be protected and safeguarded. In Sicily, this precious good is the Sicilian Black Bee. It risked extinction since the ’70s and was brought back to its original exploits by queen bee breeders and local beekeepers.
Today, there are several producers of this delicious honey throughout the province of Palermo and in Mazara del Vallo, Trapani.
Sustainable food product: Slow Food in Sicily
Today, the Slow Food Presidia have also fully entered the circuit of local restaurants, hotels and trattorias. We find these excellences in the menus and we have rediscovered the pleasure of tasting and rediscovering the flavors of the past.
Thanks to the commitment of many Sicilian producers, breeders and restaurateurs, ambassadors of the enogastronomical culture in Italy and abroad, we are sure that the raw materials, history, ancient crafts and enogastronomical traditions of Sicily will never be forgotten.