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Snail


SIENA

Often the chiocciole (snail) is mistakenly called the lumache (slug); in reality the slug is without a shell and are not eatable. In certain areas of Tuscany the snail (which is cooked everywhere, different places having different recipes) are distinguished in lumachelle (small, white with stripes) and lumacci (larger and of a dark colour). The lumachelle (or martinelle) are considered less delicious, but are particularly tasty if collected on the wild fennel plants, on thistles and rosemary. The lumacci (or martinacci) are considered better because they are larger.They are collected on the vines and along edges of pathways in the countryside, above at the end of summer, beginning of autumn, after the first rains. Before being cooked the snails must be purged, it is necessary that their intestines are as empty as possible; they are eaten after a week from when they are collected. For the first three days they are left on a diet of sweet-smelling herbs such as calamint, sage, rosemary and bay leaf, and a little mixed salad. Afterwards, after a bath in running water, they are left without food another three days on beds of bran. Finally they are well washed in water, vinegar and salt, until they have expelled all the spittle and dirtiness. The snails become lethargic and close themselves within their shells with a hard substance; in this case they are put automatically on a diet and so are not able to be purged. To cook they are extracted from their shells, are boiled in water and vinegar for some minutes and are then passed on to the preparation stage. An interesting recipe for cooking the snails is that which is called "alla stiglianese", tied to an "historic" memory. It is said that towards the end of the XIV century certain Bretons, guided by Gị Belcotto devasted the hamlet of Stigliano, this small village near Siena and after Sovicille near Torri. Having devoured every stock of food.....the Stiglianese saved thier own lives by serving the Bretons, snails that, even then, they knew how to cook them in an exemplary way. Once they were clean a broth was prepared from the bone of a ham, that still had some meat attached to it. The bone is cooked for a few hours in a way that the resultant broth is a little glutinous and the meat is detached from the bone. This broth is filtered keeping the apart the pieces of meat that are found. While waiting a fry is prepared with all salami of which there were: a slice of ham, salami, buristo, sausage, finocchiona, coppa, soprassata etc....There was no need to use all, but certainly there was used all that was in the pantry. There was made a mince of the different types of salami with garlic, onions, peppers and tarragon (of this it was good to put a lot) and this mix was then ready to be browned with a little oil......as soon as the herbs had wilted..... the snails were added and then, a little broth made from the bone together with a good dose of red wine, Chianti of the Sienese hills, if possible. Leaving to boil and continuing to add the wine in a manner that the sauce did not become too thick. After a few hours of cooking, when the snails seem to be well cooked, the bread was prepared, the rustic type of the countryside, and left to toast, then rubbed with a lot of garlic and chopped fresh "tarragon" ....then placed at the bottom of a soup tureen and then covered with the snails and their very tasty sauce. The snails cooked in this way are a rare enough dish even in the countryside; they are often called "alla contadina" to distinguish them from the French that are very large, they are served in their shells, in France they can be eaten in all their restaurants whereas here in Italy they are a refined dish that are found in only the more luxurious restaurants. Another recipe, between many, is that typical of Orbetello which is named «lumachelle pazze o all"ignorante"», cooked in stew with onions, celery, parsley, basil and tomatoes.
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