Monday, April 30, 2007

Homestyle Val Chisone Genepy or Genepi


About this time of year we noticed that our supply of our local home brew of Genepy liqueur was running low. We still have lots of guests coming this summer that we enjoy introducing to our home style mountain remedy that cures everything that ails you and then some. For the, uninitiated, Genepy is a member of the Artemisia (Artemisia Mutellin) family, and not to be confused with its mystical cousin, Absinthe. Genepy, also spelled genepi, generally only grows above 2,000 meters here in the European Alps and usually on steep rocky slopes. There is much myth, legend, pride, and swagger surrounding the difficulty of the terrain, the procurement of the flowers, the quality of finished product and naturally, "the best" method of making Genepy. It can get fairly long winded and animated at times!
There are many commercial producers through out this part of the alps in France and Switzerland as well, of course, here in our part of Italy.
When our guests want to take some home, we refer them to our friends the Bernards, whose family has been locally producing their genepi recipes and several other mountain infusions, most notably Barathier (www.Barathier.it), for over 100 years and whom we think, make a superior product. Barathier has many different herbs and mountain flowers that gives it it's distinct flavor. The Bernard family business helps fuel the local mountain economy by hiring local mountain folks, to gather the plants in an environmentally safe way and steward the habitat to ensure proper conservation of where genepy grows.
We went high up in the valley last summer (Stalking the Wild Genepy), with my father in law guiding and tromped around looking for the elusive plant with good results. We made one batch and then decided to wait to make another this, that and the other. Hence, we put some of the precious plants to languish in the depths of our freezer until called into service. That day has come and the precious lump of flowers are now languishing in a bath of alcohol for a few days to give up their characteristic aroma and green color. It's times like these when I start wondering about the origins of these types of things, much like the origins of food and complicated techniques to get some amazing results at times. So now we wait for a few days before we finish the product to taste. Then we will have a favorite mountain after dinner "digestivo" that allegedly helps with altitude sickness, amongst it's many fabled medicinal properties. We like to sip it sometimes after dinner with a spot of hot water not unlike a hot toddy for a night cap. There are quite a number of variations on the herbs, flowers and alcohol infusions, the sit, strain, and add sugar syrup to taste bits, just like any recipe. So when we get to the part where we prepare the final product, I will share a recipe and techniques for this particular mountain treat.
And of course,when needed, apply liberally.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Venti Cinque Aprile


The 25th of April is a bank holiday here in Italy which commemorates the liberation of Italy by the allied forces during WWII. I have been struck whilst living in Europe, repeatedly, by the fact that the wars of Europe are never very far from the surface of the collective European memory of the suffering and hardship that war brings to the innocent. It's always a humbling and reflective moment for me who has been privileged enough to live free. I just want to give thanks to so many who have sacrificed their lives so that I am able to enjoy another beautiful spring day in our Italian alps. So, I've been thinking about another liberation day that was celebrated here in Italy this year and wondering how to put it into my blog. This celebration took place 12 April 2007 in Corleone, Italy. It was a town celebrating their liberation from the shadow of mafia violence and intimidation with the arrest of Mafia Don Bernardo Provenzano, who had eluded capture for 43 years. "Some 150 local students staged a “freedom run” from the centre of the Sicilian hilltown - made famous by the Godfather movies - down to the broken-down farmhouse where the Mafia chief was caught on April 11, 2006 after 43 years on the run."
Read the rest of the article in the online UK magazine "Italy".

It's been a fascinating story that broke last year upon his arrest. I was struck by how modest his life on the run was, as they showed the "farm house" where he had lived for many years which wasn't really much more than a shed. Far from the images conjured up by the movies of a comfortable, luxurious lifestyle. Hardly! They showed how he made his own cheeses and tried to make most of his own food to keep from being poisoned. He never used phones, only messages sent by messengers. His identity wasn't well known as it emerged that he had had facial surgery to disguise his identity and then later killed the doctor who performed the surgery to keep his identity unknown a number of years ago. Ruthless man and system quite a relief for the locals indeed. Read more about his capture here.
So here's to freedom for all and a lovely spring day!

Monday, April 23, 2007

April comes lately

It seems to take a bit of doing to get back in the blogging groove after a bit of time away. So to kick start me back into a groove, a wander around the neighborhood is always good for a bit of inspiration. I always love this time of year in the mountains when the snow is still up top and the valley can't wait to spread it verdant greenness everywhere. The vibrant greens are turning into the more serious dark forest greens and the progression of wildflowers are finally making their way up to our part of the hill. It's good to see what 's popping up and every day new color awaits me. These gentians caught my eye from a distance as they stood out against the hillside of green. Seems they caught the attention of this busy bee too.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Buona Pasqua!

Let the chocolate extravaganza begin. We went to Pinerolo for the local market and to wander about town. The last minute food buying frenzy was well underway and hard to not get caught up in it. So after fighting our way thru the crowds to mull over the fruit and veg offerings along with a indulgence in purchasing a fine mixture of seafood to be done up in a packet of parchment paper later, we made our way to my favorite pastry shop and chocolatier in the old town of Pinerolo, Ferraud. It was an orgy of exquisite tortes, miniature pastries, chocolate creams and gigantic hand made and decorated chocolate eggs and bells. I wanted to sample it all, but settle for a small selection of pastries with cappuccino with friends. It was another great day out . Now tomorrow the family eating marathon begins and the promise of a picnic on Monday to finish off the charming after Easter bank holiday of Pasquetta on Monday. Let the games begin. I hope your holidays are filled with lots of chocolate and friends and family too!

Monday, April 02, 2007

"Click Your Heels Three Times......"

There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home......
Fortunately for us we have two homes now. My old stomping grounds for most of my adult life being in Summit County Colorado and more recently here at Bella Baita B&B, above sleepy little Pinasca (Piedmont )Italy.
We clicked our heels 3 times and were transported back to our Italian alps home at Serre Marchetto and discovered that winter had finally come at last.
After a winter with "no snow" from all reports from Fabrizio's parents here at Serre Marchetto, a week before we arrived, it started snowing and has been keeping the water level up ever since.
It's been a hectic couple of months and I haven't been able to post much in the way of blogs. What few faithful readers I have had, I have probably lost, but hope I can entice them back now that I should be back on track soon. I hope to put a few recaps of of some of our cooking classes we did while we were in Colorado and other adventures that we had before getting back to our traditions and festivals here. Easter is this weekend and we've got guests arriving and classes to prepare for, sooo...stay tuned.
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