We ourselves, though Sicilians, do not know all there is to know about Sicily and its wonders, and diving into its centuries-old culinary tradition will be an exciting experience full of surprises, for us as well as - we hope - for you.
After all, we’re talking of a land whose food and wine tradition is so wide and varied, so full of scents, colours and flavours that it’s like entering a whole new world that awaits only to be explored.
And, since the ideal companion of a perfect journey is good food, let’s begin to nourish our mind, our spirit and of course our stomach.
Our first stop takes us in Trapani’s province, specifically in Castelvetrano, where we find the traditional Black Bread, a product born from the land itself, the result of ancient knowledge and of a slow and patient work.
The Black Bread is made with two different kinds of wheats: both are Sicilians, one is a well known blonde variety, the other one is a durum wheat called tumminìa (or timilìa), rare and less known. Both wheats are whole and stone-ground.
The process behind the making of the bread is almost like a ritual, slow and ancient. The dough is made of the two whole wheats we described above, salt from Trapani and natural yeast (called lu criscenti).
After mixing the ingredients, the dough is left to rise for a long time. When it’s ready, it is cooked inside a stone oven at a temperature of 300°C (572℉). However, the bread doesn’t cook in direct contact with the fire. The oven is first heated with olive branches and when it reaches the desired temperature, the fire is put off, the inside of the oven carefully cleaned (with a broom traditionally made with a Mediterranean dwarf palm) and only then the dough is put inside. The bread will cook while the oven is cooling. When the oven’s completely cooled off, it means the bread is ready.
This complex making process was one of the reasons the traditional Black Bread almost disappeared in the past.
The bread has a very typical look. It is loaf-shaped (the Sicilian word for it is vastedda) and has a distinctive dark crust, coffee-coloured. This is the effect of the use of tumminìa. The crust is also covered in sesame seeds. The inside looks richly golden, soft and sweet to the taste. The scent is intense, especially when it’s just been taken out of the oven. The taste itself has a toasted, almond and malt flavour. You can also taste an olive note in the background, given by the olive branches used to heat the oven.
When it’s still warm, the perfect way to eat it is with olive oil, salt and oregano, or also with tomatoes, salted sardines and basil. In short, the so-called pani cunzatu (the traditional Sicilian sandwich).
The Black Bread of Castelvetrano is protected by the Global Slow Food Movement and there’s an ongoing process to also make it a PDO product. It’s an important symbol of Sicilian traditions, with its simple ingredients and its long making process. It is the result of the will of a community to prevent its disappearance, to preserve and promote it.
Above you can watch a video (in Italian) that shows the making of the Black Bread of Castelvetrano.
|The inspiration for this “tour” comes from an original Sicilian project called Sikuleat. Sikuleat is a board game that - through strategies, trades and commercial exchanges - takes you into a journey at the heart of Sicilian history and culinary tradition. A funny and entertaining way of learning about Sicily itself. If you wish to know more, you can check our product page on Sikuleat.|