Saturday, October 29, 2011

Making cheese with shepherds

We were fortunate to spend time with three shepherds in the hills near Castelbuono.  To help maintain a culture of growing local product, the state pays shepherds a subsidy each year based on the head of livestock owned.   These men have other small holdings in the region.  Vincenzo spends most of the year on the property - even during freezing winter;  Sarro and Giacinto spend nine months of the year there.

 Our fabulous guide, Carmelina, with Vincenzo.

Here we are learning to make ricotta and provolone - fresh cows milk and rennet, boiled slowly in the copper until the curds and whey separate.

 Except that it would have been rather obvious, I was longing to steal this beautiful handmade ladle.
 Above, provolone just made. Below - the cheese in hot water, softening before being stretched.

 and then moulded.

 Our fearless leader, Patrizia Simone, moulding the provolone. 
Patrizia and Giacinto

Patrizia and Vincenzo

Sarro - a quiet man - expertly moulding his cheese

The end result

Love Nature

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Cefal├╣ is an interesting and pleasant seaside town on the north of Sicily - well worth spending a few days there.  Roman, Byzantine and Arab rulers have all left their mark.

Fishermen post their wishes for a safe and successful fishing expedition on this wall. Bottom left was a sign saying don't remove the stars!  It was heeded - only the sign was removed.
A waxing crescent moon.
Strange cheese shapes. Not to be eaten.  They are created once every seven years for a festival - then spend the next six years on display.
This is someone's private studio - wide open to the street, but the board (indecipherable here) stated that it was a private working space and not to be entered. 
We had dinner one night on a restaurant pier.  The night was gorgeous, the food prolific and tasty, the feral cats many ......

An aside - feral cats are everywhere in Sicily, and are frequently seen wandering in/through churches, but they always appeared well cared for and healthy.

 Very bad distant shot - no tripod.

The rocks below. Dramatic pic??
A street. And I didn't wait for the street to be empty of humans - obviously it was that time of day!

Castelbuono (Sicily)

Castelbuono is a small town  - only the smallest cars succeed in navigating the narrow winding streets.  However, despite being a small town there is still the problem of rubbish collection.  And here the commune authorities have arrived at an excellent solution for the removal of recyclables.

I couldn't tell whether - if the load was heavy, the day was warm, the same route had been walked once too often, or if this annoying photographer was in the way - but this was one donkey whose head was well and truly somewhere else.

I was so involved in chasing the donkey that I missed out seeing the amazing frescoes in Madrice Vecchia - something I was made to regret by my fellow travellers.  Like many churches in Sicily, the Madrice Vecchia carries echoes of many eras. Built in the 14th century on the ruins of a pagan temple, it has a Renaissance portico, a Baroque portal and an octagonal spire covered with majolica tiles.  The interior was enlarged at the end of the 15th century and contains interesting works, most notably a polyptych above the main altar depicting the Coronation of the Virgin, in which  a saint is depicted wearing spectacles!

Work is hard to come by in these small towns, and there's little by way of social security unless you work for the public service. Incomes in Sicily in general are very low - often 800-1000 euro a month.  But there are young people who are putting their entrepreneurial hats on, creating work for themselves. We met a couple of young women who have put together a tour of the town's most interesting locations and are actively selling the proposition from the town hall steps in Piazza Margherita. They split the proceeds - half for themselves and half goes back to the commune for the maintenance of these historical sites.  Please support them if you are in Castelbuono.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Palermo fresh food markets

Where markets in Palermo are concerned, ignore the guide books - it seems many of the "writers" haven't actually experienced the state of Palermo's three major markets.  Vucceria reads as though it is THE open air food market to browse.  It isn't. It's small, sad, apparently decreasing in stallholders all the time.    Capo market sells dry goods and linens, toys, kitchen gadgets etc, as well as food. Ballar├▓, however, still treats the visitor with sights, sounds and smells from from ancient times.
Zucchine lunghe - about 1m in length!
The zucchine lunghe appeared mostly in western Sicily - as we travelled east there were fewer and fewer in the markets.  Due to Australian quarantine regulations we weren't able to bring seeds back with us. If you know of anyone in Australia who grows these amazing, intriguing vegetables and who is willing to share seed, please get in touch!
Leaves of zucchine lunghe - used as a veg in their own right

Probably razza/arzilla (thornback ray - Raja clavata) - they are tiny

Sole trader with a single product! Borlotti beans.

Gorgeous eggplants.

Colourful peppers.