Found in the most southerly toe of Italy, is the region of Calabria, a coastal region flanked by highlands and rugged mountains, that boasts a bounty of local food products thanks to its unique geography.
From north of the Pollino massif, to the plateau of the Sila and the south by the Aspromonte, the geographical outlay of the region lends itself to a catalogue of typical Calabrian products as varied as the landscape.
While great emphasis is placed on cured meats from the popular 'Nduja to Sopressata, Calabria also offers up some other very good quality local food with strong flavors, often with the liberal use of chili in both meats and dairy products.
And it doesn't stop there, with a choice of top fruit and vegetables taking equal glory. Among the obvious favourites being the famous 'Red Onion of Tropea', delicious eaten raw or used for making jams and the essential essence of Bergamot.
So next time you're in Calabria, here are 21 local products to get to know the region even better:
Typical Meats from Calabria
'Nduja is a spreadable salami especially good enjoyed on a slice of bread. With a very smooth texture and spicy flavour, the unusual rusty-colour, texture and flavor make it quite unique in the wide selection of Italian cured meats. A local salami from Spilsby, a town in the province of Vibo Valentia, it's made with the pork fat and lots of chili with everything being smoked inside the intenstine. Today ' Nduja is commonly used as a pizza topping or to flavor sauces.
A typical Calabrian cured meat, called Buccalaru or Vuccularo by local people, guanciale is made by processing the pork fat that comes from the pork neck and head, used mainly because it contains less lean skin than other parts of the animal.
Sopressata, or suppizzata, this cured meat is made of lean meat and pork fat to which spicy chili and fennel are usually added, although there are varieties made without.
4. Capocollo di Calabria DOP
After Sopressata and 'Nduja comes 'Capocollo' the "king" of Calabrian cold cuts. The typical product is prepared using the upper portion of pork loin. The de-boned meat is salted, over 4 to 10 days, then washed with water and vinegar. With an ageing period of at least 100 days from salting.
5. Pezzenti o nduglia
Typical of Cosenza, but also of Basilicata and Puglia, the Pezzente or Pizzenti is usually the last salami prepared after the slaughter of the pig, that is made with the older meat and offal, and considered a cheaper cured meat. The liver, heart, spleen and lungs are mixed with bacon, spices and stuffed into casings and conserved.
Typical Cheeses from Calabria
6. Caciocavallo Silano
This ancient Calabrian cheese made of spun paste, from whole fresh milk. The shape is oval or conical and each Caciotta weighs 1 kg to 2.5 kg.
7. Pecorino Del Pollino
Perhaps not among the best known cheeses, but among the best from the highlands of Calabria. Pollino Pecorino is made from sheep's milk with an ageing period anywhere from two months to over a year.
8. Pecorino Del Monte Poro
Considered one of the best pecorino cheeses of southern Italy, the Monte Poro Pecorino cheese is produced in the province of Vibo Valentia and made with the milk of local sheep. It can be eaten either young or aged: if aged for a long period a thicker crust from yellow, almost orange, and pale yellow paste develops.
Photo : www.travelcalabria.net
9. Ricotta Affumicata Crotonese
A typical Calabrian product from the Upper Crotonese and town of Mammola, ricotta smoked Crotonese is produced starting with the whey that remains from the processing of milk. Once formed the ricotta is smoked for a few days exposed to wood smoke, fragrant plants and chestnuts.
A Cream cheese produced in Sila and the Plain of Sybaris, the name comes from the practice of collecting the curd in cane containers, which give the cheese its unusual surface texture. Made from cow's or goat's milk, it has a smooth texture and an off-white colour and has a delicate yet slightly acidic taste.
11. Riccotone Salate
Cheese typical of many areas of Calabria, from Crotone up to Locri. The cheeses are made from November to July with mixed milk and shows a cheese with truncated cone shape. The flavor of Ricottone Salt is intense and edges slightly towards the spicy.
CALABRIA FOOD AND BAKERY PRODUCTS
12. Pane di Cerhiara
One of the most popular breads from Calabria: Cerchiara bread comes from Pollino, and is produced and cooked in ancient furnaces in the province of Cosenza in nine furnaces, mostly or all managed by women, who work hard to supply the whole province and the region.
Pizzata is a particular type of bread made from corn that doesn't contain wheat flour and comes with a flat shape and can be flavored with chili.
14. Pane di Margone
One of the most popular breads from Calabria and beyond; the bread comes from Mangone, a small village in the province of Cosenza. Thanks to the baking method and strictly traditional cooking technique, the Mangone bread stays soft for days inside and has a crispy crust. What's it made from? Wheat and water from Sila.
This baked product is commonly found on the family tables of Calabria especially around Easter time. The loaf of bread hugs a raw egg, which is cooked in the oven along with the bread dough. It can be eaten either sweet or savoury.
16. Red Tropea Onion
One of the most popular Calabrian typical products in Italy the Onion of Tropea IGP is a sweeter and milder type of onion than other varieties: the particular flavor comes from particular climatic and geographic conditions: as the land faces the sea and has a mild winter.
17. Melanzana Rossa di Rotonda
Seen from a distance it's easy to mistake these egglplants for tomatoes with their shiny round, red form. The prized Calabrian product can be found on the border between Calabria and Basilicata - in the Pollino National Park. They have a slightly spicy taste though are milder than the canonical eggplant.
This particular variety of potato is grown on the plateau of the Sila, 1000 meters above sea level and contains a higher than average percentage of starch. This means that the potato Sila is more nutritious and tasty than many other potatoes. Typically they are the ideal potatoes to make a Calabrian dish called Potato 'mpacchiuse, made with onions and potatoes.
19. Lenticchia di Mormanno
Up to 20 years ago it was thought that this variety of lentil had been lost forever. However following the Regional Agency for Agricultural Development of the region was able to find some examples from local farmers. The lentil of Mormanno is fine and rich in proteins and comes from a small plant. Today the legume is protected by the Slow Food Presidium.
Photo : Metroweb
20. Bergamotto di Reggio Calaria DOP
Bergamot is a round citrus, more or less flattened at the ends with a very intense aroma and fresh scent. It is produced in the municipalities of Reggino, and its yellow skin contains a very valuable essential oil, highly sought after within the cosmetic industry.
21. Cedro Liscio di Diamante
This is the ancient citrus fruit from which it seems other citrus derivatives arrived on the market today, such as grapefruit or tangerine. On this stretch of coast 98% of the national production of cedar is made. The taste is sour, but sweet, with a little juicy flesh.
These are tough times for chefs and restaurant professionals around the world, but there has never been a better time to seek advice and help around a number of topics affecting hospitality workers. Here's a round-up of some of the most useful resources for chefs.