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Colatura the Anchovy Essence of Christmas

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Colatura the Anchovy Essence of Christmas
Photo George Billard/Glutton For Life

Anchovy essence, the last word in fish sauce and certainly not the only example of a delicacy whose description alone is enough to make those with less refined palates turn up their noses – or perhaps even feel squeamish.

“Colatura”, is the name of this special fishy essence we are referring to, a sauce obtained from anchovies left to mature in a salt water solution.

What is Colatura

An amber- coloured liquid produced in the barrels or tubs used to contain the anchovies which, just after harvesting, are arranged in head-to-tail spirals. As the pressed anchovies mature month after month, the liquid gradually drips from a hole in the barrel (in fact, the verb colare means to drip). Instead of being thrown away, it is scrupulously set aside and subjected to a natural preservation process involving its direct exposure to the summer sun.

In autumn it is ready for the final step: that of the actual colatura which means that the liquid is slowly poured into the vessel containing the anchovies where it gradually trickles through and picks up the mature taste of its basic ingredient. What comes out at the end of this process is a thick dark liquid, with a flavour that is obviously saline and highly assertive: the famous anchovy colatura will be ready just in time for Christmas. A traditional ingredient in some parts of southern Italy, it confers an infinitely poetic touch to seafood-based first courses.

See how it's done in the video:

Where does it come from?

The world’s most renowned colatura, as well as being a Slow Food presidia product, is that of Cetara, a village looking out onto the Gulf of Salerno. It would appear that anchovy colatura boasts an extremely noble forerunner: that of garum, no less, the liquid sauce of salted fish and innards the ancient Romans used to add to dishes of various types as a seasoning.

How to cook with colatura

And what about today’s anchovy essence? It really comes into its own in first courses, to which it confers an authentic and sublime aroma of the sea to a simple dish of spaghetti or linguine. It is also extraordinary when used on boiled vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes or escarole. Not to mention all those fish dishes where an extremely refined touch of anchovy is called for.

Where can you buy colatura?

It can be purchased in some food stores specialized in traditional Italian delicacies of sublime quality, such as Eataly. Or by contacting one of the many producers on the market, such as Nettuno, which effects deliveries in Italy and abroad.

You may get in touch with Signor Giulio: tel: +39-089-261147; nettuno.cetara@virgilio.it.

On the Internet, you may also like to consult the website of the Friends of Cetara anchovies (www.amicidellealici.org).

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