Fragolaceto is a discovery I made this spring when my friend Kate came to visit from Italy. Asked what she could bring apart from her lovely company, I responded "anything local, any specialities we can't get over here". And so it was. A massive wedge of parmesan (true, we do get that here, but nothing this good!), the tiniest bottle of super-concentrated balsamico to drizzle over the aforementioned and a jar of Fragolaceto. As the name suggests, this is a very concentrated strawberry (ital. "fragola") jam seasoned with the best balsamico (hence the "aceto") you can find, this is the perfect thing to accompany hard cheeses. Think parmesan, think "oude gouda" or cave-aged gruyère, fragolaceto will be a welcome addition to your cheese board.
Now, I have a faible for preserves of all kinds and can't resist those tiny jars with mustards, jams, veggie purees, herbs, chilli pastes, chutneys etc. But what happens is that you open them, eat a tiny bit and then put them back in the fridge, sometimes never to be seen again. So there's a whole graveyard of once-tried-and-never-found-another-opportunity-to-use-it glasses in my refrigerator. But this one did not join the ranks of the forgotten. We took it out ever night until we had mopped up the last drops, to eat with cheese, to pour over vanilla icecream or to just steal a sneaky spoonful while preparing dinner.
When Andrew of Spittoon recently announced the first Euro-edition of "Blogging by Mail", I didn't really read the brief properly and immediately decided putting together an Italian CARE packet for Pille of Nami-Nami. No matter that this was nothing local at all, I felt it could still count, with some weak percentage of my blood being Italian. I only realised afterwards that I was supposed to bake something, so I included my dearly loved almond & pink peppercorn cantucci. And I wanted to put in some of my rocket, cashew & chilli pesto - just so happens that I took it out of the fridge, placed everything in the box, then realised I had no wrapping paper. And after an afternoon's shopping, I returned to my parcel, found the pesto jar to be leaking and when I was cleaning everything up, the pesto exploded on me. Garlicky, green paste everywhere... I was close to tears. Combing the pesto out of my hair, I reflected on the lesson just learnt. Always make your pesto fresh.
I am just glad it exploded in my own home, not somewhere en route to Scotland, where it would most likely have triggered a major security alert and caused thousands of rail passengers unnecessary grief... (Recipe to follow soon - for the pesto, that is, not a manual of how to delay innocent commuters)
(makes ca. 4 x 200 g jars)
800 g strawberries (washed and hulled)
70 g jam sugar
130 g caster sugar
75 ml pectin
100 ml aceto balsamico di Modena
Quarter the strawberries and put them in a heavy-based non-stick pot. Add the sugar and bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the pectin. Simmer slowly for about an hour, until most of the liquid has evaporated, adding the basamic vinegar in the last 20 minutes.
Transfer into just-sterilised jars (I always do this while the jars are still hot), closing the lids tightly.