At the end of this month the cherries start to appear at many markets in Northern Italy. the area in and around the town of Marostica is particularly famed for its 'ciliegia'.
The story begins in 1454, when the governor's daughter, Leonora had two suitors for her hand in marriage. The governor Parisio promised his daughter to the winner of a living chess game. This game was played in Marostica city centre, where people took the parts of the chess pieces and the first cherry trees were planted that year in commemoration of the event. The chess game is re-enacted every other year in September.
The cherry obviously took a liking to the potassium rich Marostica soil as the area became well known for many of its own varieties, including the Sandra of Marostica- named after the Roman farmer that first produced it, Durona, Milanese, Morettina, Red Durone, and Biggareau. There are over 15 varieties and 100 producers in total in the region. The Marostica cherries were also the first in Italy to have been awarded their own IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) status.
Coming from just a little further south is the Amarena, grown in Bologna and Modena. This sour, wild black cherry was developed at the turn of the 20th century by Gennaro Fabbri . His wife, Rachele, had a store in Portomaggiore, near to a wild cherry orchard. After picking the cherries she would cook them in copper pots with sugar. To thank her for this delicious creation, Gennaro bought her a ceramic jar as a gift. The white and blue ceramic jar became the first of many that were then used to store the cherries in syrup when Fabbri and Rachele started their family company. The business is still family owned and is highly regarded in Italy.
We enjoy hiding a couple of Amarena cherries on our platters and had so many enquiries about them that we now stock the beautiful ceramic jars filled with them at the deli. They make such a beautiful gift, just as Fabbri intended!
Amarena are served typically in Italy with ice cream but there are many ways to enjoy them. Here are a couple of our favourite:
- They are absolutely delicious served with our creamy gorgonzola on top of toasted bread bruschetta. Add a drizzle of balsamic glaze too if you like.
- A single cherry and some syrup on top of panna cotta or a spoonful side by side!
Find lots more recipes here, some are quite surprising!
Our Recipe for Vegan Amarena Brownie cake
240g 70% cocoa chocolate, we used Grezzo Leone
90ml olive oil
400ml cherry syrup from jar and water mix (adjust according to to taste, 50/50 works for us)
180g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
Cherries to decorate
Heat oven to 160 degrees and line a 20cm square baking tin
Melt the chocolate in bowl above simmering water then mix in and warm through the oil.
Mix and warm through the water and syrup mix in a pan until it is blended then pour into the chocolate mix and whisk until combined
Whisk in the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
Pour and smooth the brownie batter into the tin
Cook for around 30 minutes, ensuring it stays moist in the middle.
Allow to cool then top with more of the syrup from the jar and decorate with the Amarena
Raffaele and I enjoyed making these! For a more polished (non-vegan) version we have some Amarena topped brownie boxes in the shop this weekend, as well as the cherry pots if you want to try out some recipes of your own.