Colatura 790 xxx
photo by george billard

2.18.10 Something Fishy

Have you discovered colatura di alici, an amber elixir of anchovy made around Italy's Amalfi coast for the last 2,000 years? Slow Food International has officially declared it a "protected" ingredient. (I ordered my first bottle online here.) When anchovies are salted for curing, they’re layered in wooden barrels, then pressed and weighted down. From small holes in the barrels drips this salty, funky syrup—thus the word colatura, from colare, “to drip” in Italian. Somehow, although more concentrated, it’s a bit less overtly fishy than anchovies. And it’s not quite as rank or muddy (or old gym sock-y) as Asian fish sauce—an essential pantry item, by the way. It's the modern version of garum, a fermented fish liquid (sometimes made from just their blood and guts) that was a sort of salt substitute in ancient Rome. The process was so smelly that production was apparently limited to outside the city walls!
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