Grandma ‘Nitta’s favorite event, and she delightfully attended them all!!! To the sound of nursery rhymes and joyful humming, the seasons would pass. ‘Nitta sang a song for every occasion and before she knew it, November 11th arrived. The day of the San Martino Chestnuts and Wine festival! She was excited to taste new wine and roasted chestnuts but the real delight was the chestnut harvest! The whole family went with the grandmothers and grandmother Angela lead the way. We went up to Etna in search of chestnuts and then competed to see who collected the most. We could not return without “puma cola” and oregano too!
I was too young to taste the wine, but I proudly learned to “munnari” (cut & peel) the chestnuts.
Today as a wife and mother, I am interested in the home-made production of wine. I taste the new grape wine that my children crush with their feet and my father-in-law bottles. It is delicious with chestnuts from the festival! But why San Martino’s summer and why celebrate in this way?
It is meaningful to the cycles of agriculture. In November, once the grapes and olives are harvested, agricultural activity naturally decreases for some time. Until a few centuries ago this period corresponded with the “relocation” of the sharecroppers. For the whole summer they had lived in the countryside, under contract with the farm owner and this was the time for some “vacation” waiting for a contract renewal or a new assignment at another farm. Before leaving, they received a sort of “severance pay” full of seasonal products: wine and chestnuts. Of course, good wine was not yet made and for this reason it was necessary to find a way to have a wine suitable for immediate consumption, ready in a few weeks.
It is said that Martino had a vision that became the most narrated experience of his life. He was at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers when he met a half-naked beggar. On impulse he cut his cloak in two and shared it with the beggar. Happy to have done the charity, he spurred the horse and rode away in the rain, which began to fall harder than ever. But after a few steps, the wind calmed down, the sky became clear and the air mild, forcing the knight to take off his half cloak. Here is the summer of San Martino, which is still celebrated every year to this day. During the night Martino dreamed of Jesus thanking him and returning half of the cloak to him, meaning that the beggar he met was himself. When Martino awoke his cloak was intact.
There is also a decidedly more folkloristic aspect, in which Saint Martin is said to be the protector of betrayed husbands, and refers to his infidelity. Legend has it that Saint Martin’s sister escaped the gaze of her husband and religious brother and committed adultery. But there is also a more mythological explanation: Mars, the god of war, became the lover of Venus, the goddess of beauty. The two lovers were surprised by Vulcan, God of fire and husband of Venus. Furious with rage, Vulcan locked the two lovers in an iron net to show all the Gods the wrong they had suffered and to humiliate them. He then freed the two lovers, thanks only to Neptune’s intercession.
In Italy, habits change from North to South: there are those who leave the chestnuts soaking in water and wine before cooking, those who serve them directly drowned in a glass of new wine once roasted, and those who cook them in wine. We roast chestnuts from Etna! The bond between chestnuts and wine is indissoluble. At least once in a lifetime, you have to experience the special taste of roasted chestnuts enriched by the scent of red wine!
ROASTED CHESTNUTS RECIPE
500 g of chestnuts
half a bottle of Novello wine
Score the peel of the chestnuts by making a small cut on the surface. Then put them in the classic pan for roasted chestnuts, with holes in the base, and cook them on the fire, moving them continuously to avoid burning them. It is ideal to cook chestnuts on coals, but if this is not possible, the home stove is fine. Alternatively, once engraved, you can bake them in the oven at 180 ° C for about half an hour. Prepare a clean cloth and wet it with the new wine and, when the chestnuts are cooked, pour them inside the cloth. Wrap them completely and let them rest in a warm place for about half an hour. You can leave everything in the oven on at 70-80 ° C. After this time, open the cloth and immediately serve the chestnuts.