The seasons in cuisine
Gastronomic traditions are as important as ever in the Mugello and are associated with the seasons and festivities; at Carnival time cenci (deep-fried pastry strips, sprinkled with icing-sugar) and Migliaccio (millet cakes) are to be found all over the territory, while in the period of Candelora panini di ramerino (sweet rolls flavoured with rosemary) are eaten.
In Spring, now that the hens are laying, the feast of St Joseph(19th March) is celebrated with sugar-covered rice fritters and at Easter and for the Feast of the Ascension, lamb with fried artichokes and ravioli stuffed with fresh sheep's cheese, flavoured with fresh wild herbs(thyme, clover and nipitella) are served.
At the end of Spring there are numerous gastronomic fairs all over the valley which have the most classic of all home-cooking as their main dish - Il tortello di patate (small pockets of pasta stuffed with potato).
Duck and goose made their appearance on the table, victims of the corn harvest when the fields were laid bare, at the Summer fairs; nowadays it is still possible to try boiled duck, or other tasty dishes made with chicken, capon and rabbit at some restaurants.
The Diotto (September 8th), complete with a parade in historical costume, evokes the arrival of the new Vicario (vicar) at the end of the summer in Scarperia. At this occasion the knife-makers of the town serve the humble dish 'pappa con l'aglio' , made from Tuscan bread boiled in water with garlic and flavoured with pure olive oil, along the streets.
Now is the season for huge feasts where roast ribs of pork are eaten together with dishes flavoured with mushrooms and truffles, perhaps not as well-known as those of other places, but gourmets appreciate their exceptional flavour.
During the cold season hot dishes especially thin soups are eaten. The “ribollita” (a special vegetable soup) is very well known but the recipe of this tasty Zuppa rustica (country soup).
At Christmas, both in the homes and in the restaurants the women and the cooks are busy preparing fancy meals of finely-rolled out dough for the 'cappelletti' (stuffed pasta), pickled onions and mushrooms, toasted bread with chicken liver and milt, capons, roast pork with potatoes, mixed grills on the spit, crunchy almond biscuits served with sweet wine and to finish a glass of 'Gemma d'Abeto' a liqueur made with pine resin by the monks of Monte Senario (in Vaglia, between Mugello and Florence) from a recipe left by Father Martini, who was born in Sant'Agata del Mugello.
The cuisine of the Mugello can be defined as consisting of simple flavours, simple dishes made from humble but genuine ingredients: fresh vegetables, only a few spices of which pepper and nutmeg are the most commonly used, with the occasional addition of chilli, here known as 'zenzero'. Chestnuts, corn meal, game, peaches and pears also play an important part.