Umbria welcomes in the Feast of St. Martin, November 11th, with the saying “San Martino, San Martino, castagne e vino” (“St. Martin, St. Martin, chestnuts and wine”). As the days turn cooler, the smoke of the wood-buring stoves snakes out of farmhouse chimneys. Ours too. On the evening of November 11th, farm families gather in the farm kitchen around the wood-burning stoves to roast chestnuts on the cast-iron stove top.
Before putting the chestnuts on the stovetop, the farmwomen wash them and then slit the peels in downward strokes so that the stove heat will penetrate each chestnut. As they roast, the chestnuts swell and blacken a bit. Now and then, one will burst with a “pop”. At just the right moment, with what I call “asbestos hands”, the women scoop the scorching chestnuts right off the stove top and drop them into a towel all laid out on the table. They roll them in the towel and crush them with force as they roll. In the meantime, the father in the family has brought up the new wine, vino novello, from the wine cellar and pours a glassful for each. The rich flavor of roasted chestnuts marries well with the frizzante spark of the new wine. Squisito!
For more on our farm friend Peppa, other farm friends and their lore, click here.