This area is full of traditions, but the one that caught my attention the most was the making of chestnut flour. The chestnut flour in this area is so local that has obtained the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). All products that are DOP must be produced and packaged in their specific country of origin and nowhere else. It is not surprising that Italy is the European country with the most DOP products.
This flour is obtained from a traditional old process of drying and grinding the chestnuts. First, the fruits are stored in a metato, which is a small stone or brick building for drying the chestnuts, where is lit a fire made with chestnut wood in the lower part.
It was great that our group of Players was allowed to have a peek inside of the metato building, when the chestnuts where still inside, so we could be part of the whole process that I am going to detail below.
The chestnuts will remain here for 25-30 days and once that time has passed, it is time to remove them, as they are already dry enough to be turned into flour.
They are removed through a tube and put into a machine called battitore, through which the skin is removed. This machine separates the skin on one side and removes the skinless chestnuts through a hole. In old times, this process was carried out through a ballatura, an operation that consisted of stepping on the partially peeled chestnuts in order to remove the skin completely. It was a kind of party and people danced over them accompanied by popular songs.
Once all the chestnuts are peeled, they are taken to a local mill like the Mulino di Vico, one of the few mills in the area that is still in operation. This mill in particular dates from the late 15th century and works in part thanks to the Acquetta River, which comes from the mountain and gives the energy to grind the chestnuts.
Once in the mill, the process begins in order to turn these chestnuts into flour. This flour has a nutty, sweet and smoky flavor that is unique and to get the DOP they have to follow a series of rules, including:
- be gluten free
- flour needs to have a specific granulometry because if it is too thin or too thick it is not recognized as adequate for the DOP
- needs to have a maximum humidity of 7%