(cont’d from here..)
Umbria welcomes in the Feast of St. Martin with the saying “San Martino, San Martino, castagne e vino” (”St. Martin, St. Martin, chestnuts and wine”). On the eve of la festa di San Martino, farm families gather around wood-burning stove in the kitchen to roast chestnuts on the cast-iron stove top. Carrrying a couple of clean bottles, the father in the family heads down to the wine cellar to draw the vino novello, (new wine) from the huge wooden casks. “A San Martino spilla la botte e assaggia il vino“, goes the saying. “For San Martino, put the spigot in the cask and taste the wine.”
Any visit to farm friends these days means a stop in their cantina for a taste of the vino novello. On the eve of San Martino, we always join farm friend Peppa for castagne e vino (novello). Before putting the chestnuts on the stovetop, Peppa washes them and slits the peels in brisk downward strokes so that the stove heat penetrates each chestnut. As they roast, the chestnuts swell and blacken. Now and then, one will burst with a “pop” At just the right moment, with what I call “asbestos hands”, Peppa scoops the scorching chestnuts right off the stove top and drops them into a towel laid out on the table. She rolls them in the towel, crushing them with force. Then she proudly pours out a glass of her new wine, waiting for our opinion on its quality. Her new wine was superb this year. And how well the frizzante spark of the novello marries with the rich, full taste of the roasted chestnuts. As always, Peppa put a handful of the roasted chestnuts right into her glass. “Squisito!”, she exclaimed.
These days, the San Martino celebration of vino novello and roasted chestnuts is enjoyed in town piazzas as well as in farmhouses. At mid-November culinary festivals, there’ll usually be a food stand offering chestnut flour, chestnut spreads, chestnut honey and roasted chestnuts with the novello. If you’re lucky, chestnut-stuffed ravioli and roast goose encrusted with chestnuts might accompany the vino novello, with chocolate-dipped chestnuts for dessert. Nowadays, San Martino, San Martino is feted with more than just castagne e vino!