Products of the Slow Food Association
Have you heard of the Slow Food Products? The aim behind this organization is to preside over and safeguard the small produce that characterizes the gastronomical patrimony of the country for excellence and for variety. Often this produce is threatened by industrial agricultural policies and also by the homologization of the cultures, as well as by environmental degradation.
In the territory around Treviso, currently there are three products that are recognized and protected by Slow Food: the Biancoperla Maize, the Mondragon Goose and the del Grappa Morlacco Cheese.
The Biancoperla is a variety of Maize that pollinates freely (and which therefore is self-fertilizing and not hybrid). It presents a glassy-looking seed of large dimensions, and of a white opalescent colour. Its agricultural yield is markedly inferior to that of the hybrid varities but this amply compensated for by the high quality of the flour that is obtained. This flour is rich in potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and silicic acid and has diuretic, calming and anti-anaemic properties. The absence of gluten makes this variety a valid alternative for those who suffer from coeliac disease.
This maize constituted a daily source of nutrition for the poor in and around the countryside of Treviso. In the old days, white polenta was presented without accompaniment, a dish to stave off hunger, served with just a bowl of milk or a glass of wine. Nowadays it has returned to occupy a prime position on the menus in restaurants which offer more elaborate but still basically traditional dishes – with freshwater fish, with meat cooked on the spit or as an accompaniment to poultry or game dishes.
The "Mondragon" Goose derives from a cross between two breeds: the grey Goose from Veneto and the pale Romagnola Goose (from Emilia Romagna).
The recipe originates from the traditional way in which the women organized the pantry during the winter months: when free from working in the fields, with more time on their hands and the geese fattened up nicely, they prepared the 'Oca in Onto' with the meat chopped into pieces, simmering it for a time with aromatic herbs and juniper berries, and conserving it in its own fat in jars and demijohns. In the summertime, when the threshing and haymaking required a lot of strength and consequently substantial meals, the women were called to help out in the fields or were busy with the silkworms and did not have the time to kill, clean and cook the poultry; so they brought out the demijohns containing the precious food stored away in the winter and a substantial meal was ready in an instant.
This cheese is produced exclusively in the Grappa area during the summer months and takes its extraordinary wealth of aromas from the various alpine pastures used for grazing that ensure a rich and varied flora for the milk.
The cheese probably dates back to the fourteenth century when some shepherds from Morlacchia, an ancient Baltic region, settled on the mountain. Definite information on its production goes back to the mid-nineteenth century when in some documents references can be found to the cheese of the 'poareti' (the poor), produced with raw skimmed milk, adding only salt. It is a soft, white cheese though not runny, in fact it can be cut cleanly and though slightly salty, is particularly delicate to the palate. Its intense aroma is accentuated as it matures. There are about twenty producers of Morlacco in the summer alpine pastures, each of whom are able to provide no more than three hundred rounds a year. To fully appreciate the Morlacco in its original environment, uniting splendid panoramas and open-air activity with gastronomical delights, the route of the Alta Via TV1 is recommended, an itinerary which winds through the Prealps of Treviso, revealing history and dairy-farming traditions.