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Abbamele

His name is Zi’ Pietrino, where “’Zi’” stands for uncle, now retired and sitting here with me on the Gabbiano Azzurro Hotel & Suites terrace, overlooking the sea that today also has a new and varied colour, he lets me taste something I didn't even know existed: the abbamele, or 'abbathu, poured over a very precious sheep's colostrum ricotta, of a delicate flavour, produced with milk obtained in the first days of the lamb's birth ... this is a delight that the Mother Goddess certainly ate at the time of the Nuragic era (see The Mother Goddess Worship). I ask Zi’ Pietrino to tell me about the abbamele, which he produced in his youth and which today, as a competent consumer, he obtains from beekeepers dedicated to the tradition and the genuine goodness of the product. 

And Zi’ Pietrino begins with his fascinating narrative. 

Before the utilization of modern beehives, the swarms of bees were kept inside a cork cylinder, the so-called "bugno rustico", named Su Casiddu, exceptionally still used by traditional amateurs, in which two crossed woods are placed in the middle of the cylinder to support the honey weight when the honeycomb was filled. To be able to collect it you have to extract it with your hands or cut the richest part full of honey with a blade. The extracted honeycomb, placed in a metal or cork container, is taken home where it is cleaned. The honey extraction begins, with a first squeezing with the hands or with the press. With the hand-made honey extraction, the traditional one, you get richer honey in proteins and nutritional values, containing more pollen and therefore more vitamins. The honey is then collected in clay or glass jars. The honeycombs containing residual honey and pollen are dipped in hot water (~ 50 ° C) so that the wax melts, releasing the residual honey still contained in the wax.

The emerging wax is further squeezed and placed in special containers. The remaining liquid is filtered a couple of times with a linen cloth and then boiled with finely cut orange or lemon rinds, or even with quince, eliminating the impurities that rise to the surface during the boiling. You have to keep stirring so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot, in which case a smoky flavour may be developed. Slow cooking increases its consistency also thanks to the peels of citrus fruits and quince. When the liquid reaches compactness similar to honey, the heating is interrupted, and the boiler is deposited in a secluded place and allowed to cool before the abbamele is drained to be placed in glass jars, to be eaten on bread for breakfast or as a snack. 

It is excellent served on fresh ricotta, as I am enjoying it now, on seadas, on yoghurt, ice cream, pudding and fruit salads, and Zi’ Pietrino also uses it replacing the balsamic vinegar to dress salads. In the abbamele we find the health properties of honey and propolis that we know have antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, antioxidant, aesthetic, healing and protective qualities. It is a very useful energy food for athletes, young and old people and convalescent people. 

Zi’ Pietrino also tells that once the peasants often traded the abbamele for lard or cloth or other foods, because the peasant tradition teaches that nothing that nature gives can be thrown away. He proudly adds that the abbathu or abbamele is one of the oldest gastronomic products of the rural culture of Sardinia, now officially registered among the traditional products of the island. 

I observe the deeply marked life face of a man who knows how to tell traditional stories with the pride that a son has when he talks about his mother. I'd like to hug him, but I can't do this because I'd embarrass him. Instead, I take the jar of abbamele in my hand and hold it to my heart only whispering "thank you".

Honey is the epic of love, the materiality of the infinite.

Soul and painful blood of flowers condensed through another spirit.

And the higher soul is of flowers, oh liquor whose souls you have united!

Who savours you ignores he is swallowing a golden essence of lyrism.

(Federico Garcia Lorca - from " El canto de la miel")

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Written by Daniela Toti

Ph. credits Laura Mor

 

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