These anchovies, a slow food presidium, are still fished with an ancient technique narrated by Homer in one of the most famous places of the Odyssey: the territory of the Catania coast, in Sicily.
In this land, according to the legend, the Cyclops used to live. Ulysses, during his return trip from the Trojan War, landed in this place and, driven by curiosity, reached the cave of the most terrible of the Cyclops and there was captured. Then we all know the cunning plan that Ulysses devised to escape...
But returning to our delicious anchovies, we want to tell you something more about these anchovies and their millenary technique. They are also called Masculine da Magghia. They were fished in the Ancient Gulf of Catania, were the port of the Ancient Katané stood, nowadays Ognina Gulf, now partly disappeared due to the destructive work of an important eruption of the Etna Volcano, which covered part of the gulf with lava, forever changing its original conformation.
The fisherman used about 300 meters nets with a 1 cm side mesh. This type of fishing is highly selective and does not impact other species. Only the anchovies of the right size remain trapped here, the head of the fish gets stuck in the mesh of the nets and they start wriggling to try to free themselves, in this way a natural bleeding is caused which makes the anchovy more tasty and precious.
In Sicily there are about thirty families who live with this highly artisanal profession. Let’s think about how long it takes to remove the entangled anchovies from the meshes one by one! Once gutted and deprived of the head, the anchovies are placed in alternating layers of Trapani Sea salt, another slow food presidium, and then placed in wooden or ceramic containers of different sizes; even these operations can only be carried out with skilled and expert hands.
After 40-60 days the anchovies are packed in glass or ceramic jars.
DID YOU KNOW THAT…?
In recent years, the European trend in high quality restaurants, particularly in Milan, are the anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea, Spain. It must be recognized that the Spaniards managed way better the marketing aspect!
Only few people know that the technique of fishing and production of these anchovies dates back only to the mid-1800s, when Sicilian immigrants from Catania went to Spain and taught the techniques of fishing and processing!
Masculine VS Cantabrian Challenge? The Masculine win, the distance of 2800 years of history is unbridgeable!!!
Amazing story of artisanal fishing and Italian excellence