If someone thought that garum (ancient Roman fish sauce) completely disappeared is wrong.
First of all what is garum?
The ancient Romans put this fish sauce on almost every dish, producing it in big quantities all over different areas of their empire. One which was very requested was coming from modern-day Portugal. Although very loved by the Romans, the origins of garum have to be searched in the ancient Greek culture.
How was Garum produced?
The sauce was generally made through the crushing and fermentation in brine of the innards of various fish such as tuna, eel, and the like. Even though the Roman empire collapsed, production of a garum-like sauce has survived. This sauce, called Colatura di Alici (loosely translated to ‘anchovy droplets’), is produced in a small village along the Amalfi drive in the Campania region in Italy. For me, this is the best you can buy, and the taste is something you have never experienced before.
How is Garum produced now?
The anchovies fished in the local sea are left for the first 24 hours in water and salt. Then they are transferred into small casks of chestnut or oak , alternating with layers of salt, and kept under pressure. The fluid generated is then stored in large glass containers and are exposed to direct sunlight which, causing evaporation, makes the fluid more concentrated. After about four or five months the liquid is filtered and ready for sale, usually in December. The final product is an amber colored transparent liquid.
How did Garum arrive to us today?
The recipe survived the medieval times thanks to the monastic groups on the coast. In the monasteries, the month of August was spent salting anchovies and storing them in wooden barrels with staves cut and placed between two beams. Under the action of salt, the anchovies produced liquids that spilled between the cracks of the barrels. The procedure with the time became popular between the inhabitants of the coast.
What is special about Colatura di Alici ?
It is the strength and harmony in the taste that make it something unique. The best way to taste it is with pasta like spaghetti. Just prepare a simple oil and garlic sauce adding some cherry tomatoes if you like. Besides spaghetti, Colatura di Alici is incredibly good on almost everything. Someone I know likes it on the pizza margherita.
A few things that are important about Colatura di Alici:
First: Use the sauce always at the end of the cooking. Cooking with it takes the taste away.
Second: There is lot of salt in the sauce, so cook your spaghetti without salting the water. (This is just a suggestion.)
Third: Tell your friends the story on how the colatura is made after they finished their meal
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