Today we are in Corsica, or the Ile de Beaute to the French, Kalliste (beautiful) to the Greeks. Sitting in azure, translucent, unpolluted waters, it is situated 125 kilometres south of the Gulf of Genoa, 82 kilometres west of the Italian coast, 12 km from Sardinia and some 450 kilometres east of Spain. Its strategic position in the Mediterranean means that it has been constantly invaded,fought over and occupied by different nations from the Greeksand Romans to modern Italians and the French. An important aspect of agriculture is the fact that Corsica is the only island in the Mediterranean with a high rainfall but abundant sunshine, which makes agriculture so successful despite the fact that over one third of the country is given over to a national park, the Parc Naturel Regional de la Corse, in which farming is not permitted.
Traditional dishes are prepared for feast days, varying from one village to another. The recipes are not written but passed from one generation to the next. They are usually learnt as the children help their mothers or aunts in the kitchen. Until the middle of the twentieth century, cookery in the villages was based on local produce. People ate what they grew and reared in their gardens and smallholdings. Food was preserved for the winter by drying, salting, pickling and smoking. Half the house was given over to food storage: dried fruits, chestnuts, pulses and cereals in the attic and hams, sausages, oil, cheese, wine, honey and jam in the cellar.Most meals were cooked on an open fire but some dishes were baked in the communal bread oven in the village, bread being baked once a week. On fête days, no cooking was undertaken, everything having been made ready beforehand. Meals were prepared according to what was in season and generally followed a weekly pattern. Although there was nothing overly elaborate, pride was taken in the quality and freshness of ingredients and the ingenuity shown in the use of the abundant herbs that grow wild all over the island. Nothing ever went to waste; a glut of tomatoes in the summer would be left to ferment in wooden barrels for a few days to drain the fruit of acid so the resulting purée could be salted and spread on wooden boards to dry in the sunshine until darker in colour. It was then stored in earthenware jars with a protective layer of olive oil, so it could be used through the winter.
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, most islanders, apart from the very rich, ate fresh meat only on special occasions, for example, at Christmas. Milk-fed lamb was also highly rated and was usually eaten at Easter. The country is the second largest producer of clementines in Europe. Indeed, citrus fruits grow abundantly on the island – oranges, lemons, mandarins and cedrats. Corsica is one of the few places in the world where this fruit is still found. Cedrats (Citrus medica) are citrons, which look like huge, uneven, rough lemons. This was the first citrus fruit to reach the Mediterranean from Asia. The Corsican variety is especially sweet. Candied citron, also known as cedrat, was a popular ingredient in sweet dishes during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was combined in Carter’s tart with either orangado (candied orange peel) or alternatively, candied lemon peel.
- 2 Lemons
- 600g sugar
- 500ml water
- 100g of sugar for garnishing the finished Cedrat
Wash and dry the lemons, then cut them into chunks.Place the lemon pieces in a large pan, we use our jam pan. Cover with a enough water to prevent the water evaporating totally when boiled. Blanch the lemon pieces in just simmering water for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re translucent. Drain the lemons, then put the sugar and water in the pan with the lemon pieces. Attach a thermometer to the side of the pot and cook the lemon until the temperature reaches 110ºC Allow to cool, place in a bowl and sprinkle with the additional sugar.