Colatura di Alici

Colatura di Alici – Noble descendant of the Latin Garum*

Hist. In the second half of the 13th C the Cistercian Monks of St. Peter’s in Amalfi produced it by a simple method. The monks had a small fleet of boats in which they transported wheat and used for fishing anchovies in summer.

They had a room for processing anchovies, where they were salted and stored the anchovies in old barrels with broken staves, unfit for the production of convent wine. At the beginning of December, the anchovies were mellow and the resulting liquids flowed through the staves onto the floor, creating a superb smell, quite different from that produced by the anchovies before their maturation.

The inviting flavour, its limpidity and its amber colour led the monks to use the liquid to season boiled vegetables, previously only seasoned with garlic, chilli, olives, capers and oil – Colatura di Alici was born.

Later, colatura was used to flavour a spaghetti dish, typical of the region’s Christmas menu. Today, it is produced exclusively in Cetara and has attained cult status.

*Garum: In the Roman era they made their own DOC versions. Baelo Claudia in Spain was the largest Garum producer with enormous tanks for the fermentation.

Most coastal towns had their own recipe but the most prestigious was considered the garum sociorum which was made in Carthage, or that of the Spanish coastlines.

Garum was the liquid obtained from the maceration of the intestines of mackerel or anchovies – with salt and herbs – in a dish out in the sun. When the auto-fermentation was complete, the juice was filtered and used as a dressing. The thicker part was used as a condiment by poorer families.