A recent trip to Ikea for a bottle of elderflower syrup was needed to complete my reminiscence of Hugo. If you’ve traveled in the Trentino- Alto Adige region of Northern Italy you’ve probably met up with him at an aperitivo bar where he can always be found making everyone happy. He is refreshing and light, popular and charming. Hugo is a palate pleasing aperitivo from Italy’s Sudtirol, a cousin of the edgy Venetian Spritz. Both are made with prosecco or white wine, sparkling mineral water (soda) and a flavor variant. In Venice that would a bitter aperitif like Aperol, variations made with Campari or Cynar.
But Hugo (pronounced Ugo in Italian) comes from the Italian Alps that border on Austria and Switzerland where cultures collide in a tri-lingual mix of German, Italian and Ladino, an ancient language spoken by about 30,000 residents. Alpine valleys are sprinkled with elderflower blossoms and made into a syrup used as the main ingredient for a Hugo, the Alpine Spritz.
Add ice cubes to a tall wine or water glass. Mix in 1 part sciroppo di sambuco (Elderflower syrup) with two parts sparkling mineral water and three parts prosecco . Stir gently and serve. Garnish with mint.
You might also want to try a new version of this Italian classic trending the internet this summer.
Elderflower Cordial Cocktail
1 ounce elderberry flower syrup
1 ounce Citadel gin
2 thick lemon slices – one to squeeze and one to garnish
6-8 ounces chilled soda water
Pack a 10 or 12 ounce glass with ice. Pour in the syrup and gin and squeeze one lemon slice over. Stir and top off with chilled soda water. Sip through a straw and godete – enjoy!
It’s almost summer and that means a day at the grill. Italians love to cook over an open flame. Wood-fired pizza, the infamous Tuscan T-bone (bistecca alla fiorentina) and one of Italy’s all-time favorite dishes arrosto di porchetta allo spiedo (spit roasted sucking pig).
This recipe is right up my grill, a regional preparation from the town of Arezzo, located in the middle of four valleys in southeastern Tuscany. The locality and customs of cooking make it an evocative setting for sapori della Toscana, the flavors of Tuscany. The recipe is a grill friendly version of the traditional spit roasted whole suckling pig and uses the holy trinity of medieval spices (cloves, nutmeg, coriander and black pepper). Basting the pork with a bundle of rosemary and red wine as it grills prevents the meat from drying out and if a few needles fall into the fire or onto the coals, it adds a fabulously herbaceous smoke.
Porchetta con Spezie Medievali
(Garlic Studded Pork Loin with Medieval Spices adapted from The Italian Grill cookbook by Micol Negrin)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 ½ t coarsely ground sea salt
¾ t coarsely ground red and black peppercorns
1/8 t ground cloves
1/8 t ground coriander
1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
2 fresh rosemary sprigs (leaves only) + a bundle of fresh rosemary sprigs for basting
3 pound boneless pork loin (with a layer of fat on top)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red wine typical of Tuscany
Using a mini food processor or a mortar and pestle crush garlic with ½ t salt, ¼ t peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, coriander and rosemary leaves until a paste forms. Using a sharp paring knife, strategically make a series of tiny slits into the top portion of the pork loin (6-8 in total). Using your fingers, press a small amount of the spice mixture into the slits. Rub the outside of the loin with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and the remaining spice mixture.
Heat the grill to a medium flame. Grill pork loin until that outside is browned and cooked all the way through to an internal meat temperature of 175 degrees. While grilling baste the meat with the bundle of fresh rosemary dipped in the red wine, anointing the pork every 10-15 minutes. Remove the pork to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes. Slice on the diagonal.