Can you go down to the cellar?
When I was little I don’t know how many times I went up those stairs to get nuts, potatoes, bottles of passata or juice, jars and all kinds of goodness.
Instead of being afraid of the silence dressed in black that was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, I went downstairs happy because I loved the cellar enough to challenge the darkness. I wasn’t usually so brave, but the cellar was a real invitation.
Maybe I was weird from an early age. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy playing with friends, but I was doing very well on my own, inventing stories that I turned into games and spending a lot of time in the company of books, even before I learned to read I was already curious.
In my life, there are four cellars that I have loved as much as one loves the favourite room, where we are at ease and that seems to welcome us like a hug.
Four cellars for four stories.
The home cellar.
The most beloved was the one in the house where we moved in in the mid-seventies, before my sister was born.
From the city center, where I was born, my family moved to the first outskirts of Imola, a small town near Bologna,
The new house had a beautiful garden where my grandmother promptly created a small garden, not even that small. There was also a tavern with a large fireplace, a laundry room that smelled of cleanliness, and a neatly stowed wood-smelling basement. And the cellar.
It was always fresh. In the summer it was cool to stay there. In the family we still laugh about the time we found grandma sitting in the coolness of the cellar, on a big, comfortable chair that I don’t even know where it came from.
Besides, it always smelled good. Sometimes I could identify a precise smell, more often it was the sum of the light and perfumed sighs coming from the jars, fruit and potatoes placed in wooden boxes and covered with jute sacks, from the charcuterie hung to season.
And all over the sour smell of the wine. At that time my family still bought the wooden-covered demijohns from the local peasants to pour the wine for everyday table. The wine was transferred into bottles before arriving at the table and I still remember the racking operation.
On the ground, heavy, there were the demijohns, the pouring pipes hanging from the hooks with funnels and on the shelves the empty bottles waiting. Liqueurs and wines with labels, those for special occasions or to open with guests, were on the top to prevent them from breaking.
Succhini (little bottles of juice), jars and so on.
Many different types of jars and bottles were ordered on the shelves.
The highest shelves were like treasure island. I could see boxes and old suitcases that I wanted to open to explore their contents. And even though there was a long wooden ladder, I didn’t dare climb up. I’ve never been a risk taker.
I liked to stick my hands in the big nut sack and hear the sound of the shells. I still like that dry, light sound to this day. I still remember the large cockpit refrigerator for meat and fresh pasta (which I don’t have today and would like very much). And the recommendation: open up and get what you have to take quickly. To say the truth, there was a temperature inside like the North Pole, it could stay open all night without anything thawing.
Within reach of eyes and hands, on the low shelves, a sequence of colours enchanted me. Soft yellow, peaches in syrup. Fire red, tomato puree. Phosphorescent orange, apricot juice. Amaranth color, plum jam. And then there were the jars full of the gardener’s colour, where between a pale artichoke and a white head of cauliflower, the red and yellow of the pepper could peep out.
I think you understood why I wanted to go down to the basement alone, so I had the opportunity to peek, maybe reach down to the vase I shouldn’t have touched, sneak a couple of nuts. In that place I felt safe and someone always had to call me because I was taking too long.
Grandma Lea’ cellar.
A few houses besides mine, there was my friend Claudia’s.
The friend from grade school, inseparable playmates and memorable discussions. Together we were pestiferous and we gave the teacher and the whole class a hard time.
It’s still with great love that I remember her home and the dear people who lived there. It was a second home for me and grandma Lea was almost a grandmother to me.
There was a cellar there too, small and tidy. Above all I remember in large numbers the small bottles of juice. Jams and juices were our merenda that, at usual, was simple and homely. The apricot juice, like the jam, are the absolute best I remember. Of an intense color and slightly sour taste.
I opened and drank from the little bottle of succhino with great taste.
The cellar of Mr. Giulio.
If my beloved green bicycle had any problems, I would immediately call out loud: Giulio Giulio! He would promptly hang the bicycle on a hook, which literally left me amazed, and set to work.
His cellar was different but just as interesting.
I could only stay at the door, Giulio didn’t want me or one of my cousins to come in because it was full of tools: hammers, saws, screws, nails, it could be dangerous.
The wooden workbench was lit by a yellow light that attracted me even if I was a moth. The tools were hung on the walls in perfect order and although it was a basement workshop it was always clean. Giulio wasn’t a man of many words but there wasn’t a single time he sent me away without repairing my bicycle.
Dear Mr. Giulio, how much I loved you.
The cellar of dreams not yet realized.
The last cellar I loved is the one in my husband’s old country house. You enter through a little door from the dining room. It has very high ceilings and inside there is the typical smell of cellars that have had a long and happy life. Old shelves, large demijohns and an old refrigerated pantry built into the wall for preserves and jams.
Among the shelves there is a large door overlooking the garden.
I don’t even have to close my eyes to see my kitchen workshop where I would like to turn memories into jam jars.
If you’ve come this far, you deserve more than a glass of juice.
You should get a bottle!
For me, born and raised in Romagna, a land rich in fruit trees, vegetable gardens and lots of vegetables, the seasons are still marked by certain old habits that I like to keep, to never forget, repeating old family traditions.
Coming to the apricot juice, know that this one reminds me what grandma Lea made, quite thick and sour.
The preparation is really simple and also fast.
Take care of yourself,
Keep In Touch
If you love apricots, maybe you might be interested in my recipe for making apricot tarte tatin with chia seeds and rosemary scent. An upside-down fruit dessert, simple, delicious and even elegant.
Choose ripe, fresh and in season fruit.
I haven’t filtered the juice, you taste it, if you prefer it smoother filter with a colander or add water (after the juice has gone cold).
With the same recipe you can also make pear and peach juice.
To get 1 kg of clean (stone free) apricots, buy 1 kg of fruit.
The juice is stored in the fridge for about a week.
If you want you can vacuum it, I prefer to make it express when I feel like it and consume it.
Perfect for breakfast and snacks. But also for summer brunches and picnic baskets.
To create a delicious drink mix fruit juice and milk: fill the glass with juice up to 3/4, add a little milk (even cold) and serve without mixing.
Homemade Apricot Juice Recipe
for 1 bottle/1 liter of juice
1 kg clean and pitted apricots
juice of 1 lemon
brown sugar, 200 g
natural water, 600 ml
Put everything in a pan, bring to the boil on a medium cooker, then lower the heat and cook the fruit for about 20 minutes.
Turn off, reduce the fruit to puree using an immersion blender.
Let it cool completely before bottling.
If you want a more fluid juice pass the juice through a colander using the leftover purée to make a dessert. Or add in more water.
Store in the fridge.