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    Corti Brothers Newsletter for March 2004  Page 1  

To Our Customers:                                                                                                  Page 1 >>       4

This is our first newsletter of 2004. We are offering some very delicious products, outstanding items not often available. However, it is becoming more and more difficult to find really interesting products. What is obvious is that there is a great deal of pressure on the marketplace to offer products that are standardized, lacking in personality. There is what I call a “fortress mentality” prevalent now in this country. This mentality has begun to change how we perceive things and the facility with which we can offer products. I hope we can continue to offer those high quality products which we think the best of their type. Darrell Corti


Although it might not seem like it, spring is just around the corner and then summer comes. Here in Sacramento at least, it is necessary to begin to think about wines for these two seasons. Well made rose wines are the most interesting I can think of since, if well made, they are dry, scented, flavory and can be served cool or lightly chilled. A proposition for the upcoming seasons is: LAGEDER LAGREIN ROSATO 2002, now perfect drinking.

Lagrein is the name of the grape variety which is grown in the German speaking region of Italy, the Alto Adige. Once part of Austria, the Alto Adige is a remarkable area for its scenic beauty, its wines, and its cuisine, perhaps the best in Italy today. The Lageder estate is one of the most famous in the Alto Adige for wine quality, and Lagrein, the variety, is very interesting. Currently there is renewed interest in it on the part of California producers, although it had been tried in California as far back as 1893.

Synonymous with the Alto Adige (a bit is grown in the Trentino) Lagrein stays at home for the most part. When made as a red wine, it is called “dunkel,” if the label is in German or “kretzer” when vinified as a rose. Historically, it has been famous in the province of Bolzano since the 13th century when it was first produced at the Benedictine abbey of Gries.

Just recently the hypothesis that its name comes from Lagara, a Greek colony on the Ionian coast famous for its wine called Lagaritanos, has been proven by genetic comparisons with Greek and Albanian varieties. Lagrein has been famous in Italy only since the 1920s, but was known in Germany since 1878.

Lagrein produces a deep red colored wine with an excellent fruity, red berry character and a sapid flavor and body. The LAGEDER LAGREIN ROSATO 2002 has a beautiful medium intense pink color, a fruity, fresh berry aroma, and a snappy flavor that is quite enticing, especially with pasta dishes that are not too tomato-y, simply grilled meat or rich fish, and cold cuts. This is truely a wine that makes one glad for some warm weather. A word to the wise would be to get some now while it is still available.



Now what does he want us to buy? Dried fish! Well, yes! And why not? Especially when it’s very good, ecologically sound, and natural. Stockfish, stoccafisso, is nothing more than naturally air dried cod fish from the Lofoten Islands off Norway’s west coast, fished at the end of February to mid April, when the fish descend from the Barents Sea to lay their eggs off the Lofoten coast. Headed, gutted, and left to dry in the cold Norwegian air until June, the fish are then taken down from their drying racks and selected for sale. In drying, they are hung on pyramidal shaped trellises, two fish of the same size tied by their tails, not touching, with their eviscerated side open to the air.

Since fresh cod, Gadus morhua, is about 80% water, water is the only thing removed in making stockfish. Because it is rich in protein, important vitamins, iron, and calcium, one can appreciate why this form of food preservation was so important for the Vikings. I would venture to say that it possibly is the most natural of any fish preservation technique known.

A bit of confusion reigns even with very well informed food writers about stockfish and salt cod. Salt cod is the same fish, split and heavily salted. It also must be re-hydrated prior to using and has a completely different consistency. Neither stockfish nor salt cod can take the place of the other in a recipe. I am amazed at authors who still persist in this error. Salt cod (baccalà, bacalao, bacalhau, morue salé) are all the same fish, but not stockfish or stoccafisso. The only similarity in name is in Venetian dialect, where “bacalà” with one c, means stockfish as in the very famous dish “bacalà alla Vicentina” which is made with milk, grated cheese and stockfish, not salt cod!

Corti Brothers has again imported “Ragno” quality stockfish. We sell it as a whole fish, which weighs about 1.4 pounds. There are two styles: beaten and whole. The beaten stoccafisso is the way the Venetians like it. It is put through rollers which flattens the fish and breaks up the fibers allowing the now flat fish to readily absorb water. The whole fish is more to the Genovese taste and takes just a bit more time to re-hydrate. You must gently bend the softening fish every day, but the pieces of flesh remain like that of the fresh fish.

Both forms must be soaked for a minimum of 5 days, and the soaking water must be changed at least twice a day. (In Genova, where stockfish is integral to the food culture, there are stores which specialize in stoccafisso, where large marble basins with constantly running water are used to re-hydrate the fish, and where one can buy the quantity one likes.)

Ragno quality stockfish is branded with the word “ragno” on its skin. It is considered the best quality selected by the “vrakeren,” the Lofoten specialist selector, who classifies up to 20 classes of stockfish according to visual, length, size, and weight specifications. Ragno must be the leanest type, without defects and longer than 60 cm. Other classifications are: westre magro, westre demi magro, bremese, olandese, westre piccolo, for the first selection.

Stockfish re-hydrates to about three times its dry weight and one should calculate 100 grams of dry fish or 200 grams of soaked fish per person in a recipe. It first arrived in Italy in the 1500s and became firmly anchored in Ligurian and Venetian cuisine. Most authentic Italian cookbooks will give stockfish recipes. Upon request, Corti Brothers will gladly send instructions with our “Ragno” stockfish and several recipes for the preparation of stockfish. STOCKFISH deserves to be better known. Since raw material of such quality is not often found, here is your chance to try this classic dish. Who knows, you might get hooked on it!


Salt Cod “Baccalà, bacalao, bacalhau” NORWEGIAN SUPERIOR(with skin/bones)

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