Fig is a simple, delicious, ancient fruit, connected to cultural and gastronomic moments. It has its roots in tradition, and is a must have on feast tables, after a meal, or for accompanying important cheeses. It is proposed either simple or stuffed with almonds.
Specifically, dry fig, a typically peasant food, related, in some cases, to moments when real alimentary subsistence was in question, has represented for thousands of years, in the ancient Bruzium, the present Calabria, a key component of nutrition. It is a natural food, as poor as genuine. In addition, as it is preserved by drying, during the winter months it can guarantee a reserve of calories, and its processing in time has acquired the dimension of confectionery refinement, for valuable specialities, both in its simplicity, as in the case of ‘classic’ dried fig, maybe stuffed with almonds and walnuts, and in its more elaborate versions: covered with chocolate or special icings, or processed in the many ways suggested by the imagination of more and more specialized companies.
One of these companies works at Belmonte Calabro, in the province of Cosenza, where the figs produced by ‘Premiata Ditta Nicola Colavolpe’ are those that, since the beginning of Twentieth Century, tell a family story and a land, thanks to its founder’s boldness and intuition of ennobling their taste, enhancing their quality, and preparing them according to an ancient recipe, that remains still now a home secret and a legend.
This story tells about craftsmanship, creativity, and Mediterranean flavours that the company, now in its third generation, has skilfully summarized «in a wide range of products characterized by an unique and unmistakable flavour, whose strength and quality are the results of an exclusive handwork», tells Giulia Colavolpe, entrepreneur, founder Nicola’s granddaughter. She is a champion of local specialties, which she proposes both in Italy and abroad, «because our high quality raw materials, authentic recipes, rich in flavour, able processing of this delicious fruit, allow creating specialties which are envied all over the world».
For all tastes
Above all, Colavolpe proposes ‘crocette’, flagship product of the company. It is a typical sweet prepared with dried figs stuffed with almonds and candied orange peels, arranged in a cross and baked, which seem a four-leaved clover characterized by pulpy, amber-coloured, and bright sweetness. Its scent is complex and ancient; it reminds old and sweet things of the past: caramelized syrup, candied fruit, sweet roasted aromas, and hints of spices (laurel, cinnamon). Its flavour is characterized by candied and spiced hints, especially citrus and liquorice, to which memories of carob and the aromatic note of almond add, that enriches and enhances its flavour and taste sensations.
Today, other more refined products accompany ‘crocette’ according to taste’s changes and market’s needs. The raw material is still fig, in its ‘dottato’ variety (Bifera Dottato), boasting a DOP market, that for its organoleptic qualities is considered the best in the world, cultivated and harvested for centuries by expert farmers who select and process it with care. This typical culture, the most valuable among the 700 varieties of figs grown in the world, grows exclusively in a particular land of Calabria, the ‘Valle del Crati’, between m 100 and 400 height. These white figs of Cosenza (ficus sativa) are dried on trellises in August, selected in their best lots and immediately processed to undergo further transformations. The processing procedure is entirely done by hand: the fruit is opened and stuffed, stowed in boxes, pressed so that its two open sides fit together perfectly, including between them some noble Southern tastes: almonds and walnuts, orange or citron peels, so offering an indissoluble compendium of aromas and taste. After being stuffed, the fig is baked at 200 degrees for guaranteeing an absolute sterilization of the product. Cooking is followed by icing or covering with exquisite selected chocolates, then the product is packed.
The result consists in delicacies prepared with figs which combine the sweet flavour of this fruit with the taste of dried fruits, citrus, chocolate, with such original names as ‘Moscioni’, dry, natural; ‘Nocchette’, with nuts and citron peel; ‘Amorosi’, with black cherry and caramelized almonds covered with milk chocolate; ‘Folletti’, pralines with dried figs in liqueur; ‘Morette’; ‘Virgole del sole’ made with candied fruit covered with chocolate.
Colavolpe makes these delicacies even more attractive thanks to their packaging proposed as little works of art: in Art Nouveau boxes, as it happened in 1905; in typical baskets; in metal boxes, all studied, designed, and reinterpreted by the ‘masters’ who manage the image of this company (according to standards UNI EN ISO 9001:2008 certified), where every year more than 1,000 tons of dried figs enter, after meticulous selection, and leave after being transformed in real delicacies, ready to cheer the most refined consumers.
Beyond national boundaries
The fame of Colavolpe dried figs - from the traditional ones (Crocette, Fioroni, Montagnoli, Coroncine) to the ones with chocolate (‘Bocconcini’, flavored and covered with dark chocolate; ‘Fiocchi di neve’, stuffed with almonds and orange and covered with white chocolate) - has crossed both market and national borders, winning France, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, and is a guarantee of excellence, as well as a wise balance between obsequious respect of tradition and innovation, as Giulia Colavolpe states: «The leitmotif of the company consists in keeping alive the culinary traditions that distinguish from the rest of the world, making them unique, both Calabrian land and its products».