It is an ancestral scent and crackling, which continues to repeat itself faithful to tradition. In Comacchio, in the Manifattura dei Marinati, factory of fish from the valley, the fireplaces of the Sala dei Fuochi are burning these days.
Between November and December, when the time is ripe for fishing for wild eel, the rite of its processing takes place; it has been like this for centuries, and again since 2004, on red-hot embers, by the fireplace, when production resumed according to the cycle of once upon a time.
1) THE CUT: decapitated, sectioned, divided into slices (the morelli); fresh eels are prepared.
2) SPIEDATURA: skewered on an iron spit (the Latin rostrum from which to roast), the eels are fixed along rods arranged one on top of the other and resting on hooks.
3) COOKING: over high heat for an hour, over coals preferably oak and beech, moving the spit one level lower every ten minutes.
In the past, the management of the fireplace was exclusive to the ‘firewomen’, experts in this art; one in charge of regulating the intensity of the hearth and collecting the excess embers; one to maneuver the skewers according to the degree of cooking; one to position them and remove them once ready.
4) DRYING: it is real dripping fat that detaches from the eel when it cools. The same fat, already during cooking, flows into narrow and shallow channels arranged in the floor that borders the fireplaces.
The eel is already very good at this point, but the work is not finished at the Manufacture. Focusing on fishing in this season, it became necessary to find a way to keep it for a long time. This is the reason for the marinade, the last stage of processing which ends with the packaging in tins.
The manual practice of the fire, now entrusted to the workers of a social cooperative, was in vogue at the Manifattura dei Marinati until the 1950s, to be replaced (until 1992) by electric “fires”.
The recovery of this art coincided with the decision not to make the Manufacture just a museum but a place where the culture of this typical food industry would remain alive.
(Marinati Manufacture, 1905)
Test & Photos by FERRARA LOVELY PLANET