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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gastronomy - Terceira Island - Traditional Food Specialities - Azores

A trading emporium frequented for centuries by galleons and other ships from exotic lands, Terceira saw its food lose its initial frugality during the 16th and 17th centuries. Over the years other influences came, adding the present richness and refinement to the island's gastronomy. These influences range from the presence of Spanish troops for almost 80 years, the liberal emigrants from absolutism and the Englishmen connected with the "orange trade", to the conventual recipes for sweets and liqueurs. The meat specialities called Holy Ghost soups, alcatra and cozido, as well as the wine known as vinho de cheiro, are connected with the festivities that animate the whole island in the summer. Having a place in the festivals is also massa sovada or kneaded dough, which is baked into biscuits of various shapes including some with the forms of animals and human beings, Other delicious dishes are caldeirada (fish stew) with apples, sarapatel (haggis) and morcela (a kind of sausage) as well as the various traditional recipes for octopus, rabbit (with a special sauce called molho de vilão), crabs, goose barnacles and limpets.

Massa Sovada

But cooking on Terceira reaches perfection in the form of the over two hundred recipes for sweets. Most of these sweetmeats, such as donas-amélias and coscorões, are made in accordance with conventual traditions. Fresh cheeses made from goat's milk and the Ilha cheese made from cow's milk put a fine finish to a meal. As regards wines, Porto Martins and Pesqueiro produce a verdelho while that of Biscoitos enjoys great local fame.

Sugar paste, mixed with water and a drop of vinegar, is transformed by the skilled hands of women confectioners into flowers, doves, chickens, swans, rabbits and calves - a varied, sweet and fantastic world of sugar. These sweetmeats are associated with the Festivals of the Holy Ghost and those of the patron saints, and are often used as an ex-voto of thanks for miracles obtained. In the latter case the confection takes the shape of the part of the human body that has been cured (a breast, arm, leg, etc.). These sweetmeats are long-lasting and therefore, when not consumed by visitors with a sweet tooth, make an original souvenir of Terceira.

Sweet potatoes
The mild climate of the Azores and its position as a port of call from the 15th to the 17th centuries enabled Terceira to add to the traditional European crops of the time new plants brought from other continents. This led to the fact that early in the 16th century, before it was introduced in Europe, the sweet potato was being planted in Terceira, whence it spread to the other islands. For the same reasons maize, yams and potatoes have been part of the diet of Azoreans from those early times.

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