The Local Food Report: Carafoli's Sagamore

On September 15th, 1880, 500 Italians arrived in Sagamore to start digging the Cape Cod Canal. The work was short-lived—funding ran out four months later—but the community was not. More Italian immigrants came over in the early 1900s when work started again and slowly, in Sagamore Village, an Italian community was formed.

That's John Carafoli. His grandparents were amongst those who came to Sagamore looking for work, and he's one of the few who still remembers Italian Sagamore. His mother passed away when he was eleven, and as a way of trying to hold onto her, he started hanging out in the kitchens of the neighborhood women, watching them cook and bring in squash and grapes and tomatoes from the garden and getting their techniques down. Then he'd go home and try to recreate the dishes for his father and aunt and brother—lasagnas and jams and breads and sweet pastas.

By the time he left Sagamore and went out into the world, he had a whole childhood of recipes to draw from. He started working with food—these days, he's a world-reknowned food stylist and recipe developer—and the recipes acted like a sort of bridge. They took him back to Italy to trace particular pastas and breads and back to his grandparents' city of Bologna to learn about their language and culture. The recipes kept him connected him not just with his mother, but also with his Italian heritage and the Sagamore Village of his past.

There's one Sagamore woman in particular who John talks about a lot. Her name was Mafalada Maiolini, but in the kitchen, he called her Muffy. She taught him to make brassadella, a sweet, dry coffee cake from Verona that involves a top roll and a bottom roll and lots of hole poking in between, and savor, a sweet, dark jam made with leftover fruit at the end of the harvest season. When I talked with John a few weeks ago Muffy was still alive, but she passed away last Sunday, at the age of 96. In her obituary, it says that her kitchen was a gathering place for many friends—a nice way to be remembered, I think.

In Muffy's honor, John gave me this savor recipe to share. It's his—adapted from hers—honed by observation and friendship and the practice of years.


This is a time-consuming jam at first glance, but most of the work is in the simmering. If you can set aside two 6-hour chunks over two days to be around, you've done the hard part. This jam is traditionally made in the fall, with any leftover fruit from the harvest. Carafoli has planted his own orchard of pears, apples, figs, apricots, and peaches, and he's hoping to make savor from his own fruit next year.

6 large ripe pears
6 large ripe apples
6 large ripe peaches
1 pound Italian prune-plums or other plums
1 pound seedless red grapes
12 ounces fresh cranberries
12 pitted prunes
12 ounces pitted dried apricots
12 ounces dark raisins
zest of 2 oranges, removed in strips and minced
1 bottle red wine or saba
1 quart red grape juice
1 quart cranberry juice
1 cup cooked peeled chestnuts

Peel and core pears and apples; peel and pit peaches and plums. Cut into coarse 1-inch dice, and place in a nonreactive (like stainless steel) heavy-bottomed 8-quart pot. Add grapes, cranberries, prunes, apricots, raisins, and orange zest. Add wine or saba, grape juice, and cranberry juice and mix well.

Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to its lowest possible setting, and simmer, uncovered, for 6 hours. Remove from heat and allow to sit, loosely covered, at room temperature overnight. (Sugar and acid in mixture will keep it from spoiling.)

The next day, uncover the pot and again bring to a boil. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting, and simmer for 6 more hours. Toward the end of cooking, stir frequently to prevent scorching.

Remove pot from heat; mixture will be very dark and thick. Place chestnuts in a food processor and process to make a mealy puree. Stir into cooked mixture. While mixture is still hot, pour into sterile jars and seal according to manufacturers' directions. Savor may also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 months, or frozen in a tightly sealed container for up to 6 months.

Yield: 11 pints


Bueno said...

I love recipes that are attached to amazing stories. What an honor to be trying Muffy's recipe. I look forward to it.

Elspeth said...

Bueno, I agree. It's always so much better to be cooking something with a story attached to it—especially one like Muffy's.

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