The jam, good and sugary, immediately makes you think of something genuine and simple, it brings the memory back to the non-packaged snacks we used to eat as children: bread, butter and jam. And growing up, even as adults, we continue to appreciate this preparation based on fresh fruit that we eat in our breakfasts or in combination with savory dishes such as cheese and meat, for gourmet dinners.
And in Venice the jam has always been a serious business, since the Armenians spread a very particular preparation to the Lagoon, up to Stringhetto artisans.
Prepare bread and butter, I recommend very special jams!
Yesterday: the Armenians in Venice and the vartanush, rose jam on the island of San Lazzaro
It was 1715 when the Armenian monk Mkhitar Sebastatsi arrived in Venice with a group of confreres to escape the wrath of the Turks: the trade of the Serenissima with the Levant had already allowed the creation of an important friendship between the two peoples.
In a short time Mechitar brought his culture, his language and a very refined cuisine to the streets: the Venetian soul joined the soul of the Armenian people, a tangible sign of a complacent reciprocity thanks to the common Christian faith. Just two years passed and the Armenians asked and obtained from the Venetian Senate the small island of San Lazzaro in order to place their monastery. In just over three centuries the Armenians built the monastery, the library, the printing house and the cemetery: a corner of Armenia lost in the waters of the lagoon which has become one of the most important centers of Armenian culture in the world.
Even Lord George Gordon Byron was fascinated by the place, the culture and the language and settled there for six months, and today it is possible to visit his room.
The monastery museum houses, instead, an important work by Tiepolo: peace and justice.
The Mechitarist religious, dedicated to study and prayer, did not find in San Lazzaro a hostile place, but a prosperous environment of gardens that "smells of cardamom and cinnamon, roses, violets, flexible branches of cypress, of nightingales in exile, this rare priceless jewel" [cit. an Armenian poet]
It was therefore easy to adapt and transplant the Armenian traditions into the Lagoon. It is in this green corner of the earth caressed by the sun and the sea breeze that large cultivations of roses found their way in the highly fragrant damascena variety. And it is by using the petals of these roses of intense color that the monks prepared and still prepare the vartanush, the rose jam. For its preparation the roses must be picked in the morning frost of May, and then leaf through the petals by hand, eliminating the bitter base. Once added the sugar and lemon juice they are then rubbed to allow the perfumes to come out. After a period of maceration the mixture is boiled until it reaches the correct consistency, without the addition of thickeners and preservatives: the fragrant vartanush with its characteristic deep red color is ready to be enjoyed.
A meticulous and artisan preparation that brings with it centuries of history and that smells of exotic distant lands, of cultures that although distant live in a conviviality made of respect and sharing.
We should learn from the ancients...
- how to get to San Lazzaro degli Armeni: by boat from San Marco-San Zaccaria, at the B stop take Line 20. The San Lazzaro stop is only on request, so notify the sailor;
- how to geto to Stringhetto, Rio Terà della Maddalena 2085, Cannaregio: from Santa Lucia Station take to left Rio Terà Lista di Spagna, Ponte delle Guglie and then Rio Terà San Leonardo straight up to Rio Terà della Maddalena; from San Marco, by waterbus Stop San Marco-San Zaccaria E direction Piazzale Roma, get off at San Marcuola, go along Rio Terà del Cristo and then right towards Rio Terà della Maddalena.
Today: from the tree to the jar, the artisans of the sweetness of Stringhetto
Today the jam in the Lagoon has the flavor of the craftsmanship and passion of the Stringhetto family. Their story is simple, made up of passionate men and their roots, family sharing, new and far-sighted ideas that look to the future while remaining firmly tied to traditions, which have given life to a company leader in the preparation of homemade jams.
It all begins with Fabrizio Stringhetto who, grew up in the Paduan countryside among vegetable gardens and orchards, decides to take his land to the city by opening a fruit and vegetable shop for large and small distribution. The store grows and thanks to the first-born Cristian it also becomes a wine shop with a fine selection of fine wines. But it is thanks to the brilliant mind of the second son Stefano that takes place at a turning point: an introverted young man of few words, convinced that life matters more than chatter, he starts by chance at 16 years old to work in the paternal shop, and immediately senses that a company must go further, take a step forward, renew itself having the ability to remain itself for being able to grow and establish itself on the market. Stefano is young, paws, experiences, studies and teaches himself to create jams with an unusual taste: he puts a new product on the market. So in the year 2000, what used to be a fruit shop became a company specialized in the artisan production of jams and chocolate, which with the Tuttafrutta line today counts 35 different varieties.
What is special about Stringhetto jam? Well, especially the genuineness of the raw materials and especially the very short list of ingredients: fruit and fructose. But how is it possible to make a confectionery product without the use of thickeners, preservatives and sucrose? The answer is in the high percentage of fruit contained: to make 1000 grams of jam, a minimum of 1100 grams of fruit is used. These doses, together with the low cooking temperature, allow the preparation to thicken with the sole properties of the fruit, which preserves all its properties, such as the content of vitamins and mineral salts, taste and color.
The result is products of the highest quality, which demonstrate a profound knowledge of the raw materials and their behavior when they are combined and mixed together. This modus operandi takes away the importance and free will of machinery during production, leaving full control to man and his knowledge: a craft product in all respects.
But the roots of his life are important and Stefano knows it well, and therefore with his foresight he decides to complete the circle: since 2013 the Stringhetto family, returns to the land from which it started, becoming a producer of the raw materials it uses with cultivation of orchards that complete the production chain. It is the case to say: from the producer to the consumer!
What is in a Stringhetto jam jar? An explosion of scents that refer to rows of lush orchards, a soft and natural, non-gelatinous texture, the strong and distinguishable taste of the ingredients, and the surprise of new combinations that tantalise the palate.
Simply enjoy them on a slice of good bread, or in a confectionery preparation like a grandmother's tart, or in combination with cheese and meat, or spoonfuls for moments of pure pleasure!
My favorites? Difficult to choose because they are all delicious and tasty, but I love raspberry jam in which the sweetness of jam is balanced with the sour fruit, pears and walnuts with the perfect combination of sweet and bitter to combine with cheeses, and then apple and cinnamon reminiscent of the taste of strudel, the orange and carrot vitamin, the unusual pumpkin and ginger, and still apples and mint, hot pepper and the bold tomato and orange peel.
For the sweet tooth the production of Stringhetto also boasts high quality chocolate art products, such as the soft spreads, pralines, chocolates and covered fruit: taste the delicious cremini!
Stringhetto is a splendid reality that owes its fortune to the passion, the family solidity and the brilliant mind of Stefano, young and smart who risked and studied without stopping in front of difficulties, trying to improve himself more and more as he himself says "if so far you've done something good, start doing something better right away" .
An example to admire and follow.
Well done, Stefano!