Billi-gohtch. That’s the closest I can get to its phonetic pronunciation. I thought I knew plenty about chestnuts in this country but that idea quite literally went up in smoke at the sagra in Casale di Albino (Bergamo province).
Held every year on the first Sunday in February, this sagra puts on an excellent example of traditional methods used in preserving chestnuts as an indispensable food source. After the harvesting period from mid-September to end of November, the chestnuts are sorted and the selected ones placed in a special smokehouse for more or less a month. This process of smoking extracts all of the moisture within the nuts, enabling them to be stored for longer periods. When they were eventually needed, the chestnuts are boiled for 3 hours to plump them back up again. The flavor, of course, is a smoky sweetness with a bare hint of bitterness. We picked up a little over a 1 pound bag to boil at home and I have to say that I love them!
Rehydrated chestnuts weren’t the only delicious attraction as the sagra also included food stands selling locally produced items (breads, pasta, cookies, cheese, salumi, crafts). There was also a display of various chestnuts that I found especially interesting for their respective region or country of origin.