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  • Writer's pictureJennifer McIlvaine

Sotto Sopra

In English we say that we are “putting up” when we talk about preserving fruits & vegetables, but in Italy, many things are “put under,” or sotto, such as sotto sale (under salt), sott'aceto (under vinegar), sott’olio (under oil), and sotto spirito (under alcohol, usually brandy). Now, I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t really like to jar or can or put things up or down or whatever you want to call it!

Every spring I get big romantic ideas about putting up (or under) each and every vegetable separately… and then summer comes along. Its just not a good time. I don’t know about you, but when I’m sweltering through a 2 month 100° (40°) heatwave, the last thing I want to do is boil big vats of stuff on my stove, heating up the house even more than I thought possible. Not to mention, summer is tourist season – I’m busy cooking for other people (although I’m seriously considering a summer cooking class specializing in torture, I mean jarring, to help me achieve all of my jarred veggie goals….).

So, like always, I wait until the last possible second, praying for at the very least a break in the scorching temperatures…But there is no pleasant respite and now its crunch time. Ada, my vegetable lady, warns me that these are absolutely the last tomatoes she will have for making sauce, and I can see the figs literally falling off of the trees – their brief moment of perfection is passing quickly.

Begrudgingly, I get to work (because in the winter, there is nothing better than starting a hearty meal with bright vinegary summer vegetables, and I’ll be sorry later if I don’t do this…)… Nooo, I did not meticulously preserve every vegetable as originally intended, but I did manage to do a few of my favorites: carciofi sott’olio (artichokes under oil -obviously my spring ambition plan started here), nocino (green walnut liquor), salsa di pomodoro (tomato sauce), melanzane sott’olio (eggplant under oil), peperoni in agrodolce (peppers in a sweet and sour brine), peperoncini farciti (tuna-stuffed hot peppers under oil), and a few flavors of jam.

And, wouldn’t you know it, just as I was turning over that last jar of jam (see some photos here on Flickr), a storm blew away the summer and brought in cool autumn breezes…. (oooohh...I'm shaking my fist in the air...)

N.B. as I publish this, summer seems to have returned – I hope that doesn’t mean that I have to start jarring again!

Originally published September 2011

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