Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance
FAMILY HEIRLOOM RECIPES
Wisconsin State Fair
August 4, 2013
Christmas Eve Baccala
Terry Magestro, Oak Creek, Wisconsin
Nestled in the beautiful valleys of Southern Italy lies the village of Marano Marchesato in the Provence of Cosenza, Calabria, ltalia. History is well preserved in the untouched landscape, with old craft shops and medieval palaces. Tourism is abundant along with wonderful cooking traditions such as Baccala. Holidays in Italy are known for wonderful food and customs; many being religious ceremonies and processions. This where the Perri’s and SteIIa’s raised their famili es. Around 1905 my Great Grandfather Domenic Perri and my Great Grandmother Josephine Stella came to the United States, along with other family members. They were both about 16 or 17 years of age. WIth them came the cooking traditions that were taught to them. The trip consisted of two weeks on a ship to New York, then a grueling train ride to Chicago and finally another 7S mile train ride to Kenosha. The family members, along with other “Maranesi”‘ settled in Kenosha, while others settled in Northwestern Chicago. Italian immigration was large in these areas due to the abundant work available. In the 1830’s, Kenosha began as a commercial and agricultural center. By the 1900’s, it was one of the most industrialized cities in Wisconsin. Three-fourths of the labor demand, by 1920, was In manufacturing. This is where most of my family were employed. My Great Grandparents married and raised a daughter, Dora and four very protective brothersl He was employed at the Simmons Co. and then opened up one of the first grocery stores in Kenosha. And he always had a wonderful gardenl When my Grandmother was young and helped in the store, a lady with children came in to buy groceries. The lady could not afford to buy much, so my Grandmother helped her by giving her a few loaves of bread. In my Grandmothers short life, she always found the time to help someone. My Great Uncle John, her brother, told me this story because he saw I was much like her and that he knew she would be happy. And even though most of the day for my Great Grandparents was spent working, they always made time for church and family. My Grandmother married and had two daughters, one being my Mom. In 1939 my Great Grandparents divorced and my Great Grandmother moved to California to be with one of her sons. She got a job at a parachute company and my Great Grandfather left for Dayton. Ohio to open a restaurant. My Great Grandmother learned her parents were murdered and in 1945 that her daughter had brain cancer. So in June of 1945, my Grandmother and my Mom, eight years old, went to live with her. My Grandmother passed six months later. So my Mom learned her Italian cooking from her Grandmother. She taught her how to clean, knit, crochet and even how to knit and prepare a chickenl And she taught her how to cook the foods that were taught by her mother. She taught her to choose her ingredients well, no matter if it came from the store or out of the garden. To smell and squeeze the tomato; because what comes out of the kitchen is only as good as what you bring to the table. Holiday time was very important for my Great Grandmother, especially Christmas and New Year’s. Relatives would come over from all over the country, so everything had to be the best. My Mom helped with setting out the fine china and doing what was needed in the kitchen. My Great Grandmother made the antipasto and desserts; Zabiglione being her specialty. She would open bottles of her best home made wine! My Uncle Danny would make the Baccala. At first, my Mom would watch and eventually participate in making the Baccala. It was important that she learn, so she could pass this tradition to her own children. Traditionally, Italians dine on seven fish and seafood dishes to represent the seven sacraments on Christmas Eve. Every family in Italy has their own version of how to maKe baccala. It’s like making pasta! So the version I made is the way my family has been making it for many generations and how my mother taught me. It is a tedious task to make, but, if you want the best, you have to sacrifice. The changes I made to the recipe are slight. I use canned imported olives and tomatoes and I put some wine in the recipe because it is my way to remember my Great Grandparent’s journey to get here and what it must have been like to leave their families so young and never see them again.
Christmas Eve Baccala
Terry Magestro, Oak Creek, Wisconsin
1 lb. dried cod
2 T. olive oil
3 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
2 medium onions, peeled, diced
16 oz. can Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped with juices (San Marzano)
1/2 c. chopped Italian parsley
1/2 C. kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 C. white wine
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
PREPARE THE BACCALA:
Three days befor cooking, place the cod in a large pan, cover with cold water, and refrigerate. Soak for three days to remove salt. Turn the cod and change water every 6 to 8 hours. By ‘the ‘third day. the cod should be plump. soft and fleshy. Rinse arid pat dry. The baccala is now ready to cook.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Remove any skin and bones from the cod, dry with paper towels and cut into 6 pieces.
Grease a 9X13″ deep oven proof pan with 1 T. olive oil. Layer with half the potatoes, half the onions, half the cod.and half the tomatoes. Sprinkle with half of parsley.
Add the olives and the rest of the potatoes, onions and cod. Mix the rest of the tomatoes and the wine together and pour over layers. Season with salt and pepper and the remaining parsley. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over top and bake uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes, or till potatoes are tender.
Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve in soup bowls.