Colatura di Alici is the famous contemporary version of what the Ancient Romans called garum – a highly prized condiment made from fermented fish which was widely used to flavour cooking. It is a dense amber liquid which has an agreeable umami fragrance.
Colatura in Italian means ‘leakage’ which refers to the way the liquid is collected drop by drop. The process starts when freshly caught anchovies have their heads, tails and entrails removed before being placed in salt barrels for 24 hours. The anchovies are then transferred into smaller wooden barrels and layered in rows alternating head to tail with ample salt between the layers. After the barrel is closed with a wooden disc, a weight is placed on top to keep the anchovies pressed.
This first pressing produces a cloudy liquid which is collected in glass jars and placed in sunlit rooms for several months to concentrate flavours. This liquid is then poured back into the original barrel of anchovies and salt and allowed to seep through the various layers absorbing organoleptic characteristics.
Finally a little hole is made at the bottom of the barrel from which the Colatura di Alici drips out and is collected.
Romans loved ‘garum’ and it was used to flavour everything savoury or sweet. Traditionally it was made with a variety of fish and included off-cuts and fish intestines. Because of the resulting smell, large garum manufacturing houses were established outside the city walls.
Modern Colatura di Alici is more refined in both ingredients and manufacturing process but in flavour and usage, it retains its connection to the ancient food of the Romans.
Serving Suggestions: Colatura is one of the ‘umami’ foods and is commonly used in Southern Italian coastal regions to flavour pasta and rice dishes. Only a small amount is required to provide the famous flavour boost. It can be used to enhance other seafood ingredients, but also vegetable based sauces. But most often it is simply combined with garlic, olive oil and lemon zest to make a quick and delicious plate of spaghetti.
about the producer
Benedetto Scalia has been preserving anchovies since 1973. His small artisan fishery is located in the coastal town of Sciacca on Sicily’s southwest coast, an area famous for its bountiful fish population.
Scalia’s second-generation anchovy preservers produce a premium range of products from the locally caught fish and are renowned for their quality, freshness and authentic taste. The fish are selected by hand right off the boat and processed immediately using traditional methods to preserve their freshness and flavour. Only quality local ingredients are added, such as Sicilian sea salt for curing and Sicilian extra virgin olive oil for preservation. The resulting flavour and texture is one true to Sicily and the Mediterranean islands.