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Dalmatian mutton leg roast
a Venetian tradition on Salute feast

“Castradina” is a culinary dish of the Venetian tradition and starting from the seventeenth century it is prepared and tasted on the feast of the Madonna della Salute on November 21st.

On this day, crowds of believers make a pilgrimage on a specially arranged bridge over the Grand Canal to the church of Santa Maria della Salute, whose construction Baldassare Longhena began in 1631 to thank the Madonna for having put an end to the plague, and on the day when the end of the plague is celebrated, the Venetians enjoy this dish.

Castradina is an ancient food based on salted, smoked and then seasoned leg of mutton, used to make a tasty soup with the addition of cabbage leaves, which is traditionally enjoyed on the eve of the Madonna della Salute feast.

The seasoned, smoked and air-dried mutton was introduced by the Venetians from Dalmatia. During the plague, in the long period of isolation that Venice suffered, the Dalmatians supplied the city with what they had, mostly mutton. It was a dish defined “de obligo su le tole, sia dei povaréti che dei siori, nobili o mercanti” (a must on the tables, both of the poor and of the rich, nobles or merchants). Today you do not even get it on the Rialto market and castradina from own country is a rarity. However, this traditional dish is prepared in several Venetian families.

Ingredients for 4 persons: 800 g salted, smoked and air-dried leg of mutton, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery, peppercorns

Preparation time: 4 hours cooking time, plus 1/2 day rest

Preparation method: Thoroughly wash the mutton leg. To eliminate the strong taste of the meat rinse several times with warm water. Cut into medium sized pieces and place in a large saucepan with plenty of cold water. Add the vegetables and some peppercorns and cook for 2 hours. Allow the leg of mutton to cool in the water for half a day. Remove the fat, add 2 scoops of water and cook again for at least 2 hours. Remove the cooked mutton leg from the broth and serve hot. Serve with braised cabbage (Verze sofegae).

Wine recommendations: Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon

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