The essence of anchovies Colatura is one of the 'umami' foods. Is used since Romans and still commonly used in Southern Italy to flavour pasta and rice dishes. 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.
Colatura 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.
Ancient Romans loved ‘garum’ a lot! It was used to flavour everything savoury or sweet.