Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Saint Lucia and the Cuccìa: a delicious Sicilan tradition
Today December 13th, it is Santa Lucia, Saint Lucy who was a young Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Prosecutions.
Lucy's Latin name Lucia shares a root (luc-) with the Latin word for light, lux. This has played a large part of Saint Lucy being named as the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. The relics of Saint Lucia rest in my Venice after they have been moved and stoled many times in history.
They rest now safely in the Church of Saint Geremia in the sestiere of Cannaregio. They were transferred there when the church of Santa Lucia was demolished in 1861 to make way for the new railway terminal. The train station in Venice is for that called Santa Lucia.
It is said, between history and legend, that around the seventeenth century the Sicialian people were hit by a severe food shortage when a ship arrived in Palermo bearing wheat and grains on Santa Lucia’s Day, December 13th. There was not time to make flower and they started to eat it as it was: in it’s grain form.
To this day in Sicily people eat a variety of dishes made with wheat berries or barley that is called Cuccìa. The word itself is Sicilian and means crock or grain. So on this day Cuccìa is the only wheat eaten… no bread or pasta.
Cuccìa is typically made with wheat berries or barley and it is prepared differently from family to family and regions. Some make Cuccìa as soup, others as a pudding.
This tradition is especially celebrated in the Sicilian city of Palermo, and also in Syracuse where Santa Lucia was born.
You can vary the recipe as Sicilian do. Everyone tweaks it to their own taste.
Here below you can find the family recipe as I have learned to make it from my dear friend from Palermo, Angela.
½ lb dark chocolate
2 and ½ ounces of bitter cocoa powder
4 spoons of sugar
1 quarter of a gallon of milk
3 and half ounces of heavy cream
Put the barley in a large bowl, cover with water and let it sit for 1 hour. Rinse it and pour it into a saucepan, cover with cold water. When the water starts to boil, leave it to cook for 1 hour.
Drain and allow it to cool.
Pour the milk, the bitter cocoa and dark chocolate and the sugar in a saucepan, and stir with a whisk, on low heat until the chocolate does melt completely. Finally add heavy cream an cook for another 10 min, till warm.
The Cuccìa is ready. Let it cool in the refrigerator and serve the Cuccìa preferably in individual bowls.
From Venice with Love,