Products derived from fish, shellfish and crustaceans, and special farm techniques of the same;
1. Product name:
Bottarga di cefalo di Orbetello
2. Other names:
Bottarga di muggine
3. Short description:
Bottarga di cefalo di Orbetello has a firm texture, rectangular shape, amber colour and pungent odour. It’s vacuum-packed in pieces that range from 150g to 400g.
4. Production area:
It’s traditional to the area of Orbetello, province of Grosseto, but is made along the entire Tuscan coastline.
5. Production status:
r disappeared r at risk r active
6. Production process:
Bottarga is made with the female eggs of the Mugil cephalus or mullet. This is the only species with an egg casing strong enough to withstand salt rubbing. The ovarian sacs of the female mullet are handled very delicately so as to not break, washed in water, cured with sea salt, dried in special rooms and vacuum-packed. Preparation and curing take two weeks, which is not long in comparison to other bottarga products and makes the finished product softer. It’s produced from August to October. The eggs used to prepare bottarga are taken from mugiliformes and mullets, fish that prefer low coast and rich vegetation, and sometimes travel up streams as they can tolerate variations in water salinity. They are usually found in small schools near the water’s surface and are easy to spot. They are omnivorous fish that scratch the bottom and rocks, digging into soft surfaces or grazing on particles suspended in the water.
7. Materials, equipment and premises used for production:
s Cutting utensils
s Drying room
s Cold room for storage
8. Notes on traditionalism, homogeneity of spread and persistence of production rules over time:
The Phoenicians were the first to salt and cure mullet sacs full of eggs. The Arabs called it ‘battarikh’ (salted fish eggs) and spread it throughout the Mediterranean. Bottarga has been made in Orbetello Lagoon for 600 years.
Already in the time of municipalities, there were traces of “buttagre” used as payment for the right to fish the local waters.
Bottarga is served primarily as an antipasto, cut into thin slices, dressed with lemon juice and paired with an Ansonica white wine. It’s also used grated as a seasoning in first courses.
Bottarga di cefalo di Orbetello, together with other fish products from the Orbetello Lagoon, is made by one cooperative. Production quantity depends on the fish fished and is therefore not constant. In ’97-’98, production was 20 tonnes, in ’98-’99, 5 tonnes and in 2000, 8 tonnes. It’s found mainly in September. Inside the cooperative is a restaurant where you can try traditional fish products from Orbetello Lagoon. The cooperative also has a shop that supplies retail customers. Bottarga is sold through wholesalers to the rest of Tuscany and Italy. Only a small portion is sold direct. La bottarga della laguna di Orbetello has starred in numerous initiatives including Fieragricola, Salone del Gusto in Torino and Mia in Rimini.