In case you didn’t read about it last week when I posted about cuccidati, the story is that my Grandma has always made these traditional Sicilian fig filled cookies at Christmas time since before I can remember. They are called cuccidati, pronounced “goo-ji-data” or cuccis, which sounds like “goochies” for short. Around fifteen years ago, I was at Grandma’s house around Christmas when she made them. I had the thought that I should write down the recipe and that is what I did. Grandma is the only one in our family that makes the cookies, and she does so from memory. It is quite an ordeal to make them, and no other family members have ever tried, but this year I decided I was going to keep the tradition going and make the cuccis. I purchased a meat grinder to grind the figs, a rolling pin, and all the ingredients, and this weekend I decided to set to work on the two day process of cucci making.
On day one, the fig filling is prepared, as well as the dough for the outer shell of the cookie. Then both are set aside to chill in the refrigerator overnight. After seeing how much goes into just that part of it, I am glad that the work is split into two days. Sheesh.
First and foremost I got some slivered almonds, no skin, and gently roasted them in the oven while moving them around frequently. I burned the first set because I was trying to do too many things at once, so then I decided to do one thing at a time.
Next I cut the stems off the many dried figs for the fig filling. They are hard little stems and wouldn’t be too nice in a cookie.
After that Andy and I fed the dried figs and roasted almonds through my handy little meat grinder and ground them to a nice consistency. I got the same type of simple meat grinder that Grandma uses- they have been making the same one for over a hundred years. I read that in Sicily, the women would bring the figs to their butcher for him to run them through the meat grinder. You can get a real workout from that darned thing, but it does a great job.
Next I boiled a small jar of honey with a little bit of water, and added some vanilla. While it was boiling I zested an entire large orange. That’s “oinge” to you, Mel.
Then I added the orange zest and the boiled honey/vanilla mixture to the ground up figs and almonds, and stirred. The whole thing was sprinkled with cinnamon and then set aside to chill in the fridge overnight.
Then I started on the dough. Grandma’s recipe makes a TON, and I can see why. It is not worth doing to make only a few cuccis. So I am having to make the dough in two batches because I don’t have a large enough bowl to hold the FIVE POUNDS of flour it takes.
Once the dough is made, it is kneaded into small balls and set aside in the fridge to chill overnight. Then the fun will really start tomorrow.
So that is day one of the process; it should get really interesting on day two. I am off to make the second batch of dough now and I am praying that there will be enough room in the fridge. It isn’t looking too good now. I can definitely see why these are traditionally Christmas cookies, they are way too labor intensive for everyday. Wish me luck!
Update: I just fished making the last of the dough balls. One hundred and two of them. Five hours of work and the cookies are only half finished. I have a lot of respect for Grandma!