Positano’s Casa Cosenza

Room with a view at Positano's Casa Cosenza

We’ve stayed in just about every room at the Casa Cosenza over the past thirty-plus years, each one with a breathtaking view of the spectacular Positano.
Maurizio first brought me here when we were still fidanzati; I was here on vacation and spoke no Italian at the time. The whole weekend I was intoxicated: head over heels in love with my handsome and charming Maurizio, loving the musicality of the lilting and flowing Neapolitan dialect, captured by the view of the colorful Positano homes spilling down to the sea and in gourmet ecstasy with the buffalo mozzarella, succulent seafood, delicious pastas. Sensorial overload in the most delightful way imaginable.
Our host and owner at Casa Cosenza was the lively and energetic Maria. The first night in Positano I walked up a hundred or so steps with Maria to reach a local bar where we sat for hours enjoying ice cream and drinks until close to midnight. I’d been on my own that day enjoying Positano while Maurizio drove to Scalea to sell a property his father had invested in. No cell phones back then so I had no idea when Maurizio would return. The local young men were teasing me all night saying Maurizio wouldn’t return and coaxing me to go off with them to dance. All in fun…with some serious intent all the same! As midnight approached I was getting anxious but just then Maurizio appeared in his Alfa Giulietta, and my heart skipped quite a few beats when I saw his smiling face.
Since that time Maria has become older, her husband has passed, and the management of Casa Cosenza has passed into the hands of her daughter Giuseppina. She has in turn brought her daughter Raffaella into the family business and she’s now ready to take over from her mother. Time seems to have flown by, and people here have come and gone. Casa Cosenza has remained lovely and charming and mostly just as it was decades ago…less rustic and more beautiful.
If you visit Positano and want to feel a part of the local rhythm and lifestyle this is a perfect place to stay. Half of the pleasure of Positano is lost to you in a hotel.
So where is it? Take a look; it’s the yellow building right in the center (a bit up and left of the dome):

Casa Cosenza: the yellow building  just upwards and slightly left of the dome

Blackberry jam

blackberry jam

Last year we made blackberry jam; Maurizio picked the berries and I did the cooking and canning. Blackberries have so many seeds which we find unpleasant in jams and tarts so I decided to remove them. It’s a laborious, time consuming task and I cursed myself the whole way through making the jam…or at least the seedless variety. I swore I’d never do it again.
Once the jam was done we decided to treat ourselves to toast and jam for dessert. As soon as it hit our palates we looked at each other and Maurizio and I agreed we should immediately make more. As much as we possibly could actually. It’s just about the tastiest thing you can imagine and removing the seeds is essential.
It’s blackberry season again and Maurizio has spent the good part of a week picking berries. And I’ve been seeding them and making jam.
If you want to savor delicious homemade blackberry jam plan to set aside a good lot of time to make the jam. Again, seeding is the long and annoying part of the process. So put on some good music or your favorite podcast and enjoy the process!
Blackberries stain like nothing else. This is a messy job so wear dark clothes that you don’t mind staining. The same goes for your utensils.

Blackberries, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds)
Water, 60 milliliters (1/4 cup)
Granulated sugar, 300 grams (1 1/2 cups)
Pectin, 50 grams (1.8 ounces). Alternatively, follow the pectin package instructions for the quantity of fruit you are using.

Equipment you’ll need:
Large stainless steel pot
Food mill
Several dish towels that you don’t mind staining
Jam jars and lids
Long spoons and spatulas

Prepare jam jars and lids:
Jars and lids should be sterile before using. Sterilize them in the dishwasher or in boiling water. To avoid cracking, make sure the jars are warm when you ladle in the jam; keep them filled with warm water until they’re ready for use.
I recycle jars and lids…

Recycled jam jars and lids

Have your dish towels handy: one to hold the jar and drape over your arm as you ladle in the jam. This will avoid any unnecessary burns from dripping hot jam.
The second dish towel should be damp and used to wipe off any spilled jam from the rim of the jar before sealing with the lid.
Rinse the berries well, pick out any bad ones and remove all stems and debris.
Drain, and place in a large stainless steel pot.
Add the water and bring the berries and water to a boil.

Blackberries for jam...

Stir frequently until the berries are soft.
Press the berries, a cup or two at a time, through the food mill until you’ve extracted all the juice and pulp from the berries.
Discard the seeds and continue until all the berries have been passed through the food mill.

Passing blackberries through a food mill

Return the berry juice and pulp to the stainless steel pot.
Stir in the sugar and pectin until dissolved.
On high, bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring regularly for five minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir for another minute to remove any foam.
Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/2 centimeter (1/4 inch) headroom.
Wipe off the rim of the jar and seal with the lid.
Place the jars upside down and allow to cool thoroughly.

Homemade blackberry jam jars cooling down

Nonna’s hope chest and her Neapolitan coffee maker

Antique Neapolitan coffee maker

Giulia will be having her baby any day now so while we are all waiting I’ve started doing a little nesting myself. For a long time now I’ve wanted to go through Nonna’s hope chest; it’s nearing a decade since she passed away at age ninety.
She was an amazing woman: frugal, organized, efficient, as kind as they come and with a memory that makes your jaw drop. I loved listening to her tales of childhood, life during the Second World War when she was a young mom and stories about my husband: her cherished baby boy.
As Nonna aged she started organizing all her belongings: throwing out never used things, and getting down to bare essentials. She told me she didn’t want to leave her two children with the burden of sorting through piles of things once she was gone, and leaving them feeling guilty about getting rid of all the trappings of her life. When the time came I was the one who sorted through her belongings and I appreciated her effort. One thing she did that I found to be so lovely was to label all the belongings of her life that she thought her children and grandchildren might enjoy. Her labels told a story about each item and I’ve loved them all.
Nonna’s hope chest is an enormous solid wood chest that we’ve loved using in our home but going through it has stayed on the back burner all these years beyond a cursory glance to confirm that it seemed to be filled with sheets and towels.
Now that Giulia is having a baby and has her own family starting off the time has come to dig into the chest.
Tied in ribbon are set after set of sheets and towels: never used, all from the time of her own wedding. They’re all 100% cotton and linen: ironed so beautifully that not a crease can be seen. They’ll never look that beautiful ever again as I don’t know anyone who irons quite like that these days.
There were two centrini () wrapped in tissue that Nonna had embroidered when she was thirteen years old. Look at the picture above; that’s one of them under the coffee maker. I won’t go into all the wonderful things that I found in the chest, but I did find Nonna’s Neapolitan coffee maker. All these years I’d thought it was lost, or had been thrown away, but there it was and I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see it! It’s three quarters of a century old and was the signature of Nonna’s wonderful coffee since I first met her. I don’t know quite why I loved that old thing…it’s a bit battered…but its a charming little artifact from Nonna’s daily life and part of one of the miracles she produced and served us every day in her kitchen.
I’ve always used a Moka to make my coffee, and more recently I use an espresso maker. The concept with the Moka is that water boils, and the steam produced passes through the coffee and into the top of the Moka.
The Neapolitan system is totally different and based on gravity, or a drip technique although the same powder-fine espresso coffee is still used. There are three compartments: one for water on the bottom, a coffee compartment in the middle, and the top compartment is to hold the coffee. When the water begins to boil you turn off the heat, flip the coffee maker and the water drips through the coffee into the third compartment. Very simple and very delicious!
Nonna’s coffee maker is made by Ilsa and they still make the exact same model of coffee maker that Nonna used following the Second World War. If you’re not a fan of the Moka system you might want to try the Ilsa drip coffee system…enjoy!

Hibiscus flowers

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Maryland crab cakes at Timbuktu

Maryland crab cakes at Timbuktu

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