Pera gogou, gogu, prus d'inverno
The gogiu (or gogou) pear is an indigenous variety from the Maira valley (Cuneo, Italy). Its name means ‘stone’ in the local language, as when it is harvested it is hard and impossible to eat. It is not eaten raw, but usually cooked or processed.?Once cooked, the white and juicy flesh becomes pinkish and takes on a sweet and delicate taste which is reminiscent of honey.?The few pear trees which still exist in the valley are 100 to 300 years old and reach even 12-15 meters in height. The variety adapts well to the difficult Alpine climate and is the only one which can be grown at high altitudes (up to 1200-1500 m) thanks to its resistance. Pears are harvested between the end of September and mid- October, depending on the years. When harvested, pears are extremely hard. They need to ripen for a couple more weeks, and can then be used as an ingredient for various recipes, or roughly cleaned and pressed whole to make cider. If stored in the dark, they can be preserved through the winter.?To make cider, steel presses are now used to squeeze the pears without oxidizing them. However, in the past wooden machineries were used. The juice is left to ferment in barrels for about one month. The slower the fermentation, the more complex the aromas which develop.In S. Damiano Macra, the story goes that, about 300 years ago, some soldiers who came back home from the Spanish succession war (1702-1714) brought pear trees with them. At the beginning of the 20th century, before the two World Wars, people used to take most gogiu pears to the central square in S. Damiano and send them to Germany, where they would be processed. Unsold pears were made locally into cider, cooked or fed to pigs. In S. Damiano Macra there is still an old cider mill with its press and equipment made of chestnut wood, once activated by the waters of Rio Pagliero.?According to legend, one gogiu pear was given as a gift to a hungry young shepherd. When, out of desperation, he threw a stone against a tree, the masche – traditional witches of Piedmont folklore – gave him a pear of this variety (gogiu means ‘stone’ in the local language).Unfortunately, due to neglect and carelessness, only about 10 specimens still exist. Three people still harvest gogou pears and make cider for self consumption.