San Michele Salentino almond-stuffed figs are a product from Alto Salento in Puglia. They are made using dottato figs, named narduleja locally in homage to the composer Leonardo Leo, and almonds of many different local varieties, including riviezzo from Cegliese, bottari, sciacallo, tondina, and sepp d’amic.
The area between San Vito dei Normanni and Ceglie Messapica in the province of Brindisi is known for having one of the highest rates of almond and fig production historically in Puglia. In Alto Salento, farming families expanded the Southern Italian tradition of sun drying figs by combining the fruit with almonds to create a rich and complex-tasting dessert. Harvested early when theyare just turning white, dottato figs are cut in half, pressed, and placed on sciaje (reed trays) for a week to dry in the sun. Once dried, the figs are stuffed with an unpeeled almond; the bitter peel of the almond contrasts the sweetness of the fig, and enhances its flavor. Then, a small amount of lemon zest and wild fennel seeds are added. One fig half is placed on top of the other and then put in the oven at a medium-low temperature for an hour. When taken out of the oven, the roasted figs are checked one by one, and over-cooked figs are discarded.
San Michele Salentino almond-stuffed figs are made from August to late September and stored. This typical winter dessert can be enjoyed in San Michele Salentino, San Vito dei Normanni, and Ceglie Messapica.