For centuries, travelers on their way from Italy to Central Europe invariably passed through Gemona and its surroundings. During Hapsburg rule, these lands were not just one of the access routes to Vienna, but also an important source of temporary labor for construction in the capital and of artisans and specialized workers. Many of them left to work seasonally in the Hapsburg capital, and when they returned to their families they brought with them foreign practices and gastronomic customs. This is believed to be the origin of pan di sorc, a sweet, spiced bread prepared by families in and around Gemona for special occasions, and particularly common around Christmastime. Every family had their own recipe, always based on a mix of cornmeal (sorc in dialect), rye and wheat flour and dried figs, and usually with the addition of raisins and fennel seeds. The bread would always be baked in the communal village oven or in the ovens of better-off families. Often some of the loaves would be sold to the oven’s owner or given to them as repayment, while the other loaves were eaten on special occasions or given to children on holidays.
Pan di sorc loaves are round and a few centimeters high. Their dark, very fragrant crust contrasts with the yellow crumb, which has a characteristic polenta aroma. The bread can be eaten as a sweet or with savory accompaniments, like cured meats. After drying out for two or three days it is dipped into milk or even used as an ingredient in crafut, a meatball made from pork liver and kidneys, finely minced and mixed with grated corn bread, raisins, lemon rind and apples.
In the past the grains were all grown locally: rye, soft wheat and especially corn. The corn belonged to a family of different types and colors, all sharing the characteristic of developing and ripening in no more than 50 days. For this reason, they were known as the Cinquantini (cinquanta is Italian for fifty). This meant there could be a second harvest, and after the winter cereals for trading were harvested, this gave an extra boost to the agricultural economy and helped families survive.
The abandonment of corn varieties with a short growing cycle, like the Cinquantini, and the changing tastes of the Gemona locals, especially over recent decades, means that pan di sorc is now only prepared at home by families who have maintained a strong link with tradition.
The bread is baked year-roundBack to the archive >
Gemona del Friuli (Ud)
Largo Beorcje 12
tel. 331 1694015
Custodi di grani antichi
Fernanda Fachin, Etelca Ridolfo, Gianpaolo Chendi
Produttori di granelle
Fiorindo Mazzolini, Enrico Fabbro, Marco Di Luca
Mulino di riferimento
Via Lenna, 26
Forno di riferimento
Rive d’Arcano (Ud)
Via del Cristo, 8
tel. 0432 809348
tel. 331 1694015
Tel. +39 331 1694015
Slow Food Presidium Producers’ Coordinator
Tel.+39 328 2155654