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SAN MAMILIANO E LA SAGRA DEL CONIGLIO
PATRON SAINT MAMILIAN AND THE BLOOD OF RABBIT
In the church of Castello, the medieval Castle fortified with strong thick walls by the De Medici family, there is a relic of the Patron Saint, Mamilian.
Mamilian was a bishop in Palermo who, at a certain point in his life, decided to retire to Maremma, which is a countryside town in southern Tuscany, and to the two islands of Giglio and Elba.
When he got older, he felt the need to stay in peace, prayer and seclusion and went to live on the isle of Montecristo, that was - and still is - completely deserted, with a few monks devoted to meditation.
They built up a monastery and lived in silence and complete isolation.
When he died, the monks lit a fire. The smoke was the signal that the bishop, who was already a saint in the belief of the people, had died. The smoke was seen by dwellers of little villages on the main coast and by the islanders of Giglio and Elba. All these people, at the sight of the smoke, took their boats and oars and started to row to Montecristo, each of them with the conviction that the saint was "theirs" and they had the right to have his body be preserved in the church of their own village.
Once on the beach of Montecristo, a big fight occurred among all the angry people, who started to claim the poor dead body. They took the body and started to pull it: some were pulling from the head, some from the arms, some from the feet, crying and shouting. The saint, who had been already dead for more than a few days and must have been in an advanced decomposed state, broke. All these angry people fell on the sand, each of them with a piece of the body in their hand. The people from Giglio got an arm.
This is the reason why today, in the church of Castello, the people can admire the bone of the arm through the glass of a splendid golden container shaped like an arm with a hand.... If they don't get scared.
Every year in Giglio Castello the celebration of the Patron Saint Mamilian occurs. The Feast includes religious services and a procession with local music bands, games in the piazza, the Quadriglia - a traditional dance enjoyed by the local population together with tourists - about three hundred people turning and jumping like crazy for one hour at the sound of a rhythm similar to Tarantella, the race of the donkeys, fire works at night and the sagra of the rabbit.
The sagra is a typical Italian festival of pagan origin, with a fair and market, during which a specific food is celebrated. In every honourable Italian feast, besides the religious celebrations, there are also food celebrations.
The rabbit is cooked in the traditional "hunters" style with the local herbs and served in pieces with bones... just like the poor Patron Saint.
CONIGLIO ALLA CACCIATORA
RABBIT HUNTERS' STYLE
Ingredients for 4-6:
60 - 80 gr (2-3 Oz) extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1 rosemary sprig
1 hot chilli pepper
250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine (the best would be the wine Ansonico, strong and amber colour, from Isola del Giglio)
500 gr ( 1 Lb) canned tomatoes
Preparation of the rabbit:
If you have a wild rabbit, cut it in quarters and marinate it over night with white wine and a few drops of vinegar. The next day, take it out from the marinade and "dry" the pieces in a skillet on medium-high heat, before starting the real cooking.
In you have a bred rabbit it is not necessary to marinate it.
Cut it in quarters (or smaller pieces). Score the back of the back legs and pull out the vein you find close to the tendon. Then "dry" the pieces in a skillet at medium-high heat.
Heat the olive oil with garlic and hot chili pepper. Put in the pieces of rabbit and cook them until brown on medium high heat.
Pour in the wine and let it evaporate, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Add salt and rosemary.
Crush the canned tomatoes by hand and add them to the pan.
Lower the flame and cook to reduce the sauce.
For this recipe, the rabbit can be replaced by chicken.