Terroir that over used word which means a combination of place, soil, climate, prevailing winds, water sources and other factors all rolled into one is just as important for some food products as it is for wine.
Sure you can buy all the ingredients you want in order to make the famous bread from Altamura. You can even import the ingredients but will it taste the same as that delicious thickly crusted bread from the Apulia region of Italy? Not by a long shot.
Pane di Altamura was the first bread to receive protected status or Denominazione Orgine Protetta (DOP) in the European Union. The bread is made from hard semolina wheat, natural yeast from a previous batch (pasta acida o lievito madre), marine salt and water.
Yes wonderful sourdough breads which are similar to this bread can be made in your kitchen but this bread relies on grains harvested from a specific small area in the province of Bari, a water source with exact specifications that reflect the waters in that area, and natural yeast that comes from a previous batch of the bread and that will not travel well. It must be cooked in a specific type of oven, etc, etc, etc.
However there is no need to despair. The bread was originally made to be taken out into the hills by the local shepards and it can last for anywhere between 10 days to two weeks. The best thing to do is buy it in Italy and bring it home. The bread is sold all over the country. Delicious with a straw yellow middle, this bread really can’t be replicated at home. For the exact item, you need to go to the source.
Pane di Altamura has been famous since the 15th century and it is said that the latin poet Horace mentioned it in 27 B.C. It has two very distinct names in pugliese: U sckuanète which is the taller of the two breads and a cappidde de prèvete or a priest’s hat. Some 35 companies still make the bread in this city.
While the bread is perhaps its most famous export, a recent film called Focaccia Blues that was shown in New York this week talks about Altamura and other products, specifically a little focaccia store which was able to oust McDonalds. No violence occurred but the people of Altamura just continued eating what they have always eaten, traditional, home made specialties.
Some things cannot be copied and this inimitable bread is one of them.