Local Taste

The master of marmalades

In his lab, Valentino Esposito turns local lemons, citrus, and pears into delicious treats.

By Francesca Faratro, photo by Vito Fusco

Valentino Esposito is the king of jams with his kingdom in Positano, where his shop Valentì is located. Here, he and his wife Gesualda work together immersed in scenery that seems straight out of a movie; all around, there are citrus plants and the magnificent view of the Amalfi Coast. Together, they put a lot of effort into creating unique products, such as limoncello and various kinds of liquors, that so many people love. Their most successful item, the one that amazes anyone who has the chance to taste it, is the lemon jam. Sweet but with the typical sour note of the citrus, this marmalade is unforgettable.

Sweet enough

To create this jam, Valentino cooks slowly and separately the citrus and the sugar, and then he mixes the two ingredients carefully to find the perfect balance. You will be able to see the process yourself if you walk around Valentino’s shop since he does demonstrations there, or eventually if you’ll catch them at some local event. “I consider the jam my winning card. I know this is a job, but every time I’m making marmalades, I try to put in the mix the passion I have. I want to make sure that the person who will taste it will have a full experience of my homeland; that’s why it needs to be sweet enough and show fruit pieces and peels.”

Valentino and his family gather in the kitchen to prepare the marmalade

The search for perfection

His recipe is so legendary that people have been asking for tips and have been observing him closely so that they can replicate his marmalade. “My secret ingredient is love. To make tasty jams, love and top-quality products are indispensable. Even if it’s been years since I started working in this field, I have the same enthusiasm as it was my first time. I make jams with the same love as if I was making it for my kids, and I pay attention to recreate a taste capable of bringing back happy memories. I like the idea of taking my guests on a special journey when they taste my product: back to my mom’s table when I was a child, I would eat her bread with jam and even lick my fingers, careful to not leave anything behind.”

Like mother, like son

Valentì is a laboratory with a shop that offers various range of products, but marmalades are, without a doubt, the boutique’s queens. “My mother was the one who used to make marmalades, but it wasn’t just that. She also did homemade preserve of tuna and vegetables in oil so that, as a family, we would have been ready for the winter months. My father was a fisherman, and during WWII, he had a laboratory for salting anchovies. So to make preserves was always present in my family. I think that watching my mother working tirelessly for hours helped me understand my passion and my goal. Later in life, I met Adriano Paolini and his wife Luciana, experts on citrus fruit marmalades from Vietri Sul Mare. It was thanks to them and their teaching that I was able to start producing jams for real clients and not only my family”.

Valentino Esposito’s daughter shows the jar full of lemon jam

Tasty varieties

Valentino’s most appreciated marmalades are the ones that have citrus fruits, such as the one with the Sfusato lemon. But other ones are equally loved, like the one with the pear Pennata from Agerola, the one with the sweet apricots from Mount Vesuvius, or the one with figs from Praiano. “The types of fruit you decide to use are fundamental. That’s why we only reach for local products that we know already taste amazing”. Valentino and her wife spend a lot of time researching the right ingredients and getting in touch with the right producers. “Being able to work with your loved ones makes the work feel less like a burden, which is why my wife and I love working together. Sometimes, we even let our kids join us. The girl Valentina is 11 years old, while the boy, Andrea, 8. We want them to be our legacy so that they can take with them all our knowledge into the future”.

A salty touch

In their lab, they make more than forty varieties of marmalades and preserves, sometimes using the simplest, sometimes the most unthinkable combinations. Here you can find classic marmalades and ones like orange, mandarin, and lemon with a spicy twist so that any palate can be satisfied. There are classical fruit jams such as cherry, plum, black cherry, red fruit, peach, and strawberry. Also worth tasting are green tomatoes, peppers, or onions, ideal to accompany mature cheeses or savory dishes. To complete the wide range of products, made exclusively by hand, delicious candied citrus peels are made. “To me, they are so delicious that can anyone can enjoy them only with a spoon directly from the jar. But obviously, these marmalades are perfect to accompany different types of food like bread, rusks, or even directly added to white yogurt during breakfast. Or you could use these jams to fill your favorite brioche, cakes, biscuits, or even the classical Italian panettone. For anyone who is not looking for sweets, we also have jams that are the perfect pair for different types of cheese”. For instance, one can add the lemon marmalade to the tiramisù recipe to give the dessert a more original take or even mixed with alcohol as they do it here when serving spritz.

 

Useful information:

Valentì, via G. Marconi, 12 Positano (SA), www.valentipositano.it, tel. +39.089.28.66.576

 

(Translation by Michela Pandolfi)

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