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The Pickling Factory

The Valli Comunali di Comacchio company has three main tasks: fishing in the valley bodies of water; monitoring against illegal fishing; internal management and trade of fish products.
Since 1933 the company has also managed a picking factory for fish products; this production was previously managed by a private company.
The entire production cycles of eels and sandsmelts was carried out in the factory: this activity continued non-stop for over sixty years in the Pickling factory which included also the "Calata", where boats moored to deliver the fish, the Fire Room with its twelve chimneys used to cook the eels, the Vinegar Room with its vats and barrels, and the frying room to cook the sandsmelts.
Thanks to the new laboratory for the "Traditional Pickled Eel of the Comacchio Valleys", the traditional activity of the three-bridged town has now restarted.

Fire Room
It is the "heart" of the factory. It was built in the 1900s. In this vast building there are twelve big chimneys on the eastern side of the room, organised in five pairs all in one line plus the first and the last one: each pair of chimneys is separated by a niche.
On the ceiling there are two large skylights for perfect ventilation of the environment and extraction of smoke and vapours produced during cooking of the eels.


Picked eels
The traditional process to pickle eels is organised in four main phases: cutting, spitting, cooking and packaging.
The “cutting” consists in the operation of decapitating and cutting the eel into pieces and incising it to ease spitting. The second phase consists of impaling the eels -entire or in morelli (pieces)- on a long iron spit. Cooking is the most important phase of the whole production: the art of managing the fire and the spit affects the entire process.
Packaging includes weighing and laying in picking (vinegar, salt and water) of the cooked eels.



The Calata
The Calata in the Pickling Factory was essentially a mooring dock to deliver raw materials for the production. Here fish, fished in the Comacchio Valleys, was unloaded and destined to pickling.
The Calata or Fossa (hole), was also where eels were first processed and selected according to their size.

The "Maròta"
The maròta or marutìna is a typical flat-bottomed well boat characterised by a full-length deck on the superior surface and by holes and gaps on the bottom and alongside the boat. According to the size of the boat, marotte served different purposes: fairly large marotte were used to transport fish for long distances while for shorter distances, from the fishing place to the pickling factory, smaller marotte or marottine were used.
These floating wells were made by the caulkers,  arts and crafts masters in the construction of boats.

The Vinegar Room
In the 19th century the pickling for fish preservation was prepared in a vat with a tap for broaching. The mix of vinegar, salt and water was churned with a scoop and, when deemed perfect, used for sandsmelts and eels pickling.
In the 20th century the pickle was prepared in barrels and vats of different shapes and volumes in the vinegars room.


The Pickling Factory (pdf)


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