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calciuni, calciumi, caucioni
Caveciuni (sweet fritters, stuffed with chickpeas, walnuts and honey) -- Molise -- Personal Recollections
Originated from: Molise, Italy
Occasion: Christmas holidays and The Feast of Saint Joseph
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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*Spellings differ. In Casacalenda, Molise this sweet fritter used to be spelled, "caveciune" (singular) and "caveciuni" (plural). Nowadays, it goes by "cavezune (singular) and "cavezuni" (plural)." The official spelling seems to be "calcione" or, is it calzoni?. Prior to World War II each town and village in Molise had their own spelling of the sweet fritter, reflecting the local dialect. Some of the spellings include: cauciuni, calciumi, calciuni, caucioni, cavezune, calzoni and caucini. This style of sweet is part of the larger family of "calzoni" and/or ravioli dolci (sweet ravioli). For recipes see the category: "CALCONI"



There are many variations on the cauciuni recipe (also spelled cauciun', calciumi and caucioni). Cauciuni are part of the family of recipes known as "calzoni" or "cavazune" in the South. My aunt, Zia Rosina, who grew up in Casacalenda in the 1930s, told me the word "cauciuni" is just another word for "cavazune" or "calzoni." All the three words mean "pants." The Italian dictionary translates the word pants as "calzoni" or "pantaloni" but in Molise most people use (or at least used prior to World War II) the word, "calciun'". Certainly that's the word my parents still use. My aunt, Zia Rosina, also told me the reason she believes these sweets are called "cauciun'" (pants) is because men's dress pants used to come with a lining. While the pants were (and sometimes still are) lined with special cloth, the "cauciuni" are lined with stuffing. In any case, most "cauciuni" recipes include chick peas and honey in the filling (though not all include walnuts and raisins). Also, all the recipes call for the "cauciuni" to be fried (Well, at least, the traditional recipes called for this, nowadays many people bake the "cauciuni" in order to avoid all those extra calories). Prior to World War II very few people living in the Southern Italian countryside had ovens in their homes (Commercial wood-burning communal ovens were then used for the baking of bread, cakes and cookies). So that's why most of the traditional sweets that come from the South are fried. The use of the communal oven incurred more cost than cooking the sweets in a frying pan on a slow fire (Though even that had its difficulties as fire wood was hard to come by). My aunt also informed me that "cauciuni" were made for the Christmas holidays as well as for La Festa di San Giuseppe (The Feast Day of Saint Joseph). However, those people who were devotees of Saint Joseph might have preferred to make "cauciuni" or "cavazune" only on the saint's special day in order to make the celebrations more festive (That's why most people now associate these fritters with La Festa di San Giuseppe). In any case, some cooks made the "cauciuni" in the rectangular form, others presented them as half moons. In Italy "musto cotto" was an important part of the "cauciuni" recipe, mainly because it was readily available (People made it during the grape harvest along with wine grape marmalade). Nowadays, most North American recipes call for "grape jelly" rather than "musto cotto" (a poor substitute, but that is the closest thing to "musto cotto" that is available in the local shops). Zia Rosina also mentioned to me that when she was a little girl her mother used a drinking glass to grind the walnuts and that worked as well as an electric grinder. One more thing -- these pastry pockets or sweet fritters are very tasty, however, they do require a great deal of time and effort. This is the type of recipe that should be done in a group -- not only is it more fun to do, but if one doesn't succeed, then it doesn't really matter all that much -- the real joy of cooking comes from the sharing of a common experience.... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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