“Only the largest fruit are picked during the first phase of the harvest and the rest is left on the tree to grow, although chinotti are like other people’s children – they never seem to get much bigger. They rarely weigh as much as sixty grams and to reach the dimensions of a billiard ball would be the limit of a chinotto’s aspirations. As the fruit swells, if that’s not an exaggeration, its colour changes first to yellow and then orange, when it is only good for making marmalade”
The Land Where Lemons Grow, Helena Attlee
The chinotto harvest begins in August. They are a golf-ball sized fruit, found throughout Italy but in particular in Liguria, and, although known for being bitter, they are less tart than lemons and limes. The tree is small and easily grown inside.
They are used in marmalades, and the peel is candied and added, for example, to panettone.
They are used in Italian amari, probably including Campari, as well as in a soft drink named….Chinotto (and made, among others, by San Pellegrino). Chinotto, the drink, is quite bitter and looks like Coca-Cola – it makes a good mixer with both gin and rum – even brandy – garnished with a slice of the fruit.
A rather nice, long drink, inspired by Dan Amatuzzi, Wine Director at Eataly, would involve mixing three parts Chinotto with two parts of gin, and topping up with prosecco, spanked basil, and fresh lime juice.
Mixing Chinotto with Campari would, however, be a bit too much of a good thing.
For more information on chinotti, read Helena Attlee’s book, which includes a whole chapter entitled The Runt of the Litter, on chinotti.