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The Italian General and the enduring currant biscuit

Posted by Suzanne Turrisi on 19 Mar 2018



A few weeks ago I came across (for the first time) a delicious looking biscuit named after the heroic and dashing ‘leader of the Italian movement for national liberation’, Giuseppe Garibaldi. 

My curiosity was stirred.


The Italian hero and his English biscuit

Garibaldi, who fought to unify Italy under the one monarch, Vittorio Emanuel II in 1861 (when he and his 'Redshirts' freed Sicily and Naples from the rule of the Bourbons in 1860) not only has street after street (plus lots more) named in his honour all the way down the peninsula from Venice to Palermo but he was so popular in England by 1861 that the English made a biscuit bearing his name.

His name sake English biscuit is made of two thin pieces of buttery pastry filled with currants, sprinkled with fine cinnamon sugar and then baked golden.

I baked some last Thursday. 




To Make The Garibaldi Biscuit

I followed The Australian Women’s Weekly recipe (click here for the ingredients and method) and the biscuits are good to eat.

They taste buttery with a hint of caramelisation and have a little crunch from the cinnamon sugar on top. And the brandy soaked currants, rolled between the thin buttery pastry layers are a bit chewy and delicious. 

All very English for an Italian general.


The 'Victorian Celebrity' from Italy and a little history

I found out that they really are a much loved English staple and have been in production since first sold in 1861. Bee Wilson’s 2010 article is filled with lots of these details…she tells they were factory made from the start.

And also, Garibaldi had made a great impression on the English.

He made his first trip to England in 1854 to meet some English radicals and in the early 1850's became 'the darling of the northern English radicals'–(Marcella Pellegrino Sutcliffe in her 2014 article, ‘Garibaldi in London’).

And he made a second celebrated and popular visit to England in early April 1864. The official reason for his visit was to 'thank the British people for the support they had given to the Italian national movement', says Marcella Sutcliffe. 

She notes that, 'The charismatic patriot had achieved international fame as leader of the ‘expedition of the Thousand’ in 1860 freeing the south of Italy from the tyranny of the Bourbons and handing it to Vittorio Emanuel II.

He was just so popular.

'Following the unification of Italy...'Garibaldimania' gripped England and the market was flooded with objects inspired by the Italian, including Staffordshire figurines, clothing, such as red shirts and aprons, popular songs and the ‘famous Garibaldi biscuit'.  (Marcella Sutcliffe) 

To read more about his 1864 visit click on this link for Marcella Pellegrino Sutcliffe's article. - just press on the words 'read paper'. Here I found out lots of interesting details.

During his 1864 visit the English establishment courted Garibaldi for his moderate course of action in the unification of Italy under a 'constitutional monarch' whilst the English radicals and Italian republicans needed him for their more revolutionary, people stirring social motives. Garibaldi tried to steer an independent course during this visit, says Marcella Sutcliffe but the Italian hero made a 'swift and unexpected departure' from England. 

And, the Garibaldi is still made on the biscuit factory assembly line today.


The Garibaldi biscuit baked

Before I share a couple more snapshots of the baking …thank you to Guy Mirabella's Shop Ate Café and Store for posting a batch of golden Garibaldi biscuits on your Instagram page.

This was my introduction to this tasty currant biscuit.


P.S  I read on Wikipedia that the Garibaldi biscuit goes under the name 'Full O' Fruit' in Australia.. I have eaten the 'Full O'Fruit" years ago in Australia. They are alike.







Some Notes:


Bee Wilson's ' article: 'The Kitchen Thinker:Garibaldi biscuits'. UK Telegraph August 2010.

Marcella Pellegrino Sutcliffe's article: 'Garibaldi in London'. History Today April 2014.

Ancient Pages: "Why Is A Biscuit Named After Giuseppe Garibaldi- Italy's Military Leader And Hero?'

The words, 'Victorian Celebrity' come from Ben Kehoe's article 'Why Did Garibaldi become a Victorian Celebrity?'



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