Olio Santo – The Spicy Peperoncini Oil of Italy

Olio Santo 2

My last post was so recipe-laden that I thought it best to go easy with this one …

I was introduced to Olio Santo during my first visit to San Marino a little over 2 years ago. My cousin Maurizio offered to drizzle a bit of it on my linguine alla vongole, a dish Zia had prepared for me after I mentioned it was a favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed the oil and was told that Zia made it and that it was very easy to do. After a brief explanation, I knew that I’d be making it once I got home. I have ever since.

Red peperoncini are grown throughout Southern Italy but primarily in Calabria and Basilicata, the toe and instep of the Italian boot. Come August, you can often see the peperoncini hanging in large bunches, drying in the hot Mediterranean sun. Across the south, their name often contains a reference to the devil – i.e., diavolett, diabulillu, diavulicchuirefers, etc. With that naming convention, it makes perfect sense that an oil made with them should be called holy or sacred. Olio Santo does, in fact, translate to Holy Oil. Yes, perfect sense.

Trying to find the origin of Olio Santo was not such an easy task. It seems that everyone from Calabria to Abruzzo (the region to the south of Le Marche), claims to be the origin of this spicy condiment. I’m not about to take sides. For me, Zia Pina is the creator of Olio Santo. You see, in Zia Pina I trust.

Zia uses dried red peperoncini from Calabria to make her Olio Santo. She grinds/chops the peperoncini, places them in a bottle, fills it with good quality olive oil, and caps it before setting the bottle in the sun for 3 days. After sunbathing, the bottle is stored in a cool, dark place for at least a week. Feel free to use it after that. (See Notes) It really is that simple and the recipe I’m about to share adds quantities to the ingredients just mentioned.

Although Zia uses Calabrese peperoncini, you may not be able to source them. For some time, I had a devil of a time finding them and eventually turned to Amazon. Of course, you needn’t go to such lengths but can easily use the more readily available chilies from this side of the Atlantic. I’ve used dried Chile do Arbol with a dash of red pepper flakes when peperoncini aren’t available. The preparations taste the same and affect the same area of the palate. I honestly doubt whether anyone would notice a difference.

Once made, use it as a finishing oil for just about any pasta dish to add a little zip to the plate. I’ve used it as a base for spaghetti aglio e olio, as well as a dipping oil for some crusty Italian bread. You may want to add a bit of grated Parmigiano Reggiano to that plate, too. Remember the pinzimonio? A dash of Olio Santo to the dipping sauce will bring a bit of heat to your veggies. Make a batch of this flavorful oil and I think you’ll be surprised to see just how many uses you’ll find for it. And we’ll have Zia Pina to thank.

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Olio Santo Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 oz dried Calabrese peperoncini
  • 1 quart (1 l) good quality extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the dried peperoncini into a food processor and pulse until thoroughly chopped.
    1. Alternately: use a sharp knife to chop the dried peperoncini. Wear gloves to limit the risk of a burning eye.
  2. Place the chopped peperoncini into a clean & dry glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
  3. Add the olive oil, stir to combine, and place the lid on the jar.
  4. Once sealed, place the container into a sunny spot, where it will remain for 3 days.
  5. Once “cured”, place the jar into a cool, dark place for at least 1 week. (See Notes)
  6. Place the Olio Santo into bottles more suitable for serving. You can include some of the peperoncini bits in each jar, if you prefer. (See Notes)
  7. Olio Santo will keep for months, although it never lasts that long.

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Olio Santo 3

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Notes 

I stir the peperoncini in the oil several times while it sits both in the sun and in the dark. Not only will this ensure that all trapped air bubbles are released, I think it gives all the chopped peperoncini equal access to the oil.

I always include some chopped peperoncini in each serving bottle I fill from a batch of Olio Santo.  If you don’t wish to do so, just pass the oil through a mesh strainer as your fill the bottle.

Using a small ladle, I remove any bits and seeds that may float to the surface of my Olio Santo. If allowed to remain, they may block the bottle’s pourer, only to release at a most inopportune time.

Your Olio Santo will keep for 6 months, even longer if you continue to refill it with oil after you fill the serving bottle(s). Once soaked, however, I never allow the chopped peperoncini to be exposed to the air. When the level of oil in the bottle drops that low, either add more oil or toss that batch’s remnants. It’s easy enough to make a fresh batch.

Some prefer to keep the Olio Santo in the fridge. If you choose to do that, keep in mind that the olive oil will thicken considerably when cold. You can get around this by substituting a neutral-tasting vegetable oil for an equal amount of the olive oil, or, by removing the serving bottle from the fridge about 30 minutes before it’s needed.

There are other ways to prepare Olio Santo. Some use chopped, fresh peperoncini, while some recipes steep the peperoncini in heated — not boiling — oil. Never having tried any of them, I cannot say much more about them. I can say, however, that I’m sticking with Zia Pina.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Ketchup Look Back

One good condiment deserves another, eh? A few years ago I made my first batch of ketchup and haven’t bought a bottle since. It’s good enough to have earned a permanent spot in my Christmas gift baskets, too. Better still, it’s not just for fried potatoes or burgers, as I’ll prove in a soon-to-be shared meatloaf recipe. Take this LINK to see the recipe and then you’ll have no excuse for not being prepared to make a killer meatloaf in a few weeks.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

zucchini-blossoms-pasta-preview

Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms & Cream

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105 thoughts on “Olio Santo – The Spicy Peperoncini Oil of Italy

  1. *smile* About to be out of the door: methinks for a wonderful night! But saw this fly in and wondered what the ‘holy oil;’ was all about? Have actually managed to ask Mr Google and am not quite certain what the Australian equivalent is . . . but it certainly is simple to have this in your pantry 🙂 ! Well I was always taught that pasta aglio et olio was atop any other way of serving it in the world, so am certain that some ‘holy’ oil atop it would only add to its delights . . . . best . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    • I bet there’s a chili oil used in your corner of the world, probably Asian in origin. Olio Santo surely isn’t the only one. It is the only one I know how to make, however, and I love it! I use it on or in just about everything, Eha. I even prepared a watermelon & feta cheese salad for lunch today that included a splash of this sainted oil. Bless Zia Pina!

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      • Oh John – of course there are heaps of Asian chili oils: and I have a few in my pantry but sometimes the European child in me emerges wanting one like yours and I just love your methodology 🙂 !! And that gorgeous reddish colour!! It’s REAL! I am guessing at chilli strength 8 out of 10 . . .shall try. And you must hear me clapping across The Pond re that salad: a couple of months and me too!!! Temps up to 35 C later in the week . . . hmmm!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Our temps have returned to the summer range but it’s only for a few days. Come Saturday, we’ll be back into fall. These warm spells will be growing less frequent and much shorter in duration. No amount of olio Santo is going to change that but it will help to keep me warm. 🙂

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  2. John, my Pete would love this oil! Can’t wait, he will be home tomorrow for nearly 2 weeks! What a treat. So excited. This current living arrangement of him in Kenya and me at home isn’t ideal. Not that this has anything to do with you Zia’s amazing oil.
    Have a beautiful day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How nice! I was intrigued about this olio Santo from your last post. It sounds great. Let’s see if I can find pepperoncinos here in madrid, and you know what? I’m going to use Zia’s system to make achiote oil too (my mom gave me a lot of seeds this summer), I think it will work perfectly.
    Have a nice day! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do hope you can find the peperoncini, Giovanna, but if not, other hat chilies will work, too. I like this method because the oil isn’t too hot for my palate. It has a nice kick but is not overwhelming. I do hope Zia’s method works for your achiote oil. It is such an easy way to spice up your olive oil. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your chilli oil looks good. I never thought of curing it.

    My chilli condiment was made from regular dried chillies and the seeds, lots of finely chopped fresh garlic. I then cooked it in some oil till fragrant (mind the fumes, cough, cough). Next, I put the mixture in a blender, keeping it quite chunky. I have tried it with dried shrimps too (washed and dried. It is available from Asian grocery shops). It had the approval of my former colleagues.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yours sounds like a good variation, too. Especially like the idea of adding the dried shrimp, which I can easily purchase here. With our dreary winter fast approaching, sunny days are becoming increasingly rare. Either I make a large batch of cured olio santo or try your method o cooking the ingredients over a low heat, I presume. I just may give it a try. Thanks for the visit and for telling me about your recipe.

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    • I envy you your peperoncini, Debi! I was afraid to try to bring them back with me. This oil, once made, is certainly convenient — perhaps a little too convenient. I’ve gradually increased its use and now just about everything gets a splash or two. Sure is tasty, though. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I guarantee you, Mary, no matter how many uses you may think of today, put a bottle of olio Santo nearby and you’ll surprise yourself when you see how many dishes get “blessed.” That’s certainly the case here.

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  5. Brilliant! I’ve been adding peppers to olive oil, since I came across Oili Santo in an Italian pizzeria many years ago. However, as nice as it is, I didn’t know there was a specific pepper type or that it should stand in the sun.I will have to go and look for some Calabrese peperoncini for my next batch – there are a couple of good Italian delis near me so I might get lucky 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bet you’ll have an easier time finding them that I did, MD. I do like Zia’s method. There’s absolutely no chance of singeing the peppers or burning the oil. And you can watch the oil turn red as it sits in the sun, kinda like many a fair-skinned friend. 😀

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      • That sounds good – mine gets quite chilli hot, but it doesn’t go red sitting in the cupboard. I went past one of the delis yesterday and they did have peppers hanging up – I don’t know if they are the right ones, but I’d say I stand a reasonable chance of getting them 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As the daughter of a Calabrese I can vouch for the deliciousness of this oil drizzled over pretty much most dishes! It looks so beautiful too and makes lovely gifts if you can bear to part with it 😀 Now, if I could only reproduce Antonio Carluccio’s Lemon Oil exactly as it’s sold, I’d be a very happy woman!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mmmmm … Lemon Oil sounds wonderful, Tanya. I doubt that Zia Pina has a recipe but maybe Zia Mariola does. 🙂
      I do use this oil on just about every dish I prepare. It adds just the right bit of spice without ruining my palate by the meal’s end. My paste just haven’t been the same since I came home 2 years ago after my first visit with Zia.
      (Psst … don’t tell anyone … I’ve already bought the bottles for the Christmas gift batch)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. John, this definitely brought me wonderful memories of a couple of excellent Italian restaurants in Sao Paulo. Maybe you know that there is a huge influence of Italian immigrants back in that city? A very large neighborhood in Sao Paulo is packed with so many stores and restaurants, most people living there are Italian immigrants – a festive neighborhood… Anyway, some of the best restaurants carried this oil, a small bottle on every table – and it was heaven, pure heaven! Seems to get better with time too….

    I never made it from scratch – I suspect I will enjoy it more than my beloved, but well… there would be more for me, right?

    Can I put it in ice cream? (wink wink)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew there were Italians in South America, Argentina specifically, but had no idea that there was such a large presence in Sao Paulo. That’s just another reason for me to head south one winter. Maybe I could say that I’m researching my new book and claim the trip as a tax deduction. Of course, then I’d have to write another book. This idea needs a little work …
      To be honest, I’ve never used te oils on tables in restaurants. Up until the last couple of years, I really didn’t like spicy foods and I avoided them. Only after blogging and trying everyone’s dishes, did start experimenting with spice and heat. Now, it seems my threshold is growing higher with every dash of olio Santo. I’m still not ready to eat a raw habanero but maybe one day.
      That ice cream may not so far fetched. I’ve just made some chocolate ice cream and we all know that cayenne and chocolate go together so well. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love pepper oil! A lot of different cuisines seem to have a version of this. Never made my own Olio Santo, though. Wonder why not? It’s easy to do, and tastes so good. Definitely my kind of thing, too. Fun post — thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This could not be easier to make, John, and there’s no worrying whether the oil is too hot and singed the peperoncini. And it’s good, too. It sure does brighten up a dish of pasta, a ice of pizza, or a dinner salad. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t use it on something. Bet if you make a batch, you’ll be saying the same. I’ll be looking forward to that week’s cocktail post. 🙂

      Like

  9. This is the second blog post about homemade chilli oil I see this week — it must be a sign! Now I am against applying the same condiment to every dish, but this is certainly one I’d like to try. If only for an alternative way of adding chilli to orecchiette ai broccoli or spaghetti alle vongole. Only problem is that we don’t get three sunny days in a row a lot, and certainly not for the next 7 months or so. I do like that curing method though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Stefan. I agree with you and do not like adding the same condiment to every dish but I find that this oil brings a touch of heat to the dish(es) and not much flavor. Your palate is far more sensitive than mine, so, you may find things differently but I do like the bit of heat this oil adds to a dish. You’re right about the sun, too. I’d like to make a batch for Christmas gifts but 3 sunny days are hard to come by once November starts. Maybe I should spend a week in Florida so that I can make olio Santo. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great oil John. The Calabrese and Siciliani here in Melbourne always serve a little bowl full on the table with anything fishy- especially with crab, and seafood pizza. I will be making some of your Zia’s olio come chilli season.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Francesca. I’ve seen similar oils at many of our Italian restaurants here, Francesca. I’ve never once used them. It’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve started trying spicy foods. Up until I started blogging, I avoided them all. Now, due largely to the influence of WP, my tolerance has grown considerably. My dinner tonight was far spicier than any I would have even tasted as little as 3 years ago. I do hope that you enjoy Zia’s recipe. She’s going to love hearing that so many are interested in preparing it.

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  11. I’ve seen all sorts of crazy recipes for infused oils made on the stove top keeping the oil at a constant for 3 hours, who has time for that. Standing the infusion in the sun makes perfect sense. Thanks for that brilliant low tech tip. BTW Finally found some good sized fresh squid to stuff and bake. Delicious recipe, hope you got the pingback

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve just returned from your blog. (The pingback was buried in last night’s avalanche of notifications following this post.) That was very gracious of you, Sandra. Thank you.
      When I wrote this post, I looked at some of the other recipes for making the oil. You’re right, Zia’s method seems so much easier and reliable. Every recipe that used a stovetop warned about rushing the process or overheating the oil. There are no such worries with this recipe — unless we experience some really major solar flares. I dare say, olio Santo will be the least of our worries should that happen. 🙂

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  12. Buona Sera John! Now you are talking. My boys would drizzle this oil on everything, if you let them. As you know, they love the spicy foods. Good hint on the gloves but also even googles in not a bad idea…do you remember the time I was making (Chinese chili sauce), one cannot be too careful. These would be great holiday gifts!!! Great idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Buona notte, cara BAM! Your boys and I are a lot alike. Hardly a meal goes by that doesn’t have a sprinkle or tow of this oil. If nothing else, I’ll use it to oil a pan before sautéing. Zia Pina created a monster 2 years ago — that’s why I love her so. 🙂
      Have a great week, BAM!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Once you prepare this, Marissa, you won’t buy it again. Best of all, you really can control the heat. Add more oil if too hot or more peperoncini if too mild. Your and your husband are in for a treat!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. We always have a small bottle of olio santo around – in fact, we have a bunch of different varieties using all the chiles we have available in Tucson. Some hot, some sweet and all good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve not been into spicy foods long enough to have been introduced to the many chilies that you in the SW have in abundance, David. In fact, just a few years ago I would have laughed had you suggested that I would one day be making olio Santo. I am learning, though. I finally found Hatch chiles in August and have several pounds roasted and stored in my freezer. Once I get past the eggplant glut, I plan on having some fun with them in the kitchen. 🙂

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      • If you ever need a supply of dried chiles from Tucson, let me know! I’d be happy to ship some to you. My favorites tend to be the intensely flavored, yet not too hot varieties. Although, that said, there are some good hot ones too!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m in the same boat, Linda. It won’t be long now before our skies are covered with one thick, gray blanket for the duration. I’m hoping to squeeze in one more batch made for Christmas gifts. Fingers crossed …

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ooh – I like this recipe and I like how easy it is to make. Mmmm! It would be so good in a tomato sauce. I didn’t realize the oil would have to be cured in the sunlight, so that is very good to know. Also, thanks for the tip about stirring the oil to release air bubbles.

    On another note, I recently tried making tomato sauce again – I’ve never been happy with my previous attempts. (My poor husband! I would make a sauce then, during dinner, I would critique it and say, “Next time I’ll do this…” He’s really very patient.) So I looked up your basic meat sauce and saw that you simmered it for two hours. So I did the same and voila! A FA-BU-LOUS sauce. Your blog is making me look like a hero!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This oil is easy to flavor, Ruth, and I’m sure you’re going to love it. I use it on everything. If a recipe starts with some oil in a pan, I use olio Santo. I’ll use it again at the end as a finishing oil. It really is good.
      I am so glad that your had success with our sauce. Letting it simmer for a longer time does help the flavors to develop more fully. I do make a “quick” sauce but that uses fresh tomatoes and had a different flavor because of it. Thanks for coming back to tell me about your experience. Reports like this one always put a smile on my face.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment brought to mind a story I heard on one of the talk shows. This starlet was at a New Year’s party when a crying young woman passed her. She stopped the woman and asked what was wrong. She could not find her boyfriend at the party, she explained, and whenever she called out his name, “Marco!”, well, you can pretty much guess how her tale ends. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  15. wowwwwwwwwwww John carissimo! ho ricevuto una magnifica lezione sulla variet° e l’eccezionalità dei nostri valori ricettuali regionali, conoscevo il VIN SAnto, è ovvio essendo io toscana ed essendo una peculiarità della mia regione, ma dell’olio santo conoscevo solo quello che si da ( Dio ce ne scampi e liberi ) solo nel letto dell’estrema unzione ha ha ( ha ha mica poi tanto 😦 ) bando agli scherzi ( macabri ) questa tua ricetta molto piccante la trovo estremamente gradevole, vedremo di sperimentarla, visto che qui non manca un ottimo olio exytavergine ed anche i piccantissimi peperoncini calabri
    i tuoi post sono sempre eccezionali, ti ringrazio anche per la tua italianità mai sopita nel profondo del cuore
    un amichevole abbraccio
    Annalisa

    Liked by 1 person

    • This oil was not something my Mother made. She did not like spicy foods, although my Father did. I ams o glad that my Zia Pina served it that evening during my first visit to S. Marino. Now, I always have a bottle on the dinner table and another in my kitchen for cooking.
      Thank you so much for your vIsit and kind words, Annalisa. I hope you have a wonderful week!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Why have I never thought to make this? I always have it at our favourite Italian pizza joint, in fact, pizza isn’t the same without it! I adore flavoured olive oil (just brought some truffle flavoured oo back from Spain, can’t wait to try it!). Your flavoured oils also make wonderful gifts too (hint hint), particularly in those special bottles.
    I love these photos, I know I’ve said that before.😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, Eva, yours are pretty much my exact thoughts when I learned that Zia Pina made her own. Why hadn’t I done this before? I am way ahead of you re: gifts. I’ve got everything needed and am hoping the next few days will be sunny enough to get a batch made. The good thing is that I won’t have to worry about it spoiling between now and Christmas.

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  17. When you first mentioned pepperoncini I thought you were referring to fresh, but of course you talking dried! I can’t imagine how delicious and addictive this oil is! Though I might have to make it with chile de arbol….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought of it in those terms but “addictive” is a very good way to describe my fondness for this oil. I use it on everything, Mimi. To think, it wasn’t all that long ago when I shied away from anything at all spicy. Blogging sure has changed my diet. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I don’t think I can find ay peperoncini around here but we do have chile de arbol which I think would work here. This is SO easy to make. I love it! Headed down to pick up a good bottle of olive oil tomorrow to get this going. Thanks John!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought that this might catch your eye, MJ. It’s very good and not so strong that it will ruin your palate. I’ve been using it on just about everything — and my tolerance for spice/heat has gone up considerably, as a result. 🙂

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  19. … talking about flavoured oils, can I suggest also a cep oil (olio ai porcini). This has a more north Italian feel to it and it is delicious now in Autumn (on pasta, steaks, mushrooms, risotto, roasted vegetables ecc..). it is very simple to make: olive oil, dried ceps, bay leaf (Paula Wolfert has a French version and she adds thyme too – equally good). it is truly delicious. You can either warm up the oil with the ceps or adopt the “cold infusing method”, which I think gives better results. Here the Paula Wolfert’s recipe http://www.kukbook.com/foodie/recipe/view/orig/35633/Cepe-Scented-Oil-Recipe/. stefano

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I am so glad I didn’t miss this recipe, John. I love infused oils and this one is unlike any I’ve tried. I don’t even think I’ve seen red peperoncini, but I have access to a wonderful family owned Italian grocery and I’ll ask them, and if unsuccessful, I’m always running to Amazon for something! The color is so beautiful I think this would be wonderful to prepare now and give as Christmas gifts. If I do give it at Christmas, I’ll be sure to call it “holy oil.” I think it sounds special and looks expensive! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t that color great, Debra? You can watch it develop as the oil cures in the sun. I love it and, as for the oil, I use it in ways I never thought that I would. If a recipe calls for some olive oil in a pan to start, well, I’ll use olio Santo. It’s not so hot that it ruins my palate but it does lend a little zing to the dish. Perfect!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. This oil sounds delicious, and those bottles look so attractive! I bet it would be great in so many dishes. And you’ve reminded me that I haven’t made spaghetti agilo e olio in ages … now I want some right now …. not such a good idea at 10:30 pm though. I’ll have to wait until my next dinner!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: The Incredible Edible Eggplant | from the Bartolini kitchens

    • Great! I hope you’ll enjoy like we do. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare and just about fail safe. I keep a bottle next to my stove and another on my table. As you can imagine, I use it on everything.
      Thanks for the visit and for taking the time to comment.

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  23. Pingback: End of the Harvest Hot Pepper Relish (GF) | from the Bartolini kitchens

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