Vino Cotto

Cooked Wine

An important ingredient in many southern Italian pastries and desserts, vino cotto is a type of preserve made from wine, grape juice, or even figs or prunes. Sometimes referred to as mosto cotto, the preserve may also be made from must, the freshly pressed juice of grapes drained off before the fermentation that would turn it into wine begins. The terms are used interchangeably, though, and whether made from wine or must, the preserve is commonly known as vino cotto.

Vino cotto is usually made during the vendemmia, or grape harvest season, when the must is plentiful, and it is a simple matter for Italians to acquire a few gallons of the freshly pressed grape juice. If you know someone who makes wine, by all means use the actual must. If not, this recipe suggests appropriate substitutes. Or try the next recipe, which uses bottled wine as a substitute for the must.

In Calabria and Sicily, it is customary to flavor the vino cotto with orange zest, cinnamon, and clove. If you wish to flavor it, add the finely grated zest of 2 oranges, 2 cinnamon sticks, each about 3 inches long, and 2 whole cloves after 30 minutes of cooking. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer before bottling.

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Ingredients

  • 4 quarts must of red muscat grapes, or 6 to 7 pounds red muscat grapes, or 4 quarts unsweetened muscat grape juice, available in health food

Method

If using the must, place in an 8-quart enameled iron or stainless steel casserole.

If using the grapes, strip them from the stems, rinse them quickly, and drain. Place the grapes, in batches, in a stainless steel colander set over a large bowl and crush them coarsely, squeezing with your hands and allowing the juice to drain into the bowl. Reserve the squeezed grape skins. After crushing all the grapes, run the reserved skins through a food mill fitted with the finest blade, letting their juice drain into the bowl with the other juice. Pour all the juice into an 8-quart enameled iron or stainless steel casserole.

Bring the must or grape juice to a boil over medium heat and lower to a simmer. The must will foam a great deal while it is simmering. Be careful that it does not boil over. Cook the must for about 1 hour, stirring often, until it is thick and syrupy and reduced to about 1 quart. Cool the vino cotto, pour it into a clean glass jar or bottle, cover, and store in the refrigerator. The vino cotto will keep indefinitely.