There’s a new Italian food trend in town. Have you ever heard of mosto d’uva? Here we go!
A recipe for grape juice… without the alcohol! Since the time of the Romans, Italians have been preparing mosto d’uva: a healthy, delicious juice that can be enjoyed on its own or as an accompaniment to recipes for some natural sweetness.
The first written record for this recipe comes from Apicius in a 4th century collection of Roman recipes, “De re coquinaria”. In this Latin manuscript, mention is made of defrutum (meaning grape in English) which must be cooked and reduced to a syrup-like consistency during the autumn vendemmia, or grape harvest.
Since then, this syrup (which goes by many names in Italy, including mosto and sapa) has been used for a variety of culinary purposes but overseas, it still remains relatively unknown.
Grape mosto or as it’s called in Italian, mosto d’uva, is a boiled-down juice extracted from clusters of the fruit with a variety of versatile uses in the true Italian culinary tradition; mosto d’uva was the original sweetener for food before cane sugar was readily available.
The use of mosto d’uva in Cremona and Mantua has become famous for its sublime accompaniments to recipes like bollito misto and mostarda di frutta. These were traditionally prepared by preserving fruits in boiled-down mosto with other spices. Festive biscuits called mostaccioli from the south of Italy have been sweetened over the years with mosto cotto when the more expensive honey and sugar were unavailable.
All over Italy, the mosto d’uva follows the traditional ritual of harvest time during early winter and it’s always been present as an accompaniment to festivities. The famous culinary writer, Pellegrino Artusi, often recalled how children in his home region of Emilia-Romagna would mix sapa with freshly fallen to snow to make impromptu sorbetti. During St. Martin’s Day (November 11), the peak of harvest time in Italy, farmers and winemakers drink mosto d’uva as the first wine of the season. Perhaps the best-known example, however, comes from Modena and Reggio Emilia. In this part of northern Italy, people have been producing balsamic vinegar from aged mosto cotto since the Middle Ages.
Probably Acetaia Guerzoni from Modena is the only Italian producer to export mosto d’uva to the Northern American market, certified as both organic and sustainable in its production. This is a niche product you can find in some U.S. gourmet stores that’s starting to gain some traction because of its simple message: this is not simply any old grape juice!
“Mosto d’uva is a product of first squeezing the grapes and, according to Italian law, it may also contain a little alcohol but our mosto is totally non-alcoholic,” explains Lorenzo Guerzoni, owner of Acetaia Guerzoni. We keep the name mosto d’uva because it is more easily recognized abroad where they often confuse it with wine or grape fruit.”
“Our mosto is made by following an ancient recipe from our ancestors called carpada, which means cracked peels. We cook the peel and juice together at about 60°C. Originally, our mosto was born in order to make typical pudding with flour, but now we sell it mainly as a drink,” continues Guerzoni. “American people really like it for its body and sweetness and because it is not alcoholic.”
Acetaia Guerzoni uses two varieties of grapes known as Ancellotta and Salamino. For their mosto, the first (the Ancellota grape) is the darkest grape in the world and it features a very sweet taste. The second, the Salamino grape, is the typical variety used to make Lambrusco wine. It gives acidity and flavor to the product.
Mosto d’uva maintains all the antioxidants and beneficial properties of the grapes and wine – all without the alcohol! For this reason it is considered very healthy, even medicinal.
While it’s time that more Americans discover this delicious Italian product, those who have already tried it confirm the benefits of getting antioxidants in a pleasant drink without drinking alcohol.
Articolo di Liliana Rosano
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