Monday, March 12, 2012
I’m not a huge player of games. And I don’t usually join in on contests. I’m not real big on rules, and deadlines are something I usually get paid for to suffer.
But a few weeks ago I was invited by a fellow blogger, (the extremely nice and talented Rossella over at Ma che ti sei mangiato) to join in on a contest she was helping to organize. The challenge (should I choose to accept it) was to be to incorporate saba (more on that later) into a recipe. I need only mention her website (done!), as well as that of another very good wine blogger Andrea Pertini (Percorsi di Vino. Done.) and of course the saba makers (Azeienda Mariotti. There. Done) And did I mention, there was a prize. I love prizes. In this case a basket full of goodies from Il Gusto di Ferrara.
I'm so in.
So, now to on to the saba. For those of you who don’t know (and I don't expect you to) saba is cooked down grape juice. The grapes get picked, then crushed. At this point, rather than making their way to the wine-making process, the juice gets strained from the pulp, and the liquid is cooked, slowly, for up to 24 hours or sometimes even longer, until it is thick and syrup-like.
At this point you have what is called saba in Emilia Romagna. It goes by many other names in different regions. Vin Cotto in Puglia; Mosto Cotto in Campania, and so on. It's a very common way in Italy to preserve grapes.
(In Emilia Romagna the saba often gets put into barrels, and turns itself into Aceto Balsamico. But that's another story.)
I’ve often gotten bottles of saba over the years. But I have to admit, while I was excited to receive this ingredient, I rarely got around to using it, and usually ended up giving it away to a deserving chef/friend who was better prepared to whip it into something delicious.
But this time I accepted the challenge. (remember, there's a prize at stake) While I waited patiently for my bottle of saba to arrive, I began thinking of sauces I could incorporate it into, or - more realistically - desserts. I'd just recently had one of the more traditional uses, saba poured over snow, which was delicious. I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t find enough uses for what I imagined would be an industrial sized bottle of saba.
I needn’t have worried.
The teeny tiny bottle of saba that arrived was the airline miniature-sized variety. Really. I’d never seen such a small bottle of anything other than vodka or gin on a flight to the States.
You can see where this is going.
Yes, as so often happens, my mind wandered down the cocktail path.
And once I had decided to treat the saba as any sort of sweet syrup I’d add to a cocktail, the sample seemed plenty big enough.
I took a taste of the saba first, since each one is slightly different (like wine of course). This one was definitely on the sweet side, slightly musty and tasting of the concentrated grape juice that is was. The caramel notes were also strong, the result of the sugars in the juice caramelizing during the long cooking time.
After discarding the idea of vodka (too boring) and gin (too over powering) I remembered that I had the cutest little bottle of Nonino grappa from the last tasting I attended. It looked just right standing next to the mini saba bottle, and so, the Fragolino grappa, with it’s floral notes, would be the base.
To add some acidity, a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice. And for a touch of body, an egg white.
I’m not sure if this is the kind of recipe the sponsors of this contest had in mind. But if you’re going to send me a miniature bottle that reminds me of cocktails, that’s what’s going to happen. Every time.
2 oz grappa
1/2 oz saba
1 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
1 egg white
Pour grappa, saba and orange juice into a cocktail shaker.
Add egg white, close and shake. I find I have to take the top off the shaker every 3 or 4 shakes, since the egg white is produces gas, and the pressure builds
After about 20 seconds of hard shaking, add a handful of ice cubes, and give it a few more good shakes to chill.
Strain into a stemmed glass.
I imagine it would be delicious served with some salame or some other goodies from Ferrara. (Are you listening, judges?)