Vincotto is a traditional Italian ingredient that adds a spark of sweetness to sauces. Despite its name, it isn't wine; it's freshly squeezed grape juice that has been cooked for hours until it becomes an intense syrup. It has been important in Mediterranean cuisine since the earliest Egyptian dynasties. Originally it was a way to preserve the fruit juice long after the harvest. It has a plum-raisin flavor with light sweetness.
The product is typically made in people's homes but a family from the Calabria region of Italy now is making and bottling a commercial version. It takes 3 pounds of grapes to produce 8 ounces of what they call Vino Cotto. As the juice is not fermented, it is non-alcoholic.
I watched Mario Batali make his own vincotto from Concord grapes on a recent "Iron Chef" episode. He used his liquid to braise vegetables from the White House garden, but I used mine to drizzle over a chunk of piave cheese. On another occasion I added it to a pan of sauteed chicken breasts to create a quick and easy sauce.
The Montillo family, who make the syrup in their Framingham, Mass., home, are marketing the product on the Internet with plans to distribute through grocery stores soon. To try Vino Cotto di Montillo, go to montilloitalianfoods.com. An 8.5-ounce bottle is $15.95 plus shipping. (The company also sells Vino Cotto-laced chocolate truffles.)
Elizabeth Downer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published January 21, 2010 5:00 AM