When we were kids (ragazzi) growing up in New York, my grandparents were far, far from affluent. In fact, they made their own soap using lye, cured olives, sewed their own clothes and bartered the shoes my grandfather made in his small shop for music lessons for the six children. As in most Italian-American homes, pasta was the main stay of the diet and luxuries like sweets (dolci) where seldom seen. Fortunately, every backyard seemed to have a grape arbor that produced large quantities of purple fruit bursting with sweet goodness. These grapes were picked and made into Vino Cotto, the central ingredient for a popular fried cookie called Gravioli (or at least this is what they were called in our home). I liken them to the cookie, ‘brutta ma buoni’, the popular Italian cookie that is aptly named ‘ugly but good’.
Obtaining or producing vino cotto is no simple task (see recipe below) but I was fortunate enough to find the elusive thick, sugary substance on Amazon.it so placed my order.
The gravioli made in my kitchen was very similar to what my mother and grandmother created so many years ago. Not sure if it is the best cookie every made, but the nostalgia connected with making and eating the sweet delight makes it one of my favorites. Below is my recipe handed down from my mother.
Mix 3 oz. vino cotto, 3 oz. water, 3 oz. red wine, 3 oz. oil, and 3 oz. granulated sugar together.
Heat all ingredients on stove to a boil. Add approximately 3 cups flour. Roll out cookies to desired shape
Deep fry until golden. Buon appetito!!!
Mosto Cotto (Vino Cotto) Recipe
Makes 1 to 2 cups
- 10 pounds ripe grapes, removed from their stems (red or purple grapes will give the best color)
Smash the grapes with a potato masher. Or put them into a food processor in small batches and pulse a few times (you don’t want to grind the seeds, just crush the grapes).
Put the smashed grapes into a large pot over medium heat. Let the temperature rise until it is steaming hot but just below a simmer (it should not be bubbling much if at all). Maintain this approximate temperature and cook, stirring often, for 1 hour.
During this hour the pectin in the skins and seeds of the grapes will permeate the juice.
Strain the must through cheesecloth. Squeeze the bundle of cloth, or press on it with the back of a wooden spoon, to get out as much liquid as possible. Return the strained liquid to the pot.
Cook for at least 1 more hour, stirring occasionally. Again, do not let the liquid boil!!! Continue to cook the mosto cotto down until it is the consistency of olive oil or thick maple syrup. This can take anywhere from 1 to 5 hours.
Remove from the heat and let cool slightly before bottling. vino cotto will keep in a cool place for at least 1 year.