Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home.
Today: A one-ingredient grape jam from the heart of Abruzzo
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You'll be surprised at how incredibly sweet a sugarless grape jam can be. This specialty from the region of Abruzzo is known as scrucchiata; it'sa traditional, homey recipe that has been passed on by word of mouth. With only one ingredient, it could be argued that it's barely a recipe at all.
Like any other jam, scrucchiata can be slathered on toasted bread for breakfast or dollopped over a plate of ferratelle or pizzelle -- Abruzzo's answer to waffles. If you can hide a jar or two until the holidays, scrucchiata is also used to make caggionetti or calcionetti cookies. These Christmas cookies are filled with a spiced mixture of jam and chocolate; they're almost like a sweet, deep-fried ravioli. The jam is also used to make crostata, a classic jam tart with a sweet shortcrust pastry base and a criss-cross lattice top.
This jam is traditionally made with early autumn's bountiful harvest of ripe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo grapes -- the same native southern Italian grape that makes the deeply colored red wines of the region. Concords are a great substitute if you don't have a neighbor or relative with an excess crate of overripe grapes (as the locals usually do) -- and if you don't have those either, any delicious black grape will be fine.
This sugarless version, while very traditional, doesn't last as long as jams made with sugar, which is a preservative. That being said, 4 pounds of grapes makes a very small batch of jam (two small jars, if you're lucky!). I think you'll find it very easy -- a little too easy -- to finish them off in no time. If you have an excessive amount of grapes and you'd like to conserve more jam for longer, do feel free to add sugar to this recipe; use about 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar per 2 pounds (1 kilogram) of grapes. Add the sugar after the first two hours of cooking, or when the mixture is already reduced and dense.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.