Black Grape Must

The following recipe is, again, from Scappi (1). This sauce has several steps but it is a delicious sauce and worth it. I developed this recipe quite a few years ago while planning a feast. I was intrigued by the similarities of this sauce and modern day barbeque sauce. Scappi uses it to roast meat over a fire, specifically beef or pork ribs!

To start you need to make grape must or mosto cotto. Fortunately Scappi describes this process. The following recipe makes the grape must and then goes on to make theblack grape sauce sauce. Typically a “must” is a reduction of grape juice by one half volume.

NOTE: As stated in earlier recipes, a pound in Scappi’s Italy is 12 ounces and not the Imperial pound of 16 ounces that we use today. (2)

Original (1)

“Per far sapore d’uva negra

Piglisi l’uva negra, che habbia del sodo, & sia quella che si chiama gropello, cioè cesenese, che ha le cosie rosse, suaghinosi i raspi, & mettanosi a bollire nella cazzuola con foco lento per un’hora, & dapoi piglisi il sugo che tal’una haverà fatto, & colisi per una stamigna,… & per ogni libra di sugo, piglinosi otto oncie di zuccharo fino, & facciasi ribolure in una cazzuola, schiumandolo, & con esso si aggiungerà all’ultimo un poco di sale, & di cannella intera, & facciasi bollire a soco lento, tanto che pigli la cottura, & come sara cotto, conservisi in vasi di netro, ò alberelli invetriat”

Translation (3)

“To Prepare a Black-Grape Sauce

Take black grapes that are rather firm, and they should be of the variety called gropello – that is, a Cesena grape – that are reddish brown on the outside. SOak the bunches and set them to boil for an hour in a casserole pot over a low fire. Then take the juice that those grapes will themselves have made and strain it……For every pound of juice, put in eight ounces of fine sugar and boil it again in a casserole pot, skimming it. Toward the end add a little salt and whole cinnamon into it and boil it slowly until it is cooked. When it is done, put it into glass vessels or glazed jars for keeping.

My Redaction

  • 4 lbs of Black Grapes
  • 2 cups of water

Put the grapes and water in a pot and cook, gently bubbling, for an hour or so. You can gently smash the grapes with a potato masher if you like. Strain the grapes with their juice. I put the grapes through a food mill so that the pulp would be pushed through as well as the juice. This process also removed the skins and the seeds. This yielded 4 1/2 cups of juice. I then put this mixture back in the pot and simmered it for another hour or so until it was reduced by one third. I added a tsp of salt and a stick or two of cinnamon and continued reducing it until it was one half of the original volume.

Scappi would have used a cloth or metal sieve like the one below, for this process

Scappi, Strainer

This drawing is from a series of 27 plates from the back of his Opera, illustrating all the equipment used in his kitchen. (3)

A Bit on Grapes: The grapes that Scappi specifies are

the famoso di Cesena grape, long grown in the Emilia-Romagna section of Italy, was considered extinct when, in 2000, two rows of old vines were discovered. A small number of producers have since worked to revive it, including Villa Venti, whose Serena Bianco is the only famoso I’ve encountered. It’s intensely aromatic and exotic, with flavors of apricots and herbs.” (4)

Scappi uses this basic grape must in several different recipes throughout his Opera. I have used this grape must to make a sauce using the leftover grape pulp, vinegar, cinnamon, pepper, salt, nutmeg and cloves. Scappi says to serve this sauce with roasted pork ribs. Hmmmmm!?


  1. Scappi, Bartolomeo. 1570 Digital copies of the original text, Italian retrieved 7/30/2019
  2. 2) Lambert, Timothy. “A Brief History of Measuring”. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
  3. Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570). Trans. Terrence Scully. Toronto, Canada. University of Toronto Press. 2008. Print.






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