The harvest, now in its last moments, is also the time of grape jam, in dialect “ragnata” or “scrucchiata”, an indispensable ingredient in preparing some sweets like “celli ripieni”.
Mrs. Maria, whom I encounter at San Salvo on a warm day in early October, prepares the “ragnata” following an old recipe of her grandmother, used for over fifty years.
She tells me that her family, originally from Casoli, moved to San Salvo almost a hundred years ago. Her grandfather, she says proudly, spent a period in America, and was among the workers who built the Brooklyn Bridge.
But back to the jam, the lady tells me that the grapes used, strictly Montepulciano, must reach an optimal level of ripeness.
The quantity needed for a dozen jars (of various sizes), is about 7 kg. Also, you usually add apples (3 kg) to dampen the vehemence of the grapes on the palate and to thicken the mixture.
Sugar, although not found in the original recipe, is preferred during cooking to help conserve the finished product.
For starters, wash the bunches of grapes thoroughly, and remove, one by one, each grape from the stem, excluding the damaged ones.
This requires a bit of time. Once you finish, switch to the apples (golden in this case): rinse them, cut them up and add to the grapes.
We pour it all into a large copper pot and let it cook for about an hour. After cooking, let the mixture stand and cool and when cold, scour it to remove all seeds.
Put to boil in a large saucepan for about an hour, carefully mix and add a generous handful of sugar.
Let cook until the mixture is thick enough. The color should be bright and intense.
At this point, we can fill the jars and seal the caps, then set them upside down on a wooden surface.
Once cold, remove the jars and proceed with the sterilization (we put the jars in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring it to a boil for 15 minutes).
Mrs. Maria’s “ragnata” is ready!
Translated by Alan Glenn Embree
[Credits | Photography: Carmelita Cianci]