In the past, everybody would take part in the harvesting of grapes for winemaking; every household would use the must to prepare flavoursome products for the winter: saba, savor and sauces of all sorts.
Famed cookery writer Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911) described saba (also rendered as sabba, sapa or sappa) as a grape syrup with a slightly sour taste, which makes it eligible for a number of recipes, both sweet and savoury. The history of saba goes back to time immemorial. Mentions of it can be found in Pliny and in medieval cookbooks. Saba also appears in Renaissance and modern literature.
In the past, saba was used to smear cakes, such as Christmas panone, or to sweeten the morning polenta. When it snowed, children used to be treated to a snow cone flavoured with saba. Nowadays, saba is used as a condiment for beans, haricots, chickpeas and chestnut or to boost the flavour of ravioli, tortelli and sweet tarts. If added to ice, it makes a wonderful sherbet, and it is an ideal accompaniment for bread and piadina wraps. Ultimately, it is the key ingredient of savor and sabadoni.
The protected geographical indication (PGI) of “Saba dell’Emilia-Romagna” has been requested and is on the way. Saba is produced within the borders of Emilia-Romagna, solely with the grapes from the vineyards listed in a guild of the farms subscribing to integrated or organic farming methods or recipients of DOC (controlled designation of origin) or DOCG (controlled and guaranteed designation of origin).
According to the official PGI guidelines, the grape must obtained from the treading is stored at a low temperature, in order to avoid alcoholic fermentation. It is cooked on an open fire and then transferred to a steel container where it simmers at 90°C for no less than 16 hours. The volume of the must reduces by two thirds. Before being bottled, saba is left to mature for at least 6 months in a dry and cool place, for the refinement of the organoleptic properties. The resulting product is a dark-coloured syrup, which is not too thick, has a sweet and sour taste and a pleasantly intense smell.