Red Wine Syrup
When Betsy and I took our honeymoon to Italy, we stayed a few nights at this quaint little farm in Tuscany. It was a cute town and just very relaxing.
The farm owners would have wine tastings and snacks every day and one day they brought out this homemade stuff called “Mosto Cotto” that they served with hard cheese.
Betsy and I actually brought some back from Italy and enjoyed it later on a date night.
Since then, it has been in the back of my mind to try and recreate the stuff. So this is my version!
I took one shortcut which I will acknowledge is most definitely cheating, but it still turned out pretty awesome.
Red Wine Syrup
Yield: 1.5 cups
3 cups full-bodied red wine
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon guar gum + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 pound hard cheese (pecorino is good), cubed for dipping
1) Add sugar and red wine to a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
2) In a small bowl, whisk together guar gum with some sugar.
3) While vigorously whisking syrup, slowly add guar gum mixture. Whisk the syrup constantly for 5 minutes until guar gum is well dissolved.
4) Continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the mixture is very thick. When foam or bubbles form, they should stay at he surface briefly even if you remove the pot from the heat.
5) Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Once it's cooled slightly, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool slowly.
6) If you notice that the syrup is getting to thick and starts to actually gel, stir in another tablespoon of red wine to loosen it up.
7) Once syrup is thick and room temperature, pour it over hard cheese or dip cheese in the syrup.
I remember asking the farm owner in Italy how they made the Mosto Cotto that we loved so much. From what I could tell, this is how they did it:
1) Take a huge amount of red wine – like gallons.
2) Boil it for about a day, stirring it regularly.
3) Bottle it
The problem is that the wine has to reduce so much to make a syrup that if you just did one bottle, you would simmer it for hours and hours and be left with maybe 1/2 cup of syrup.
And come on… who wants to stir something for a day? Not this guy!
So I upped my ingredient list from one to three.
At first I felt dirty about this, but later on, as I was enjoying my awesome red wine syrup, I became comfortable with the scandal.
This stuff is not named after the sweet metal band. It is named after a simple legume that has some pretty amazing powers.
It turns out that guar is some of the most powerful natural thickener around. It’s crazy how little you have to use to get some serious thickening. You can find this stuff in most grocery stores these days. I found this bag in my normal everyday grocery store. You can also order it online.
Starting the Boil
While you could just basically add the guar to the wine and have instant syrup, I still wanted to boil it for a bit just to melt some sugar in it and also boil off most of the alcohol.
So just add the sugar and wine to a pot and bring it to a simmer.
I recommend cooking this on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes to cook off the booze and also dissolve the sugar completely.
It won’t be even close to thick enough to make a syrup at this point though.
Like I said, you could continue simmering it and it would probably take 90 minutes to boil it all the way down, but you would be left with very little syrup.
Adding the Guar
Adding the guar gum to the liquid is actually a bit tricky. This stuff is so powerful that if you where to just add it in its pure form, it would gel to itself and just form annoying little balls that would forever live in your syrup.
That is not ideal.
The way to avoid this is to mix the guar with some sugar to thin it out a bit. You can then add this mixture to the syrup without worry.
When you’re adding the guar, whisk the syrup constantly and add the sugar/guar mixture in a slow stream.
Keep stirring and whisking like crazy once the guar is added so it dissolves completely. It will look like a ridiculously small amount of guar for this amount of liquid, but trust me… it’s more than enough.
After about five minutes of simmering, you’ll notice that your mixture starts to thicken quickly. It’s done is when bubbles form on the surface that stay on the surface. Even if you remove the pot from the heat, the bubbles will stay for a few seconds meaning that the syrup is pretty thick.
Cool it Down
Add the syrup to a small bowl or dish and let it slowly start to cool down to room temperature.
Quick Tip: Wash your cooking pot immediately! Any syrup that’s left in the pan will pretty much solidify on it and be very hard to clean off once it has cooled.
Meanwhile your syrup will continue to thicken…
Guar gum is hard stuff to work with because it’s so powerful. It’s like trying to mow your lawn with napalm. It’ll work, but probably too well.
As your syrup cools, if you notice that it’s getting too thick and starting to gel into a solid, stir in a tablespoon or two of fresh red wine and that will loosen it up. I had to do this with mine because I was worried that it was getting too thick.
I really loved my finished texture though. It was smooth and silky, but still pretty thick. It would stick to stuff easily.
What to Dip?
This syrup is good on lots of things in my mind: ice cream, some sort of brownie, maybe even pancakes!
I just did one thing with it though… I dipped hard cheese in it which is what we learned to do with the Italian stuff.
This is a really fun appetizer and people will gobble it up. Just cube up some cheese and drizzle on a good amount of the syrup.
Like I said though, I think this syrup has more applications than just cheese. It’s slightly tangy and sweet and just has a really unique and awesome flavor.
Guar gum is fun. I think I’ll keep experimenting with it since they sell it in huge bags compared to how much you would ever use.