This time of year, in the Roman hilltops, better known as the Castelli Romani, the Sagra del Vino takes place. It's a three day wine festival that comes during the last stage of grape harvest, in other words, right now! It's a big thing around here and pretty attractive, I mean how many fountains do you see with wine that flows from the tap?! A chaos of people, who've bent the elbow a little too much, tune roman songs as they walk in herds, one holding the other, more for the need to keep each other from falling then that of comradeship. Warm biscuits and briosche made with wine must are sold off the streets, have you every tried one? Gosh are they good! But all of this, is not for me, except for the biscuits and briosche of course. I prefer what can be found just below Marino, where vineyards overlook Rome. It's quiet and fragrant, it smells all so good. The only tune may come from my radio while I drive along those curvy streets, the car window is rolled down and bit of that misty air mixed with the scent of wine flow in. My hair goes frizzy, my skin damp and that scent leaves a taste of fermented grapes on my tongue. All of this makes me feel good as much as it smells good, it's me, just me and what I like best.
A couple of years ago I asked my dad if he can help me build a tiny vineyard in the garden and for "tiny" I meant tiny (!!!). Four plants are enough, papa' said, and so, four tiny grapevines were planted in the garden the next day. Last year, we got our first taste of fine grapes. This year, the grapes multiplied, even quadruplicated to the point that the tiny vineyard has become fructuous, so fructuous, how much could you possibly eat in a day, a week, a month? I realized I had enough when my son saw me coming in from the garden for the umpteenth time with another basket full of grapes and said, Ma' it's time we move on to apple season.
The remaining grapes were gathered and reduced to a simple grape syrup. A syrup I've used in so many different ways, on pancakes, in porridge and to accompany roasts, like this pork loin roast here.
Pork Loin Roast
1 kg lean pork loin
pancetta, about 20 thin slices
fresh herb mix (sage, rosemary, thyme etc.)
extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 glass white wine
Ask your butcher to butterfly a piece of pork loin. If you don’t have an option, it’s not difficult to do it yourself. Start by laying a boneless piece of pork loin on the cutting board. With a sharp knife, from one end to the other, cut a horizontal incision one inch deep straight down the middle of the roast. As you cut, pull back the meat. Return to where you began the incision and cut a light deeper into the meat as you pull back the meat. Repeat until the loin is flattened out into a rectangular shape.
Finely chop a mix of fresh herbs, I find that sage, rosemary and thyme work well with pork but you can use the herbs you prefer. Mix the finely chopped herbs with a tbsp. of butter, a pinch of salt and pepper to form a sort of paste. Season the entire piece of loin with a little salt and pepper and in the exact middle of the meat place the paste of butter and herbs along a horizontal line from one end to the other. Roll the piece of loin and wrap with thin slices of pancetta. String the entire roast so that it keeps its shape while cooking.
In a hot casserole pot for roast, add 2 tbsp. EVO oil. Place the roast in the pot and sear on all sides until golden brown. Add un glass of good white wine. Place the lid on the pot and lower the heat. Allow the roast to cook for about 45 minutes on the stove or in a preheated oven at 190 ºC.
1 kg concord grapes
2 tbsp. honey
Pull the grapes from their branches and wash in abundant fresh water. Drain and place in a pot. Allow the grapes to boil and then lower the heat and reduce to a simmer. You will notice after about 10 minutes that the skins and seeds will separate from the pulp. Use a wooden spoon to mix and press the grapes. Allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the stove and pass the grapes through a sieve, pressing the grapes constantly against the sieve. Discard the seeds and skins. Place the grape juice back on the stove and add the honey. Allow to boil on high heat for about 5/10 minutes so that the juice thickens and becomes a syrup. Pour the juice in a container and allow to cool. It stores up to a month in the fridge.
* The syrup diluted in fresh sparkling water becomes a juice.
*When using the syrup for meats, add a little salt. When using the syrup for drinks add a little sugar or honey to your taste before adding to sparkling water or liquor.