Passum, a raisin wine supposedly originating in Carthage, was one of several sweeteners which the Romans added to their food. If Polybius is to be believed, it was also a girly drink. He writes that "among the Romans women are forbidden to drink wine; and they drink what is called passum." (Polybius, Histories, Fragments, 4.6.2) Its manufacture sounds particularly complicated - see Columella, De agricultura, 12.39 (or click here if you fancy) for a lengthy description.
Rather unsurprisingly, Passum is a wine which tastes like raisins! It is an almost sickeningly sweet wine, not unlike most dessert wines, so is best suited to cooking, where its flavour is tempered by other ingredients.
Prepare to fork out an absolute fortune if you want the real thing. If you're that way inclined, look out for wines with 'vin santo', 'passito', or 'straw wine' in the name. Otherwise, let's make some cheat's Passum for ourselves:
- 1 Pint Red or White Wine
- 100g Raisins
- Add the raisins to the wine, then cover. Leave for 3 days, allowing the raisins to swell.
- When the raisins have swollen, blend them with the wine.
- Pour this mixture through a sieve, squeezing as much liquid out of the raisin pulp as possible.
- Bottle it up - you're good to go!
The above method for making Passum is cheaper than any alternative wine might be, so unless you have some dessert wine going spare, I suggest making a batch.