Thursday, 14 March 2013



Caroenum is barely mentioned in ancient texts, which makes identifying its true nature particularly difficult.  We know that it is a grape syrup, made by reducing grape juice/must.  According to Grainger and Dalby, it is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2.  They also believe that it was made from white grape juice, and that its purpose was to add 'bulk' to a meal, rather than to flavour it; this task falls to passum and defrutum instead.  Caroenum is also used to make 'oenogarum', a 'vinaigrette' made by mixing fish sauce, oil, wine, and spices.


Caroenum is sweet, but not sickeningly so.  It is a touch thicker than standard white grape juice.

Finding It

This is something you make at home rather than buy in the shops; as long as you can find a carton of white grape juice, you're set.  To make it, pour as much grape juice as you need into a pan and boil until it has reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Using a pan with a wide base is recommended, as this will speed up the process of evaporation.  Once it has cooled, bottle it up for future use.


If needs be you can just use white grape juice - this will provide sweetness and 'bulk', albeit not as pronounced as with caroenum.


  1. You could try mosto cotto for your caroenum. It is still used in my region of Italy as a sweetener for some traditional cookies. It does not need to be from white grape juice. It is made by boiling down must, before fermenting it of course, until it becomes thick. The taste is sweet and tart at the same time.

  2. In Turkey there is a widely used condiment called Pekmez, which is a kind of molasses made by boiling down grape juice into a thick syrup, with a strong raisin-y flavour.

  3. carries a product called Colatura Nettuno Anchovy Sauce from Campania. I've tried it and it is delicious, but somewhat strong and like the ancient stuff, a little goes along way. A few drops in home made Caesar salad dressing gives you that imperceptible anchovy flavor without the overpoweringness of the whole anchovy fillets, which I always add to my Caesar salasd anyway. It is also nice alone with simple pasta, some olive oil, a bit of crushed red pepper and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, salute!