[Sca-cooks] More on sapa/saba

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Tue Jun 22 20:22:47 PDT 2010

To quote Flower and Rosenbaum, "If, for instance, we make a sauce or gravy 
fromk wine we add the wine and let it boil fiercely until it is sufficiently 
reduced.  The Roman cooks had this done beforehand, and used wine of must 
reduced to various degrees ready made.  According to the degree of 
reduction, it was called 'careonum,' 'defrutum' (or 'defritum') or 'sapa.' 
The definitions given by various classical authors do not all agree with 
each other.  According to Varro and Columella, 'defrutum' is reduced by 
boiling must to one-third of its volume; according to Pliny, it should be 
one half of its volume.  Palladius gives the following definitions (XI, 

Now about the preparation of 'defrutum,' 'caroenum,' and 'sapa.'  Although 
all three are made from the same substance, namely from must, the nethod of 
their preparation modifies both their names and their properties.  For 
'defrutum' has its name from "boiling down," and it is ready when it it is 
reduced to a thick consistency.  'Caroenum' is ready when it is reduced to 
one-third of its volume with two-thirds remaning, 'sapa,' when it has been 
reduced to one-third.  The latter is improved when quinces are cooked with 
it and fig wood is added to the fire."

"It is very clear that the laxative effect is greater when only the flesh of 
the berries (grapes) has been swallowed with the juice, without the pips and 
the skin, and is still more so when the juice itself is expressed and drunk 
on its own.  People call it 'must'..."

    Powell, Owen, trans., Galen, On the Properties of Foodstuffs: On Grapes, 
Cambridge, 2003.

"Siraion...boiled down new wine; but also sometimes translated as 'must', 
which is new wine, or wine in the early stage of manufacture before 
fermentation is complete.

    Powell, Owen, trans., Galen, On the Properties of Foodstuffs: 
Commentary, note for line 507, Cambridge, 2003.

> We have apparently discussed sapa/saba at least once before. In looking 
> through the Florilegium, I found this following message in the grapes-msg 
> file. I will be moving it to the new sapa-msg file, though.
> Hauviette seems to be saying that boiling the fresh wine gets you 
> defrutum, while letting it evaporate gets you sapa/saba/sabba, at least 
> according to Platina. I'm not sure that the result would be much different 
> between boiling the juice or letting it evaporate.

All appear to be reduced by boiling, with the names varying by degree.

> "Must" is filtered grape juice, correct? Not smushed grapes, which would 
> also include the skin and flesh and other bits.

I would say that must does mean filtered grape juice, with an open question 
as to wether it is fermenting or not.

> Would you consider sapa/saba/sabba to be a condiment? Or an ingredient? 
> I'm trying to decide where to put this new file in the Florilegium.
> Thanks,
>  Stefan

Sapa is primarily an ingredient for sauces although ISTR one recipe where it 
is used as a condiment.  Apicius tends to use defrutum, which is definitely 
lighter (and I suspect sweeter) rather than sapa.


> Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 09:37:55 EDT
> From: ChannonM at aol.com
> Subject: SC - Re: Poppa's mustard- mighty morphin cookers(daa da da, da 
> da) LONG
>>  Scully says that must is grape juice that has been boiled down until
>>  syrupy.  He uses undiluted frozen grape juice concentrate for his
>>  redactions.  This might be a good thing to use for cooks not using
>>  alcohol.  It was either Pliny or Cato that tossed the sealed bottles of
>>  must into the fish pond to keep them from spoiling, which also argues
>>  that must was not fermented.
> Platina says on Grapes (Milham translation pg141)
> Ex uva concocta in aheno sapa sit, ex puro et expresso musto in 
> defrutariis
> vasis defrutum. Mustum enim decoctum defrutum vocatur, unde et defrutare
> mustum coqure diciums; sapa tamen defruti vice nonnumquam utimur in
> condiendis pomis ac piris
> "Condensed grape is made from grapes boiled down in a pot, while condensed
> must is made from pure must which has been condensed in special defrutum
> jars. Cooked-down must is called defrutum, from which we call to cook down
> must defrutare, however in seasoning apples and pears we sometimes use
> condensed grape in place of condensed must"
> The translation "condensed must is made from pure must" leads me to 
> believe
> there are two different musts, one that has already been condensed, the 
> other
> not. In the recipe for Red mustard(according to Milham)
> "Sinampim, passulas, sandalos, buccellas panis tostas, cinnami parum, aut
> seorsum aut simul contertito, cvel molito. Trita cum acresta aut aceto 
> cumque
> modico sapae dissolvito, in patinasque per setaceum transagito. Hoc minu
> praedicto concalefacit, ac sitim movet, nec incommode nutrit."
> They key phrase is;
> "Trita cum acresta aut aceto cumque modico sapae dissolvito
> "When it is ground, soak with verjuice or vinegar and a bit of must"
> The original recipe does not contain the word defrutum but contains the 
> word
> "sapae" which when doing some morphological research (sounds more 
> impressive
> than saying I'm looking in a dictionary ;), the word sapa (in lewis and 
> short
> dictionary) defined as "must, new wine boiled thick". This does not 
> convince
> me though that the original did intend defrutum as Platina indicates it is
> evaporation and not boiling that reduces the liquid to make defrutum.
> All of the following words are similar in meaning to sapa, so we have alot 
> to
> work with.
> 1 siraeum
> 2 hepsema
> 3 mustulentus
> 4 musteus
> 5 sacrima
> 6 cortinale
> 7 carenum
> 8 mustus
> 9 protropum
> 10 dolium
> 11 vinalis
> Anyone else want to give this a shot? Maybe some of our Latin language
> people? I'm almost hopeless.
> Hauviette
> --------
> THLord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad    Kingdom of Ansteorra
>   Mark S. Harris           Austin, Texas 
> StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
> **** See Stefan's Florilegium files at:  http://www.florilegium.org ****
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