Grape juice galore
“Perhaps there is no part in the world where the vine yields such redundant and luscious fruit. The juice of the Cyprian grape resembles a concentrated essence,” noted the English traveler Edward Daniel Clarke when he visited the island in 1801.
Autumn months on our island are golden and filled with sunshine. September and October are the grape harvest months and the countryside is bustling. Venture into the wine making regions and the villages of the Heartland of Legends to unfold not only our unrivalled wine history dating back thousands of years, but also to discover traditions and fun filled festivals.
Wine is the king amongst the products we produce from grape juice. However, as in all agricultural communities, nothing goes to waste and people got creative in the kitchen and discovered many ways to consume and preserve the excess of the grape juice that did not go into winemaking.
Ppalouzes is prepared from the filtered grape juice, which is reheated until its color turns golden and is then mixed with flour. The mixture created is then stirred continuously until it thickens to a creamy consistency. Rose water or mastic or cinnamon is added to give an extra intense flavor. Ppalouzes is now ready and poured into plates to cool. Some people enjoy eating ppalouzes hot but it is more commonly served cold topped with crushed almonds or walnuts.
Soutzioukkos is unique to Cyprus. The preparation starts with almonds or walnuts, shelled and soaked to turn soft, and then sewn on a thread of about two meters long. The thread is then dipped into hot ppalouzes several times. Each time the threat has to be left to dry before it is dipped again. Every time a new layer of ppalouzes is added to the previous one until its diameter becomes four to six cm. Soutzioukkos is then left to dry for five to six days, losing much of its moisture, thus increasing its longevity.
We created a variety of foods, such as soutzioukkos, ppalouzes, kiofterka, epsima and portos, which were part of the people’s everyday diet. Farmers, while working hard on the steep hills and under the hot sun consumed many of these dry foods. Nowadays these foods are dessert delicacies.
Grape juice from mainly the xynisteri or sultana varieties goes into the preparation of these delicacies. The extracted juice is filtered to remove residues and then boiled. If you follow the traditional method of filtering the grape juice, you must add a tiny amount of a specific type of white soil, the so-called “asproi”. This soil has a high content of lime and creates a lot of froth. This froth contains unwanted particles and is collected and removed from the mixture. This soil is collected from remoted mountain areas. The boiled juice is left to cool and the next day it is filtered again with kouroukla (cloth used for making cheeses but also for filtering).
Kiofterka are rectangular shaped pieces of Ppalouzes that are left to dry in the shade for many days.
Epsima is concentrated grape juice made of black grapes. The grape juice is left to boil without stirring until it condenses into a thick, black, sweet and sour syrup that has the consistency of honey. Epsima can be used as a substitute for honey or sugar.
Portos is a kind of marmalade. Crushed wheat is stirred into hot grape juice and heated until it thickens. When ready, roasted sesame seeds are added into the mixture.
Bites of soutzioukkos, ppalouzes and kiofterka often accompany a drink of Zivania, the local pomace liquor, which is enjoyed best in wintertime. Stop at a kafeneio in one of the Heartland of Legends villages sit around the fireplace and have a drink with the locals, you will definitely hear an amusing local story!
Join a workshop to learn how to prepare ppalouzes or give a try at dipping a thread of almonds into hot ppalouzes to make soutzioukkos. Visit Vouni or Lofou or Arsos villages to take part in one of the many Ppalouzes festivals.