Traditions can often highlight elements of a culture that go overlooked. Greek spoon sweets are a perfect example of how a shared culture can still contain variety due to regional variations. Used as a way of greeting guests, these were served from a shared bowl to demonstrate the safety of the food and the hospitality of the host.
This helped them become a favorite of the Turkish Pashas while they occupied Greece and shows how it would have been useful in establishing political relationships in the Middle Ages. Here’s more information about it:
How Spoon Sweets Are Made
During the Byzantine Empire, these treats were originally sweetened with honey or petimezi, a syrup made from grapes. With the rise of importation of refined sugar from the Turks during the 14th century, this sweetener also began to be incorporated in many recipes. In addition to the variety of sweet elements, a number of different fruits, vegetables, and nuts were used depending on what was available to the region.
Chios, for instance, commonly use lemon, orange blossom, grapes, and figs in their spoon sweets. Other regions may go further afield to incorporate other elements. Tomatoes and cinnamon are used to bring out a savory flavor in Santorini. In Lakonia, bitter oranges add a sour flavor while those in Ikaria will use sour cherries for similar effect.
How They’re Made
The process used in making Greek spoon sweets depends on the ingredients. The fruit is often picked under-ripe and cooked like a jam or macerated. Softer fruits are often reinforced with nuts such as pistachios and walnuts, though sometimes firmer fruit such as figs are stuffed with almonds. An alternative for soft fruits is pickling in a lime bath to reinforce the texture. The mixture is cooked down until it has a thick syrupy consistency that would cover the spoons.
Enjoying This Tradition Today
Due to the low-fat nature and small portion sizes, Greek Spoon Sweets are an excellent way to satisfy a sweet tooth in a healthy manner. Still, there are many ways to enjoy this tradition in a more modern way! Pairing with cheese, such as a tart goat cheese or feta for instance. As a topper for Greek yogurt is an excellent way to maintain some benefits for the health conscious.
Traditions have much to teach us. Even something as small as a teaspoon of Greek spoon sweets can give us insight on history or culture, help us refine our own cooking process by looking at the past, or even as a foundation for a dish enjoyed in a modernized way. That makes this tradition particularly valuable and one that is worth knowing about.