Glyka tou koutaliou, which are traditional, homemade, spoons sweets are slowly disappearing. Working housewives have so little time to spare that they can’t devote to such time consuming work and prefer to buy them from supermarkets. As a result, traditional recipes are gradually being forgotten and whatever spoon sweets are made and consumed are all too often no more than poor imitations of sweet memories.
Spoon sweets are sweet fruit preserves, served in a spoon as a gesture of hospitality in Greece and Cyprus. They can be made from almost any fruit, though sour and bitter fruits are especially prized. There are even spoon sweets made from vegetables.
Some of the fruits that are used include citrus (bitter oranges), grapes, mulberries, bergamot, apricots, cherries, oranges, sour cherries, lemons, pomegranates, quinces, strawberries, apples, dates, figs, prunes, and tangerines. Other varieties include vegetables or nuts such as pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts and other nuts, and flower petals like roses or citrus blossoms. Many fruits or parts of fruits that are normally inedible, such as citrus peel and water melon rind, can be made into sweet, flavourful preserves, as can unripe nuts and vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, carrots etc. Some years back they used to add colour to red spoon sweets, but nowadays they have been forbidden as dangerous to health and usually retain the original shape, colour, aroma and taste of the fruit.
When my mother, or before her my grandmother, used to make spoon sweets there wasn’t any picking lime and they would go to constructions and ask for some quick lime. Spoon sweets were made crunchier and not mashy by using quicklime. They would dissolve 1 cup of quicklime with about 2 litres of water and would soak the fruit in this water for a few hours and then they washed the fruit very well and proceeded to make the sweet.
Pickling lime is not always easy to find and if you decide to use quicklime you must be extra cautious as it is very dangerous so please read the link before going ahead. I want to say here that it is better to use pickling lime if you can find some.
When the spoon sweet is ready, after cooling completely, store in sterilized jars.
Spoon sweets are usually offered to guests served by the teaspoon in a small china or crystal dish, with coffee or tea and cold water. I remember some pure silver vessels (sort of basket shaped which had special places for the silver spoons to stand round the basket) and inside were the sweets.
Whole fruit preserves can be found in most Greek and Cypriot homes. They are made by slowly boiling fruit in water and sugar over several hours or days, until the syrup sets. A small quantity of lemon juice is often added to preserve the fruit’s original colour, as the citric acid prevents oxidation. The method of preparation is essentially similar to that of marmalade, except that fruit pieces remain whole.
They can be used as ice cream toppings, in cakes, mixed with yogurt, on top of any cream dessert or in the Western way as a spread on toast for breakfast.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,