The best time to make palouzes is late August or during September but as I wanted to share this with you in time, last Tuesday when I went to the farmers’ market, the grapes were at a reasonable price so I bought some sultana grapes to make this dessert. However, any type of white grapes can be used.
I don’t want my post to be boring but the reason I began posting was to record most of the traditional food of Cyprus, so this time I have a lot to write. Sometimes I get carried away, either by taking part in various events, or by seeing all those wonderful recipes you make, that I want to make them all and get off track.
Every recipe you will be reading today has to do with “MUST” but the only thing I made myself was palouzes.The other are just an explanation of what they are and how I remember them being made.
Palouzes / Moustalevria
Must (in Greek moustos and in Latin vinum mustum, meaning “young wine”) is freshly pressed grape juice.
Palouzes is the Cypriot name of this recipe and in Greece it is called moustalevria, from moustos (must) and alevri (flour).These are the only two basic ingredients needed for this dessert. Grape juice, usually from red grapes is used and it can also be made with white grape juice. It is equally delicious but just the colour is lighter.
This is not the exact traditional way my mother used to make it. That was quite complicated as I remember she would make large quantities but of course all the family and even friends or neighbours would help. They would use a special white soil, yes that’s right soil, which was added to the mixture and that helped to remove all the impurities from the must. It was boiled in big caldrons called “chartzin”and passed from sieves several times. It was a quite tedious procedure, as they would prepare a fire and cook it outdoors.When this cooled down they would remove it from the caldron in other pots and whatever residue rested in the bottom of the caldron they would pour away.After that they would add the flour and stir until it would set.They would flavour the mixture with kiouli (armparoriza in Greek) which is the fragrant geranium leaves, or if they didn’t have any with vanilla or mastic gum.They would then put it in large baking tins and sprinkle some cinnamon on top and crashed almonds or walnuts. When it cooled down this could be cut into slices. Some of these slices they would then put them in tsestos (pl. tsestous) and would leave them in the sun to dry.
Tsestos was a traditional handmade shallow basket made either from palm leaves, rope from stubble or straw.
They were a must in the traditional Cypriot household, in many colourful designs and sizes. They were used to carry objects such as koulouria, when they invited people to weddings, to dry trahanas, to cut fide (angels” hair) or other pasta, to keep the bread or flaounes, during Easter, to dry kiofterka etc.
The palouzes I made is a more simplified way of making this pudding and the recipe was given to me by my elder sister Zoe.
I must warn you that if you decide to make this dessert, when you finish you’ll end up with a very messy kitchen but it is worth while to make it at least once.
Some other products made of «must» are:
Epsima, or petimezi as it is called in Greek is made from black grapes and is known for thousands of years. Athinaios, the ancient Greek nutritionist and writer wrote about a fish recipe where a hint of epsima was used and he states that creations like those were why people did not become cannibals.
When boiling the must for a long time (no sugar is added) it concentrates into a sweet syrup. It’s Cypriot name «epsima» comes from the ancient Greek word afepsima (αφέψημα) which means to brew. In the old days they did not have sugar, so apart from using honey, during summer, when sweet fruits were abundant they made natural sweeteners from sweet fruit such as grapes, figs, pomegranate or carobs. The flavour of these syrups is amazing but most of all they are way much healthier than any other sweeteners, as they contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Palouzes (moustalevria) was made during the autumn with fresh grape juice. During winter, they would use epsima to make grouta, which is similar to moustalevria. The concentrated grape syrup was then diluted in water and made a pudding which they thickened with flour.
Other things they would make are moustokouloura, halva in which they added epsima instead of honey or souppouthkia, fried pieces of stale bread, and after frying the bread, the remaining oil would be discarded and epsima added to make a simple dessert.
My mother would make dough which she shaped into small rings and boiled them in epsima for dessert. Unfortunately I do not remember what they were called.
Shoushoukos or soutzioukos
The other product made of palouzes was shoushoukos or soutzioukos.They would thread almonds with a needle and when the palouze was ready, they would dip these threaded almonds in the mixture a couple of times.They would hang the threads and some of the mixture would drip off but the following day they would make a new palouze mixture and would dip the threads in another two times and would repeat this procedure the following day until the almonds were totally covered and the candle or sausage shaped product would be about 1 inch thick.They would hang the threads in the shade and these would dehydrate and could be eaten until the following year.
Last October when I went to Cyprus I brought a lot with me and still have some in the refrigerator.Some of it I wrapped in cling film and placed it in the deep freezer and when I defrosted it, it was as fresh as when I brought it with me.
As I said they made large quantities as apart from eating palouze, hot or cold, they would make soutzoukos out of the same mixture and what was left, they would make kiofterka.
For kiofterka, they would put the cream in big baking tins and when it cooled down this could be cut into rhombus (diamond shaped) or rectangular pieces about 3 X 2 inches long but not very thick, about ½ inch and would leave them to dry in the sun for many days in large tsestos to eat them during the winter.
The recipe for palouzes (moustalevria) is included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste as well as in Volume 2 of my e-cookbook, sold on all Amazon stores.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,
Tags: concentrated grape syrup, Creams, Cypriot cookbook, Cypriot pantry, Desserts, Easy recipes, epsima, grape must, healthy, Mint Cinnamon & Blossom Water Flavours of Cyprus Kopiaste!, moustalevria, moustos, palouzes, petimezi, Traditional, tsestos