Must (in Greek moustos and in Latin vinum mustum, meaning “young wine”) is freshly pressed grape juice.
Moustalevria in Greek, from “moustos” = grape must and “alevri” = flour , or Palouzes in the Cypriot dialect, is a pudding made with these two basic ingredients. It is usually flavoured with arbaroriza (kiouli) = scented geranium, vanilla or mastiha (mastic resin). These ingredients are boiled together until the pudding thickens. I am not sure about the origin of the Cypriot name of this pudding but I’ve seen Middle Eastern recipes with the name “balouza” which is a kind of pudding made with fruit juice or milk and corn flour (starch).
Grape juice, usually from red grapes is used but it can also be made with white grape juice. It is equally delicious but when using white grapes the colour is lighter.
The best time to make palouzes is September to October, when the grapes are sweet and cheap. However as I wanted to share this recipe 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.
Every recipe you will be reading today has to do with “GRAPE 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.
This is not the exact traditional way my mother used to make palouzes. That was quite complicated as I remember she would make large quantities but of course all the family and even friends or neighbours were there to help. They would add a special white soil to the must, yes that’s right soil, which after boiling, helped to remove all the impurities from the must. (See note in comments by Niki: The soil that is added to the grape juice is in fact chalk and as an alkaline, it neutralises the acid giving a sweeter taste to the end product). It was boiled in big caldrons called “chartzia”and passed from sieves several times. It was a quite tedious procedure as the pressing of the grapes is not easy (they used to do this using their feet) and would prepare an outdoor fire to cook it. When the first step of boiling finished, after ii cooled down they would remove it from the caldron in other pots and whatever residue rested in the bottom, they would pour away. After that they would put it back in the caldron, add the flour and stir it with a large wooden stick until it would set. That procedure was very difficult as well.
The pudding was flavoured with kiouli (arbaroriza in Greek) which is the fragrant geranium leaves, or if they didn’t have any, with vanilla or mastic gum (resin). They would then put it in bowls and some in large baking tins. In the bowls they would sprinkle some cinnamon and crashed almonds or walnuts on top. The pudding would be eaten either warm or cold. With the remaining they would either make shoushoukos or kiofterka.
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. That recipe 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.
The recipe that follows is made with a mixture of moustos (grape must) which I bought at the farmers’ market and petimezi – epsima (concentrated grape syrup) so the preparation is much easier.
I must warn you that if you decide to make this dessert from scratch, when you finish you’ll end up with a very messy kitchen but it is worth while to make it at least once. However, in Greece you can buy “grape must” at wineries during September – October, or at the farmers’ market.
Moustalevria / Palouzes (Grape Must Pudding)
(made with Grape must and Concentrated Grape Syrup)
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- ½ litre fresh grape juice
- 1 cup concentrated grape syrup
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp corn flour (starch)
- 2 – 3 arbaroriza / kioulia (fragrant geranium) leaves
- 3 tbsp citrus blossom water
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
- 3 tbsp crushed almonds
- 3 tbsp crush walnuts
- 1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
- Boil the grape must together with the fragrant geranium leaves for five minutes.
- Dilute the flour and corn flour with the water and mix in the concentrated grape juice. Discard the fragrant geranium leaves and add this mixture to the grape juice.
- Mix continuously with a balloon whisk until it sets.
- Pound the almonds and walnuts and mix in the cinnamon and sugar.
- Wet a bowl with the citrus blossom water. Empty it in another bowl and continue until all are wet. Empty any leftover in the pudding and mix.
- Divide the pudding in the bowls and sprinkle with the almonds and walnuts on top.
Some other desserts or products made of “must” are:
Petimesi (Epsima, in Cyprus)
“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, pishies, kattimerka, halvas 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 “koulourouthkia me to epsima”, which is made of dough which she shaped into small spiral rings. It is boiled like pasta, then it is strained and boiled again in epsima. This was eaten as a dessert.
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 hang these threaded almonds on a stick, shaped with an upside down V, which they cut from trees (now they hang them on metallic ones) and dip them 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 so that they could eat them during the winter. These can be preserved for a very long time, preferably kept in the refrigerator.
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 above, they would make large quantities as apart from eating palouzes, they would make shoushoukos out of the same mixture and what was left, they would make kiofterka.
To make kiofterka, after making palouzes and shoushoukos, they would put the leftover pudding in big baking tins and leave it a couple of days. They would then cut it into rhombus (diamond shaped) or rectangular pieces about 3 X 2 inches long but not very thick, about ½ inch thick and would leave them in a “tsestos” to dry for many days in a shady place for several days to dehydrate. They became hard but chewy but still delicious and they would eat them during winter.
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 fides (angels’ hair) or other pasta, to place the bread or flaounes to rise, during Easter, to dry kiofterka etc.
The recipe for palouzes is included in my cookbook “Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!”
You can find many more Greek recipes in my cookbook “More Than A Greek Salad”, and “Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!” both available on all Amazon stores.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,