Sweet grapes in syrup, simple Greek yumminess!
My gut feeling said yes, go ahead but the first time I served my grape spoon sweet to the guests of Traveling Spoon, I was admittedly quite nervous.
Traveling Spoon is a site that dared to attempt the unimaginable: to send travellers to the homes of locals in every destination of the world conceivable under the sun, (from New Delhi,Tokyo and Bangkok to Tbilisi in Georgia, Oslo and Athens), so they get a taste of what it’s like to eat authentic Greek, Japanese, Turkish, Georgian or French cooking in the home of a Greek, French or Japanese cook. They’ve even added a “cooking class” and a “visit to a typical local market” optional category for every destination, that way giving the opportunity to travellers to learn holistically about local food in its purest, most genuine home version, whilst listening to fascinating gastronomic and other tales from the local cooks.
I had the pleasure of meeting the two young enterpreneurs who started Traveling Spoon , both graduates from Berkeley University in California, who are travelling the world over, vetting candidate hosts who want to become “food ambassadors” of their local food for this fun culinary site and I was, once more, impressed and in awe of the boldness of the idea and the inexhaustible innovation of the American society.
But back to my doubts about serving the grapes spoon sweet to my Traveling Spoon guests. My initial thought was that, those used to eating desserts with richer and heavier ingredients such as flour, chocolate or luscious sauces, may find the grape spoon dessert modest, insignificant and humble. Because what is the secret or lush ingredient in the spoon sweets? It is basically fruit, the rind or the flesh or as whole boiled in a sugar syrup with perhaps a bit of vanilla (rarely) , or a cinnamon stick or some leaves of apple geranium and that is all. However, I went on and served it nonetheless, accompanied by my usual chatter, explaining that in Greece we prepare these spoon sweets, year round, using every seasonal fruit or even vegetable available (be it grapes or quince in the Autumn, baby aubergine , cherries, rose petals and lemon blossoms in Spring, bitter orange in the Winter, prunes and even pumpkin in the late Summer…and the list goes on!). There are many different ways one can serve these delightful Greek spoon sweets : either on a small plate (immersing the teaspoon in the jar and serving just as much sugared fruit filled the spoon on a small crystal plate with a glass of cold water next to it), or on top of a vanilla or kaimaki (scented with mastic) ice cream scoop ,or even on a cup or small plate of thick strained Greek yoghurt (like they do in many greek tavernas where they offer spoon sweets as a meal finale on the house , free of charge). So, yes, I served this typical Greek sweet with confidence because, the truth is, this dessert is a delight in its simplicity, with the fruity aroma of grapes, the sourness of Greek yoghurt and, let’s not forget, the sweetness of the sugar, a spoonful is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The guests’ reaction was not only positive, but outright impressive! Cooked to perfection, as it was, using the recipe of my ‘beloved multi-tool’ (that would be Deppy, by the way, my assistant during brutal and exhausting summer cooking sessions for demanding clients around Greece), this grape spoon sweet satisfied the guests with its unique flavour beyond my wildest expectations, thus proving once more, that travellers seek authentic, original, unusual and local tastes, they look for surprising flavours and appreciate the traditional stories that accompany the food.
So, without further delay, here is the recipe, easy and accessible even to spoon dessert beginners who tasted them in Greece and …got hooked! Buy it ready in a glass jar at the duty free when you leave Greece , find it in delicatessen stores around Greece or , even better, cook it yourself and enjoy an array of delectable aromas, simple earthy flavours, well-made, home-cooked desserts using fresh fruit.
And don’t hesitate to serve it to your friends, Greeks and foreigners alike.They will love it!
Deppy’s grape spoon sweet
2 kilos seedless sultana grapes (weigh only the fruit without the stalk, remove stems and omit bruised or soft grapes)
1 ½ kilos sugar
the juice of half a lemon
one small bunch of apple geranium, including its leaves and soft stalk
Alternatively, ½ cup of water if the grapes are not ripe and juicy
Rinse the grapes in water and remove the stalks and stems. Gently dry with a kitchen towel. If you don’t dry them, then you definitely don’t need to add the extra ½ cup of water mentioned above in the ingredients.
Place the grapes and sugar in a large saucepan, in layers – first a layer of grapes, followed by a layer of sugar – and repeat until they’re all in, then set aside for several hours – they can even stay like that for a whole day.
Boil the grapes with the sugar and apple geranium on a low heat, without covering the saucepan for about an hour. After half an hour, add the lemon juice and remove the apple geranium. If needed, remove the froth created on top whilst it’s boiling, but this might not be necessary as grapes don’t froth as much as other fruit used for jams or spoon desserts.
To see if the sweet has set do this little trick : place a small plate in the freezer for 10 minutes, then take a spoonful of the boiling fruit and place it on the cold plate. If, whilst tipping the plate sideways folds are formed and the grape run off , then your dessert is ready and you should remove it from the fire. If the syrup is too runny allow the fruit to boil some more.
Whilst the grapes are boiling, place 3-4 large clean jars (including their lids) in the oven at 100C to sterilise them. Place the steaming hot dessert in the hot jars and immediately seal with the lids.
Don’t be put off by three things: firstly, this grape spoon sweet will turn from a blonde colour to a reddish one, deepening to a gorgeous ruby red as time passes.
Secondly, the sweet might be a little runny when it’s placed in the jar, but don’t worry, it’ll thicken as it cools. Don’t look for a heavy syrup when the boiling time is up.
Thirdly, the actual grapes will rise to the top of the jar. When you serve the dessert , make sure to also add a little of the syrup from the bottom of the jar.