A TRADITIONAL GESTURE OF GREEK HOSPITALITY
It has always been a tradition that every guest who arrives in a Greek household is greeted with an overwhelming selection of traditional sweet treats, these range from loukoumi, pastries, to homemade liqueurs and spoon sweets. Glyko tou koutaliou (Γλυκό του κουταλιού) is probably by far one of the most valued treasures of every household.
The spoon sweet used to be served in a bowl on a silver tray where each guest got one of the best silver spoons in he house and was allowed to serve themselves. This ceremony was always accompanied by a glass of cold water and sometimes with a coffee. Nowadays, presented with the best handmade tableware, the finest crockery and cutlery that the family can offer, each person is proudly served a small plate with a teaspoon of the preserved fruit or vegetable sweet.
The origin dates back to antiquity and has its roots in the intention of drying produce in season so that they could be preserved all year round. Refined with honey or molasses, over time and patience it developed into the Glyko tou koutaliou delicacy. Today, spoon sweets can be found in most Greek households, with the recipes guarded and passed on through families over generations.
Each region has its own particular preferences in terms of ingredients and flavours, as they can be made from almost any fruit or vegetable with sour and bitter fruits being particularly valued. The seasons are also very influential with under ripen fruits and vegetables often used to achieve the perfect balance between sweet, bitter or sour.
The variety is almost limitless; kumquats, lemons, quinces, figs, grapes, bitter oranges to watermelon and olives being used. By carefully boiling the selected ingredients in water and sugar for several hours or days, a syrup is slowly created to the desired consistency. Lemon peel, rose petals and mixtures of spices like cinnamon, clove, vanilla or herbs such as marjoram and sometimes nuts are also added to give extra flavour.
The process is almost invariably the same and the texture is usually a slightly firm but still juicy and the syrup is aromatic, thick and clear. It may sound unbelievable, but it’s true, spoon sweets are one of the healthiest treats in the Mediterranean as they have the great advantage of being free of fat and relatively low in calories, of course moderate amounts are advisable.