RECIPES WITH FOODS CURRENTLY IN SEASON:
Almonds: Ervogali (Almond Macaroons)
Cactus Pears: Cactus Pear Salad
Tomatoes & Peppers: Tomato Gemista
GRAPES: We went to the village last week to collect the grapes. These grapes are called “xynisteri” and they are ready in about September in our vineyard. Every year, the vineyard produces lovely juicy grapes that my family goes and picks to use in order to make “palouze” and “soujoukkos”. It’s hard work picking the grapes and I have to confess that I don’t know if I will be up for doing it once it becomes our generation’s turn – Generation “Y”. Short for “Y bother” I fear. But for now, at least, I am learning how to do it. There isn’t any magic to it. You go with some crates and pick the grapes. It’s best to do it in the early morning or late afternoon. We went to the vineyard and it’s amazing what can grow in a plot of white-looking dusty dirt. But there they were, hanging and dangling, nearly falling off the vines. The “xynisteri” grapes are an indigenous white grape grown in Cyprus. They are blended with “mavro” grapes for the production of Commandaria, a famous Cypriot dessert wine. So we picked them all and placed them in a bucket and took them home. We ate some of them raw, and the rest we pressed into grape juice in order to make “moustos” which is grape must. Grape must is freshly pressed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit. The solid portion of the must is called pomace; it typically makes up 7%–23% of the total weight of the must. Because of its high glucose content, typically between 10 and 15%, must is also used as a sweetener in a variety of cuisines. It is thick, opaque, and comes in various shades of brown and/or purple. Grape must is used to make “palouzes” which is a type of grape must jelly. In turn, “palouzes” is used to make “soujoukkos” which are threaded almonds (or walnuts) dipped in grape must-jelly. They can also be used to make lots of other things! I experimented this year and made some roasted grapes (see recipe for roasted grapes here) which tasted great. If you have a variety that does not have seeds, then roasted grapes will go fantastically well in muffins or cakes. The ones I made I enjoyed simply as they were because I had to remove the seeds from inside, but I used them in my muffins anyway because they were so good!
ALMONDS: It’s not exactly the height of almond season. That happened in the early summer, but you can still find the occasional almond still hanging onto an almond tree. I went with my aunt to pick cactus pears and on the way stumbled across a rather bare looking almond tree. But my aunt had the device we used to pick cactus pear with – which is basically a long stick with a cup on it – so we hit a few branches and picked up what fell. Next we cracked them open and ate what was inside. Because it was rather late in the season, the almonds had begun to go brown on the inside, but it was still possible to remove the skin. Even if you don’t remove the skin, the almonds are still tasty. Next year I plan on making some almond milk, but I was too late this year.
CACTUS PEAR: There is so much involved in collecting the cactus pears, we wrote a separate article about it. Want to know how to pick & collect cactus pears? Read the article here.
TOMATOES AND PEPPERS: There are still lots of tomatoes and peppers ready in the village which make for yummy Cyprus salads!