At some point in history, boiled thick grape juice was used to create traditional sweets; apart from honey, this juice was one of the only sweeteners people had on hand.
Naturally, sweets made from grape juice were mostly found in wine producing villages, where aside from making wine, grapes were consumed fresh, dried and in a range of other sweet products.
Over the years, these sweets delights became part of the Cypriot’s staple diet, two of which are still produced today and offered in most households; namely Soutzoukos and Palouze.
The juice extracted from grapes creates what we call ‘the must’, which is eventually sieved and brought to a boil along with a special kind of white soil known as ‘asprogyri’ which helps to remove any impurities in the juice. Once this cleansing process is finished, the must is set aside to cool down. This forms the basis for all sweets made from grape juice.
Locally, the grape must is derived mainly from the indigenous white ‘xynisteri’ grape varietal and to a lesser extent from the red varietal ‘mavro’. Grapes are harvested during September and October, the period that all grape products are traditionally made.
Palouzes or Moustalevria
Resembling a thick-jelly like sweet, Palouzes is made with grape must, rosewater, cinnamon and mastic and is served cold with a garnish of crushed almonds or walnuts.
Palouzes that is left to dry out forms an alternative traditional sweet known as Kiofterka, considered as a favourite energy food, often paired with Zivania.
Considered as the most well-known grape juice based sweet, Soutzoukos is made with soaked whole almonds or walnuts which are then literally threaded with a cotton thread. The threaded nuts are then dipped several times in finished Palouze, a process that may take several days since each layer has to dry before coating it with another layer. Every time it is dipped, a new layer of Palouze is added on the previous one until its diameter reaches four to six centimetres.
The long sausage-like looking sweet is served into thinly cut slices.
More grape juice based sweets
Kiofterka, Epsima and Retselia are a series of other traditional grape products that are still produced today, particularly by women in the wine villages on the southern slopes of the Troodos.