Ancient Greeks were the ones who discovered and made this delicious sweet treat. They experimented preserving the abundance of fresh fruit (citrus in winter, strawberries and apricots in spring, cherries, figs, and grapes in summer, quince and apples in autumn, and olives in January) in order to enjoy it throughout the year. They found that by slowly boiling quince with honey, it would set when cooled. At this time there was no fruit pectin to help them with this procedure. The result was a mouthwatering quince jam, or marmalade, called melimelon (honey fruit).
The Romans soon adopted this recipe, calling it melimelum and, when it reached Portugal, it was named by the Portuguese marmelo. This is the marmalade used today throughout Europe, generally known as jam. Only England keeps the word marmalade exclusively for preserves made from citrus fruits (the words marmalade and jam conjure up pictures of typically English breakfasts and tea parties.)
Along with honey, ancient Greeks used petimezi, a sweet syrup made from grape or pomegranate juice as a sweetener. Honey and petimezi are two of the oldest sweeteners in the world. Petimezi is made in large quantities in September when the grapes are harvested. It can also be made from pomegranate juice. Both honey and petimezi are delicious served with yogurt or ice cream.
During World War II and the Greek Civil War, petimezi was a god–sent to the Greeks. There was no sugar to be found and petimezi could economically be made at home. Because of its high calorific content it was also a cheap source of energy.
Fruits preserved in sweet syrup are called spoon sweets (glyka tou koutaliou in Greek). They are served on a spoon as a gesture of hospitality, placed on a dainty plate, usually accompanied by a glass of water and aromatic Greek coffee. A delightful traditional Greek custom.