Petimezi (pure thick concentrated grape juice, must, or molasses) is a natural sweetener made of grape or pomegranate juice only, without any preservatives. Along honey it is one of the most ancient foodstuffs in Greece, with a history reaching back 4,000 years. For thousands of years, Greeks have preserved fruit using syrup sweetened with either honey or petimezi. Today, they are still used but more often you will find them replaced in recipes by sugar. 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. Petimezi contains a range of amazing flavors, beginning with slightly bitter undertones to a heavy sweetness. You have to taste it to understand.
Petimezi is made in large quantities in September when the grapes are harvested. In various places in Greece one can find farmers producing petimezi from the juice of pomegranates, a fruit that contains many antioxidants and is considered a natural remedy. Petimezi may be eaten decades after it was manufactured. The Greeks claim that its flavor improves with time.
Petimezi is manufactured in Greece today in modern factories using advanced techniques, but its flavor is not the magical taste it used to be. Fortunately, in some villages the farmers continue to manufacture petimezi the way it had been manufactured by their forefathers thousands of years ago, using a cooking process that lasts for 24 hours.
Petimezi when produced by the traditional process is expensive relative to other artificial sweeteners, in particular because of the great quantities of grape or pomegranate juice required to produce the end product. From every 50 pounds (24 kg) of grapes, or 100 pounds of pomegranates, one can produce one liter (4 cups) of petimezi.
For thousands of years, since the time of Hippocrates, father of medicine, petimezi is produced from pure grape or pomegranate juice, boiled for hours in large vats. All family members helping out with the process, each taking turn, standing over the hot bubbling vats, stirring and skimming off the ever-forming froth until the desired end result is reached – a delicious thick sweet and healthy rich deep brown syrup, with a myriad of uses and exceptionally long shelf-life, unrefrigerated. Forever, Greeks use this wonderful sweet syrup in their daily diet rather than unhealthy shop-bought syrups and dressings, full of chemicals and preservatives.
Depending on the season, we will visit an ancient village and an organic farm that grows fruit and manufactures petimezi using the same process used centuries ago. We will hear about organic agriculture, the preservation of ancient species of fruits and vegetables, and the wonders of petimezi. We will taste it in its pure form or diluted with water, milk, or liquor. We will sample products made with Petimezi, including moustokouloura (grape must cookies) and mustalevria (grape must pudding made with flour), and try it served as a syrup with Greek Yogurt. Participants will receive recipes using petimezi.