Petimezi (pure thick concentrated grape juice, grape molasses, grape must) is a natural sweetener made of grape (or pomegranate) juice only, without any preservatives, and is one of the most ancient foodstuffs in Greece, with a history reaching back 4,000 years in time. Petimezi does not taste like sugar or honey but rather contains a range of amazing flavors, beginning with slightly bitter undertones to a heavy sweetness. You have to taste it to understand.
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, and the Greeks even 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 same. Fortunately for us, in many villages the farmers continue to manufacture the original Petimezi exactly as it had been manufactured by their forefathers thousands of years ago, using a cooking process that takes 24 hours.
We will visit Panagiotis, farmer and producer of Petimazi in the ancient village of Halki. Nestling in the hills above Vrahati, a few kilometers west of Corinth, is the small, Greek village of Halki, home to Panagiotis Mantzioros and his wonderful, friendly family. Here, Panagiotis, lovingly tends to the olive trees and grapevines that have been in his family for generations. As in most Greek villages, families live in the same house for many generations, so is the case with Panagiotis’ family. One day, whilst clearing out an old storeroom, Panagiotis happened to come across an old glass jar of mysterious brown liquid. Cautiously opening it and having a good smell at it, he realized that it was Petimezi, one of the oldest natural sweeteners in the world, produced by boiling pure grape juice, until it becomes a rich, sweet syrup. Upon showing it to his mother, she informed Panagiotis that it had been made by his grandmother, Alexandra, over 40 years ago. Panagiotis was amazed. It was still in perfect, edible condition. He knew that Petimezi had the reputation of keeping unrefrigerated forever, and here was the proof! This find put the seed of an idea into Panagiotis’ mind, and in 2004, after much trial and error and after many hours with his mother and all the old “mamas” in the village, who taught him all they knew from their mothers about Petimezi, he put his first homemade Petimezi on the market.
Panagiotis produces only the best, authentic, 100% natural Petimezi, made as it was thousands of years ago, in the time of Hippocrates, father of medicine, from pure grape juice, boiled for hours in large vats. All the family help out with the process, each taking their 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. In this way, Panagiotis is playing his part in reviving long-forgotten aspects of Greek cuisine, teaching people the merits of using this wonderful sweet syrup in their daily diet, rather than unhealthy, shop-bought syrups and dressings, full of harmful chemicals and preservatives. Little did Alexandra know that leaving her jar of her homemade Petimezi in that storeroom, 40 years ago, would prompt Panagiotis into creating the successful Petimezi business that he runs today.
We will sit down to a taste fest of Petimezi, in its pure form or diluted with water, milk or liquor, together with various other products, such as ice cream, bread, salad, etc., depending on the season of year. We will sample products made with Petimezi – Moustokouloura (Grapemust cookies), Mustalevria (Grapemust pudding made with flour), or served as a syrup with Greek Yogurt.
Participants will receive recipes using Petimezi.