Spoon sweets are sweet preserves served in a spoon as a gesture of hospitality. Distinctive sweets (have you ever eaten olive jam?) are part of the Greek tradition.
Traditional Greek “spoon sweets” and jam were discovered by the ancient Greeks and have a special place in traditional Greek family life, and usually they are homemade. With today’s busy lifestyle however, there is often not enough time to make these delicious Greek treats.
A thrifty and wise people, they experimented preserving the abundance of fresh fruit they had, in order to enjoy it all throughout the winter months. They found that by slowly boiling quince with honey, it would “set” when cooled. At this time, of course, there was no such thing as 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”. No marks for guessing that “marmelo” 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 fruits preserved in sweet syrup (citrus in winter, strawberries and apricots in spring, cherries, figs and grapes in summer, quince and apples in autumn, and even olives in January), are called spoon sweets, ”Glyka tou koutaliou”. They are so called as they are served on a spoon, placed on a dainty plate, usually accompanied by a glass of water and aromatic Greek coffee. A delightful, traditional Greek custom.
As soon as fruit ripens on the trees, the “mamas” would open their cupboards, take out an array of jars and bottles, and flood the house with the gorgeous aroma of boiling fruit, while making annual jam and traditional Greek spoon sweets. Grandmothers handed down their secret recipes to their daughters, who carried on the family tradition.
Classes on sweets are normally conducted by female chefs, based on recipes handed down for generations from mother to daughter. They last about 3 hours and include a selection of jams and spoon sweets corresponding to the seasons of the year. In the class on sweets, we will learn to prepare the authentic jams and “spoon sweets” so typical of the Greek cuisine.
The entire group participates in preparing the sweet dishes, and after class, everyone in the group sits down to a tasting fest, sampling the various types of sweets, accompanied by wine and bread. No doubt, a sweet treat.