Distinctive sweets are part of the Greek tradition and cuisine.
Traditional Greek spoon sweets and jam were discovered by the ancient Greeks and have a special place in traditional Greek family life. 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. When it reached Portugal, it was named by the Portuguese marmelo. 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).
Greeks preserve fresh fruit in sweet syrup (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. 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.
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.
The entire group participates in preparing the sweet dishes. After class, everyone sits down to a tasting fest, sampling the various types of sweets, accompanied by wine and bread. No doubt, a sweet treat.