It’s that time of year again when my favourite product is available in Cyprus- soushouko. Oh how I wish I could be there to sample it! For those of the uninitiated out there, soushouko is the sheer delight of pure grape juice turned into a confection that looks a bit like a rubbery twig when finished. Doesn’t sound promising? well when you taste it the ugly duckling turns out to be a swan full of sweet – scented delicacy.
To make soushouko, a little of the grape juice is added to a small amount of flour and mixed to a paste then the rest of the juice is added and cooked over a low flame, stirred until it thickens. Nothing else is added. Nuts, usually almonds but sometimes walnuts are threaded onto a string at even intervals then dipped into the liquid and hung up to dry. This process is repeated many times until the required thickness is achieved usually about an inch thick. A time consuming operation. This produces a sweet that can be kept all winter which is full of goodness with a delicate scent of grapes.
When I was a child in London, my father would receive a parcel from Cyprus, every year about Christmas time with some soushouko included. I used to love it and still do. My Grandmother owned a big vineyard near Yerolakkos, unusual for that area, and she would make soushouko from some of the grapes. You will find it sold at Panagyris (religious festivals) about this time of year, also outside churches or large monasteries, where there are usually stalls selling nuts and dried fruits. But be careful because there are imitations that are made mostly with sugared water.
Sometimes the cooked mixture is left to dry in shallow pans,which are left to set then cut into squares and dried in the sun, this is called kefteri. A much less time consuming product. Try soushouko, or shoushouko as it is also called, next time you see it, I’m sure the stall-holder will let you sample some before you buy.