There is a (mostly) wonderful custom here in Greece that anytime you visit someone’s house, you should “arrive with your hands full and leave with your hands empty”! Basically, you should always bring something when visiting anyone, even if they are family. The exception to this is rule is only if you have already been to visit before in the previous days and took something with you then. Typical gifts are a box of delicious sweets, a bottle of wine, some flowers, or maybe even something you have prepared yourself.
On the other side of this custom, you too will always be served something when visiting a house as well. Even if you do not want something to drink or eat, you will be served graciously. An American friend of mine said it perfectly, “When you visit someone and they offer you something, it is never actually a question!” This is so true. I think these are mostly wonderful customs because sharing gifts and food/drinks does help to bond your friendship, alternatively though, it can get very expensive if YOU are the one always visiting and bring gifts to numerous family and friends! This is not usually a problem, except when you are a young married couple on Easter holiday and are expected to visit everyone and their donkey, then it takes its toll on you a bit. Thankfully, everyone we have visited so far are exceptional people and worth every penny and minute we’ve gotten to share with them!
Usually, when you arrive in someone’s house for a short visit you will be served a combination from the following list:
Or something according to the holiday and time if year, for example, during Easter you are sure to be served Tsoureki
Spoon Sweets (γλυκό του κουταλιού) are very common to serve to a guest. They are always served with a glass of water and maybe another beverage too. They are perfect for offering someone for three reasons: 1) they are sweet yet also nice and fruity 2) they look lovely and a little fancy 3) they are something very unique and can easily be homemade and kept for months at a time. It is called a “spoon sweet” because it is literally served with a small spoon and on a glass or crystal plate (unlike mine because I didn’t have any glass or crystal)!
They can be made from almost any kind of fruit, although sour and bitter fruits are particularly used. Sometimes they use just the rind of the fruit and other times the whole fruit may be used. Some popular spoon sweets are made from oranges, watermelon, cherries, kumquats, quinces, figs, lemons, pomegranates, or various berries. It is also common to use unripe nuts, flower petals, or even olives! A well-made spoon sweet retains the original color, aroma, and taste of the fruit only sweeter, softer, and slightly chewy.
To be completely honest, the only spoon sweet I actually enjoy has been made of orange rind. I have tasted a few others and am not crazy about them, although when the sweet, soured cherries are served over yogurt or simple ice cream, it combines for a wonderful combination! Maybe that recipe will follow someday too, I actually forgot that I liked it :)
The recipe is simple but takes a few days to complete. I recommend starting with oranges and moving on to other fruits of your choice.
Orange Spoon Sweets Recipe:
For every pound of oranges, you will use:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
I used 3 small-medium oranges and it filled one medium jar with about 12-16 pieces.
First, wash and zest each orange, keeping intact. Slice the orange into half and then each half into half again, totaling 4 pieces per orange. Carefully remove the insides, leaving only the rind itself (using the zest and actual orange flesh for another purpose). Either thread a needle and thick string or use tooth picks to spiral and secure each slice. Soak in a large bowl of fresh, cool water for 24 hours, changing the water 3-4 times.
Drain oranges and place in a deep pot and fill with cool water until just covered, bring to a slight boil. Drain and repeat the same process this time letting boil for about 6-8 minutes or until the oranges are soft/tender but not falling apart. In a separate pot, make your simple syrup recipe using a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. Let boil for a couple of minutes and remove from heat. Remove the string or toothpicks and add the oranges to the syrup letting sit again overnight. In the morning, return to a simmer and leave for 5-10 minutes until you have a thick syrup. Turn off heat and let the pot slight cool while you prepare your jars. If you are making multiple jars, you will need to boil them in order to create a good seal; if you are preparing only 1 jar, then you only need to add the sweets and keep refrigerated (will keep 4-6 months). Stir in a little fresh lemon juice and add to your jars.
Serve on a small spoon and plate with a little of the syrup and always with a glass of water.
There are many different recipes for many various spoon sweets, this one is mine and I think for oranges at least it worked very well!!! Any fruit or nut that you choose to make into a sweet will require slightly different sugar and cooking amounts.
Kali Orexi and I hope you enjoy this classic spoonful of hospitality!