Cured lean pork – a Byzantine tradition.

In his lettter to Alexios Pantechnes, Ioannis Tzetzes,  a 12th century Byzantine scholar, thanks him for his gifts which were spices and a living partridge, adding that he preferred slaughtered animals to alive ones, because he could not suffer seeing blood from slaughterd animals. But, if Alexios would like to send him meat he should send meat prepared by cooks or preserved or fresh meat drained out of blood.

Generally the consumption of fresh meat on a large scale was a priviledge enjoyed by the wealthy Byzantines. For poor people like Tzetzes fresh meat was a luxury. Thus, he relied mainly on eggs, dairy products, legumes, cheap part of meat and taricha (processed fish and meat) for protein.

Pork appears to have been the most popular source for preserved meat.

Since pork produces meat and more pork, and in an extremely crowded city like Constantinople pigs were raised even in houses, preservation was the only effective solution to protect meat for an extended period and store food to one side….

….if people didn’t want to sell the living piglets.

In another letter, Ioannis Tzetzes describes his housing conditions. He lived on the second floor of an apartment in Constantinople while on the third a priest lived together with his children and piglets.  Tzetzes couldn’t do anything against the endless suffering of the flood of urinating children and piglets. Obviously, the priest not only raised and sold pigs but he cured their meat too.

How was meat preserved in Byzantine times? Salting was the most common technique. Salt was also used in conjunction with sun–drying and, less frequently, with smoking.

 

Et voila!

This is apaki, salted and -optionally- smoked  lean pork, which is  very popular in Crete until nowadays. The 12th century Ptochoprodromos’s satire provides a testimony on it. The poet had found his father cooking a piece of slightly salted apaki which was well covered with fat.

I  salted my apaki and 30 days later  I  smoked it at 100 C for 10 hours,  using olive wood together with oregano, marjoram, thyme and sage for smoke. The meat shrinked.  Excellent stuff though.

 

 

This piece has been cured in salt and vinegar mixture for 48 hours (a popular technique in Crete). Sage and thyme added their flavor to the meat. Then I patted dry the meat and I smoked it  with apricot wood.  Marvelous taste!!

 

 

This one has been left in wine vinegar for 3 days.
I am going to cover it with a thick layer of salt and black pepper. No smoke. And yes, I am curious about its taste.

You can add apaki to omelets, legumes, pulses, vegetables, salads, or  just cook it for 6-7 minutes in orange juice and you’ll have a delicous meze for raki and  a great companion to pasta and rice.

 

 

Xinohondros- a fermented milk/cereal mixture

The combination of ground cereal grains and milk or yogurt to produce a highly nutritious, storable foodstuff is a common practice among the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean.

There are two Cretan variations under this category: xinochondros (sour ground wheat) which is the boiled mixture of fermented goat’s or /and sheep’s milk and “chondros” and galochondros (milk-ground wheat)  which consists of fresh unfermented milk and chondros. Both are usually consumed in the dried form.

Chondros is called the coarsely ground wheat on the islands of Crete, Carpathos and Kythera. According to Geoponika,* in ancient Greek chondros was the dehulled  emmer wheat grain (Triticum dicoccum) that had been  pounded, boiled and gradually mixed with white, fine gypsum and a quarter part of the whitest and finest sand for each part of gypsum ( a practice that contributed to the grain husking). When chondros was all husked, they passed it though a rather coarse sieve. The best was the first-sieved chondros; the third sieved chondros had the worst quality.

The pre-procession of cereals is actually an idea  dating back thousands of years.

The archaeobotanical remains of ground einkorn and barley grain from northern Greece and Santorini indicate that preparations created by parboiling cereals and combinations of ingredients such as cereals and milk go back as early as the third millennium B.C. in northern Greece and mid-second millennium B.C in Santorini. Although the archaeobotanical finds of processed cereals cannot tell us much about the techniques and the recipes involved in their preparation, the description of Geoponika is reminiscent of bulgur preparation.

As I’ve already said,  the cereal grain that is know under the name chondros in Crete, Carpathos and Kythera is simply coarsely cracked wheat. For a very long time it was home produced and in the hands of women, men were not completely excluded from the grinding though. Nowadays, the manual grinding process has been replaced by the mechanical one and women buy chondros from the market. Sometimes bulgur is used instead of cracked wheat.

Chondros is mainly produced using Triticum durum, so in the recipe below I used mavrathera, a local variety of Triticum turgidum subsp. Durum.

HOW TO MAKE XINOCHONDROS

Keep the raw, unpasteurized milk in a room temperature until it begins to turn sour and thick. Stir once or twice per day.

Put the sour milk into a pot. You can use the whey too. Bring to a boil.

Carefully add the ground wheat (in a ratio 1 wheat: 3 ½-4 milk). This is the time to make the sign of cross or blow three times, thus you will bless the xinohondros or  you’ll awake the apotropaic gods. :)

Simmer stiring  constantly. When it thickens and spoon stays in the centre of the xinohondros, remove from fire.

 Leave the mixture  to rest overnight and then spread in the form of spoonfuls or  rectangular pieces in the sun to dry. If you will make a large quantity, keep it in a pillowcase or cloth bag.

Xinohondros is made in the summer, when there is enough sun for it to dry out.

Though it  is usually consumed in a dried form, fresh xinohondros has a wonderful taste and can be served for breakfast. Dried xinohondros is found in a myriad of recipes in place of rice. It is  used in soups and stews  or  it is cooked with chicken, or okra, or pork, or  snails, or vegetables, or legumes,  or simply milk.

* Geoponika, edited by Beckh, published in 1895 Leipzig by Τeubner

FOOD & MEMORY

1. I begin with two anecdotes.

a) When my friend Stavroula Markoulaki, archaeologist and president of the Historical, Folklore and Archaeological Society of Crete, ate a piece of fresh xinohondros during the Saturday branch of the 1 st Symposium of Greek Gastronomy she shook her head and said ” I feel such a fool”. Why? Because while living in the village Apothikes with her parents she never interested in her mother’s rich and complex knowledge of cooking and cheese making. “Now that I am interested in her rural  cooking, she is dead and I don’t remember how to recreate her recipes. Oh my poor mom.  I miss her so much!”

The cultural gap between rural mother and modern, educated daughter brought considerable changes in the transmission of traditional food. However, xinohontros evoked some of my friend’s deepest memories.

 (Photo credit: Kyrstyn Kralovec)

Cretan xinohondros is a dried food based on a cooked mixture of fermented milk and cracked wheat. When it is still fresh and soft, xinohondros is a delicious creamy food. 

b) Food has own stories to tell.

Katina Providaki and her tiganopites (Photo credit: Kyrstyn Kralovec)

During the preparation for the Symposium Saturday dinner, Katina Providaki, a volunteer local cook, suggested tentatively that she would like to make tiganopsomo (fried leavened flatbread).  I was surprised when her 30 years old son said that his mother never makes it at home. “Why haven’t you ever made tiganopsomo for Stratis?” I asked her. “ This is  a treasured delicacy from my childhood” she answered. ”My mother made use of the leftover bread dough; she  hand flattened  it after rising and fried it.  While it was still warm she drizzled it with petimezi… you see, honey was very expensive but everybody had a little jar of petimezi.  But after my mother passed away (she died when Katerina was 14 years old) I didn’t even try to make a tiganopsomo. My heart would break, I thought. Tomorrow, for the first time in my life,  I will make tiganopsomo. Thus you will see how a poor mother “soothed her child’s insides” (malakone ta mesa tou paidiou tis)
For Katina  tiganopsomo is the symbol of her mother’s love and care.  And as Marcel Proust wrote in Remembrance of Things Past   “…when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection” (Volume 1: Swann’s Way: Within a Budding Grove, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin p. 58).

Why does food hold such power?

2. Sadly, even in villages the knowledge of traditional foodstuffs is rapidly declining, while there is also a considerable loss of memory  of poor people’s foods. Lantouridia is a typical dish of Crete’s “poor” cuisine. The most common way to prepare them  is to combine flour or bread with water to form very small balls of dough.   They  are cooked in boiling water or milk or meat broth and they are served as a very thick soup. If they are  boiled in water or milk they can be served with sugar or honey.

To make a pot of lantouridia for the Symposium Saturday dinner, the volunteer cook asked about 10 women. No one wanted to remember the exact method of preparation.  (Who cares about those foods?  They were poor, as poor as our houses. I don’t want to remember them… I don’t want to remember those days”: Stella Konstantoulaki).

I wonder how these foods are going to be archived for future generations.

3.  Smelling a pot of basil or homemade stakovoutyro (butter) “It really smells like Chania!”

Stakovoutyro (Photo credit: Kyrstyn Kralovec)

In Greek, the experience of self -imposed exile, the  absence from one’s home due to immigration is called “xenitia”. Xenitia conveys  a condition of estrangement, hard living in foreign lands, long absence from homeland, though  it can exploited  to the benefit of the immigrant. It provokes an intense, deep pain of longing to return home (nostalgia).
The tastes and smells of homeland  accompany xenitemenous (immigrants) in their  new homes. The food recalls memories that include parents, relatives, friends, past events,  homeland itself.

a) Xenitemenoi need to have some object as a tangible site for memory. Packages of food sent to  migrants is a common link to home. Sometimes they are given the word “kaloudia” (goodies) and they carry inside them the sun of the homeland, its sea, the smells of family house, the mother’s love. They are a piece of patrida (homeland).

b)Xenitemenoi live with a foot in both worlds. For them,  the role of food and memory in preserving their identity is as essential as the language and news from home. Thus, food not only express the sense of loss and desire for home but also signifies a sense of belonging. Two Symposium speakers,Maria Verivaki and Ozlem Yasayanlar ,  referred to this wonderful part of culture, the food memories and identity. Please click here to read the abstracts of their announcements: http://greekgastronomy.wordpress.com/abstracts/

And click here to read a great article about xenos (foreigner), xenia (hospitality)  xenitia and xenophobia  http://diatribe-column.blogspot.com/2007/10/xenia.html

As you  have probably already guessed,  the theme for the 2013 Symposium  will focus on Food, Memory and Identity.

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ

AFTER THE 1st SYMPOSIUM OF GREEK GASTRONOMY


It is more than three weeks that the 1st of the Symposia on Greek Gastronomy is over but since I can say that it went very well, I wanted to share some thoughts on it …

Speakers were the most critical aspect that contributed to the success of conference. They shared their knowledge and they generated questions on a wide variety of topics related to History and Evolution of Cretan cuisine. You can read the abstracts here:

http://greekgastronomy.wordpress.com/abstracts/

However, much of Symposium’s success was due to all those who supported it or voluntarily contributed to its development.

Because, if a conference doesn’t have much money it must have a team of dedicated people…

But,

our Symposium had a great group of dedicated volunteers,

though they had never met each other…

though they had come from different backgrounds and countries ( and I must say I was impressed with the quick respsonse from foreigner residents of Crete).

Moreover, the whole village that hosted the Symposium volunteered. Yes, the whole thing was embraced enthusiastically by the locals….

And

people of different generational ages, gender and ethnicity worked so well together!

Of course,

I recognise the valuable contribution from our sponsors. They made our job much easier and helped make the Symposium enjoyble for participants. So I won’t forget the constant support Stratos Milidakis gave us (administrator at Oadyk/Project: Gastronomy Routes and Culture of Flavors Network under AXIS 4). I will not forget Mrs Nikolakakis’ kindness (Anek lines).

I will remember with deepest appreciation Philip Exadaktylos, Giorgos Detsis and Vicky Koumantou. We welcomed them as sponsors but they quickly became our friends. They also did volunteer work.

Nor will I forget Alexandra Manousakis and Katernina Douloufakis from the most respected Cretan wineries, Manousakis and Douloufakis respectively. Their wines capture their charm.

And I am touched by the “Iardanos”, the association of tradesmen and entrepreneurs of Platanias. Their packages were filled with wonderful goodies.

 

But

the entire Symposium would look very different without the generosity and support of our volunteers. They helped in all kinds of ways, from fetching, carrying, serving, cooking dinners for 150-250 people, to translating, interpeting (what a demanding job! Two volunteers did it magnificently) , offering hospitality, photographing etc. Their effort is deeply appreciated.

 

 

The youngest and most dedicated volunteers: Orfeas Dialinos (11 years old), George Pantelakis (16 years old), Anna Iakovou (13 years old)

 

Of course,

I would like to give a special thanks to the chairpersons of the sessions and particularly to Jennifer Moody, landscape archaeologist, for taking the time to contribute to Symposium conclusions.

Many many thanks to Evangelia Voutsaki, a gifted and inspired young photographer. Her photographs were shown projected as part of a slide show during the symposium.

Special tribute goes to the women of the village. Women of almost all ages, from their 30s to their 90s, cooked for the dinners. They seduced us with the food and heritage of the region where they live and with their respect for the raw materials and their appropriate seasons. Those enthusiastic home – cooks shared wonderful recipes and stories and they offered their warm hospitality to the Symposium participants.

I deeply thank them all.

 

To see pictures of volunteers, click here.

You will find a man’s image among the pictures of women cooks. When pilafi is made in large quantities, it is a man’s job.

For the menu click  here .

If you speak Greek, watch the videos below to find out more about the dishes of the Saturday dinner.

 

watch?v=231LVm0L6ds&feature=related

watch?v=_oFanvNexyQ&feature=related

watch?v=Ycda8CmBgP4&feature=related

 

Some refreshments were made by volunteers, speakers and sponsors. The lemonade with the wonderful scent of lemon verbena was made by ethonobatnologist Fusun Ertug, who was speaker in our Symposium.  To make it  mix 1 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice with cold  sugar syrup (5 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar. Steep 10 leaves in the mixture of hot syrup for at least ten minutes).    Soumada, a delicious, soft, almond flavored drink was made by  Vicky Koumantou . Click here to read about thassorofon  , its Byzantine version.  A cup of  refreshing iced mountain tea was the perfect  treat to quench our thirst.  To make it, fill a large pot with water and add mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca), some marjoram and 3-4 leaves of sage. Bring water up to a boil and let steep. Strain the mixture  into jag, let it cool  and refrigerate it. This is ideal for summer time.  When ready to serve, add some slices of lemon.  You can drink it as a refreshment, it is perfect to accompany a light meal though.

If you would like to try the dish of lentils and bulgur that was included in the Sunday menu, a cup of iced mountain tea goes so well with it!  The ingredients you will need to make the dish are: 2 parts of boiled lentils and 1 part of wheat grains soaked in water. Strain both lentils and wheat grains, add salt to taste, mix and let cool. Add chopped parsley, chopped onions, cumin, olive oil and wine vinegar.

 

 

Special thanks to the Cultural Association “Risa” for graciously opening up the old school of Karanou to us for two days.

 

 

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ

1st SYMPOSIUM OF GREEK GASTRONOMY: THE PROGRAMME

CRETAN CUISINE: HISTORY, EVOLUTION, QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (?)

July 16-17, 2011, Karanou (Municipality of Platanias, Chania/Crete)

Saturday, July 16

8:30 Registration

9.30 Welcome messages from Ioannis Malandrakis, Mayor of Platatanias, and the organizers Mariana Kavroulaki & Stavroula Markoulaki, president of Historical, Folklore and Archaeological Society of Crete.

Session I Chair: Kostas Moutzouris

10:00 The importance, for archaeology, to study the fauna and the flora on excavations in Greece in order to address a more complete study of ancient diets.
Anaya Sarpaki Dr. Archaeologist / Archaeobotanist & Melpo Skoula Dr. Βiologist/ Botanist, Park for the Preservation of Flora and Fauna at the TUC

10:20 Tastes from seeds in prehistoric Greece: seeking continuities and discontinuities in archaeo-botanical data.
Sultana Maria Valamoti, Αrchaeologist /Assistant Professor, AUTH

10:40 “Lucullian meals” depicted in the mosaics of ancient Kissamos.
Stavroula Markoulaki, Ph.D Αrchaeologist

11:00 Questions and answers

11:20 Edible Wild weeds in Venetian Crete (Poster).
Kyriaki Panteli, Social Geographer

11:40 Coffee / Mountain Tea Break with a parade of Cretan cheeses, local preserved meat, home made bread, olives and more.

Session II Chair: Stavroula Markoulaki

12:00 Botanical Diversity in the Cretan Diet.
Melpo Skoula, Dr., Biologist / Botanist- Anaya Sarpaki, Dr. Arcaeologist/Archaeobotanist, Park for the Preservation of Flora and Fauna, Technical University of Crete – Costanza Dal Cin D’Agata, Biologist, Park for the Preservation of Flora and Fauna, Technical University of Crete

12:20 Wild leafy greens in the “Cretan diet”.
Costas D. Economakis, Agronomist, former Senior Researcher ΕΘΙΑΓΕ

12:40 Ten Edible Native Grasses and their Involvement in the Diet of the Present-Day Inhabitants of Eastern Crete Today.
Antonia Psaroudakis, Agricultural University of Athens, Department of Crop Production, Agricultural Experimentation and Laboratory of Plant Breeding / Technological Institute of Crete, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics (speaker) – Petros Dimitropoulakis, Technological Institute of Crete, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics – Theofanis Constantinides, National and Capodistrian University of Athens, Department of Biology, Department of Ecology and Taxonomy – Andreas Katsiotis, Agricultural University of Athens, Department of Crop Production, Agricultural Experimentation and Laboratory of Plant Breeding – George Skarakis, Agricultural University of Athens, Department of Crop Production, Agricultural Experimentation and Laboratory of Plant Breeding

13:00 Laban, jameed, kishk, and more: yoghurt and yoghurt-based products in the Levant.
Carol Palmer, Ethnobotanist / Director of the British Institute in Amman, Jordan

13:20 Questions and answers

Lunch on your own

Session III Chair: Anaya Sarpaki

18:00 The Cretan diet on the edge of nutritional epidemiology since the 1950s. Are there more secrets to reveal?
Antonia-Leda Matalas, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens

18:20 Dietary Change in Crete.
Tourlouki Eleni, Public Health Nutritionist – Christos Lionis – Foteini Anastasiou- Evangelia Ladoukaki – Maria Antonopoulou – Ioanna Tsiligianni – Nikos Tsakountakis- Kornillia Makri – Demosthenes Panagiotakos

18: 40 The Cretan Diet and its Position of Nutritional Education in the Prevention of Childhood Obesity.
Joana Petraki, Dietitian / Nutritionist

19:00 Questions and answers

Pre-dinner drinks and beverages

20:45 Dinner Buffet for Registered Guests. The people of Karanou will bring food and recipes to share.

Sunday, July 17

9:00 Sunday morning trip to Omalos plateau.

Learn how to make staka, the traditional local butter.

Session IV Chair: Katerina Tzanakaki

17:20 The myth of Cretan cuisine in Anatolia.
Fusun Ertug, Ph.D Archaeologist / Ethnobotanist

17:40 The population exchange and Cretan cuisine are alive and well in Izmir.
Özlem Yaşayanlar, Translator/ food –blogger

18: 00 The relationship between the Cretan kitchen, food memories and identity – some observations from a Cretan food blogger.
Maria Verivaki, English teacher at MAICh / food blogger

18:20 The rizitiko music genre and Cretan nutrition (Rizitika as a fifth component of the Cretan diet).
Antonis Mavridakis, Psychiatrist – Psychotherapist

18:40 Questions and answers

Session V Chair: Jennifer Moody

19:00 The Cretan vineyard: one of the most ancient vineyards.
Antonis Dourakis, Owner of Dourakis Winery / President of the Winery Network in Chania-Rethymnon

19: 20 Transformations and reviews of the role of table wine on the modern Greek table.
Alexandros Sakkas, wine writer/ wine critic/ wine educator

19:40 A king from rags and patches.
Mary Frangaki, former TV producer; alternative tourism business owner.

20:00 Questions and answers

20:20 Jennifer Moody, Dr., Archaeologist, and Mariana Kavroulaki, independent researcher of the History of Greek Food and co-organizer of Symposium will conclude the work of the conference following the presentations, discussion of the papers and recommendations of those attending the conference.

21:00 Farewell dinner: From austerity to feast; Cretan cuisine tells its stories.

UPDATE: For a  peek at the topics being covered at the Symposium, please take a look at the  abstracts here.

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ

A trip to Parnitha

These photos were taken on June 5 during an one day trip to Parnitha mountain that was organized   by my son’s school parents association …

 

 

 

Agavanos (Notobasis syriaca) is  a  wild artichoke -like plant. Tender shoots are peeled and eaten raw or boiled and seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice.

 

 

 

There is a wild vine growing in this area….

With a little patience grapes will be ready for verjuice.

 

 

 

On a hot summer day If you will collect some leaves of rock rose (Cistus creticus) a fragrant resin will stick to your hands. Rock rose is an aromatic plant that has used since ancient times to produce  labdanum, an oleoresin that is of great importance in perfumery.  The best material is collected from Cistus creticus ssp creticus which grows plentiful in Crete.  Dioscorides (De Materia Medica A,97)  described  its gathering by brushing the shrub with straps, a system still employed in Crete as you can see if you’ll click here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKh46zl55qA&NR=1 and here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsNGV8xGfwA

 

 

 

On our way we visited a monastery… We expected to see a Byzantine monastery but this was an ugly modern building. However, most Greek monasteries have lovely yards filled with roses, rose-scented pelargonia and basil in pots.

The strongly rose-scented leaves of pelargonium graveolens are used in quince spoon-sweet, lukums, creams and ice-cream.

 

 

 

Of course, you cannot imagine Greek summer without the sweet scent of basil.

 

 

 

Of course,

It is not a surprise that the walk in the forest followed by a barbecue…

 

 

Ah June!  the month that black mulberries are darken. Sweet, already. What a good company we had!

 

 

 

 

For Greek click here

A glass of donkey’s milk, please

 

 

 

 

In  Hippocratic texts there are mentions of  this  milk for anything from snake bites to dysentery, in Roman times it was used as a cosmetic while  Cleopatra may have bathed in it to enhance her beauty.

Very similar to human milk, with a low  fat content  and high levels of omega three and six, high levels of calcium and the antibacterial enzyme lysozeme,  donkey’s milk is worthy of much greater attention than it receives.

Up until the middle of 20th century in Greece, it was  given to feed the orphaned babies and  sick children (particularly those suffering from dry cough related problems).

In Italy, ass’s milk is given to children with cow’s milk protein allergy  as substitute for cow’ s milk.

Although donkey has played a significant part in Greek tradition,  sadly it has  been affected by biodiversity loss and its numbers are in decline. However, the sale of this milk can be most profitable for a farmer, since its price is very high.

Just think that the most expensive cheese in the world, costing $1,350 per kilogram, comes from Balkan donkey milk (Serbia).

For more on Greek donkeys and their milk, read “Saving Eeyore” by Tania Kollias. It’s an old article but still interesting.

 

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ

A fast and easy method to make Garum

 

 

I don’t think my neighbours appreciate my attempts at making garo (ancient Greek: garos or garon, Latin: garum) , the liquid that results from the 2-3 months fermentation of small fish or of fish intestines in brine. The smell is very unpleasant. However garos- when used  with a light hand- gives a delicious savory quality to dishes. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines  used to put it on just about everything.  They also mixed it with wine, vinegar, pepper, oil, or water.

But

This time I will follow a  fast and non stinky method.

Whole anchovies (innards and heads included) and oregano are ready to be boiled in salted water until become a thick liquid. I am thinking of adding some sweet wine too. After having passed the fish liquid  several times through a cheese cloth I will have the precious garo.

I am really curious about its taste.

Of course, I will keep it in the refrigerator since my sauce will not be a result of fermentation.

Για Ελληνικά εδώ