Zacharonero, was a refreshment popular in Northern Greece, made by mixing 2 tbs sugar (zachari), 1 glass of water (nero) and 1 tbs vinegar. Adding more vinegar (about 3tbs) zacharonero becomes xidonero (xidi = vinegar + nero= water)
Vinegar in drinking water is effective in killing harmful bacteria and in eliminating the fever, thus xidonero had been heavily used as a way to purify the water and as a remedy for dysentery, malaria and typhoid fever.
It was also consumed as a cool, not very refined but very refreshing beverage.
Xidonero was actually close to posca, a drink of vinegar or acidified wine and water that was used by the Roman and Byzantine military troops and lower classes. It might be infused by herbs and sweetened by honey.
The evolution of the beverage industry affected many homemade refreshments. After 1960, zacharonero and xidonero unavoidably lost their way in terms of popularity.
To this very day there is a habit among islanders of chewing the seeds of melons and watermelons, after the fruits’ flesh have been consumed. Until late sixties, pepitada, a Jewish Sephardic milky – looking beverage made with melon’s seeds was also familiar to Greeks Christians of Rhodes, Chania (Crete) and Thessaloniki. It is worthy of notice that Chania had an old established Jewish Romaniotes community, not a Sephardic one. However, pepitada existed among Christians of Chania as tonic refreshment.
Pepitada is a Ladino word meaning ‘made from fruit seed’. The Sephardic Jews drink it when the fast of Yom Kippur is broken and before eating again. Apart from a tonic drink for braking fast, pepitada is a wonderful refreshment for hot days. Ιt is a pity that pepitada is not made anymore by Christian Greeks.
2 cups melon seeds. You can also use pumpkin seeds.
4 cups water
½ cup sugar orange flower or rose water or almond extract
Wash the seeds until they are cleaned. Drain well and sun dry them for 2-3 days. Spread them on a baking sheet and toast them until golden. Remove from the oven, let them cool and crush them in a mortar. Put them in a muslin bag, tie up tightly and place the bag in a glass pitcher filled with 4 cups water, for 36 hours. Keep the pitcher in the fridge. Every few hours give bag a few squeezes. The moisture from the bag will change the colour of the water. The last day, squeeze the bag tightly to remove all its liquid into the water. Set the mixture over low heat, add the sugar, stir and cook until the sugar is melted.
Flavour with the orange flower or rose water or almond extract. Serve pepitada chilled in small glasses.