When the international demand for black raisins- the major export product of Greece- failed (1893), Greek government bought surplus raisins to produce cheap alcohol, alcoholic beverages and syrup (stafidine). Thus, raisins started to play a major role in alcoholic industry and industrial manufacturing of confectionery products.  Moreover, in 1936   the use of sugar was prohibited in confectionery industry by law. Though carob syrup and other fruit syrups were also used,  raisin syrup remained  the predominant sweetener until 1965.

Today, stafidine is used in bakery products and wine making  (it increases wine’s alcohol potential). 



To make raisin syrup at home is actually  fairly simple.

  A 1:2 ratio of black raisins and water is needed (I used 2 cups of raisins)

Allow raisins to soak for 48 hours in the water

Run raisins mixed with water  through a food processor.

Squeeze them through a muslin or a cheesecloth a couple of times.  

Collect the liquid in a pot.

 Add 1 tablespoon of wood ash to the liquid, stir, and let sit for 2 hours.

It will make a froth. Filter the liquid through the cheesecloth.

Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat  and cook uncovered until forms a dense syrup.

Store in a clean jar.

The home made stafidine can be used as a replacement for  sugar, though some caution is required because it is sweeter than sugar. 

It is a fabulous topping for soft, fresh goat cheese,  yoghurt, ice  cream and many sweet dishes.  Mix it with cold water  to make a deliciously refreshing beverage (1/5 ratio of syrup and water)

A piece of  bread spread with thick raisin syrup (threpsine), was the easiest snack for the kids until  the 1960s.

 A related version of raisin syrup  can be made with dried figs. 

Raisin on Foodista



Refreshments 2. PEPITADA

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.