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In the over- saturated world of gastronomic transport, the grape's must is something like the middle child: it is not saturated nor with the modernity or freshness of the first arrival eg the fruit itself – nor bless with the privilage of the last – not being wine, it is something intermediate. It compensates us though, by being essential and useful in athousand plus one ways. Must is practically the wine's child.
Evidently as old as wine, the unleavened grapes juice found its place in the gastronomical historical chronicles since ancient times, which strangely enoughhas changed over the centuries. The sur juice for example of unripe grapes was used by the ancient Egyptians as a sausefor the fish just as lemon is used nowadays. Particularly prevalent septic substance during the middle ages as well, since lemons were dissapeard from Western Europe after the Roman Empire's fall until the crusades. Nowadays , in our own yard, ripe grape juice is still used. In Lefkada they put it in fishsoup whenever there is no lemon an in Naoussa we have an interesting recipe for salad with eggplants seasoned with unripe grape juice.
Despite the gastronomic detour what really intrests us, is the grape's role as a sweetener and not as a lemon substitute. Again, from the ancient years the grape's juice was considered very important. Basically it was the only ready and available sweetener exept honey. Ancient Greeks, used several variations of the sweet depending on the grape's boiling or condensation. There was the very pricey white, which either represented the fresh and fluid grape, tht came out of the very ripe grapes,before they go into where they step and mash the grapes, or the must fermentation product. Then, there were various of other kinds in condensed form: consentrated grape flesh which boiled until I became thick enough and was a honey subtitute; the epsetos who was less condensed and finally the siraion, one more kind of condensed must from grapeskin for the skin of which we don't know much.
Then the Romans followed, with a corresponding plethora of sweeteners based on grapes and with different boiling points. There was caroenum which basically was boiled wine and sapa or defrutum that was condensed must. According to horatio there is even evidence proving that some grape varieties boiled better thasn others and especially the Chiotiko variety.
Both Greeks and Romans used must and the sirup that resulted from its boiling as a sweetener in many recipes.Athenaeus mentions a fish recipe with the addition of must by way of example of the art of cooking by noting that such creations ultimately prevented humans from cannibalism! The Roman chef Apikios used boiled must in a cheese sauce for lettuce, in another recipe for boiled turnips, as an additional ingredient in a soup with parsley and as a condiment in delicious dishes with meat and poultry such as cock with prunes and chicken with leeks and greens. It was also used as a sweetener for a plethora of Greek and Roman breads and desserts filled with cheese.
Today, even before it becomes wine, grape pomace has many culinary uses that vary just like a few centuries ago. The moustalevria and moustokouloura are obviously the most characteristic concoctions. But across Greece there are dozens of local recipes containing the grape's sweet liquid, either as juice (must), or as treacle (molasses). One of the most unusual uses coming from Lemnos, where it's boiled allong with fresh homemade pasta and is served in the winter as a satisfying dessert. In Tinos, leave the disks with the jelly in the sun and then they sprinkle over it with sesame and cinnamon. There is also a similar dessert made in roumeli. It is called moustopita and is essentially jelly that has dried in the sun, with sesame seeds and flavored with bay leaves or basil. Across Greece but particularly in the North, there is a version of sountzouk lukum with nuts threaded that dive again and again in the jelly until it the coating becomes like a thick sausage. One of my favorite recipes is an old dessert from Smyrni, which I have chosen from the book of Lisa Micheli called “Eratous Notepad”, with molasses which we boil in a kind of pudding made from milk, eggs and flour.
In various parts of the country, flour and syrup from the grape can be combined into many kinds of pies and pastries, from the Cretan petimezopita to Finiki of Tinos, a similar kind of pie with olive oil, grape syrup, nuts, orange peel and raki. The most widespread use of this syrup that grape gives us the is as a preservative of other fruits. Across Northern Greece and on several islands, for example, we find the retseli, pumpkin or quince, i.e., maintained in molasses. In Crete, the retseli is spilled over the figs so that they become compoted. But by far the most unusual and – dare I say – the most delicious recipe with molasses is that of Naoussa. In Naoussa, the the grape syrup is called honey and is made with the delicious juice of the xinomavro variety. A favorite local sweet is a juicy concoction with roughly chopped eggplant preserved in grape syrup. Eaten as a dessert is even better on a buttered mpompota – a traditional dessert which fortunately has survived until now.