I always enjoy visiting Stella when I visit my grandparent's village. She’s an old friend of my mum’s and lives in a little villa with a huge back garden filled with vegetables and flowers, cats and two amazing rescue dogs. She also keeps hunting dogs and often goes foraging for herbs and berries in the mountain. She taught me how to make filo pastry, and when she did, she served us fresh corn on the cob and glyko koutaliou made from wild blackberries she’d picked in the mountains. She’s a funny, feisty woman who lives a fairly unconventional rural life in a country that can make being different a little difficult, especially if you're a woman.
During my last trip to Greece I bumped into her in the village and made her give me her recipe for koutaliou.
Glyko koutaliou is something you always give a guest to your home. My yaya would always serve it on a glass dish accompanied by a jug of cold water with a handmade doily protecting the water from dirt. Ordinarily the best cherries to use for this are sour cherries, or vissino cherries. The best place to get these are from a town in the north that specialises in this variety, but in the UK I use normal cherries. The preserve is so sweet it almost makes you wince, and the cherry flavour is intensified, so the cold water is an essential accompaniment.
sour Cherry spoon sweet | γλυκό κουταλιού βύσσινο
1kg sour cherries (if you can get them, otherwise normal cherries will do)
Squeeze of lemon juice
*1 cup of lime (as in the type used for lime plaster to go on the wall…! This is very optional)
De-stone the cherries – we recommend a cherry pitter as it makes things a lot easier.
Put the cherry stones in a bowl with about a cup of water and let it soak, ideally overnight.
Put the cherries in a pot and add the sugar.
Then cover with the water used to soak the pips (you might need to add a little fresh water to make sure the cherries are covered).
Bring to a slow boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes or until the cherries are soft, removing the scum that forms on top. A good test to see if it’s ready is to drip some of the juice on a saucer, and if it stays in place you know you’re ready to go. Too runny and it needs longer.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Pour into sterilised jars.
Seal and store in a dark place.
Traditionally, the recipe calls for a tablespoon of lime (as in lime for walls), but this isn’t really done much anymore…If you do try this, put the cherries in a pot with water and the lime. Rest it for a few hours, then wash and rewash the cherries really well until the water is completely clear, and start the process above.
If you decide to make this with strawberries, or other soft fruit, you don’t use any water when boiling the fruit. Rather, you add the sugar to the fruit the night before and then cook in the juices that come out.
You can really make this out of any fruit – we’ve tried apricots as well, but you can do watermelon, orange peel, even quince or walnuts. I'm interested in trying some British fruit, in particular rhubarb...
Serve on a glass dish with a cold glass of water, or with yoghurt or ice cream. As with many sweet things in Greece, it goes very well with a cup of thick, Greek coffee.