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Glyka tou koutaliou or Spoon Sweets

glyka tou koutaliou


Glyka tou koutaliou, which means spoon sweets, are traditional, homemade sweet fruit preserves, served in a spoon as a gesture of hospitality in Greece and Cyprus. They can be made from almost any fruit, though sour and bitter fruits are especially prized. There are even spoon sweets made from vegetables and flowers.

Homemade spoons sweets are slowly disappearing.   Working housewives have so little time to spare that they can’t devote to such time consuming work and prefer to buy them from supermarkets, which are usually made using glucose and of inferior quality.   As a result, traditional recipes are gradually being forgotten and whatever spoon sweets are made and consumed are all too often no more than poor imitations of sweet memories.

The abundance of fruit and vegetables made Greeks to preserve them from antiquity.  Originally they were made by cooking fruit with honey.  When cane sugar was introduced to Europe, it was very expensive but eventually its production and finding other sources to extract sugar, such as beet sugar, made it cheaper so honey was eventually substituted with sugar.

Not only fruit are made into sweet preserves but also some vegetables and nuts.

Some of the fruits that are used include citrus (bitter oranges), grapes, mulberries, bergamot, apricots, cherries, oranges, sour cherries, lemons, pomegranates, quinces, strawberries, apples, dates, figs, prunes, and tangerines. Other varieties include vegetables or nuts such as  pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts and other nuts, and flower petals like roses or citrus blossoms. Many fruits or parts of fruits that are normally inedible, such as citrus peel and water melon rind, can be made into sweet, flavourful preserves, as can unripe nuts and vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, carrots etc. Some years back they used to add colour  to red spoon sweets, but nowadays they have been forbidden as dangerous to health and usually retain the original shape, colour, aroma and taste of the fruit.

When my mother, or before her my grandmother, used to make spoon sweets there wasn’t any picking lime and they would go to constructions and ask for some lime.  Pickling lime makes spoon sweets much crunchier and do not become mushy like jam. They would dissolve quicklime with water (ratio 1 cup quicklime to 2 litres water) and  would soak the fruit in this water for a few hours.  They would then wash the fruit very well and proceed to make the preserve.

When the spoon sweet is ready, after cooling completely, store in sterilized jars.

I remember that in Cyprus spoon sweets were usually offered to guests served by the teaspoon in a small china or crystal dish, with coffee or tea and cold water.  I also remember some pure silver vessels (sort of basket shaped which had special places for the silver spoons to stand round the basket) and inside they would put the sweets preserves.

Whole fruit preserves can be found in almost  any Greek and Cypriot homes. They are made by slowly boiling fruit in water and sugar over several hours or days, until the syrup sets. A small quantity of lemon juice is often added to preserve the fruit’s original colour, as the citric acid prevents oxidation. The method of preparation is essentially similar to that of marmalade, except that fruit pieces remain whole.  However, there are different approaches to making the preserves depending on the fruit or vegetable.  Some fruit are very bitter, so this bitterness has to be removed first before proceeding to making the preserve.

They can be served alone or used as ice cream toppings, in cakes, mixed with yogurt, on top of any cream dessert or in the Western way as a spread on toast for breakfast.

Relevant posts:

Glyko karpouzi (new recipe)

Glyko Nerantzi – Green Bitter Oranges (new recipe)

Glyko Nerantzi with Ginger – Green Bitter Oranges

Glyko Stafyli (Grapes)

Glyko Melitzanaki me Grenadini (Eggplant with Grenadine spoon sweet)

Glyko Kerassi (Cherry Spoon Sweet)

Glyko Karpouzi (Water Melon)

Glyko Nerantzi (Bitter oranges – Seville Oranges)

Glyko Bergamonto (Bergamot and other Citrus Peel)

Glyko Vyssino (Sour cherries)

Glyko Karydaki (green immature walnuts)

Glyko Kydoni me amygdala (Quince with almonds)

Glyko Kydoni me kastana (Quince with chestnuts)

Glyko Milo (Apples)

Glyko Stafyli (Grapes)

Glyko Syko (Figs)

Strawberries & Apricots

Glyko Melitzanaki (eggplants)

See also

How can we tell if the syrup is ready?

How to fix spoon sweets

How to sterilize jars

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

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6 Responses

  1. PG

    What a wonderful post! I think you have used the walnuts with their skins, sin’t it? Wow! Now I know a tiny bit more about Greek food. I always look forward to your posts 🙂 The quince spoon sweets look wonderful too.

  2. Ivy

    Actually, PG it’s without their skins. When they are still fresh and green, the skin is peeled and when cooked it turns black.

  3. Lisa Efthymiou

    What's the best way to store glyka, in the fridge or cupboard?

    • Ivy

      Hello Lisa. The best way to store glyka is in the cupboard, provided the syrup is properly thickened. They can be preserved for a very long period of time. If you have any doubts and your syrup is too watery the spoon sweet will get mildew, so it's better to store them in the refrigerator for a short time.

  4. Kimberly Patton

    Perhaps you can help me! As an Air Force dependent child, we were stationed for 6 years at Iraklion Air Force Base on Crete.One of my fondest memories is of the thick white sticky spoon sweet we were given by our Greek friends..served always as a lump on a spoon served in a glass of water.It seemed to me to be a sort of confectioners sugar creation and I would love to know if there’s a recipe I can make at home for my grandchildren.Feel free to email me or I’ll check back here for an answer in future..thanks! Kim

    • Ivy

      Hi Kim,
      The confection you remember is called “Hypovryhion” (pronounced ipovrihion), which means submarine. Here is a link to a recipe by our well know chef Dina Nikolaou. http://www.dinanikolaou.gr/recipe/1086
      I have translated the recipe for you and hope you can make it for your grandchildren.
      1 kg sugar
      1 cup (200 ml) water
      2 tbsp corn syrup
      1 vanilla pod or other flavoring of your choice
      In a nonstick pan heat up the sugar and water until the sugar melts. Continue to boil, skimming constantly, until the syrup thickens well.
      Add the glucose and the flavor of your choice.
      Remove from the heat immediately, stir and let the syrup cool down so much that you test it with your finger, it should feel lukewarm (but not hot). (My note: that would be around 110°F, if you have a candy thermometre). The mixture would still look transparent. Begin to stir with a wooden spatula or a wooden spoon. That would take some time and as you continue stirring, the mixture thickens and becomes opaque, as it cools. The color becomes off white (or light brown, if you flavor it with caramel). Stirring is a bit tedious as the mixture thickens, so alternatively you can do it by using a mixer, with the dough “hook” attached.
      Good luck, Ivy
      The deal in sterilized jars ** and close well.