If there is ever a global shortage on sugar or honey, I’m not sure what most Greeks are going to do. Greeks really love their sweets.
The “spoon sweet”, γλυκó κουταλιου (glee-KOH koo-ta-lee-OO, or literally sweet of the spoon) is one of many village treats whose real purpose was to find a way to preserve the harvest for later on, with the advantage of also making a nice little something to offer one’s guests. These are usually made with small fruits or pieces of fruits (like citrus peels), or even end-of-the-season produce that didn’t get a chance to ripen like eggplants and figs where the process sweetens and preserves them.
They get the name “spoon sweet” because these tasty tidbits are offered to guests already placed on a spoon that is resting on a dainty plate, usually a decorative glass one, and served with a glass of water. The guest will eat the sweet and then dip the spoon into the glass to let the remaining syrup flavor the water. Some spoon sweets aren’t made with fruits, but are flavored treats similar in consistency to caramel, and are just dipped into the water directly and slowly sucked off the spoon bit-by-bit. You don’t really go back for seconds, since other treats will have also been offered, so that’s also why it is placed on the spoon for the guest. I pretty much just spear one out of the jar, but that’s just me.
Spoon sweets can also be used in some of the same ways you would enjoy jams or candied fruits. I like a little mixed in to some yogurt, and the syrup that is leftover after the fruits are gone is perfect for flavoring brandy or vodka, or plain soda or water. The syrup is also perfect for being used as, well, syrup. Maple isn’t the only flavor that works on pancakes and waffles, you know!
Greek Kumquat Spoon Sweet Recipe
- 1.5 lbs. fresh kumquats
- 3 c. water, plus more for soaking the fruit
- 3 c. sugar
- 1 3-inch stick of cinnamon
Rinse the kumquats and prick them all over with a pin. I like to use a long pin that has a big head to it to make it easier to grasp. Pricking the kumquats will allow for the sugar syrup to be able to soak into the fruit, as well as to allow some of the juice to come out into the syrup. Some recipes will say to poke them with a skewer or toothpick, but that tears up the fruit too much.
Place the kumquats into a large pot and add just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring the contents to a boil and continue to cook for a minute. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let sit for the proverbial “overnight”.
After the kumquats have soaked for several hours, drain the water from the pot. That water will be great for any acid-loving plants you may have (or any plant, for that matter) so don’t be so quick to pour it down the drain!
Add the 3 cups of water, sugar, and cinnamon stick to the kumquats in the pot. Bring the contents to a boil, then turn the heat down to maintain a gentle simmer. Allow the kumquats to cook until the syrup is thickened, about 45 minutes or more. There is no real defined point at which this will be, but one way to tell if your syrup is cooked down enough is to pour a little on to a cool plate. Once the syrup is cool it should be thick enough to run your finger through and leave a trail and will be similar in thickness to maple syrup, or thin honey.
At this point you have a couple of options for storing your kumquat spoon sweets. You can pack them with the syrup into clean, sterilized jars while they are hot, then use them from the jar. Or you can allow the fruits to sit in the syrup until completely cooled, then take them out of the syrup and allow them to drain and dry completely on a rack. The fruits would then be eaten like a candied fruit and the syrup can be used in a variety of ways, like flavoring drinks, used on pancakes and waffles, drizzled over ice cream or yogurt, or even toast!