My best memories of my summers in Greece were the lazy afternoons that I would spend with my grandmother. The days were usually busy and active but the afternoons were slow and easy going.
A typical day would begin with an early wake-up call. I would sleepily have my breakfast of warm milk, honey, and freshly baked bread, while my grandmother finished cooking lunch. Then we would go to the Modiano market for the day’s groceries of vegetables, fruits, fish and whatever was on the day’s menu.
After the shopping was done we would drop the groceries off at my grandfather’s tailor shop, he and my grandmother would have a quick coffee together as my grandmother shared the news and gossip from the market and then we would head off hand-in-hand for the beach on a little boat that we took from the port for the beach of Mihaniona.
Everyone would meet back at the house for lunch and then came time for siesta, except for my grandmother who seemed to never sleep. She was always doing something.
After siesta, everyone would leave again and my Yiayia and I would be left alone. These were the best hours of the day for me. She would make us both an aromatic cup of Greek coffee and serve it with a small plate of her famous sour cherry spoon sweet which I simply couldn’t get enough of. We would sit on the cool balcony drinking our coffee and chatting like two ladies which made me feel so grown up. We would sit on the balcony until way after sunset and watch the people underneath go by and my grandmother would weave these fabulous imaginary stories of the strangers we would see on the square below.
I loved my grandmother dearly, she was the best person that I have ever known and I tried to learn as much as I could from her in the little time that we spent together. Eating sour cherry spoon preserves always brings on a heavy wave of nostalgia for me. I protected her recipes as if they were the crown jewels of England. And I would like to share one with you now:
The season for making this recipe is early summer when sour cherries are at their best.
You will need:
4 pounds of sour cherries which are firm and slightly under ripened.
7 cups of granulated sugar
1/3 cup of lemon juice
Wash cherries very well and place in a colander to dry off. Empty on a large tray and remove stems and pits. Place in a large bowl with sugar. Cover the bowl with the cherries and chill for 8 hours. This will enhance their flavor and keep cherries plump.
Sterilize jars and lids.
Empty the cherry mixture with all its liquid into a large pot and pour in enough water so that cherries are covered by an inch. Bring the cherries to boil over high heat. Skim the foam that gathers at the top and continue to do this throughout the process. When syrup thickens and becomes bubbly slowly lower the heat. Add lemon juice. Allow to boil for about a minute or two longer and remove from heat, allow cooling and transferring to your jars.
My aunt has sour cherry trees in her garden and so in early summer we gather the cherries and make batches and batches of the stuff. I save some of the jars to offer as Christmas presents. My friends love it and there is no better gift than one you have made yourself with care and love.
Enjoy this delectable sweet alone or over Greek yoghurt. It is also great over cheesecake!
If you participate in an Athens Food Tour make sure to ask your guide where you can purchase a jar or two of your favorite spoon sweet.