When my daughter returned from the Republic of Georgia (it’s on the Black Sea adjacent to Russia and Turkey), she had an item I’d never before seen. From some butchers’ wrap, she unrolled what looked like six colored wax candles tied together on a string.
A guessing game ensured, but no one had any idea what they were. Finally, she broke off a piece and began to eat it.
“It’s candy,” she said, “a traditional Georgian sweet call churchkhela.” (Pronounced: chur-chel-laah) “It’s made from grape ‘must’ mixed with flour and nuts.” (The so-called “must”is a concoction that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the grape.) I ate a slice with a hazelnut in the center. It had the chewiness of the old Jujubees I ate at the Saturday afternoon matinee as a kid—only with a wine flavor and the addition of nuts. Really quite tasty.
Candy with a History
The leathery-textured candy has been popular among travelers throughout the centuries, because it was non-perishable, easy to eat and energizing. It was once carried by Georgian warriors, because the candy contained enough calories for a man for one day.
Variations are found throughout the region, where the candle-shaped candy is made in the autumn, when wine is produced. Almonds, walnuts, and hazel nuts and sometimes raisins are threaded onto a string and then dipped repeatedly, 8 to 10 times, in the thickened grape juice and dried for a week or so in candle or sausage shapes.
The confection is served as dessert, especially during the time between Christmas and New Years. It’s often called the Georgian “Snickers.” While it’ll never replace fine chocolate, in my book, it makes a good conversation piece. If you’re interested, Amazon sells a set of five for $17.95.
Hmm. . . might be just the thing to nibble on while standing in line at the polls next month.