From the ancient times the residents of the Cyprus villages had a large production of grapes and milk. Because of that they learned to make several products based on those ingredients. Below we will see how they made wine out of grapes, the traditional zivania, the paluze and the sutziouko. Also we will see how they made the famous halloumi and anari cheese from milk.
The grapes destined for wine making where selected from exquisite quality vineyards.
In the old times they placed the grapes into clay basins and stepped on them until they melted and afterwards they put them into the pytharia (large clay pots) for the fermentation, which usually took 12 days.
Each day the grapes where compressed with the spilarin (wooden press) due to the seething caused by the fermentation.
Once the fermentation was over the actual seething took place. A small basket would be placed in the middle of an earthen cask and the wine was collected with the “kolokan” (pumpkin-made vessel) and then poured into a clean and sterilized earthen cask. The sterilization was made using sulphur smoke. Inside the pythari (large clay pot) remained the brunches, the seeds and the grape skins, known as zivana.
The clay pots with the wine were left open for a few more days so that the fermentation was complete and cleared from lees. Afterwards the clay pot was covered with a marble plaque and sealed with plaster so it kept the air from entering inside.
Zivana or Zivania
Zivana or Zivania comes from the word zivana (grapes). It is the wine distillation which is produced inside special cauldrons using the method of distillation. Usually it contains around 47-52% alcohol on average. From the Venetian occupational period until today the produce of zivania remains a basic occupation and an important source of income for Cypriot viticulturists. The distillation of zivania is a traditional for of art which for centuries is being passed on from generation to generation in almost all the wine villages of Cyprus.
In order to prepare good quality zivania the grapes being used should be matured and healthy, not wasted. The must used for the fermentation should not be above 12-13° baumé so that it manages to have a complete fermentation. When the baumé meter indicates below zero, it means the fermentation is complete and the sucrose has turned into alcohol. Then the wine and the the seeds and skins are poured inside the cauldron filling around 4/5s of the space. On the base of the cauldron “mazia” are placed so that the zivana do not stick to the bottom. Also before the cauldron with the zivana is closed more “mazia” are placed to keep the pressure on the zivana. Wood is used to make a fire. As soon as the zivania starts to come out the intensity of the fire is lowered because during the distillation the fire needs to be steady and moderate.
There are many uses for zivania. It is widely used for therapeutic purposes, such as rubs, for colds, disinfection of wounds, faints, toothaches, as a tonic drink for winter etc.
Palouzes / Soutzoukos
Palouzes and soutzoukos are famous traditional Cypriot sweets which you will come across in villages where white grapes are produced.
By stepping on the grapes they collect the distillation known as must and place it inside a large cauldron and put on fire. When it starts to boil they add inside the cauldron a special kind of soil which is called asprohoma (white soil). With the addition of the soil a better cleaning of the must is achieved and it also makes it sweeter. During the boil of the must all the impurities that come to the surface need to be taken out using a ladle.
Next they mix up with a proportion of 8 okas must, 1 okas flour (1oka = 400 dramis or 1280 kilogram = 2.823 pounds)and start stirring on top of the fire until the mixture is cooked.
Afterwards the mixture is placed on plates and when we add crushed dry nuts the palouze is ready.
The following step is achieved with the creation of the soutzouko. Almond nuts or walnuts are passed in threads depending on the maker’s preference. On one end of the thread is a type of hook for the threads to be able to hang high so that the soutzouko dries faster.
The threads are dipped inside the hot palouze mixture and then left to hang dry for a few hours. This is repeated either the same day after they make more paluze mixture of the following day. Three to five dippings in the paluze are made. They leave it hang to dry for 5-6 days unless they prefer it to be fresh where in that case they can cut it from the same day.
Below we will see how the traditional Cyprus Halloumi is made at the Tris Elies community.
The milk is heated on fire and after a special coagulant powder (known as pithkia) it is left to cool. Shortly the milk coagulates. It is then cut into pieces and placed into a talarin (small straw cylinder basket). It is pressed so that it drains and the liquid that comes out is the noros.
The noros is boiled again, with the addition of more milk, usually at a 1 to 10 ratio the noros will coagulate again, therefore giving us the anari cheese which it either stays without salt, or salt is added and stored after it dries out. In order to be taken, the anary is pressed once again in the talarin, so that with it drained we have once again a quantity of noros, in which the halloumi cheese will be stored in and preserved.
In the meanwhile when the halloumi cheeses have dried after the talarin process, they are dropped inside the remain noros from the anari production and are cooked on low fire for around one hour. It is characteristic that, when cooked, they rise to the surface of the noros that they boil into. Next each piece of halloumi is salted. Some finely cut spearmint is also added. After each piece is folded in two and placed in a glass container for storage. The container, when full with halloumi, is filled with noron and closed shut.
The halloumi, just like the anari, is of white colour.
Trahanas is known all over Cyprus being a delicious and nutritional traditional food. It is soup with wheat kneaded in soured milk. Let’s see how this traditional food is prepared.
After the wheat is thoroughly washed it is blended in a hand mill. Then it is mixed with soured milk and the mixture is placed in the fire. When it boils well, the mixture coagulates, and then it is moulded into small elongated pieces which lay in the sun where they dry out. These dry pieces are stored and so preserved for long time periods.
Each time the housewife wishes to cook trahana soup, she takes the desired quantity from the stored dry pieces. The pieces are placed into water, where they inflate and open, then they are cooked on fire, usually in meat broth. While the soup cooks, some quantity of fresh milk may be added. Halloumi cheese can also be added chopped into small pieces, which also cooks inside the soup. Trahanas is served hot after some salt, pepper and lemon are added.
The kommodromos art was of the oldest ones in Cyprus. The kommodromos would make and repair tools, mostly picks, weeding forks, horse-shoes and any other tool he was ordered to make. Besides the tools he made metallic bars/gates and grills which the villagers used to built their houses.
For the making of the tools he used a fan to light the charcoal which made the iron to soften and become red. Then he struck on the anvil with the hammer and gave it whatever shape he wanted to.
The kommodromos of the village was Mixail Kommodromos who had practised this art until he died. His fan and anvil are still in his workshop.
Sakas (Loom operator)
The sakas wove on the loom sacks and saddle-bags with which the villagers carried the products produced on their land with donkeys or mules.
The last sakas in Tris Elies was Petros Mihail who had learned the art from his father. He would make and sell his products at the various fairs which took place in the area as well as directly from his own workshop.
In the 1990’s he stopped woving because the sacks where replaced with plastic bags and boxes.
Decorations of Pumpkins
A brilliant craftsman in the art of pumpkin decoration was Chrysanthos Charalambides, who engaged himself in this art until the age of 88. He had once seen a craftsman from the Panayia village in Paphos decorating pumpkins and slowly he also started creating his own system. He used a mathematical compass and a cutter to engrave the designs. The he applied oil on them so to darken the lines (later on he switched to typographic ink). His produce was mostly allocated at the Handicraft Centre and also sold many of his pieces from his own store
Tris Elies Village
4846 Limassol, Cyprus
Tel: 25 462 541
FAX: 25 462 808