I haven’t been very good about posting recently but I have been trying to finish my book and I don’t seem to be able to do two things at the same time! No seriously, finishing a book is quite an obsessive occupation. Still, as I was writing about grape leather, I remembered I had taken a clip of it being prepared in South Eastern Turkey and I thought I would do a post.
Apricot leather is common both in Syria and elsewhere in the region but not grape leather. A speciality of South Eastern Turkey where it is called bastik and northern Syria where it is known as malban. You find in the the souks of Aleppo where it is sold folded like handkerchiefs while in the bazaars of Gaziantep, it is sold folded the same way or shaped into triangles and filled with ground pistachios. It should really be made with fresh grape juice but often, it is made with pekmez. The pekmez is mixed with water, sugar and cornstarch and boiled until thickened then spread with a wooden trowel on sheets and left to dry in the sun. Once dry, it is peeled off the sheets, cut into squares and folded. The Turks sprinkle the inside with cornstarch before folding it but the Syrians don’t and I much prefer the Syrian version which I used to watch my aunt make in Mashta el-Helou where we spent our summers. She used fresh grape juice which she boiled down, perhaps with sugar but I don’t remember, and spread it on pristine white cotton sheets unlike the Turkish guys who used lurid blue synthetic sheets.
Spreading the grape jelly onto the sheet
I also watched them make ceviz sucugu (walnut ‘sausages’), using the same grape ‘jelly’ and dipping walnut halves threaded onto cotton string into it. The walnut ‘ropes’ are tied onto a metal ring and dipped again and again into the hot grape ‘jelly’ until they are thickly coated with the ‘jelly’, then they are hung to dry.
He has threaded all the walnuts and he is now tying the walnut ‘ropes’ onto the metal rings
Dipping the walnut ‘ropes’ into the boiling jelly
Hanging the walnut ‘sausages’ to dry
I don’t have a precise recipe but if you have pekmez, you can try your hand at making some ‘sausages’ or leather. Just remember that the ‘jelly’ shouldn’t be too sweet nor too thick.