Thick and treacly grape molasses from a small farm in the Peloponnese
Made into raisins, vinegar, wine and brandy; revered for their supposed health-giving properties and steeped in religious and historical significance, we owe a lot to grapes. Long before trade and mass production allowed for sugar to be widely affordable in Europe, grape-producing countries (and in particular, the Greeks and Turks) have used distilled grape must as a natural and economical sweetener for millennia.
“Petimezi, or grape molasses, was the most commonly available sweetener in Greece in the old days,” explains Marianna, owner of Oliveology. “It’s still used a lot in baking today”—particularly at this time of year, she continues, when many Greeks fast for Lent. “Ahead of Greek Easter, which is the week after British Easter this year, many people don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy, so grape must or molasses cookies is a very common recipe, as it doesn’t contain any of these things.”
But being one of Marianna’s favourite products, she utilises this sweet, sticky syrup year-round. “Some people put it in their coffee as a sweetener. I use it a lot for all sorts of things when I want to replace sugar. I once made a cake purely with grape molasses as the sweet element and it was delicious. Just to note, because the grape molasses has a rich, dark colour, the cake or whatever you bake will have a darker colour, so it might look a bit more chocolatey.”
Small, organic farm
The petimezi found at Oliveology comes from a small, organic farm in the village of Nemea, in the Peloponnese. “It’s made with the agiorgitiko grape, which is renowned in this specific area—in fact, it has PDO status,” Marianna continues. “It is the most common variety of grape in the area and is also used to make wine and vinegars.”
The grapes are harvested over summer, then the grape must is simmered slowly and reduced until it becomes a viscose syrup. Nothing is added. “It’s a thick liquid with a treacly, raisin-like taste,” says Marianna. “To compare it with pomegranate molasses, it’s not as runny and not as sharp. It has a lovely flavour—caramelly, almost, but not too much. I find it difficult to describe it specifically, you’ll just have to taste it for yourself. For me, it tastes of childhood memories.”