How to Make Petimezi

'We're looking for the house with a big cactus outside,' our guide Isidoros tells us. We're driving through the little town of Kounavi, about nine miles south of Iraklion, the capital of Crete. We've hired Isi for one of the private tours he offers through his company, www.GoCrete.net, in our case with an emphasis on food and drink. Today he's going the extra mile, literally, and on our way to a pre-arranged vineyard tour and wine tasting Isi's squeezed in a visit to someone he's found for us who makes petimezi.

All Photos by Mike Gerrard and (c) www.Greece-Travel-Secrets.com

We'd discovered this delicious Cretan syrup the evening before at dinner at the Goules Taverna, where mouthwatering dishes like pork in a wine and honey sauce, and rooster in a white wine sauce with cinnamon, cost a paltry seven or eight euros and were followed by a complimentary dessert which surely came not from the kitchen but from heaven. Grapes that had been preserved in a sugar syrup were served over thick creamy yoghourt and doused in what we learned was petimezi.

Next day, after a few phone calls, Isi's arranged for us to meet Spiros and Rena Paspati, who make petimezi in their house which does have a giant prickly pear cactus outside. They don't do tours and it's the wrong time of year so they won't actually be producing any petimezi right now, but Rena's happy to show us how it's made.

The town of Kounavi has always been associated with wine, and the Paspatis collect grape must from the vineyards and farmers all around. 

'We only use organic grapes,' Rena says, 'and we use the leaves for making our dolmades: stuffed vine leaves. Traditionally petimezi was made out of the kind of grapes called soultani, which were brought to Greece in 1922 when there was an exodus of Greeks from Turkey. They brought the wine and the petimezi recipe with them. Other producers use other types of grape but we use soultani and the taste and smell are much better.'

Simple Equipment!

The must from the grapes is heated on a simple gas stove, but to the pan they add a chalk-like white stone called asproxoma that's found locally and removes any imperfections from the must, acting as a kind of natural disinfectant.

Asproxoma

'After 30 minutes you start to see a foam forming,' explains Rena, 'and this has to be removed with a big spoon, without mixing the must. You keep going until there's no foam left. Then it's added to a bigger pot for 12 hours. It's cone-shaped at the bottom to remove the last imperfections. Then it goes back into smaller pots over a low heat, and you wait 12 hours or so. The longer you leave it, the thicker the result, so it's up to the maker what kind of petimezi you want.

'But there are two important things. You never cover it, and you never touch it. You check the solution and the colour. When it becomes dark brown, almost black, it means it's almost ready.'

Rena Paspati Checking Sugar Levels

All you need to do then is let it cool and bottle it. One great virtue of petimezi is that there's no expiry date. It lasts for years. Unfortunately you won't find Rena's petimezi in the main tourist shops as their production is small and they distribute it through friends, into specialist shops selling organic produce, and, as it happens, through her friend Manolis Igoumenakis, whose organic farm is where we're going to be spending the night. Ah, now we know who one of Isi's Mr Fix-It phone calls was to!

'If it gets cold,' Rena says, 'it can start to solidify, like honey, so you just warm it up in a bain-marie... or in the sunshine! Its uses are like honey too. You can have it on yoghourt, in herb tea as a sweetener, or mix it with vinegar to make a dressing like balsamic vinegar. You can marinate food in it, mainly meats. You can also use it to make sweets and pastries, and in cakes, instead of sugar. It goes well with tahini on bread – it's a superfood!'

More Information

Spiros and Rena Paspati don't normally accept visitors but a behind-the-scenes look can be arranged through www.gocrete.net.


Where to Stay on Crete



Some other Crete pages

  • Crete

    Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Zacharioudakis Winery

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  • Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • The Herb Man of Kouses

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  • The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • Stilianou Winery near Knossos

    The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

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  • Samaria Gorge

    The Samaria Gorge is one the longest gorges in Europe and doing the hike is one of the best and most popular things to do on Crete.

  • Rethymnon in Western Crete

    Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,

  • Phaistos Minoan Palace on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

  • Paleohora and the South-West Coast

    The area east from Paleohora along the south-west coast of Crete includes resorts like Agia Galini, gorges like the Imbros Gorge and quieter towns like Sfakia.

  • Our Hire Car in Crete

    The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.

  • Matala Beach

    Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.

  • Margarites

    Margarites is known on Crete for its pottery, with ceramics shops and workshops lining the streets of this charming small town not far from Rethymnon.

  • Manousakis Wine Tasting

    We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

  • Malia and its Minoan Palace on Crete

    Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

  • Maleme and the German War Cemetery on Crete

    Maleme near Chania is where the people who died during the battle of Crete are buried, in the German War Cemetery with the Commonwealth War Cemetery nearby.

  • Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • Knossos

    Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.

  • Irakleio

    Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.

  • Hiking the Samaria Gorge

    Hiking the Samaria Gorge on Crete, one of the best things to do on Crete, by Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Hiking in Southwest Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets goes hiking in southwest Crete with Ramblers Walking Holidays based in Paleohora and hiking the E4 footpath and to Anidri and Azogires.

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