Tbilisi Sketches - Muscling Up Some Churchkhela
09 February, 2016
Culinarybackstreets has dedicated yet another article to Georgian cuisine after the previous thorough description of how Georgian bread Shoti is baked. This time the global guide to local dishes, reviewing authentic places to eat, gives the readers insight into the difficult and simultaneously joyful process of making national Georgian sweet treat named Churchkhela.

"This is the latest installment in our monthly series of illustrated dispatches covering local spots in and around Georgia’s capital. Contributor Andrew North is an artist and
journalist based in Tbilisi who spent many years before that reporting from the Middle East and Asia.

Tbilisi stores and markets are festooned now with distinctive sausage-shaped candies called churchkhela, ready for New Year celebrations and then Orthodox Christmas on January 7. They are a very traditional Georgian specialty, usually homemade from grape juice thickened with flour and nuts. But those aren’t the only ingredients you need to make churchkhela – they also require some serious muscle. How could it be otherwise for a food created by Georgian warriors as a sugar hit that wouldn’t perish on a long march? It was, in other words, one of the world’s earliest energy bars.

Making churchkhela, illustration by Andrew North

geotv.ge
“We still do it the same way as our ancestors,” says Khatuna Saalishvili, as we watch her and her husband, Temuri, start the process in their backyard in the village of Kisiskhevi. A wood fire heats a large metal cauldron filled with the mix of grape juice and flour known as tatara. The steam shines in the winter sun. The Saalishvilis’ daughter, Ani, visiting from Tbilisi with her little baby, and their neighbors take turns stirring the pot with a large wooden spoon, as big as a woodcutter’s axe. Churchkhela making is a communal affair. geotv.ge

Mixing the tatara to make churchkhela, illustration by Andrew North

After simmering several hours, the tatara is so dense it almost holds the spoon upright. But as she lifts it and watches cinnamon-colored globs slide back into the pot, Khatuna wants it still thicker. “Another half an hour,” she says, and strides off.

Faces tighten. There’s a good-natured grumble from the volunteers. Even if Khatuna is happy in an open-necked shirt and slippers, everyone else is freezing.

Temuri comes over to give the mix another turn.

“Let’s go,” he says theatrically, plunging the spoon into the wax-like mixture and working it like an oar in a heavy swell. He is a big man, arms and shoulders molded by years of hefting sacks of grapes and wine barrels. But barely 30 seconds later, he has to give it a rest. We give it a try too. Mixing cement is easy by comparison.

Finally, the moment arrives. The tatara is ready – and an orchestra of hands springs to life.

First Khatuna and Temuri’s, lifting the heavy pot off the fire. Other hands lay a wooden plank to catch the drips and chairs to serve as a makeshift drying rack. Another pair arranges strings of walnuts and hazelnuts on a tray, ready to be covered with the sticky grape mixture.

They push each string of nuts under with a spoon, before hanging them on long sticks to dry. As each rod fills up, Temuri suspends them between the chairs.

“I’ll put however many I like,” Khatuna shoots back. The ribbing doesn’t interrupt the workflow, and soon there are hundreds of churchkhela hanging from sticks. They will be dried for 10 days in the family loft and then taken to Tbilisi to be sold for 3 to 5 lari (US$1.20 to $2) a piece. The reward for the waiting is the sweet, burnt scrapings at the bottom of the pot, and everyone crowds round. Churchkhela making is done for another year", - Culinarybackstreets reports.
Hanging churchkhelas, illustration by Andrew North

geotv.ge

By Andrew North


Source: Culinarybackstreets

Related stories:


Tbilisi Sketches: Bread, the Georgian Way

Print
Other Stories
Georgian cheese boat Adjaruli Khachapuri - New York Essential Dish
Now everyone knows Khachapuri, popular cheese bread from Georgia, that has become a must dish in New York city.
Red eggs, Wheat, Paska - Meaning of Easter symbols
There are several symbols that have become a part of Orthodox Easter celebration. Eggs dyed in red, frequently served on the wheat planted at home
How to Dye Easter Eggs the Traditional Way
Symbols of Easter and life itself, red eggs are one of the main attributes of the Easter table. They are dyed on Good Friday, the color representing
“My dream is to visit Georgia one day” - Traveler from NY prepares Georgian dinner with friends
Georgian food and trademarks such as khachapuri, cheese bread, khinkali, meat dumplings, nigvziani badrijani, eggplant rolls with walnut
Famous American culinary show teaches how to prepare Georgian cheese boat
Extremely delicious cheese bread Adjaruli Khachapuri from Georgia’s mountainous Adjara Region
Famous US chef and author recommends: Visit Georgia!
Anthony Bourdain is well-known in the US for his Emmy-winning travel show “Parts Unknown,” on CNN. One of the last episodes was dedicated to Georgia.
Georgian cheese boat video captivates internet users
Popular Georgian cheese bread Adrajuli khachapuri has been spotlighted by world-famous website Culture Trip.
Top Georgian wine and cheese pairings – Simple guide
Combining wine and cheese is an unquenchable subject and it is being discussed by many gourmets and experts around the world.
Borano – Cheese omlette from Adjara
Adjarian dishes are an integral part of Georgian cuisine and its culture.
Top 9 must try Adjarian dishes
All regions of Georgia stand out for their local delicious dishes and they make up the entire Georgian cuisine
Famous Adjaruli Khachapuri featured at Food Network
World famous American food channel Food Network published a video recipe of a popular Georgian cheese bread Adjaruli Khachapuri.
 Chocolate Khinkali: Italian Chef’s extraordinary version of Georgian dumpling
Georgian cuisine, known for its hearty dishes and unique spicy flavors, has gone beyond Georgia's borders and captivated the hearts of many food enthusiasts around the world.
Most amazing cheese boats served in Georgian restaurant in NY
Georgian boat-shaped cheese bread named Adjaruli Khachapuri is not only Georgians’ beloved dish but now has already become a favorite dish of many people internationally.
Machari – New wine fermentation process in kvevri
Machari in Georgian is the name for new wine, when the pressed grape juice reaches the condition of fermentation. Machari has intensive aroma and sweet taste.
Delicious process: Preparing famous Georgian candy churchkhela
Georgian candy churchkhela, also known as Georgian Snickers, is widely popular with locals and especially with tourists.
Georgian wine vs. popular international varieties - Famous Master of Wine gives comparison
The first recipient of the Master of Wine title in Asia and a multi-media wine journalist Debra Meiburg compares Georgian
How perfect khachapuri is made in Guria
There are various methods of baking Georgian cheese bread khachapuri in different regions of the country.
How to make Adjarian Khachapuri at home
Adjaruli Khachapuri is another version of Georgian cheese bread. The dish originated in the seaside region of Georgia, Adjara.
Georgian food, wine gaining ground in US culinary scene
A former plastic surgeon, Maia Acquaviva left Georgia 3 years ago and went to live in New York, where she opened a Georgian restaurant.
Tbilisi Sketches: In the Court of the Khinkali Queen
Culinarybackstreets, the English language website reviewing authentic places to eat and discovering local interesting dishes, features Khinkali,
Tbilisi Sketches: Bread, the Georgian Way
Culinarybackstreets has dedicated a special article to Shotis puri or simply Shoti, a traditional Georgian delicious bread shaped like a canoe.
Five most delicious dishes straight from the Georgian mountains
Georgian cuisine boasts immense variety, with the menu being almost completely different
Imeruli khachapuri – One of Georgia’s most popular type of cheese bread
Khachapuri! When you hear this word, know that it means crispy thin bread filled with soft tender cheese, which stretches from your mouth as you take a bite.
It’s definitely worth a try – Golden eggplants filled with walnuts
The eggplant has a long history in Georgian cuisine.
Soup-Kharcho with rice - Time to warm up!
Soup-kharcho is one version of the traditional Georgian soup Kharcho, which is made with beef, walnuts and rice.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
23.09.2018
24.09.2018
USD
1
USD
2.6216
2.6216
EUR
1
EUR
3.0854
3.0854
GBP
1
GBP
3.4584
3.4584
RUB
100
RUB
3.9340
3.9340
750ml
Red Semi-Sweet
Schuchmann Wines  / 2015
23.95
750ml
Kvevri
Zangaura  / 2015
19.90
750ml
White Dry
None  / 2016
18.30
Other Stories
There are many ways of cooking buns all over the world. Some of the Georgians knead dough with mayonnaise without oil or margarine.
Sometimes, by using a combination of bitter and sweet ingredients one may get a delicious dish. Today we explore how to prepare calf ribs with spices and pineapple sauce.
Meskheti is the south-west region of Georgia. Meskheti people cook delicious pastry.
Autumn is just around the corner and thus the time of harvest is getting closer, especially of grapes.
Here are a number of other Georgian foods that the presenters of the podcast The Dish recommend you to taste in Georgia:
The podcast The Dish tell the listeners about the history of Georgian cuisine and the meals everyone should taste in Georgia. The Georgians have been ruled by Greeks, Romans, Iranians, Arabs, Byzantians, Mongolians, Ottomans, and Russians.
The podcast “The Dish” talks about Georgian dishes as well as the history of the country. Georgian cuisine has been shaped by different cultures such as ancient Greek and Roman, middle eastern Turkish,central Asian, Mongolian, Russian and Indian influences.
Beans is very popular in Georgia. one of the main dishes in Georgia, especially in the western part of the country is Lobio or beans.
Georgia is becoming more and more famous for its wine. Recently, The Independent published an article about Eastern European wines.
The Café Piatto offers its guest delicious dishes. Here is the veggie pasta recipe cooked by the chef at the café. The dish is popular amonst vegetarians.