‘Spoon sweets’ are something both young and old adore. It is a Greek tradition, it is hospitality, it is nobility and it is something that comes from very old unaltered times.
Natural ingredients to flavor are found in the Greek countryside: fruit, cinnamon, lime leaves, cloves and vanilla. The preparation takes a bit of effort, patience and time but the end result is really worth it.
Traditionally, these sweet are served on small glass dishes and always with a small teaspoon, hence the term ‘spoon sweet’. Tradition says that for generations, housewives served it in a large glass bowl with glass saucers and small teaspoons.
Since the beginning of our communication through this site I have spoken to you about my grandmothers, Elizabeth the Cretan and Irene from Asia Minor. I have been told many times that they managed to get me into the art of cooking and that I was trying to steal their secrets from a young age. Which of the two was better? This is a difficult question for me because I got different things from each. However, my grandmother Elizabeth admired Grandmother Irene for her housework.
A second generation Asia Minor descendant, Irene was born with a twin sister in Piraeus but lost her parents early. She came to Crete at an early age when her mother's brother, who was married in Ierapetra to a psychologist, adopted her. She was separated from her sister as their older brother had taken her with him to Thessaloniki. I have many stories to tell you. In order not to tire you I will reveal them in other recipes.
What I do know is that the people of Asia Minor were capable and advanced people who managed to make ends meet through hard work. Coming from places with centuries-long cultural traditions, they migrated to wherever their culture was found and influenced and enriched the local tradition. Let me confess to you that I got many of my cooking secrets from Grandma Irene. Star Housewife! I used to watch everything she did and I recorded everything in my mind.
The favorite sweets in Asia Minor were spoon sweets. They were made all year long as each season gives us its own fruits and gives us the opportunity to make such sweets almost all year.
I was at my girlfriend Efi's house and as we were having coffee I saw a small hard sweet pear tree on the edge of her garden. I collected a bag so today I will make you sweet pear as I learned it from my grandmother.
1 kg of pears (cut without their pips)
1 kg of sugar
400ml of water
2 cinnamon sticks
100g almonds (with the brown husks removed)
Juice of a lemon
Remove the pips and peel with a knife or potato peeler.
In a basin, put water and juice of a lemon and place the pears in it so they don’t go brown.
If you’re using soft pears, leave them in the water for 2-3 hours to tighten. You can also use large pears and cut them to any size you want.
In a large saucepan, add the pears (after straining), sugar, water and cinnamon.
Cook at high temperature for 10 minutes then lower to about half and continue for half an hour.
If the pears are soft now, first boil the syrup for 10 minutes and then add the pears and continue cooking for about 20 minutes. (I personally do not like sweet fruit to be too soft. The time I give you is for such an effect. If you wish to gently add a little more water and increase the time, try with a fork and create whatever texture you want to make the sweet.)
As you are cooking the sweet, sprinkle in the almonds. (See here how to remove the husks easily.)
When the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and check if the syrup is cooked. (See link here.) If ready, add the almonds and lemon juice and boil for another 5 minutes. (If our syrup is too thick we add a little water and let it boil for a while. If it is very thin we continue boiling for a while before adding the lemon and check again.)
Put the sweet in sterile jars and fill with syrup. (See here for sterilization techniques.) Leave the jars upside down until cool. Store in a cool place.