Jewels of the kitchen: Glyko Tomataki with Mrs Josephina – Kos, Greece

Mrs Josephina feeds nine family members, her children and grandchildren, lunch and dinner in her kitchen everyday. Daily meals with family are a common occurrence in Greece, just as common as the unexpected guest or neighbour that passes by to say hello. For these occasions, there is  always something sweet stored in the kitchen to offer guests with their coffee. Spoon sweets are one of the most beautiful symbols of Greek hospitality and jewels of the kitchen. Typically prepared while the fruit is in seasonal abundance, spoon sweets utilise and preserve excess fruit. Once stored in their jars, spoon sweets often live their life displayed on the kitchen counter, a source of pride for the person who made them.

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Mrs Josephina’s demonstration of Glyko Tomataki, a delicacy famous in Kos, served as a tribute to the memory of her parents. Wearing an apron that originally belonged to her mother, Mrs Josephina covered the table in red and white checked cloth, that matched a basket of tomatoes and a jar of the pre made sweet, in front she placed framed photos of her father and mother. Described to me as a ‘love child’; Mrs Josephina is the product of a romance between her Greek mother and Italian father. Mrs Josephina’s parents met in Kos during the war as her father was a pilot with the Italian airforce. Sadly, Mrs Josephina’s father died in an aeroplane explosion and soon after, her mother took Mrs Josephina to Italy where they both lived with her father’s family, before returning to Kos 12 years later. Mrs Josephina admitted that she didn’t start cooking until later in life, as her mother was such a wonderful cook; “I remember many beautiful things about my mother and about my life in Italy”.

Glyko Tomataki (Sweet Tomatoes/ Tomato Spoon Sweet)

Ingredients:

25 Egg/ Roma Tomatoes (choose tomatoes which are red and green – not fully ripe)

1 kilogram of sugar

1 cup of quicklime (also known as Asvestis or picking lime)

50 Bleached almonds and 25 cloves

1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract

Juice of 1 lemon per kilo of tomatoes

Method:

Peel tomatoes, hold tight with hands and scoop out the inside seeds

Soak the tomatoes in a pot of water and a dissolved cup of quicklime for one hour (The quicklime is for the tomatoes to retain their shape and to have a crunchy texture).

Rinse tomatoes very well

Insert 2 bleached almonds and one clove into each tomato

Place tomatoes in a large saucepan covered in one kilo of sugar

They can be left either overnight, or a for a few hours in the fridge.

Add one cup of water and boil on high heat for 20-30 minutes

5 minutes before removing tomatoes from the stove, add vanilla extract and lemon juice to preseve.

Decant tomatoes into jars, including the syrup and, secure with lid once they have fully cooled. Can be stored in the cupboard.

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