More from our recent visit to Sagarejo, where we spent two great days making a variety of Georgian dishes.
Tatara (თათარა) & Churchkhela (ჩურჩხელა)
The juice from grapes flows like water over here. Oftentimes in the form of wine, for which Georgia is famous, but also in its unfermented form. Add a bunch of flour, heat and time, and you have yourself a thick & mildly sweet concoction called tatara (or pelamushi).
It’s great the way it’s traditionally served – on a plate, sprinkled with walnuts. Or, string some of those walnuts with a needle and thread and dip them in the thickened grape juice, and the result is churchkhela – sometimes referred to as “Georgian Snickers.”
It is said that there is so much energy (calories) in churchkhela that Georgian soldiers used to carry them as their only source of food during ancient times. Portable, durable and delicious, whether you’re going off to battle or not.
How the nuts are cut for churchkhela is very important. Long pieces of the white part of the nut are preferred.
Mixing the grape juice and flour. This is juice from the white rkatsiteli grape, although any grape juice can be used.
It’s heated until very thick.
From here it can go directly on a plate…
…or you can dip your stringed nuts and hang them up to dry. Both are delicious and, as you might imagine, very filling.
Originating in the northwestern region of Georgia called Abkhazia (now a breakaway state with its own Russia-backed government), abkhazura is kind of like a sausage.
The spiced meat filling is wrapped in caul fat, which is the stomach lining from an animal – in this case, cow.
Pieces of the caul are snipped down to size with scissors.
I had eaten abkhazura many times, but this was the first time I had made it. My rolling technique needed guidance.
A basket of abkhazura, ready for the frying pan.
They cook up much like small sausages, with the caul fat serving the dual purpose of adding flavor and keeping the meat together.
The final product, served with a garnish of onions and pomegranate seeds for more tartness!
As with khinkali, we are intimately familiar with Georgia’s famous cheese-stuffed bread, khachapuri. We have made literally thousands of them in the last few years, yet it’s still always a treat to roll up our sleeves and get our hands covered in dough while learning little nuances that slightly differentiate one recipe from another.
The cheese should always be the star, and in Georgia this is easy. So many cheeses, each a little different in how it melts, how it is salted and how “close to the cow” it is. We made this khachapuri with a pretty salty and creamy Imeruli cheese from a nearby village.
McKinze rolls it out under the watchful eyes of our instructor.
Ready to be cooked.
Khachapuri can either be baked or cooked in a hot pan. In Georgia, you use the resources you have around you. Since this was sort of a makeshift kitchen in a room at the youth center and not a full home/restaurant kitchen, a portable propane tank served as the stove all day. It worked like a charm.
One of the most elusively mysterious Georgian foods outside of the Caucasus region is jonjoli. Elusive, because as far as I have been told, the flowering shrub that it comes from doesn’t even grow in the US.
Here, this Caucasian Bladdernut plant is everywhere.
The flowers and stems are fermented, salted and combined with sliced onions to create a piquant appetizer seen on tables around the country. It’s an acquired taste, but once your palate warms up, it’s easy to start craving it.
Check back tomorrow for the last segment of this post! (Miss the first part? Check that out here.)