At one time, when the only source of income in Mehmetcik (a village in North Cyprus) was from its numerous grapevines, the villagers' one and only prayer was that each year's crop would be bountiful, and that from it they would be able to produce a good supply of the sweet deliciates sujuk, paluze and pekmez. The importance of this crop was not only felt by the villagers but throughout the island, since Mehmetcik was the sole producer of these grape-derived delicacies.
During the sweltering month of August, the families of the village would take turns to meet at each other's houses to wash and prepare the harvested grapes. Working in their backyards, they would wash and leave the grapes to sweeten, all the while dreaming of the pleasure they were about to prepare. Their impatience to consume the sweets did not alter the fact that they still had a long wait ahead before their palate would be savouring the finished product.
The grapes would now be crushed in the hand-made crushing machine, and from there put into the presser. The resulting grape juice would then be boiled. These processes, all carried out by hand, and commonly by the entire village, made the whole process, from harvesting to consumption, somehow more meaningful, more emotional, and ultimately added to the taste of the finished sweets.
Compared with the past, vine growing and the making of these sweet delicacies, are not as widespread in Mehmetcik as they used to be. Today, just a few families carry on these generations-old traditions. Nevertheless, it is still a delight to watch those villagers who carry on the tradition.
The grapes are harvested during the first week of August. The grapes used are two kinds: the black grape and the sultana. They are then washed over and again. The grapes are then taken to the crushing machine where the crushing process is carried out either once or twice.
Once crushed, the resulting mulch is taken to the pressing machine where the juice is separated from the skins and the flesh of the grapes.
Once extracted, the juice is poured into a large cauldron where it is boiled. While boiling, lime is added and stirred into the mixture.
The lime causes the unwanted elements in the mixture, such as skins, stalks and leaves, to rise to the surface from where they can be skimmed off. After this, the juice is left to cool, and as it cools wheat flour is added, whereby the mixture begins to thicken into a pudding-like consistency. The result is what Cypriots call paluze.
Sujuk is made by dipping almonds into the paluze mixture as it cools. The almonds are ted to string and then soaked in water two days before the process begins. For seven or eight days the almonds are dipped, once a day, into the paluze and hung up to dry. After the last dipping, the sujuk hangs for four more days before it is taken down and cut for eating.
Making sujuk is both time-consuming and ardous. But the pleasure derived from eating it, and its health-giving energy, make it all more than worthwhile.