Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kachreti: The Vocational College

TLG took us today to a vocational college in Kachreti, a village in Georgia's premier wine region, Kakheti. (My former hostess, Nino, is from Gurjaani, another village in Kakheti. My current hostess' village is Kardanakhi, also in Kakheti.)

The college teaches students about Georgia's traditional methods of agricultural life. How to use the old ways to make:
  • Wine 
  • Chacha
  • Bread
  • Svardi (the beloved Georgian barbecue, cooked on metal skewers over a wood fire)
  • Khinkali, the Georgian dumpling
  • Churchkhela
  • Buildings
  • ... and so on
Go here for excellent photos of the college by Georgina Anderson, who spent time here as part of a Georgian-USA agricultural program.

This college - a great idea. I like when communities invest resources to preserve traditional knowledge and practices.

We saw a number of traditional activities exhibited for us at the college. Today I'll focus on churchkhela.


Churchkhela represents a Georgian gestalt: A food item that embraces beauty and sweetness, that is portable and stores well, and is high-calorie to get citizens and soldiers through long marches and harsh winters.

Sausage-shaped, it has a skin made of boiled-down grape juice, a little flour, and perhaps some spices. Some regions prefer a thinner or thicker consistency of the skin. Here at the college, the consistency was very thick, almost to the point of stiffness, but still malleable.

 Inside are nutmeats (such as walnuts or hazelnuts) threaded on a string.

You dip the threaded nuts into the reduced grape juice mixture, spoon some of it on top, to make sure all of the nuts are covered, then lift the covered nuts from the pot. You hang the churchkhela on a nail to begin its curing process. 

One can eat the churchkhela immediately after being made, but it is not considered fully ripe until weeks later when it takes on a white crust, which comes from the sugar crystals emerging from the skin. If dried properly (in the fall), a churchkhela can be good to eat until spring.

Along the main road in Kakheti, there are many roadside stands with churchkela hanging from wooden racks.

Here is a modern-day recipe for churchkhela.

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