Churchkhela: This Delicious Traditional Georgian Candy Is As Good As It Is Colorful
It’s Churchkhela! The Dessert That’s Almost Too Pretty To Eat!
One recent evening, Brent and I were walking through Tbilisi’s charming Old Town when we passed a Georgian woman standing in front of what appeared to be candles hung from racks like rows of sausages. But upon closer inspection, these brightly colored objects turned out to be “churchkhela,” a traditional Georgian candy usually made of walnut strands dipped repeatedly in fruit juice.
Brent and I shelled out three Georgian lari — about one USD — and gave it a try. I confess that while churchkhela looked appealing, I assumed it was going to be super sweet if that thick coating really was fruit juice. Much to my surprise, this most famous of Georgian desserts wasn’t overly sweet at all. Instead, the sweetness was subtle and perfectly matched the nutty flavor of the walnuts. And where I’d expected it be crunchy, churchkhela was actually soft and chewy.
Traditionally made in the fall when nuts are harvested, churchkhela is usually made with walnuts, though hazelnuts and almonds can be used as well. While the nuts are soaked in water to soften them, the next ingredient — wine must — is prepared. What exactly is wine must? It’s freshly crushed grape juice that has been purified and thickened. This is done by heating the juice in a bronze cauldron, the impurities slowly bubbling to the surface and removed. Then flour is added to thicken the juice.
The strand of walnuts are then repeatedly dipped in the wine must until you get what looks like a candle. Once its dried in the sun, the churchkhela is ready to eat!
One note of caution: even though this dessert doesn’t have a lot of sugar, it still packs a lot of calories. In fact, Georgian warriors riding off to battle often carried churchkhela with them to keep them fueled for the fight.
Are you interested in making churchkhela yourself? Check out this churchkhela recipe!