The history of Melomakarona
Greek Christmas honey cookies by Iosif Tsimiskis

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The history of Melomakarona

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Ingredients

1 L olive oil
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp clove
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp Soda
1 wine glass cognac
2 glasses orange juice
orange zest from 2 oranges
lemon zest from 2 lemons
2 Vanilines
2 kg soft flour well sifted
200 g walnuts fresh, crumbly
FOR THE FINISHING
200 g nuts fresh,finely chopped
FOR THE SYRUP
1 kg sugar
1500 g honey
3 glasses water
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 cloves
1 slice lemon peel
  • Medium

Ingredients

  • FOR THE FINISHING

  • FOR THE SYRUP

Directions

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Melomakarona has its own history and etymologically their name has ancient Greek roots. In dictionaries the word “macaroni” comes from the medieval Greek word “macaronea”. (it was a funeral dinner based on the pasta, honoring the dead)

 

Makaronea comes from the ancient Greek word “makaria”, which was the pie for the soul. That is, a piece of bread, in the shape of the modern melomakaron, which they offered after the funeral.

 

In the Epitaph speech, which was proclaimed by Pericles in 430 BC. for the first dead of the Peloponnesian War, there are testimonies suggesting that makaria was shared after his speech at Kerameikos.

 

In the area of Kerameikos, the women used to mourn the dead of the war, by custom, something similar to nowadays mourners. Those actually used to prepare the makaria at home and share it . An elected citizen whose opinion was wise and worthy, was responsible for the funeral oration before the ceremony was over. In this case, “Pericles, the son of Xanthippos  was asked to give the official funeral oration therefore he stepped onto the stand to be heard by as many as possible.

 

Our Ancient Athenian anscestors considered it to be a dishonour for the fallen not to be buried in case their coarpses weren’t found. According to custom, the bones were carried on wagons while being inside coffins of cypress wood,  for every Athenian race . In order to honour those who couldn’t be found, a coffin covered with veil was used, the “non-found” fallen as Thucydides mentions for such a sensitive or politically intelligent treatment, offering comfort to relatives and courage to the soldiers. Even if their dead body is not found in a battle or naval battle, they still will be honoured.

What we nowadays share in the funerals is the continuation of the custom of “makaria”, the greek coliva which evolved into melomakarona as shown below.

The “Makaria” were later soaked with honey  and were named: honey (“meli” in greek) + macaria = melomakaria = melomakarona, according to the Byzantines. Melomakarona was established as the most popular sweet eaten during the twelve days of Christmas  known also as “phoenikia”.

The Romans, and later the Italian people, changed the name to maccarone, which eventually ended up meaning pasta as we know it today. From the Middle Ages and onward, the word spread to France and England. It became “macaroon”, a kind of almond biscuit as we know it.

Στολίδια,μπάλες,,ΧριστούγενναThat is how we came to today’s melomakarona, which some people enjoy to consume gluttonously, like me.

Little secrets

The baked melomacarona should be kept in a large airtight box or a metal box.  We place a sheet between the sets of melomakarona so they won’t be rubbed against themselves .

We soak only a few ones in honey, and not all at once, to keep them fresh.

 

Melomakarona

From Katerina Xirou, Mesologgi

Steps

1
Done
10 '

In a large bowl, add the olive oil, cognac, sugar, orange and the lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

2
Done

Whisk vigorously with a wire until the sugar melts completely. The more we whisk the more crispier melomakarona get in the end,

3
Done

We pour the soda in a glass with orange juice and stir it well with a fork . Then pour it into the bowl with the mixture and whisk it again.

4
Done

The dough for the melomarkarona must be fluffy, supple and oily. We shouldn't knead for long because melomakarona will get dried.

5
Done
30 '

Cover the bowl and let the dought rest for 30 minutes

6
Done

We knead again for some seconds in order to add the nuts.

7
Done

Cut into small pieces and give it the shape we want.

8
Done

We could even make star-shaped melomakarona and give it drawings with a fork.

9
Done

We make rows of them on a plate without adding oil on it since the dought is oily.

10
Done

We make holes with a fork to let the syrup through easier.

11
Done
25 '

Bake in a well preheated oven at 160 °C for 25 minutes until they get golden brown crispy.

12
Done

Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool down well, without covering them.

13
Done

Prepare the syrup.

14
Done
3 ' after boiling

Add all the ingredients in the saucepan and let them heat until they reach 100 °C . Keep boiling for 3 more minutes.

15
Done

We use a ladle to remove the foam and we lower the heat.

16
Done

Sip the cold melomacarona in the hot syrup for 15 seconds on each side. It depends on how much we want them to be syrupy.

17
Done

After we sip in syrup we can sprinkle some finely chopped nuts while melomakarona are still hot. (In Northern Greece, melomakarona can be topped with roast sesame along with nuts.)

Sissy N.

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Athens – Calf with mashed potato at the Acropolis Museum’s restaurant

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