The healing syrup of Anatolia: pekmez
Pekmez (grape pekmez) is a crucial source of nutrition for the people of Anatolia.
Each year fires are lit to boil grapes and peas in big caldrons, and bottles of pekmez are prepared for the winter. Pekmez, which is rich in iron, calcium and potassium, is an indispensible item in Anatolian homes.
Among Turkish people it is a tradition to give pekmez mixed with water to people who are feeling weak. Let me share with you details about this tradition.
From what and how is pekmez made?
In Turkey, pekmez is mostly made from grapes although sometimes it is also made from mulberries, plums, apples, peas and carob.
Pekmez is made by boiling fruit juice until it becomes thick and syrupy. In autumn the juices of fruits are harvested and extracted by crushing. Marl is used to remove the acidity of the juice. That is called kestirme. After the acidity is eliminated, the juice is boiled for a while to evaporate some of the water. Since some of the sugar inside the juice has been overcooked while it was boiling, the taste changes and the color of the mixture becomes dark. In the Zile district of Tokat province, they make a different kind of pekmez that we call Zile pekmez by adding yogurt salt, egg whites and starch into the pekmez.
Approximately 25 to 35 grams of water, 60 to 70 grams of simple sugars (known as monosaccharides), and 2.5 to 3.5 grams of minerals exist in every 100 grams of liquid pekmez. Since the simple sugar in pekmez is directly absorbed into the blood without needing to be digested, it provides you with energy; 100 grams of pekmez yields 300 calories of energy. The major minerals contained in pekmez are iron, calcium and potassium.
Does pekmez really increase the amount of blood in the body?
When iron intake is insufficient or iron intake cannot be absorbed sufficiently into blood, anemia occurs. Consuming pekmez to increase the amount of blood in the body has been a traditional Turkish remedy for a long time.
Pekmez is rich in calcium, which is needed for the development of healthy bones. Pekmez is also rich in potassium, which is essential for maintaining water balance in the body and for regulating tension.
A must for breakfast: sesame paste and pekmez
By mixing pekmez with sesame paste, you will create a healthy source of protein, directly support the development of bones and increase of the amount of blood. Especially children, youngsters, pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and people working under tough conditions must consume sesame paste and pekmez at breakfast. Additionally, foods made from the mixture of pekmez and walnuts, such as sucuk (walnuts on a string dipped in grape pekmez and sun dried), pestil (dried layers of fruit pulp) and köfte (a sweet made by pouring grape juice, flour and starch into molds and then cutting them into squares when dried) impart similar nutritional benefits. Halvah made from pekmez and walnuts is more nutritious than of halvah made from sugar. If you are suffering from diarrhea, you may compensate for the loss of bodily fluids by consuming pekmez with a little bit of water and salt.
A side note
The amount of sugar found in pekmez is not suitable for diabetics because it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Moreover, drinking excessive pekmez syrup is a concern for diabetics. Finally, you should always store liquid pekmez in glass bottles, and not in plastic cans.