Churchkhela, Traditional Georgian Dishes

Churchkhela, Traditional Georgian Dishes

Churchkhela, a threaded chain of nuts covered in a gooey layer of thickened grape juice, is without a doubt the most famous of all Georgian sweets. This mouthwatering delicacy has spread beyond Georgia into other countries of the Caucasus and the former USSR, yet thanks to its delicate, natural and slightly sweet taste
remains a beloved symbol of Georgian cuisine. 

The history of churchkhela is rooted in the Georgian region of Samegrelo, a fact confirmed even by the etymology of the word. Translated from the Mingrelian language, “chhur” means “cold”, and “chkher” means “hot”, and this reflects two essential steps in making churchkhela: Threaded nuts are dipped several times in a hot, sticky mass (called felamushi in Georgian) and then cooled in the open air for days.

Although a churchkhela recipe may appear simple due to the scant ingredients which are used, the process itself is extremely lengthy. The grape juice is first boiled over medium heat for 30 minutes and left to simmer for 10 to 12 hours. The juice is then filtered and evaporated so that it reaches a sugar content of up to 30-40%, and its acidity is reduced by adding marble flour or chalk. After the felamushhi has sat for 5-6 hours, the sediment is drained. It is only after all of this preparation that the threads of nuts can be immersed in the heated, thickened felamushi. This process is repeated 2 or 3 times over the course of 2-3 hours. The candied walnuts are then suspended by the ends of the threads on a rack and left to dry in this position for 15-17 days. It takes another 2-3 months for the flavor of the felamushi to gradually becomes richer and the churchkhela to reach its optimal taste. 

Churchkhela can be found across Georgia in bazaars, small grocery stores, supermarkets and even wine boutiques. Its sweet flavor makes it a great accompaniment to tea or coffee. As this is a very high-calorie product packed with protein and vitamins, it will keep you full for hours and thus makes the perfect snack for camping trips. Churchkhela also travels well and can store for months, so it a great edible souvenir for relatives and friends back home. 

Be sure to indulge in this nutritious treat when you visit Georgia!