Τhe Syrian “loukoumi”
The famous delight made of sugar and starch came from Asia Minor and took its name after the Turkish word “lokum”. The loukoumi-makers were Chians who transferred their art to Istanbul where loukoumia were made, sharing their knowledge with the next generations. It is said that the first time this delight was produced in Syros was in 1832. The first official stamp of loukoumi-maker (the one of Stamatelakis) appeared in 1837.
For many decades the loukoumi was made in a fixed manner which was difficult and required know-how and love. From 1970 onwards, the workshops were modernized. As time went by, the flavours of the loukoumia became more and more –mastic, rose, bergamot, rose sugar, mandarin, Indian coconut, almond, pistachio, walnut. As the old confectioners say, the water makes the difference in the flavour of the Syrian loukoumi. In a waterless island, the brackish water from the few springs gave a unique identity to the product which was identified with Syros.
From the Asia Minor catastrophe until the end of the 1960s, there were numerous loukoumi companies in Syros and stores where it was sold on the coast. Usually the companies were family businesses and the craft used to pass from one generation to the next.
The loukoumi-makers also produce “halvadopita” (halva pie) with local thyme honey and freshly-baked almonds.
It is worth tasting and buying the thyme honey of the island and the cheese products: sweet cow milk “graviera” cheese, “kopanisti” cheese, fresh “myzithra” cheese, and famous Sa(n) Michali cheese. It is hard, pale yellow and delicious. It is produced only in Syros, from cow milk and it is cheese PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). It is matured in 3-4 months and it has a rich, spicy flavor.
As it happens in other islands of the Cyclades (Andros, Tinos, Mykonos), “choirosfagia” have their roots deep in the past in Syros. They are still performed with the ritual of the past, especially in the villages Pagos, Danakos, Agros and other rural villages of the inland. It includes the pig slaughtering before the Christmas period, the slicing and the production of supplies that will allow the families to make it through the year, such as sausages, “louza” (pork filet), “glina” (grease for frying) and “pichti” (thick gel of broth with pieces of pork). They are accompanied by food and dance feast.
You will find interesting data about the Syrian “loukoumi” at the site of the Municipality of Syros www.hermoupolis.gr