The rapidly increasing population, natural agricultural products that hardly satisfy the demand of this population, processed and artificial delicacies started to supersede natural products… Then, what wil those who cannot avoid the temptation of dessert despite the harm of glucose consume? Searching the answer to this question, we have discussed the aromatic pudding of the Black Sea, Pepecura, on this issue.
Growing ripe during September, in the rainy, a little sunny and moist climate of eastern Black Sea sprouts the star of Pepeçura; Isabella, also known as ‘the aromatic grape’. The word ‘Pepeç’ means ripe and sweet fruit. We found this almost forgotten local delicacy on a side street in Beyoğlu, at Loksandra Cafe managed by Yasemin Taskin with Humeyra Ilhan as the chef. While tasting Pepecura made of fresh fermented grape juice we also listened to the story of Pepecura from these two ladies from the Black Sea.
The Story of Pepecura
Picked from its branches, Isabella grapes, seed and stem are boiled in a pot without picking anything out and after the boiling process its juice is taken without the pomace. Once the cooling process is done boulted cornstarch is added to the fermented grape juice as well as some sugar for extra taste -it is said that half a glass of sugar is enough for 1litre of grape juiceand they are then mixed. In Rize flour is preferred instead of cornstarch. The amount of flour is by rule of thumb until the mixture thickens like a pudding. When the mixture’s consistency is that of a pudding it can either be consumed while it is still hot or after it cools down. Ms. Yasemin, who is originally from the Black Sea, adds that the local folk sees it as ready to eat when the top of the dessert gets mouldy since that is the time when it is the most delicious. The aromatic grapes are harvested towards the end of September. It is highly possible that Pepecura will be offered to you if you knock on a door as you tour the Black Sea during September – October. If you are lucky, it is possible to taste it even if you miss these dates, since it can be boiled out of season and stored in jars. Boiling aromatic grapes in pots by the women of the Black Sea begin in September… Grape molasses, marmalade, and jam can also be made from aromatic grapes, whereas grape juice can be drank cold after stewing.
How Did this Delicacy Emerge?
Is there a story beneath the women of Black Sea merging these ingredients? The secret of local delicacies lies within harmonizing the limited ingredients that are at hand and putting them to good use as much as possible. It is possible to observe this practicality when we examine the culinary culture of the Black Sea region, as the women of Black Sea work on the field and want to cook something quick and delicious when they come back home. Pepecura takes only 15 minutes to make.
‘That Termon of Laz People…’
Pepecura is known by various names and prepared differently at every region of the Black Sea. The manager, Ms. Yasemin, tells us that past Cayeli, from Pazar to Rize Pepecura is called ‘termon’ or ‘eksas’. On the other hand, Greeks call it with its original name ‘Pepecura’. Ms. Yasemin says that Pepecura is mostly made at the coasts of Black Sea and is not widely known at the highlands where the people of Hemsin reside. There is a mention about this in a traveler’s memoire from 19th century as such: ‘That termon of Laz people, is not eaten by the people of Hemsin’.
Black Sea Style Noah’s Pudding
Pepecura can also be consumed by putting in coarsely ground corn wheat, wheat, fig or beans in some of the regions. Resembling Noah’s Pudding in that sense, this dessert is a fulfilling food as well as a refreshing, mouth watering dessert. Smelling of Black Sea instead of the artificially flavored food enforced by the modern age, this delicacy can be made at home as it can also be found at places where it is done properly. However, why not give a place to this pure delicacy that carries the traces of its geography, within gastronomy tourism rather than keeping it a secret? Why not host the taste-hunters in search of what the nature gives, in the Black Sea, the peevish lady of our country?
The Delicacy that Takes Us Back to Our Childhood
Loksandra Cafe, one of the few places that make Pepecura in Istanbul, has a consumer group who only go there to eat Pepecura. Stating that this group grows larger via social media, the manager Ms.Yasemin tells us that Eastern Black Sea folk who are used to this taste since their childhood visit the cafe often and take a short trip back to their childhood upon enjoying this taste once again. This dessert which Georgians also love and make is referred to as Pelamushi.
*Originally of Eastern Black Sea, Pepecura was enjoyed and consumed by Greeks who lived in the Blacksea before the exchange.
By: Gizem Alan/Photography: Yağız Karahan