Nicosia - Cyprus

Traditional local products of Cyprus



Halloumi, fresh or mature, has always been the flagship of Cyprus’ authentic cuisine. For centuries, this product is a key constituent of the Cypriot diet and has been closely associated with the culture and traditions of the local people. With an estimated annual per capita consumption of 8 kilos, Halloumi exceeds by far in preference, all other cheeses, Cypriot and imported. Furthermore, halloumi is not simply a product of Cyprus but constitutes part of its cultural heritage and its traditional rural life and is linked to the social solidarity that characterizes even today the villages of Cyprus.

In older times, the process for making halloumi played a particular role in the lives of rural people since apart from covering their basic food requirements, it constituted a social activity between village families and neighbours, especially among women.  Due to the fact that each family produced a small amount of milk from their domestic animals, rural families used to create small cooperatives for jointly processing milk. In this way, within a few weeks, the neighbourhood gathered adequate quantities of halloumi to share among them. The head and coordinator of cooperative was named “galatarka” – milk woman - and was usually an experienced cheese maker who owned most of the animals.

Gradually, along with the domestic production of halloumi, small, commercial dairy units were set up in many villages making halloumi and other traditional cheese products, serving the needs of nearby communities. Today, in the countryside, a large number of small dairies with upgraded technology still make halloumi and other dairy products, following traditional ways of processing.

Its unique characteristics

Halloumi is an unripe, semi hard white cheese with a texture between cottage cheese and mozzarella. Halloumi may well be eaten raw but it tastes best when cooked, fried or on charcoal. It is this distinctive characteristic that makes halloumi a unique cheese. In fact, it claims to be the only commercially known cheese that can be cooked in a number of different ways and retain its shape. Though the cheese keeps its shape, its outward appearance turns into a crispy golden brown color taking on the grill marks while inwards it softens significantly but it does not melt.





2. Lountza

Lountza is a traditional sausage of Cyprus made up of smoked pork. As a food but also as a word it seems to come from the Italian lonza.

Lountza was considered as a luxury delicacy in the past years, as it was distinguished for its taste, which made it highly sought after. For better conservation, it requires a cold climate while areas with tradition in its production were the areas of Pitsilia and Pafos. Moreover, in today's time, Loutza Pitsilia is distinguished by its traditional method of production.

For loutzas, fresh fillet (tender and fat-free meat from the inside of the spine), pork, coarse salt, coriander and red wine is required. After first sprinkling with salt and coriander, the fillet is placed in a deep pot for a few days. It is then covered with wine for a few more days and smoked for about three weeks daily for a few hours at a temperature of 28 ° C without coming into contact with the fire. After this process is completed, it is optionally placed in the ripening plant. Then it can be consumed variously in whole or in smaller or larger pieces, in any thickness or shape.





3. Anari

Anari is a white, mild, curd cheese that is produced in a soft or hard form – and is delicious in both, as well as being low fat!

When soft, Anari is similar to cottage cheese or Ricotta. When hard, it can be grated and used instead of Parmesan or other hard cheeses.

Made from whey (a by-product in the production of other cheeses such as Halloumi), a small amount of goat or sheep milk (5-10%) is added. For the hard version, salt is added and the cheese is then dried, giving it a much longer shelf-life than the soft variety.

In its soft form, Anari is commonly used for sweeter recipes. It can be mixed with carob syrup or honey for a healthy dessert, or used as a filling for pastries such as ‘Bourekia’ and ‘tyropita’ cheese pie. Dry Anari has a stronger taste than its softer counterpart, and is commonly grated and used on top of pasta, or crumbled into salad.





4. Carob syrup

Delicious, sticky carob syrup may taste like it belongs in the dessert-section, but it is actually an extremely nutritious product made with locally grown carob pods that can be enjoyed in place of honey and other sweeteners.

Carob syrup is perfect for drizzling on yogurt or Anari cheese for a healthy but sweet snack. It can also be used in baked goods, salad dressings, marinades and sauces in place of honey or sugar. Traditionally, a carob toffee known as ‘Pastelli’ is made with the syrup.

The syrup is made by boiling carob pods in a large bronze container with water for around four hours. The pulp is then strained to leave the resulting golden-black syrup. Many other products are produced from carobs, including carob flour and chocolate.

The carob tree is an indigenous species of the island, cultivated for four thousand years. Once the island’s major export, the carob pods or ‘black gold’, were prized for their versatility, high nutritional value and hardiness that allowed them to be stored and transported across long distances.





5. Tsamarella

Tsamarella is a dish of goat meat that is considered to be a delicacy as part of the meze meal.

Large pieces of fatty goat meat are slit and salted with heavy weights placed on top of the meat, which is hung to dry in the sun for approximately 10 days. The meat is then soaked, covered in oregano and again, dried in the sun.

Like Hiromeri, Tsamarella is also an ideal accompaniment to Zivania (a strong local spirit).





6. Rodostagma Agrou

Rodostagma Agrou  is a distillery of the whole flower of Rosa Damascena.

History: The production of the rosette was made mainly in the mountainous villages of Troodos, with the most famous of the villages of Milikouri and Agros. The rosary was sold at fairs and was usually exchanged with products whose cultivation did not yield to the mountainous areas.

Method of production: The roses are picked up in the very early hours and their petals are placed directly in the retort. The produced water vapor is passed through a helicoid cooling pipe, liquefied and collected. The rhinestone is stored in dark glass containers in a dark and cool place.

Gastronomy: Rhododendron is widely used in syrup of various types of pastry (eg baklava, fingers, etc.) and other sweets such as couscous, rice, etc. It is also used in the production of Sutjoukos,Palouze and Kiofterka.

SOURCE  Ministry of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment




7. Zivania

Zivania is a traditional Cypriot alcoholic beverage. Zivania is a  distillate produced from the pomace of grapes that were pressed during the wine-making process mixed with high-quality local dry wines produced from local grape varieties of Cyprus such as  Xynisteri and Mayro. The distillation of zivania takes place in special traditional apparatus similar to those used for the production of Tsikoudia in  Crete. Zivania is characterized by its taste and aroma. It is colorless and pleasantly alcoholic with a light aroma of raisins. Its typical alcohol content is 45% by volume. Zivania contains no sugars and has no acidity.

Zivania has been produced in Cyprus since the time the Republic of Venice ruled the island, around the end of the 15th century. Evidence of its continued production during the Ottoman and British occupation of the island comes from writers such as the British writer Samuel Baker who in 1879 reports: "...the refuse of skins and stalks is laid upon one side to ferment for the manufacture of raki, or spirit, by distillation...” Since 2004, Zivania has been protected under EU regulations as a product unique to Cyprus and as such cannot be produced in any other country and marketed under that name.

In order to produce zivania of the highest grade, mature healthy grapes of the best quality are used. The grape must used for the fermentation should be of less than 13°, Baume in order to get complete fermentation. As soon as the fermentation process completes (i.e. producing less or equal to 0° Baumé reading) the wine and pomace mixture is transferred to the main container of the distillation apparatus, called kazani and the distillation process begins. The first zivania that comes from the distiller has the highest alcohol content, while the last taken out of the apparatus has low alcohol content and it is called porakos. Depending on the pre-distillation mixture, different qualities of zivania are produced:

Only wine is used for the distillation

Wine and pomace are used for the distillation

Pomace with water and weak zivania are used

Zivania is usually stored in clean wooden or galvanize metal containers that can be sealed in order to contain evaporation. During transportation good care is taken not to damage the containers or allowing leakage or evaporation of zivania.

In Cyprus, other than enjoying zivania as an alcoholic drink, it is used for several other purposes. Zivania is used to treat wounds, for massaging sore body parts, as a remedy for colds and toothaches or as a warming-up drink during the cold months of winter, especially in the villages of the Troodos Mountains.

In old times, the main alcoholic drinks Cypriots consumed were wine and zivania. In some villages of Cyprus, cinnamon was added to zivania giving it a nice red color and a fine aroma and flavor. As zivania ages it gains a stronger flavor and aroma. Aged zivania has been valued very highly and is kept for consumption during special occasions or as a welcoming treat for visitors. Even nowadays at some villages in Cyprus, local will welcome visitors with zivania served together with dried nuts, soutzouko or small appetizers like Cypriot loukaniko, lountza and tsamarella.

To establish the authenticity of zivania chemical studies were contacted to investigate which of the metals analyzed constitute diagnostic parameters that establish authenticity. The results of the studies establish that zivania is related to the unique geological and climatic conditions existing on the island of Cyprus.

Zivania is served ice-cold with the local meze, soutzoukos or dried fruit and nuts.





8. Commandaria

The Cyprus Commandaria is a passionate, delicious, sweet wine traditionally produced without foreign artificial sweeteners, and without added colors. It is a mixture of native black grapes and white grapes of Xynisteri, although, it has been known to be made using only black or only white grapes. The main feature of Commandaria, which is offered as a dessert wine, is its delectable taste and wonderful scent, which satisfies the full spectrum of human senses. The best Commandaria in aroma, color and sweetness is produced when integrating the two indigenous grape varieties, Xynisteri 85-90% and mavro (black) 10-15%  .

The name Commandaria was given to this red passionate wine by the “Ioannites”, the St. John (the Baptist) knights of Jerusalem, who were one of the religious military battalion’s who settled in Cyprus near Colossi, in 1192 AD. This battalion had a military administration, “commanderie” or “Commandaria”. Coincidentally, the most famous, elevating wine was produced in this region, whose production was adopted, perfected and traded with enviable success by the St John Knights who had given to it the name of “Commandaria”. Today, the most famous Commandaria producing community is Zoopigi.

After harvest, the grapes are placed onto a canvas that is called a “clothes-horse” on the rooftops for 4 to10 days or more, depending on the weather conditions, as to be dehydrated by the effect of solar radiation. After the temperature rises and is brought up to 20 Celsius - 21 Celsius for the black grapes and up to 18 Celsius - 19 Celsius for the Xynisteri, the grapes are ready for pressing. This process takes place at all the small wineries of Commandaria makers.

The grapes are compressed through the first mill-grinder and then are transferred to be pressed. Great attention is paid during the pressing process so as to deliver the appropriate pressure so the grapes’ seeds and pigtails do not break. If they do break and the tannin is released, this adds an unpleasant flavor to the wine.

The flowing wine is then placed in cylindrical tanks that are made out of reinforced concrete or galvanized material, which is fermented. At the end of fermentation the degrees descend to 15 Celsius.

In December the transfusion is completed - air free. Around late January early February the delivery of the new produce commences for further processing and standardization. After filtering the Commandaria is transferred to a cellar for aging in oak barrels of 500 liters.





9. Potatoes

Potato cultivation is one of the most important agricultural crops on the island, while most of the production is exported to other countries of the European Union, making it an important source of income for the Cypriot economy. In particular, it is estimated that about 40% of the proceeds from exports of Cypriot, unprocessed agricultural products come from potato exports. Cypriot potato is therefore the first export product of Cyprus.

The reasons why the Cyprus potato has for many years been a very good momentum in terms of exports is, in principle, the fact that Cyprus, due to its climatic conditions, has been able to produce potatoes almost all year long, resulting in is superior in terms of the early production. On the other hand, Cypriot potato producers are considered to be progressive people, who constantly invest in their field while, at the same time, they are well aware of the technique of potato cultivation. At the same time, the Cypriot potato has gained a very good name and reputation abroad, and this is not a coincidence, since the soils of Cyprus, and especially the redness, seem to give the organoleptic characteristics of the Cypriot potato. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the vast majority of the potato production volume in Cyprus is certified by the Integrated Production Management system, which ensures that the production process is safe both for the environment and for the consumer.





10. Xynisteri

The Xynisteri  is a white variety native to Cyprus. It represents about 13%  to 16%  of the vine area planted on the island, the second most important grape variety. The southern slopes of the Troodos Massif are the region with the highest density of vines.

It is blended with Mavro for the production of Commandaria, a sweet wine that is the main export product of the Cypriot wine industry.

For whites of white wine, Xynisteri is a great choice. Its color is almost transparent and the alcohol content is relatively small. That is why Xynisteri accompanies every meal and can be consumed even in large quantities.



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