Much like Orange Koulourakia Cookies, you can get moustokouloura (grape must cookies) in the bakeries and in many homes all over Greece all year-round these days. They are made from grape must, the juice of grapes that is used to make house wine, something that used to be done in most parts of the country.
The cookies are deep-flavored and delicious. The grape must is boiled down to become thick petimezi (grape molasses) an pantry item in most traditional homes. Syrupy petimezi is diluted with an equal amount of water to make the cookies.
Grape must cookies, right, and Orange Koulourakia, left.
The sweetness of the petimezi determines their taste, as moustokouloura have no additional sugar. Commercial moustokouloura are usually large, but the homemade ones are smaller.
To get 2 1/2 cups traditional petimezi (grape molasses) you need to simmer for about 1 hour or more 2 ½ kilos (5 pounds) grape juice. But to achieve the taste of my favorite island moustokouloura, made in August with the local fresh grape must, or with thinned down petimezi (grape molasses), I boil ordinary grape juice with sultanas and/or currents, and the result is great (see Note).
Makes about 3 dozen large cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour or more, as needed
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups fresh sweet grape must (see note)
2/3 cups olive oil
1/3 cup brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Mix 4 cups flour with the salt and the spices. Make a well in the centre and add the grape must and olive oil. In a small bowl stir the baking soda into the brandy and stir the bubbly mixture into the flour.
Knead, briefly to form a soft dough. If it is too sticky, add more flour.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Cut pieces of dough and roll to make 1/3-inch thick and 5- or 6-inch-long ropes, or shorter. Stick the two ends together or tie a knot or roll, snail-like the dough ropes, to form moustokouloura.
Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes or more, until firm.
Let the cookies cool completely on a rack, and store in airtight boxes.
To make petimezi (grape molasses) juice fresh grapes to get 4 cups of juice, or use 4 cups commercial grape juice. Add 2 cups currants or sultanas and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Process in the blender and pass the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Tie the end of the cheesecloth and squeeze the pulp to extract all the juices.
Measure to get the amount needed and freeze the rest for future use.