Available in a colourful variety of flavours, Loukoumi Geroskipou PGI is a delectable confection produced in a small town on the southwest coast of Cyprus.
It is made with simple ingredients, with local skills and a traditional production method that has been passed from one generation to the next.
Legend has it that the goddess Aphrodite arose from the sea at the rocks of Petra tou Romiou and sowed the seeds of her sacred garden in nearby Geroskipou.
Although the legendary gardens have faded in the mists of myth and time, Geroskipou today blooms with the colours of loukoumi, a popular confectionery whose connection with the town dates back to 1895, when Sophocles Athanasiou returned to his home village after many years overseas, with a recipe packed amongst his belongings.
Over the course of his travels, Athanasiou had picked up a taste for loukoumi (also known as lokum, or Turkish delight), the sweet delicacy found across Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea. By the time he came back to his home village, he had shaped a recipe around his own tastes and set about bringing it to reality.
He set up a small factory and opened up his own loukoumi shop near the town square in Geroskipou in 1895. Soon, the reputation of the shop and its treats spread across the island and beyond its shores.
In 1920, Athanasiou passed on the business to his daughter Chariklia and her husband Gabriel Hadjizinoviou. The torch was then passed to their son, Nikodemos Gabriel and since 1990 his wife Evdokia and their son George have continued the tradition.
Inspired by the Athanasiou family, who sell their products under the name of “Aphrodite Delights”, other confectionary makers within the locality have taken up production, following the same specifications and deepening the connection between the town and its treats.
Such is the strength of this connection that in 2007 Loukoumi Geroskipou became the first Cypriot product to be recognised as an official protected geographic indication (PGI). It is the only variety of loukoumi to be afforded such recognition.
Since Sophocles Athanasiou brought his first batch of loukoumi to life in 1895, the confection has been made in the same way, according to the same recipe, and always within the bounds of Geroskipou.
The art of preparing Loukoumi Geroskipou lies in attaining the unmistakable sweetness and consistency that distinguish the product from other varieties of loukoumi. Unlike many such varieties, Loukoumi Geroskipou contains neither glucose nor gelatine. In order to achieve the desired taste and texture, each step of the production process must be carried out with patience and precision, using local skills and expertise that have been honed by time and tradition.
The process begins when water is poured into a large, heated pan. Next, sugar and citric acid are added. The resulting mixture is boiled and held to simmer at 100°C for 35 minutes.
Corn starch, previously dissolved in cold water, is then added to thicken the mixture, which must be kept at a heat of 100-130°C for 2 hours and stirred at a rate of 36 turns per minute.
Next come the flavours, which must be selected from a pre-approved list. Each flavour in the list has been carefully chosen to complement the natural sweetness of the loukoumi. The selection ranges from rose, strawberry, and mandarin to banana, bergamot, and pistachio. In some cases, colouring, chocolate, or roasted nuts are added. Ingredients such as almonds and honey are sourced locally in the Paphos province.
After the flavours have fully blended in, the now viscous mixture is poured into large crates and left to set. Once cooled, the mixture takes on its final gelatinous form, characterised by a firmness that allows it to spring gently back to shape when squeezed, but a softness that allows it to melt in the mouth.
The final product is cut into bite-sized cubes, which are dusted with caster sugar or finely flaked coconut.