Local products of Kefalonia
What better way to get to know a place other than through its traditional products and flavors? In Kefalonia, just like in every other area of Greece, there is a variety of local products that are known for their quality, taste and uniqueness.
Mandola is a traditional sweet treat that can only be found in the Ionian Islands and is one of the most well known traditional products of Kefalonia. This sweet delicacy is made of almonds and sugar, while its vibrant deep red color comes from a kind of seaweed that the locals use traditionally in food coloring. The name of this treat comes from the Italian word for almond, ‘Mandorla’, which was borrowed and integrated into Greek, back when the isle was under the Venetian occupation.
Mandolato is another sweet dainty whose name also comes from the Italian word ‘mandorla’. During the Venetian Domination, this sweet treat was considered to be a delicacy mostly of the aristocrats of the area. It consists of almonds, honey, sugar and egg-whites beaten in meringue.
Barboule’s recipe is one of the oldest and most traditional recipes in Kefalonia. A crunchy treat is made of almonds roasted in honey and cut into small sticks.
Pastokidono (Komfeto) is a very tasty and healthy dessert. Its basic ingredient is quince, an autumn fruit that thrives in the area of Paliki and when harvested in November it is made into marmalade. Then the marmalade that is produced by this fruit is enriched with roasted almonds and honey in order to make the pastokidono.
Thyme and Spruce Honey are varieties of honey that prosper on the island due to its plant life and climate. Thyme honey is light-colored and well known for its quality, rich flavor and scent, regarded to be amongst the best types of honey produced in Greece. On the other hand, Spruce honey comes from the nectar of flowers and is of high quality and taste.
The first historic references started in Homeric years, while there were references in Herodotus, for feta cheese produced in Kefalonia and Epirus. Many historical and folkloric references, mention the famous cheesemakers of Kefalonia that created large cheese dairies in Balkan Courtiers and they were masters in the production of feta cheese.
The cheese-makers, especially those from the Northern Kefalonia (Pylaros), used to visit Italy, but also Romania and Black Sea, for long periods of time, to work at the big cheese dairies of each region and produce the famous Greek feta cheese.
The Kefalonian feta is made from sheep and goat milk. Goats graze in the steep hillsides and near the rocks of the sea. The sea saltiness makes special both their meat and their milk, giving a peculiar taste to cheese.
Nowadays, the large cheese dairies produce “teleme”, a cheese aged in brine. Another key difference is that the Kefalonian feta is left to mature in barrels.
Nowadays, Kefalonia has 14 small, family cheese dairies. Although the units are small, they are modern cheese dairies because breeders, utilizing European funding programmes, have obtained quality certificates, which are needed to sell their products outside Kefalonia.
50% of the production of cheese dairies is sold in Athens and the rest is consumed primarily in Kefalonia. People usually consumes “hard” feta cheese (in Kefalonia more than 90%), although in Athens there are supermarkets that sell “soft” or “medium-hardness” feta cheee
The Kefalonian feta may not be a protected designation of origin product, but it is a superb and sought-after cheese that worth trying!!!
The “honey cycle” in Kefalonia
We have the Asian, African and European bee. The Kefalonian bee, which belonged to the subspecies “Karnioliki” of Europe, does not exist anymore in Kefalonia! The reason for losing the local bee species was the import of different bee species from Asia, Africa and Europe in order honey makers increase their output.
The cycle of honey production in Kefalonia includes two difficult periods. The first one starts in late May and lasts until the first days of June, when thyme, wild herbs, lavender, and oregano begin to blossom. This period of fifteen days is, indeed, very difficult when the (wonderful) honeydew of fir of Enos is missing -which occurs with a frequency of once every five years. The thyme and the other herbs remain until early August and then starts an “empty” period, which is not a concern if the August rains bring flowering of heather and arbutus. If the beekeeper wants to harvest without losing his bees or without the extensive use of sugar, he should move his beehives. Fall and winter (until mid-January) are not difficult periods for beekeepers, as long as they leave enough autumnal honey in hives to fed bees. In mid-January starts the flowering of almond and sperdoukli. In late March however, the honey cell diminishes rather than increases because of the high requirements for the rearing of broods. From the beginning of April until mid-May, the colonies live the springtime paradise of various flowerings.
The numbers of beekeeping in Kefalonia
The honey production in Kefalonia is stable over time and approaches the 70 tons per year. The price of honey today is not less than 15 euros per kilo.
Each beehive gives 6-10 kilos of honey per year. This low performance is mainly due to the fact that although Kefalonia has a big variety of plants, the number of each plant is very low! The variety of plants however, enables producers to avoid using sugar which degrades their beehives. It is also produced pollen and Royal Jelly.
5-7% of producers have over 150 beehives, 20-30% have 100-150 beehives, 50% have 50-100 beehives and the rest have under 50 beehives. It is estimated that the vast majority of producers that have 50-150 beehives have begun switching over to organic farming.
The famous kefalonian thyme honey is produced in July and July.
Wines of Kefalonia
A traditional proverb from the area of Livathos says that the major foundations of a house are bread, wine and olive oil.
This phrase points out the importance of wine in Kefalonia.
Besides, there were references from 13th century mentioning the special wine produced in the island of “Kefalos”.
The climate and the soil composition give to the Kefalonian wines a completely distinctive flavor.
The overriding wine of the island is Robola (Appellation of Origin of High Quality), a white wine with a pale yellow-green hue. The island has two other appellations which are Mavrodaphne and white Moschato of Kefalonia.
There are also local wines: Slopes of Mount Ainos, Metaxaton and Mantzavinata, as well as the white varieties of Tsaoussi, Moschatella, Zakynthino, Vostilidi and the red wine Thiniatiko.
All you have to do is to choose the wine that accompanies best your food choice from the delicious cuisine of the island.
And don’t forget that a visit in Kefalonia will be incomplete if you don’t taste kefalonian wines at their point of production!!!