La Tavla de Dulce
Since I was a child, my mother’s recounting of the ritual of serving invited guests tea and sweets from La Tavla de Dulce has always fascinated me. Nona, Grandmother, always kept various candied or conserved fruits on hand. Traditionally served with no less then three choices and glasses of tea in true Ottoman/ Sephardic fashion this makes for a warm welcome for guests.
Dulces served included, Dulce de Bimbriyo (quince), Dulce de Portukale (oranges), Dulce de Cerezas (cherries), Peras (whole miniature pears), Bergamot (bitter oranges), Kayisi (apricots), Shiftili (peaches), Rose Petals, and Grapefruits. Other Dulces were Sharopi Blanco (sugar and water beaten until white with nuts added) and Sharup de Passas or raisin syrup.
The Dulces are served in beautiful hand worked silver containers encircled with spoons and forks used to self serve and the tea is served in classic gold decorated glasses. Turkey is famous for its crops of oranges, cherries, apricots, peaches, quince, and bergamots, a kind of bitter orange. Much to my surprise, the citrus fruit conserves are made with the most unlikely part of the fruit. The thick white pith is used and to make good dulce of this kind you should look for the fruit with the thickest skin.
Since I live in Southern California and the similarities with Turkey’s climate are quite clear I have access to an abundance of these fruits. As the grapefruit season is over for now, I took the few remaining in the back of the refrigerator and decided to make some Dulce. Also inspiring me is my recent purchase of another silver dulce container on my recent trip.
2 very large thick skinned grapefruit (Pink Coachella)
3 cups of sugar
3 cups of water
Using a very sharp knife, peel off a very thin layer of grapefruit peel. Only cut off the colored portion, leaving the white pith behind. Score the pith in even widths from top to bottom of the grapefruit. Score as deep through the pith as necessary to reach the beginning of the fruit. Carefully remove the thin lengths of pith one by one, starting at the bottom of the grapefruit and working your way to the top.
Place the strips of pith in a sauce pan. Cover with cold water and bring the water to a boil. Boil the pith strips for about 5 minutes. Remove the pith strips and drain them. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan then add the pith strips and bring the syrup to a boil. Simmer at a slow boil for about 2 hours until the pith is clear and jellied.