Along the Grapevine

Sumac Churchkhela Pieces



Churchkhela from Wikipedia files

I was thinking of making a sumac leather to use up my last batch of sumac juice. Then I remembered something very similar, something like a fruit leather covering walnuts linked on a string. With no idea what it was called, nor where it originated, I wasn’t sure how to find anything about it. I just knew that it is eaten in places like Greece and Russia. Actually, I needed only describe it and do a google search, and there it is. But I was reading  Anya von Bremzen’s “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking” and she mentioned eating this in the Republic of Georgia, where according to Wikipedia, it originated. It is also made in many other countries in that general region, such as Greece and Turkey. The Georgian and Russian name for it is churchkhela.


Another wikipedia photo

It is not often available commercially. It is made in people’s kitchens, and sometimes sold at farmers markets, hanging in bunches much like hand dipped candles. It can be made with other fruits besides grape, so it seemed reasonable to use sumac, although you could use apple cider, berry juices, quince, and so on. I really like to recreate interesting recipes I have discovered in far-away places, and make any changes necessary to achieve a similar result in this part of the world. And churchkhela, even if I didn’t know the word before, is one of those recipes.

I had to make a few minor changes. Traditionally the nuts are dipped in a thickened juice and then hung to dry in the sun. No chance of that here right now, or maybe ever. So with nowhere to allow the strings to drip and dry, I decided to forego the string and just dip the individual walnuts. Instead of sun, I used a dehydrator, and did some partially in the oven with the electric light on. In either case, it is at a temperature of about 40-50 degrees Celsius.


Walnuts after first dipping in sumac juice


1 cup of walnuts

2 cups or sumac juice

4 Tbsp cornstarch (or other starch or flour)

1 cup brown sugar

Cover the walnuts and soak in water for a couple of hours. This step is really to make it easier to string the nuts and prevent them for cracking, but I recommend it even if not using string. It makes for a softer texture which goes with the coating, and I think prevents them from drying out too much during the process.

Mix a little fruit juice with the starch and then add to the rest of the juice in a saucepan. Add the sugar, and heat until it starts to bubble and loses the milky colour. Allow to cool.

Dip the drained walnuts (reserve the water for soup stock) in the syrup and place on the dehydrator tray, or on parchment if you are doing it in the oven. The first layer was dried only a couple of hours at a low temperature (about 40 degrees C). The second coating was left about 4 hours, and after that about 10 hours, until they are not sticky to the touch, similar to licorice. I did some three times, some four times, and had I had more sumac juice, could have kept going for a thicker coating, although that would have taken a lot longer. They are very tasty as they are, and remarkably like the real thing I bought from the experts.


Walnuts dipped three times

I hope, if nothing else, this contribution to The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday gives you some idea of how this traditional Georgian churchkhela can be adapted and enjoyed without the need to travel half way across the world.


Walnuts after being dipped and dried four times

Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

20 thoughts on “Sumac Churchkhela Pieces

  1. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #5 | The Novice Gardener

  2. Hilda, those walnuts look absolutely divine dipped in all that sumac juice. I love learning about new recipes and treats from faraway places and this churchkhela is something new to me. Thanks for sharing with us!


  3. These churchkhela peices (name I had never heard) look wonderful. Would be lovely toppings for salads, seafood, anything, or just for snacks.


  4. I was trying to thing of something I could put them on/into. But then I started eating them. What a great snack. Maybe my next batch I’ll think of some way to use them as accessories, to make them go a little further.


  5. OMG, not only does the name sound intriguing (love churchkhela, just kind of rolls off your tongue), it looks so tempting! Who doesn’t like candied nuts? I’m assuming that’s what this tastes like, maybe even better with the sourness from the sumac. You could easily market this, Hilda!


    • Thanks so much for the comment. I agree with you about the name – one Russian word I won’t forget quickly. Mine are only mildly sweet, but you could make them sweeter. And I can’t stop eating them! Wish I could describe the flavour, all I can say it is a mild nutty fruity taste with a lovely texture – and unlike so many sweets, you can sort of eat them with impunity.


  6. I had something similar when I was in Turkey and it was soo good! Love the walnuts!


  7. they look and sound delicious
    would make a good farmers’ market addition


  8. Well, I’m so glad you brought these to the party instead of making us travel half way around the world! I am polishing off the dish right now ….oh maybe I should save some for the other guests! 🙂


  9. Oh wow, they look delicious. I could snack on these all night. Wonderful post.


  10. Ooh, I bet these would taste amazing on a spring salad!


  11. They look wonderful! Now to get my hands on some sumac juice 🙂


  12. Hi Hilda. What elegant little treats. Did you use the black walnuts for this, or regular ones?


  13. Wow – these walnuts look so wonderfully glossy! What a original treat!


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