Churchkhela—Georgia’s Christmas Candle Treat

If you ever go to a street market in Tbilisi, Georgia in the fall or winter, you will see bundles of lumpy purple candles hanging in the stalls. Thought they may look waxy, those hanging candles are actually churchkhela, a delicious Georgian candy made of nuts and fruit juice.

On the Sixth Day of Imported Christmas, we tried churchkhela. Because this treat has spread to other countries in the region, we were able to find some at our local Middle Eastern market. But if you have some time on your hands, you can also make your own.

The traditional recipe has you lightly roast walnuts (other nuts or dried fruits are also an option) and then thread them on a string. You create the coating by reducing grape juice by half, then mixing it with flour and sugar and heating it to make a smooth paste. Dip the string of walnuts like you would a candle, making sure the nuts are entirely coated. You then leave the string to air dry for 3-4 days, then repeat the coating process. Repeat the waiting and dipping at least one more time, but more if you like a thicker fruity layer. Prepared this way, churchkhela can be stored for months, making them a great treat to make during harvest and eat for Christmas and New Year. When you’re ready to eat your churchkhela, just pull out the string and cut the treat into pieces.

The result of this process is a delicious nutty and fruity treat that is high in vitamins and nutrients and has enough sugar to have been dubbed the “Georgian Snicker’s bar.” Some accounts claim that Georgian soldiers carried churchkhela with them because it was an easy, compact, long-lasting way to get the calories they needed.

Whatever the original use, these are a great treat and a fantastic way to preserve some of those walnuts your neighbors are desperate to get rid of.

Interested in learning about more international Christmas traditions? Follow our 12 Days of Imported Christmas:

Twelve Days of Imported Christmas

  1. The First Day: Christmas-Stuffed Turkey Piñata and Other Season-Starting Traditions
  2. The Second Day: Mari Lwyd—Wales’ Rhyming Horse Skull Puppet
  3. The Third Day: Christingle—England’s Citrus Candlestick
  4. The Fourth Day: Spanish Christmas Tapas
  5. The Fifth Day: Jólakötturinn—The Icelandic Christmas Cat
  6. The Sixth Day: Churchkhela—Georgia’s Christmas Candle Treat
  7. The Seventh Day: Christkindlmarkt—Germany’s Christmas Markets

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