Nugbari produces natural, delicious and high quality traditional Georgian sweets. Churchkhela is our main product and we are proud to introduce this great snack to the rest of the world. Nowadays our company comprises of:
• Factories of grape juice concentrate and churchkhela in Kakheti region
• Packaging and distribution office in Tbilisi
• Show-room and retail shops in shopping centers in Tbilisi
• Branded stands in retail chains
• Export to 5 continents
STORY OF CHURCHKHELA
In one small country on the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this natural high-energy snack existed from ancient times. Abilities to not expire for long periods of time and satisfy hunger for almost half a day, combined with its pleasant taste and pragmatic size, made churchkhela a favorite food for Georgian soldiers in long-distance wars.
That is why today Churchkhela is the national sweet of Georgia and part of its cultural identity. Over the recent years, in line with the healthy food trend in the world, reinventing of churchkhela as a wholesome and delicious snack is going on and this one-time ethnic food is gaining more and more mainstream popularity abroad.
Opposed to its difficult name, Churchkhela has a very simple recipe. It is nuts candied in flour-thickened grape juice. The traditional technology of preparation, which was handed down from generation to generation without a single word written, is inscribed on the registry of Georgia’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. In other south-eastern European countries like Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan it is known as sweet sausage.
Sweetness in Churchkhela comes solely from grape juice. For Georgia, which is known as a Cradle of Wine, it is no surprise grape juice was available when wine was available around 6000 BC. At that time, Grape juice was either used as a wine or was concentrated for use in food. Concentrated or boiled grape juice which was so sweet it never would go bad like honey was used as the main sweetener before the 15th century when cane sugar became cheap and available.
Now there are 500 varieties of grape In Georgia. Rkatsiteli which has a unique taste is the main variety in Kakheti Region, known for its wine- and Churchkhela-making traditions. During vintage, when grape juice is not yet fermented, some portion of it is separated and boiled to make a concentrated juice, named badagi. Which is afterward kept in special cans. Concentration is made in order to make it naturally sweet, pasteurize and make it smaller in size.
The second ingredient of Churchkhela is nuts, mainly walnuts or hazelnuts. Nuts should be of the highest quality so that they last in Churchkhela for at least 9 months. Every nut is inspected so that they have the correct amount of water and are not rancid and do not contain dangerous aflatoxins. Inspection is done by form and color. In hazelnuts, the maximum rottenness is 0.5%, which means a maximum of 1 in 200 hazelnuts can be bad. After inspection nuts are threaded (walnuts are cut into pieces) and left in Tone for several days for slight roasting. Tone is a special clay oven used for baking Shoti, traditional Georgian bread.
The last ingredient of Churchkhela is wheat or corn flour, which is used as a thickener Wheat was also available in Georgia from BC, and from the introduction of corn in Georgia in the 18th century, also corn flour was used in Churchkhelas in Western Georgia.
If we look at Churchkhela from a nutrition perspective, it is a vegetarian product with lots of healthy calories. One 120-gram churchkhela can keep a person full for almost half a day, making it ideal food while traveling. Besides energy sources, it contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals coming from 3 natural ingredients. Moreover, walnuts and hazelnuts contain Omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids, which are essential for the functioning of the brain. These qualities make churchkhela the best snack for people adhering healthy lifestyle, who like feeling energetic and experiencing natural flavors.
In Georgia Churchkhela is a necessary gift for Christmas and New Year, but for that time early-autumn made Churchkhelas may be slightly whitened. This is a natural process in food technology called sugar bloom when natural glucose and fructose of grape juice come on the surface due to water moisture going in and out of churchkhela. This process gives churchkhela new taste.
The traditional and fun process of preparing churchkhela starts with pouring concentrated grape juice in a cauldron and dissolving flour in it. There are 2 types of Churchkhela depending on the ratios of ingredients – one with more nuts and less juice jelly for those who more like taste of nuts, and second with more juice and less nuts for those who prefer grape flavour. After dissolution mix is heated on a low fire for 2 hours, and when the mix is thick enough, threaded and roasted nuts are dipped into it one by one. After immersing in thickened juice, they are hung on stick and left for drying for 2 weeks, and then kept in well-ventilated place. If nuts are good, Churchkhela will taste well minimum for a year.
Nugbari factories of grape juice concentrate and churchkhela are located in Tsnori, Kakheti region. Churchkhela preparation process in the factory is almost the same as at home, just ingredients are prepared at place and modern international standards of ISO and HACCP are used. Each year during vintage company buys grapes and makes grape concentrate. Using vacuum evaporation process, water from juice is removed at 70 degrees Celsius and in much shorter time, which leaves many healthy chemicals in the juice compared to traditional cauldron boiling. After concentration, juice is poured into special containers and stored at refrigerator.
For boiling, traditional aluminum cauldron is replaced by stainless steel. This makes food safer, as grape juice contains natural acids not compliant with aluminum. Instead of traditional fire, cauldrons are heated by oil. Before pouring in, juice is monitored with refractometer to have exact sweetness and acidity, for the same taste. For stirring traditional wooden spoons are also replaced with stainless steel spoons, so that wood elements do not enter grape juice jelly. Electric oven is used for roasting, distributing heat among nuts equally. Dipping and labeling processes are handmade. The whole process is done in the building which is safe from insects.
The main process in churchkhela preparation is drying. Opposed to traditional sun-drying, which largely depends on the sun and humidity, drying in the factory is done in 5 closed rooms for each day of work; So, we exactly know when churchkhelas will be dried enough. During the drying process relative humidity and circulation of air are monitored, as well as moisture levels and water activity of churchkhelas.
After drying, thread is removed and churchkhelas are packed in special vacuum with high water barrier, so that texture and unique flavor stays the same for a long period.