You will find the oldest varieties of gozinaki in the mountainous regions of Georgia. They were made not only from nuts, like hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds, but also from dried fruits, like apples and pears that were boiled in honey with a little bit of added sugar and then dried. In Racha Region, they still make gozinaki from pumpkin seeds.
When it comes to gozinaki, there is no limit to the creativity of the chefs. You will find gozinaki made with nuts and dried fruits, some made from sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, or walnuts, some dipped in chocolate or round like balls, even some that have been caramelized. No matter the ingredients or the form it takes, every variety of gozinaki is high in calories and, as they say in Georgia, tickles the palate.
In the lead up to New Year’s, the special smell of gozinaki begins to waft out from the kitchens of Georgians. It is the heady aroma of roasted nuts and boiled honey. Not just a traditional Georgian sweet, the treat is very much a synonym for New Year’s.
In preparation for making gozinaki, Georgian housewives begin making preparations at the beginning of December, carefully choosing white shells full of walnuts, cleaning them, and putting them in the oven to roast.
Once the roasting is done, the shells are spread over a cloth, carefully rubbed by hand to remove any ashes, and cut with a sharp knife on a wooden board. Some prefer to crush the walnuts into large chunks, but this is a matter of personal taste. If the gozinaki is to be made immediately, then it is better to keep it in a tightly closed glass jar so that it does not get damp.
The honey for the gozinaki should preferably be from May, made of acacia and citrus, or of mixed flowers. Honey from linden or mixed with chestnut is a darker color and so the resulting gozinaki will also come out darker. Also, keep in mind that newer honey is thinner, so it takes more boiling to thicken it.
There is one more domestic tradition related to the making of New Year’s gozinaki: the family member who makes the best gozinaki makes it. In addition, the ones they made before must have come with a successful and happy year. This can be a woman or a man, but the whole family is involved with making gozinaki in any case.
Gozinaki is made of only three ingredients – honey, walnuts, and a small amount of sugar. Preparing it is not particularly difficult, but every housewife has her own secret recipe anyway.
In its classical form, gozinaki is made in Georgia in the following way:
Pour half a kilo of honey into a pot with a thick base, place it over a low flame, and stir it with a wooden spoon.
Five minutes after it starts boiling, remove it from the flame and let it cool.
Repeat this process three or four times. You will see foam coming up while it boils, but it will gradually dissipate. Try not to boil the honey too much, so that it does not become dark.
To test if the honey is ready, take a cup of water and put some of the honey into it. If the drop does not dissolve, then it is ready.
Next, put the crushed and roasted walnuts into the honey, add three teaspoons of powdered sugar, and mix it well with a wooden spoon.
Five minutes later, right as it is turning golden, take it off the flame.
Put the gozinaki onto a board that has been dampened with water beforehand and flatten it to a uniform thickness with a damp rolling pin or your own wet hands.
You have to do this quickly, before the mass cools and it becomes difficult to spread. Cut it into rhombus shapes with a wet knife while it is hot, so it doesn’t fall apart, and arrange them on plates.
The secret to good gozinaki is in the boiling of the honey. Well-made gozinaki comes out soft and does not stick to the plate.
Gozinaki is the best gift for New Year’s and is convenient to send, because it does not lose its shape when transported, so it is often sent to relatives and children who are studying abroad or living in other countries.
Despite being made of only two main ingredients, gozinaki is very filling. While 100 grams of Easter paska contains 331 calories, and newly made churchkhela contains 200 calories, 100 grams of walnut gozinaki contains 510 calories!
Gozinaki is traditionally made with walnuts, but lately you can find it made with sunflower seeds (576 calories) or even peanuts (485 calories).