Goose Apokhti

Goose Apokhti

In Georgia, livestock-rearing and poultry-raising have been widely practiced in every region since time immemorial, so the locals know how to age and cure meat well. One fine example is apokhti, a salted and dried meat (known as “kaghi” in Tusheti), and traditionally made from wild game. It is not smoked like shashkhi or ham, but instead it is dried in the sun, light, nutritious, and keeps for a long time, making it ideal for soldiers or travelers.

How to Prepare Apokhti

In the home setting, apokhti is used in various dishes. In regions with long and snowy winters, poultry would traditionally be slaughtered in late autumn, after the first frost, and the meat would be salted in a large wooden bowl (so the meat would absorb a sufficient amount of salt), and then washed, a few days later, with warm water, to avoid excessive saltiness. It would then be hung up to dry.

Some prefer to smoke the dried meat in a special location. Indeed, apokhti can be used in various ways - as a dry breakfast, with bread, and in soups. Apokhti is predominantly a winter food, and can be kept for more than a year in a cool place.

Goose apokhti, is a well-known delicacy throughout nearly all villages in the historical region Meskheti (now Samtskhe-Javakheti) in southern Georgia. Goose apokhti would ordinarily be served to special guests and brought out at every traditional feast (supra), especially for New Year. You cannot find goose apokhti anywhere else in Georgia, and the khinkali made with it is truly special, and a calling card of Meskhetian cuisine. 

A Recipe for Apokhti Khinkali

For goose khinkali, dense dough is kneaded with cold water and salt. Then, separate the dough into balls and leave them covered with a towel for a short time, so they become soft and mild. While the dough is softening, prepare the filling. To do this, remove the bones from the goose meat and cut it into very fine cubes. There is no need for seasoning.

Then, flatten the dough into thin layers (unlike regular khinkali, the dough for goose apokhti khinkali is cut into rectangles). Put some cubes of meat into the middle of each rectangle, then fold them so that the mouth is open on one side, allowing water to get in. 

Pour boiling water into a pot with a thick base or a pan, then add salt, pepper, and clarified butter, which wonderfully complements apokhti khinkali. Put the goose bones, stripped of meat, into the water to create a flavorsome stock, and then put the khinkali cubes in the clarified butter water so that they are just barely covered. Then, put the lid on and boil it over a low flame for 20-25 minutes. Once the water has boiled, the khinkali is ready.

Before bringing it to the table, fry the onions in the clarified butter until they change color, add salt and then put them on the boiled khinkali. In addition, bring garlic sauce, pressed matsoni with garlic, black pepper, and mulberry vodka to the table for the perfect accompaniments to goose apokhti khinkali.

From one kilogram of finely-chopped goose apokhti, you can make about 80-100 pieces of khinkali, for which you will need 1.5 kilograms of thick kneaded dough made with bread flour, salt, and cold water. The size of the khinkali depends on the experience and preference of the person making it. 

Goose apokhti khinkali was a long forgotten dish until recently, when Meskhetian cuisine experienced a revival, bringing back to life some of its tastiest gems. Now, many families raise geese specifically for this dish. The tradition of making goose apokhti has been best preserved in Khizabavra, one of the most ancient villages of Meskheti (or Samtskhe-Javakheti), where it is handmade with special love and care to this day.

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