Svan Khachapuri – Petvraali

Svan Khachapuri – Petvraali

After Racha, Svaneti is the region where the most varieties of khachapuri were traditionally baked. Of those, the majority have been maintained to the present day and are still made among many families and households. Basically, the products that grow well in the area were used to make it, which is how it came to be seasoned with green onion (Welsh onion), hemp, and potatoes (called “kartoplari” in Svan), also known as “lukvne” and “ltservali.” Petvraali, with its unique-tasting Svan filling, is made by adding millet and is distinguished from all other khachapuri by its dark color, which is why the locals also call it “dirty khachapuri.” It has been granted the status of a Monument of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

A Little About the Ingredients for Petvraali

The populace of Svaneti has toughened over the centuries, becoming acclimatized to harsh natural conditions, and they created the kind of food that would help them to survive the long and harsh winter. Cattle-raising was well-developed there too, so a dairy culture took root. Accordingly, enough cheese would be stored for the whole year.

The same applied with bread, with a number of wheat varieties grown there. The autumn varieties were called “kvetseni” and the spring varieties were called “kulsi”. The flour from the first harvest of autumn was called “tsminda” (meaning “pure” in Georgian), and would only be used on holidays. Indeed, holidays would be unimaginable without this sacrificial and ritual bread. Against this background, a culture of using cheese and bread flour has taken root in Svaneti since time immemorial. 

The third and main ingredient in petvraali is millet (“petvi” in Georgian), and is also the name given to this type of Svan khachapuri. Petvi, also known as Caucasian Proso, is a grain culture which has always been grown in Svaneti, then processed (with the hard shells removed), and is still known today by the name of “petvi.” 

Millet is an extraordinarily healthy and useful product, the large-scale production and use of in Georgia has largely been replaced by the imported corn from the US. Only in some parts of Samegrelo and Svaneti has petvraali endured. Processed, sifted, and well-boiled millet is prepared in various ways, but its use in khachapuri is one of the hallmarks of Svan cuisine. Millet was also traditionally seen as a symbol of fertility, and used in various pagan rituals.

How to Make Petvraali

For petvraali dough, you will need:

1 kg bread flour;

½ liter water; 

20 g yeast;

20 g salt; and 20 g sugar. 

For the filling, you will need:

1.5 kg Imeretian cheese (dry);

300 g millet; and

Salt to taste.

To make petvraali, dissolve the yeast in 30 ml of water and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Then, put the salt in the flour and slowly pour the yeast, dissolved in water, into it, while kneading it. Gradually add warm water and continue kneading. The dough should be uniform and delicate. Store the kneaded dough in a warm place, putting it somewhere that only a small amount of air can reach, so that the top of the dough does not dry out. According to Svans, the dough should be turned over, or kneaded, multiple times.

Mix the dry Imeretian cheese, millet, and salt together. If you so choose, you may also add blue fenugreek.

Flatten the risen dough into round sheets, place the cheese and millet mixture in the middle, and close it up so that the filling is completely covered. Then, make a hole in the middle.

Put the millet khachapuri in the oven and bake it at 220 degrees, until it turns golden brown.

Even to this day, hosting a guest with petvraali is a sign of special respect and attention. Many Svans add flour made from ground millet to the petvraali and season the filling with blue fenugreek, just like their ancestors did. Petvraali is the best gift one can give here on village holidays and when visiting.

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