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Food Tourism Activities Mouneh

Making Charab el-Hosroum

Hosroum
The unripe sour grapes are washed and crushed

Charab el-Hosroum  or “verjuice” (from French vert jus meaning green juice) is an acidic concentrate made from unripe grapes. It used to season food like salads, instead of using lemon juice. Charab el-Hosroum or debs el-Hosroum making is a labor intensive activity that our ancestors used to do. It needed strong arms to squeeze the grapes and extract the juice. Today, juicer machines are being used to gain time and produce more quantities.

Hosroum simmering on fire
Crushed grapes simmering on wood fire

The sour grapes are collected then washed and crushed using a juicer or by hand (the old way). The juice and grapes are then put on fire and let simmer for hours. It is also worth mentioning, that in some villages, pressing or macerating grapes used to be made by stepping on the grapes with bare feet, a process called “grape stomping” also performed in wine making; an activity gathering family members and friends.

Hosroum3
Stirring the grapes and removing the scum

The mixture is stirred and the scum (foam) is removed every time it is formed. The mixture is brought to a boil and then left to cool. When the grapes and juice are cooled down, the juice is extracted by putting the “hosroum” in a cloth bag.

Housruom 4
Extracting the concentrated juice

The obtained juice is strained again and then boiled until its color darkens and its volume is reduced by about a third. When the “hosroum” concentrate cools down, it is then poured into sterilized bottles and closed tight.

houssroum 6
Hosroum is strained before it is boiled again to obtain the final product
Categories
Food Tourism Activities Mouneh

Drying and steaming figs

fig.
White dried figs

Food drying is one of the oldest methods used to preserve food for later use; the low moisture content of the foods prevents bacteria, fungus and yeast growth and prolongs the fruit shelf-life. Mature figs are harvested during the peak season; they are rinsed under cold running water and then drained. The natural and authentic way to sun-dry figs is to open them flat and place them skin-side down on green broom branches (wezzel in Arabic). Broom branches ensure air circulation around the fruits and avoid molding during the drying process. These branches are cut green and pressed with a wooden board prior to use, to make sure they are well flattened. The figs are left to dry in the sun for a week (according to the weather); they are covered during the night to protect them from dew.

To make sure dried figs last longer without spoiling, they are subjected to another process known as steaming or “tehbil” in Arabic.

The infusion of herbs and spices used to steam figs
The infusion of herbs and spices used to steam figs

Ingredients: 

2 kg of dried figs

1 tsp of anise seeds, 1 tsp of clovers and a handful of bay leaves wrapped together in cheesecloth

2 liters of water.

Preparation:

  1. In a large cooking pot, bring the water to boil
  2. Add the cloth with the spices inside
  3. Place the figs in a stainless steel colander
  4. Submerge the colander in the water for 3 seconds, 3 times
  5. After the third plunge, spread the figs on a cloth to dry away from the sun

In addition to prolonging the storage life of the figs, the steaming process with the spices adds flavors to the fruits.

fig
Black dried figs
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Food Tourism Activities

Wild edible plants collection

Rima enjoying WEP collection on darb el karam
Rima enjoying WEP collection on darb el karam

Come spring time, the fields and hills of Higher Shouf and the West Bekaa villages burst with  green abundance after months of being submerged in snow.

Nabila Azzam WEP collection
Nabila, from Ein Zebde, will teach you everything about WEP

This is the time to experience  how generous Mother Earth is, and to hit the fields collecting wild edible plants and learn all about their health and medicinal benefits from the traditional knowledge of women and shepherds living in those villages.

Akkoub cooked on the stove
Akkoub cooked on the stove

In Ein Zebde, West Bekaa, and in Mresti Al Shouf, Nabila Azzam, May Kanaan and Bassima Zeidan, hosts on darb el karam – food trail, will take you on trips around the villages to collect these plants and will host you at their tables d’hôte to taste local specialties made of Akkoub, Dardar, Wild Chicory, Meshe and others.

Dardar seasoned with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and lots of garlic!
Dardar seasoned with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and lots of garlic!
Meshe decorated with turnip pickles
Meshe decorated with turnip pickles

 

 

 

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Food Tourism Activities

Mulberry harvest

Mulberry harvest

Summer season activities on darb el karam start with mulberry harvest in June and July.

The old black mulberry trees or kboush shami are the remnants of the abundant orchards that were once shaping the landscape of  West Bekaa and Shouf villages.

Silk production in Lebanon goes back to the middle ages. Up to the 1950’s, sericulture, or the rearing of silkworm and the production of silk, was widely practiced in Mount Lebanon and the West Bekaa. Following the civil war, and after the introduction of “nylon”, sericulture ceased which lead to a decline in mulberry cultivation.

The mulberry season was locally known as the season of prosperity, since traditional silk weaving was an important economic activity.  Mulberry trees – also known as the golden trees – were grown for their leaves, which were essential food for silk worms.

hosts
Raymonda, owner of a table d’hote in Kherbet Qanafar, is renowned for making delicious mulberry syrup, compote and jam

Mulberry fruits are eaten fresh and prepared into syrup, jams and compotes.

Mulberry activities on darb el karam include fruit harvesting and processing in Kherbet Kanafar as well as tasting both sweet and savory mulberry specialties.

saghbine natural ice cream
Mulberry flavored natural ice-cream. What a beautiful color and taste!

In the nearby village of Saghbine, make a stop at Joseph Masrouaa‘s ice-cream and enjoy a unique experience, tasting Arabic Ice-cream made of fresh goat milk and fresh mulberry fruits! No artificial colors added!

 

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Food Tourism Activities

Olive Harvest

olive 3

Ancient as time, the olive tree forms part of the identity of every mediterranean person. Indigenous to these lands, it has often symbolized peace, prosperity and blessing. An integral part of the Lebanese diet, olives and olive oil are a must at every meal.

olive 1

For this reason, it is essential that we get to know this ancient tree and know the people who care for it, harvest it and process its much esteemed fruits.

olive 2

On the Olive trail, the food trail proposes the olive harvest activity as well as the visit of the olive mill, where you can enjoy a day in the olive orchard, learning from farmers about the harvest techniques, harvesting olives and witnessing olive oil extraction following the traditional and modern processing methods.

olive 5

The day is not complete without tasting local dishes made with olive oil and when in season, you will get to appreciate the taste of the freshly crushed olives with coarse salt, a trophy for every gourmet person!

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Food Tourism Activities

Making Tomato Paste

Tomato paste, like many other preserves in the Lebanese repertoire of moune, is a way to conserve foods for consumption during the scarce winter season, and for the times when that tomatoes are not fresh and available.

tomato sauce
Enjoying tomato picking at a local farm

Freshly picked tomatoes are cleaned and juiced, either manually or using a tomato juicer, discarding at this stage both skin and seeds, usually composted or used as feed for chicken. The juice is then heated – traditionally over wood fire – until the juice thickens to reach the right concentration, reducing to at least half the original volume.

tomato sauce
Making tomato paste the traditional way, on wood fire

On the food trail, regional differences between West Bekaa and Higher Shouf can be appreciated in tomato concentrate making.

In Higher Shouf, the tomato paste is not too concentrated, made from Jabaliye tomatoes and reduced over wood fire. It is often eaten raw in a sandwich with fresh oregano leaves and olive oil, and is also used in cooking.

tomato sauce 1
Can you smell that? 🙂

In West Bekaa, many leave the tomato concentrate to further dry in the blistering heat of the sun for 2-3 days, becoming a thick paste, mainly used in cooking.

Tomato Paste Kherbet Qanafar
The thick paste is then dried under the burning summer sun 

On the food trail, several hosts open their houses for tourists to join in tomato harvesting and tomato paste making.

tomato sauce

 

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Food Tourism Activities

A walk with a shepherd

shepherd
Botrous Bou Maroun, a descendant from a family of long history and knowledge in goat keeping

Who’s better than a shepherd to guide you around the Lebanese mountains and let you discover rural areas. With Boutros Bou Maroun, the shepherd from Saghbine, you will walk in the countryside and  get informed about the landscapes you pass through.

shepherd
Ammo Botrous knows the name of every single goat in his herd!

On the trail of the Baladi Goat, 3ammo Botrous will delight you with stories about his goats and the wild plants they eat. He knows his goats one by one and calls them by their names!

shepherd

Categories
Food Tourism Activities

Bulgur making

bulghur
Spreading the boiled wheat on the roof to dry under the hot Bekaa sun

Making wheat into bulgur is an ancient process that originated in the Mediterranean region and has been an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. It may, in fact, be man’s first “processed food.”

bulghur
Harvested wheat being boiled

The ancient preparation process is still used in small villages in the eastern Mediterranean: boiling the wheat in huge pots (sometimes for days) until thoroughly cooked, spreading out on flat rooftops to dry in the sun, then cracking the hardened kernels into coarse pieces and sieving them into different sizes for various uses. Bulgur remained exclusively a traditional food of the Mediterranean region for many years.

bulghur
Fady checking if the wheat is well cooked

Modern nutritionists discovered what the ancients already knew: the value of bulgur as a “perfect food” in terms of palatability and keeping quality.

To learn more on bulgur processing, Darb el karam offers a visit to the Ghorayeb family mill in Saghbine, West Bekaa, where visitors can witness the whole process from arrival of harvested wheat to the mill until cracking it into bulgur ready to be used in the kitchen!

bulgur 1
Bulgur spread on the roof
Categories
Food Tourism Activities

Apple harvest

Autumn is a special time of the year in rural Lebanon. Darb el Karam offers you the chance to participate in apple harvest activities with small farmers in the West Bekaa and Higher Shouf villages and to learn the authentic preparation method of apple jam.

Apple picking

Farmer Zeidan from Mresti explains to the visitors about the local varieties of apples and how to carefully pick the apple fruits and put them in the plastic boxes.

Apple picking

Eat at tables d’hote May Kanaan and Bassima Zeidan in Mresti and Lina Haddad in Kherbet Kanafar local apple specialties and participate in jam making.

apple jam apple jam

Categories
Food Tourism Activities

Ever tried being a beekeeper for a day?

honey

Honey, one of nature’s natural delicacies, has been a part of our diet for centuries. The Food Heritage Foundation’s Zeinab Jeambey traces its early uses and explores the varieties that can be found in Lebanon today.

Mentioned in religious texts as a celestial food and praised for its health and medicinal properties, honey collection from natural beehives can be traced back to the late Stone Age.

In the ancient Middle Eastern region, honey was used as a sweetener for food and wine and in the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations it was a main ingredient in medical prescriptions to treat ailments such as eye and skin diseases, coughs, ulcers and stomach diseases.

Egyptians also used it as a preservative agent in the process of mummifying the dead (“Honey and healing through the ages,” Richard Jones, International Bee Research Association.)

honey

honey

 

Honey is produced by honeybees mainly from the nectar of flowers and honeydew, a product of sap-sucking insects left on the plant for bees to collect, like the honeydew found on oak, cedar and juniper trees in Lebanon.

Honeybees extract these sugary substances and bring them back to the beehive where they process them by adding enzymes and extracting water in order to slowly transform the nectar, sap and honeydew into honey. Honey is then stored in wax cells, and sealed as storage food for the bees in times of nectar shortage. It comes in different colors, depending on the source of nectar or honeydew the bees collect.

 

honey

honey

 

Honey is considered a nutritious food, mainly constituted of sugars such as glucose, fructose and sucrose, water and small amounts of amino acids, minerals, aromas and enzymes.

Though only found in traces, the enzymes bees add to honey are of important nutritional value because they produce the antibacterial agent, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), that inhibits the growth of certain food-born bacteria such as E. coli.

These enzymes are heat sensitive. A temperature of 40 degrees and above destroys them, thus causing the loss of their health benefits.

Many consumers, and unfortunately, unknowledgeable beekeepers, believe and vehemently argue that honey crystallization is a sign of honey adulteration with sugar and corn syrup. This misbelief has become widespread in our society. In fact, honey adulteration can only be detected by laboratory tests. Honey crystallization on the other hand, is a natural process that occurs due to many factors such as the nectar source, the ratio of different sugars found in honey and the presence of sediments that might stay in honey after honey extraction which helps initiate the process.

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honey