Fruit or Vegetable Preserves - Romania
Merdenchi is a product made after an old recipe, passed down through generations, that uses as its base partially fermented grape juice (stum) with no added sugars, preservatives or pectins. The production area is the Vrancea region of Romania, just outside of the Carpathian curve. The fresh grape stum is placed in large pots over the open fire. It is then slowly boiled, stirring constantly to avoid burning. After it reaches an even jam-like consistency, it is removed from the fire and placed into glass jars. The jars are then kept overnight between covers. After the jars cool, they are then placed in cellars or other rooms with a constant, cool temperature.
Merdenchi can be used as a jam and spread over bread, as a syrup if diluted with water, as a sweetener for teas, in making of different creams used for crepes or cakes and as an accompaniment for different types of cheeses.
Along with agurida, merdenchi is a culinary treat of the winemakers because of its special, delicate taste.
The history of merdenchi is closely linked to the history of the vineyards from the Vrancea region. This part of Romania was once famous because of the excellent quality of the wines produced there. The former rulers of Romania considered the wine that originated from the area of great value. Merdenchi was another way to make use of the local grape variety. It was considered a specialty, and the elderly used to gather around the fires that burned underneath the pots with the fresh grape must with great anticipation for the final product; it was more than the processing of food, it was a time of socialization that brought the community closer together.
Merdenchi is made mainly for home consumption, but has a great economic potential as a traditional specialty product to be sold at local markets. It is a product at risk of disappearing for various reasons, one of which is the loss of the local, traditional grapevine variety that faces competition from cheaper wines. The recipe also risks being lost with the last generation who once regularly made merdenchi.