Gozinaki is a traditional Christmas and New Year’s treat from the country of Georgia. It is made with only walnuts, honey and sugar, resulting in a unique, nutty flavor.
During its 2020 election coverage, ABC News accidentally used images of voters from the country of Georgia, misidentifying them as people from Atlanta.
This caused a lot of posts online, with some people mocking the news outlet and a few posting that they didn’t even know there was a Georgia outside of the U.S.
In our family, we actually discuss Georgia the country way more often than the state, mostly because my sister-in-law’s husband is a Georgian—as in the eastern European kind.
My brother-in-law is really just a full Texan with a bit of a different accent now, but he does like to wax poetic about the food and culture of his home country.
So, as I was preparing to make treats for our family Christmas this year, it occurred to me that Georgia must have some special Christmas treats. As I researched, I discovered quite a few traditional dishes that looked way too difficult for me to accomplish, but then I stumbled on something that looked do-able: a walnut candy called gozinaki (pronounced go-zin-AH-key).
The recipe is deceptively simple with just three ingredients. The process of actually making it turned out to be pretty difficult, but the end result was a salty, only slightly sweet goodie for our Christmas table.
I tried the a recipe from the website “Georgian Recipes.” You can find the original post at https://georgianrecipes.net/2014/01/04/gozinaki-with-walnuts/. I didn’t change the ingredients, but I did convert items to U.S. Standard measurements and added a bit to the instructions to try to help you avoid some of the problems I had.
2 pounds shelled walnuts
12 heaping tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar
In a large, dry skillet, roast the walnuts over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until they’re warm and fragrant.
Remove the walnuts from the pan and chop them roughly.
Add the honey to your skillet and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the sugar and keep stirring until the mixture thickens (this took quite awhile for me—maybe 15 more minutes).
Pour in the walnuts, and stir until they are coated evenly.
Set up an area of your counter with a large piece of waxed paper.
Wet a wooden cutting board with water (wipe off any excess), and transfer about one cup of the walnut mixture to the board. With your hands (wet them first) or a metal spoon, press the mixture together firmly while shaping it into a rectangle shape.
Once the mixture is well compacted and shaped, take a sharp knife and cut the mixture into pieces (I did mine about two-inches long). Traditionally, it’s cut into diamond shapes, but cut it however you want for serving. (It will very likely fall apart a bit. Don’t let it frustrate you.)
Carefully transfer the cut pieces with a spatula to your waxed paper so they can set up.
Toss any pieces that came apart back into the pan and repeat until you have all of the gozinaki formed and cut.
Leave the gozinaki on your countertop until it’s fully set, and you can pick it up without it falling apart. (I left mine over night.) Store in an airtight container.
At our Christmas get-together, I put my plate of gozinaki on the treat table in the basement. I was upstairs when my sister- and brother-in-law arrived and went down to put presents under the tree. Not two minutes later, my brother-in-law bounded up the stairs, mouth full, and gave me a huge hug.
So if you’re wondering, this is a pretty good recipe, and I did manage to nail the flavor of traditional gozinaki.
Roasting the walnuts releases some of their oils and makes them have a deep, nutty flavor, and the use of honey and only a little sugar means that this is not overly sweet. The texture remains chewy, too. It was unlike any kind of Christmas treat I’ve ever had, but it is definitely worth trying.
Georgians also eat gozinaki around New Year’s, too, so you might want to mix up a batch as 2022 comes around the corner. It’ll be a treat and a geography lesson, all in one.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly recipe column by Lindsey Young, who describes herself as an enthusiastic amateur cook and can be reached through her website at spiceupkitchen.net.