Black halva (Samani halva)

This is a traditional halva-type sweet distinguished by its brown-black color, which results from the use of wheat sprout juice.The seeds of local wheat varieties are germinated in a tray for 15-20 days, and then chopped and squeezed through gauze. The juice is mixed with whole-wheat flour (made from local wheat, milled in a watermill) and the mixture is cooked in a copper container: An equivalent amount of baked butter (made from local cow’s milk yogurt in a traditional swinging wooden device) is added, and everything is boiled for 10 hours, being constantly stirred with a long-handled wooden paddle. Spices (cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cardamom) are added one by one while stirring. Then the mass is cooled and local multiflower honey or sherbet (sugar syrup) and a mix of smashed hazelnuts and walnuts are added. The cooled mass is shaped by hand into balls or flattened egg shapes, which are rolled in sugar to prevent them sticking to one another. Black khalva is consumed as a sweet with tea. It can be stored in a dry, cool place for up to 2 years.

Traditionally, black khalva was produced once a year, exclusively for the spring holiday of Novruz, in the mountain villages of Damirchi (Shamakhi district) and Lahij (Ismayilli district). This family tradition is believed to be rooted in the Zoroastrian religious tradition of growing wheatgrass for Novruz. Each family produces black halve for their own consumption and to give as a gift. Despite the evident increase in tourism in Damirchi village, just a couple of families produce black khalva to sell year round in markets and specialized shops in the touristic areas. Several others produce it only for known customers, and exclusively via a 3-week pre-order (due to the time demands of the recipe).