The Sultana grape is a white grape variety that is most often used as a grape to make raisins, which in turn are used as sweet snacks, extras in baking, cakes and desserts and also as a decorative element in several dishes.
It is one of the most commonly used dry fruits in several food items and desserts of the Middle East and near east, including Central Asia, India and some even in Europe, especially around the region of the Balkans.
The Sultana grape is also, but in very limited amounts, used as a winemaking grape in Turkey, where its wines are called the Sultaniye wine.
These wines are mostly dry and semi-light and light bodied, meaning they are mildly sweet with some nice fragrances to it, making these a good locally consumed wine.
The grape is historically old, although its exact dating cannot be yet established. Its usage, however, is credited to the Ottoman Empire that spread the grape’s word across Europe and at one point of time, even imported a large amount of its quantity to almost the entire English speaking world.
This is the reason why these raisins can also be found plentiful in the island country of Britain.
Origins of Sultana
The Sultana grape originated within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. Since Ottoman cuisine, or Turkish cuisine, is itself so heavily influenced by neighbouring Greek and Balkan cultures to the west and Iranian and some Arab influences to the east, the usage of raisins in desserts and several dishes became widespread a common thing.
Raisins today are put on almost everything that is sugary in Turkey, as well as its very common usage in Iran and Arab countries.
Sultana raisin also became popular in the rest of the world through the gigantic trade that Ottomans once commanded.
The grape, through imports, became a popular dry fruit in England, Australia, France and the rest of the world.
In the US, the grape became popular in the 19th century after several efforts by viticulturists. Here, the grape is called by its synonym, ‘Thompson seedless’, owing to the viticulturist William Thompson, who first introduced the grape into American California.
Today, it is one of the most widely cultivated grapes in Californian districts, the approximate cultivated area being almost 97% (as of 2000) of all of Californian raisins, while 1/3rd of the total grape cultivation being of this variety, making it one of the most widely planted grape varieties.
Uses of Sultana
Sultanas’ best use is in desserts and such items wherein some amount of raisins is never a bad thing. In the US, most raisins come from the Sultana grape and it is widely used in American items. A lot drying processes are applied, some of them being treatment with sulphur dioxide that give some of these raisins the golden-brown colour.
The rest are allowed to dry naturally which also gives it its characteristic golden colour.
There are also certain other Thompson grapes that are darker in colour; this is because of their different drying process, being dipped in solution of water, potassium carbonate and some vegetable oil that hastens the drying process and also gives the raisin its darker shade.
Raisins are also used in several other applications. They are eaten as simple snack in a lot of Asian countries (known as kishmish in these regions), as also used as an integral component in many dishes across the Middle East , Central Asia and south-east Asia.
Raisins are used in the traditional berry pilaf, which is a blend of rice with a lot of vegetables, some raisins, cooked with saffron. It is a common delicacy all the way from Iran to India.
Raisins are also put in several dairy products like yoghurt and ice creams. In India, these raisins are used to add a wide variety of milk desserts and cakes. Salads and cereals also use these grapes.
The ‘sultana bran’ in Australia is one common cereal and is also produced in the US, called here as raisin bran. Several supermarkets too use raisins to sell a wide variety of raisin products.
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