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Posted at 9:21 AM on December 5, 2008 by Autumn Long (5 Comments)
Okay kiddos, here is the recipe for homemade ajvar! I've basically just cut and pasted the recipe directly as my friend sent it to me.
14 oz oil
2-3 tablespoons wine vinegar (you can substitute other types of vinegar)
salt to taste
Rinse, dry and roast batches of peppers in the oven on a baking sheet at 450-500F. Make sure to turn them a couple of times, so that each one gets cooked all the way through. Place each roasted batch of peppers in a large pot or container with lid. Close the container tightly as soon as you put the peppers inside. (The purpose of this is to make the peppers' skins and seeds easier to peel, as they will steam themselves inside the container.)
Once the peppers cool off, peel their skins and seed them thoroughly. Put the peppers into a colander, so the excess juice can begin to drain. Next, as there is still a lot of juice, put the peppers into a sack or bag (we use a potato bag from the market) [note from Autumn: cheesecloth would work for this], and hang the bag to drip overnight. Draining the peppers overnight will shorten the cooking process, as there will be less liquid to evaporate.
The next day, the peppers should be ground using a manual meat grinder. [Note from Autumn: a food processor would probably work for this step]
As you grind the peppers, put them in a large pot that you'll use for cooking. (If you make huge amounts like us, our pot has a 2-foot diameter and is very deep.) The pot should be greased with a bit of oil. The 14 oz of oil should be heated almost to boiling and poured over the peppers. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes with the lid on the pot. After that, put the pot on the stove/fire and start cooking. Salt to taste should be added as you cook. (Make sure to cool off the samples you'll taste to see if it's salty enough.) Ajvar is traditionally cooked at a high temperature while stirring non-stop, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. It's usually made by a bunch of friends and family together (while sipping on some rakija - homemade plum brandy - and eating some smoked meat). It takes about 2.5 hours after it begins to boil for ajvar to cook down. For stirring, we use a long wooden spoon (it looks more like a wide stick than a spoon) with a flat bottom. A sign that the ajvar is thick enough is having a "clear track/path" as you scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pot.
When the ajvar is done, add vinegar, stir well, and put into hot, sterilized jars. (We heat the jars for 30 minutes in a 200F oven.) Use a small spoon to push the ajvar to the bottoms of the jars, pressing out any air bubbles. Leave about a half-inch of head space at the top of each jar. Put the jars back in the 200F oven for another 2 hours WITHOUT placing lids on the jars. Take them out and put the lids on, then cover the jars with a cloth/blanket until the next day. Store the ajvar in a dark, dry place. And, yes, please eat! After a three-day ordeal (which can be quite entertaining, if you are in good company), it's worth it!
NOTE: you may add some roasted eggplants with the peppers. The procedure is the same: roast the eggplants, peel off the skins and hard parts, and grind them with the peppers. Don't add too many, so that the ajvar keeps its red color.
Thank you so much, Irena, for sharing this traditional Serbian ajvar recipe with us! If anyone has questions about this recipe, please post them as comments to this post.
Actually, food processor won't be the best choice (we have it in our home), as the peppers will get too watery and will be completely mashed. You want to still keep some of the "texture".
Posted by Irena | December 5, 2008 10:05 PM
Thanks for the tip, Irena. I will definitely use my meat grinder for ajvar. Cheers!
Posted by Autumn Long | December 8, 2008 11:04 AM
Your Ajvar will be very different depending on what peppers you roast. My first choice is sweet paprika peppers although I often use sweet red bells. In my family, "Hot ajvar" has garlic in it, otherwise, it is "sweet ajvar." And I always add eggplant!
Posted by Judith | December 8, 2008 6:15 PM
Thanks for your comment, Judith. I was thinking that garlic could be a yummy addition to the mix; glad to hear it's not a totally outrageous idea. :-)
Happy local eating,
Posted by Autumn Long | December 9, 2008 9:37 AM
Yes, the traditional recipe calls for sweet peppers (they look exactly the same as Anaheim ones, but are completely sweet).When we spoted the Anaheim peppers on the farm where we went to pick the, we thought those are the sweets ones we were trying to find in the US forever. However, it all turned out well as we got the heat without having to add any chillis. As for the bell peppers, I like them only in stirfries with lots of seasoning. Plus, they are expensive (I never understood why).
Garlic? Hmm, well, why not give it a try! Now I'm hungry:-)
Posted by Irena | December 9, 2008 4:34 PM