Ajvar is Serbian traditional and one of the most loved red pepper preserves. It’s a lot of work and it takes days to prepare, so usually the whole family works together. In my opinion, ajvar is the king of preserves so, in the end, all the hard work most certainly pays of.
My family uses the following recipe for generations.
Take 30 kg ripe sweet red peppers. The species we use is called The elephant ear. They should be big, feel heavy in your hand and straight (this will ease the roasting and peeling). Wash and wipe them.
Traditionally, peppers are roasted on top of wooden stoves that were in a special “summer kitchen”. Summer kitchen is built separately from the main house to ease the cooking process to the housewives during summer.
Roast peppers on all sides.
Roasted pepper should be placed in a pot and covered. After each pot is filled to the top wrap it into sheet to preserve the heat. The peppers should be left like that overnight.
Before you start peeling each one should be cut at the top and the juice drained. Peel the peppers. After a whole night in the covered pots, skins should come off easily.
De-seed the peeled peppers. Do not wash them! The juices and the most of the good taste will come off! Be patient
Roast 5 kg eggplants in the oven. They should look like on the picture above. After they’re done, put them in pots and cover them. No need to wait too long, you should be able to peel them soon after. When all the peppers are peeled and de-seeded and eggplants peeled, grind everything using meat grinder.
Take a large pot, pour oil on the bottom (just enough to cover it) and put all the minced vegetables inside. Pour about 800 ml oil inside and stir everything.
Ajvar should be cooked for hours. Stir often so it doesn’t burn. You can test if it’s done by placing a small amount onto a plate. If there is liquid dropping when you turn the plate, it should be cooked more.
This is the texture after two hours of cooking.
When it’s nearly done, you should start heating the jars. On wooden stove, place them on the part that is farthest from the heat source. Jars need to be preheated so they don’t crack when you pour hot ajvar in them.
At the very end, season with two handfuls of salt. Taste and add more if you feel like it. Some people also like to put a couple of pressed garlic cloves and a teaspoon of white vinegar. Also, it is often made with a small amount of hot peppers to spice it up.
And just in case, add 5 g of sodium benzoate. This is not necessary but it will help to preserve ajvar during winter.
Pour finished ajvar into hot jars. Jars should be placed onto some wooden board to prevent the cracking.
Heat oven to 70°C. Turn it off and then place filled jars inside. Leave it like that overnight.
Heat some oil. Pour on top of each jar. In the old times, people used to melt pork fat and top the jars with that. Before they ate ajvar, they’d discard the fat. When using oil, you can discard it, or stir it into the rest of the ajvar before eating. It should be stored in a dark, cold and dry place and it can last like that the whole season. After you open a jar, you should keep it in the fridge.
Ajvar is usually eaten as a spread, over a slice of bread. But, really, possibilities are endless.
My father remembers that his grandparents used to make a salad by putting chopped garlic, some oil and white vinegar into ajvar. Tried it today for the first time and it’s delicious!
Note: This is my entry for the first challenge of Project Food Blog by Foodbuzz.