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.

Red Peppers

Day one

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.

Roasting Red Peppers

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.

Roasting Red Peppers

Roast peppers on all sides.

Ajvar, preparation

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.

Day Two

Ajvar, preparation

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.

Ajvar, preparation

De-seed the peeled peppers. Do not wash them! The juices and the most of the good taste will come off! Be patient :)

Ajvar, preparation

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.

Ajvar, preparation

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, preparation

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.

Ajvar, preparation

This is the texture after two hours of cooking.

Ajvar, preparation

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.

Ajvar, preparation

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.

Ajvar, preparation

Pour finished ajvar into hot jars. Jars should be placed onto some wooden board to prevent the cracking.

Ajvar, preparation

Heat oven to 70°C. Turn it off and then place filled jars inside. Leave it like that overnight.

Day Three

Ajvar, preparation

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.

Serbian Sandwich

Ajvar is usually eaten as a spread, over a slice of bread. But, really, possibilities are endless.

Ajvar Salad

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.

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  • Casa de vainilla September 19, 2010 3:03 pm

    Nista lepse od domaceg ajvara :) Ova fotka pecenih paprika ce me proganjati nocas :)))

  • Kalyn September 19, 2010 3:04 pm

    Fantastic post! I've had the purchased version of this and loved it, but of course the traditionally made type is sure to be much better. I loved seeing how it's done in your family.

  • SUEB0B September 19, 2010 3:08 pm

    Ajvar is one of my favorite things on earth, but I have never had it homemade. This looks wonderful.

  • Wandering Chopsticks September 19, 2010 3:21 pm

    Reading this whole process was so interesting. I wish I could taste it now. And the wooden stove is kind of cool since I've never seen anything like it before.

  • Olga @ MangoTomato September 19, 2010 3:52 pm

    I love it!!! I've never made it myself, but definitely eat it out of a jar. Great on sandwiches, in pasta, or even added to soups.

  • Isabelle September 19, 2010 3:58 pm

    Wow… what a beautiful post. The photos capture the process perfectly, and I can practically taste the red pepper from here! I will have to try making ajvar before the summer is over.

  • Bibberche September 19, 2010 4:21 pm

    Odličan post, Marija! Sada mogu svakoga da uputim na tvoj blog, kad pitaju za ajvar! Malo sam nostalgična, jer nisam tamo sad kad je sezona. Mogu samo da zamislim taj miris, kad se paprika peče u velikim količinama.Da, ta zimska salata od ajvara sa belim lukom je odlična. Moja mama zato nikad nije stavljala beli luk u ajvar, samo so.Baš si me dirnula:)

  • Maria September 19, 2010 4:41 pm

    I bought that thing in a jar, I think it was a Bulgarian import. I loved it. I didn't realize there is so much involved into making this.BTW, I love your blog.

  • Tina V. September 19, 2010 5:06 pm

    Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! :)U stanu nema uslova za pravljenje ajvara :(

  • Tina V. September 19, 2010 5:13 pm

    BTW, kuca je medena! :)

  • maslinka September 19, 2010 11:18 pm

    Predivan ajvar i tako lepe i carobne fotkice :)

  • Inmaculada (Adi) September 20, 2010 12:16 am

    This is great¡¡ wonderful post and wonderful recipe… many thanks for sharing.Never tried Ajvar, but I think I will make it soon, it really looks fantastic and you´re right, possibilities are endless.Mt best wishes from Mallorca, Spain.

  • Rosa’s Yummy Yums September 20, 2010 12:50 am

    That is one of my favorite pastes/sauces.Cheers,Rosa

  • DUSBAHCESI September 20, 2010 1:03 am

    Wooow! This is looking very delicious! I love the combination of red paprika and eggplants. I Turkey we eat also a lot roasted red peppers and eggplants. Great post!

  • Jaisy James September 20, 2010 1:53 am

    looks nice

  • Mare September 20, 2010 2:18 am

    odlicne fotografije i objasnjenje.ajvar radim slicno ali izbjegavam konzervanse. ove godine jos nisam radila, bas zato jer mi je nedostajalo vremena. ali obicno uzimam pola kolicine koju si ti uzela :). bas si bila marljiva :)))

  • Anonymous September 20, 2010 2:21 am

    Predivne slike,sve tako lepo objasnjeno,svaka cast.

  • Dilajla September 20, 2010 2:39 am

    Odličan ,dugo nisam jela pravi domaći ajvar,svaka čast.

  • Ginger Cookies September 20, 2010 4:43 am

    Страхотно , прекрасни снимки и много вкусна рецепта ! :)Поздрави от България ! :)

  • Snježa September 20, 2010 5:56 am

    Ovo je pravi ajvar od pečenih paprika i patlidžana. Mi smo uvijek ovako radili bez dodavanja konzervansa. U današnje vrijeme često se radi ajvar od kuhanih paprika i patlidžana koji je isto dobar ali ovome nije ni do koljena.Prekrasno sve, majstorice!

  • Nate @ House of Annie September 20, 2010 7:30 am

    You got my vote! Cheers and aloha.

  • Miroslav September 20, 2010 10:19 am

    Kao i po obicaju FANTASTICAN post i jos lepse fotografije! Jako mi je drago da sa drugima delis nasa tradicionalna Srpska jela. Za vas trud i odlican blogg na mome vas ceka jedna nagrada.Puno pozdrava!

  • Foodessa September 20, 2010 11:44 am

    I usually buy this in a jar and enjoy it very much…especially when I see how much work is involved. I admit that if I'd have more time I would follow your amazing recipe. Very well done and enjoyed your post very much ;o)Flavourful wishes,Claudia

  • Boabe de Cafea September 20, 2010 11:46 am

    This looks like Romanian "zacusca". The only difference is that we put also onion.Good luck with the contest!

  • Andrea September 20, 2010 12:29 pm

    Ajme kakav savršen post popraćen savršenim fotografijama. Fascinira me ovaj starinski način izrade ajvara. Sama ga nikad nisam radila, a i nemam uvjete za to ipak znam da ovom ajvaru ništa nije ravno. :)

  • Nale September 20, 2010 12:51 pm

    Odlično dočaran utisak koji priprema ajvara donosi. To je glavni razglog zašto ga redovno pripremam. Ima tu neke neobične priče i sam miris paprika je nešto što oplemenjuje dane kada se prirpema zimnica:)

  • jacobskitchen September 20, 2010 4:31 pm

    Great post! I voted for you! =) Good luck! Check out my post:

  • Dragana September 20, 2010 10:37 pm

    Wonderful post Marija! I have tried to make it with red bell peppers but the flavor of the ajvar is not the same as the imported one. Do you know the biological name of the peppers you used? I would love to buy a few seeds and grow them here in Texas. Thanks again.

  • Joanne September 21, 2010 4:38 am

    This sounds like one delicious, multi-purpose spread! I love roasted red peppers and think it would be so great to have this on hand all through the winter!Thanks for stopping by my blog! I voted for you on foodbuzz as well!

  • Kety September 21, 2010 4:49 am

    Odličan ti je recept a spravljanje istog na tako klasičan domaći način je i neprocijenjivo vrijedan. Ja sam oduševljena i pravi ljubitelj ajvara!

  • Lori Lynn September 21, 2010 5:35 am

    I love this stuff! I buy it from my Croatian butcher, but I have never made it myself. I'll have to give that a try!Fabulous photos. Good luck! You got my vote!LL

  • Liv Wan September 21, 2010 6:01 am

    Hello, I voted for you. I love your blog and the photos are so cool. I wish you all the best and good luck. :D

  • Jason’s BBQ Adventures September 21, 2010 6:15 am

    Fantastic recipe! Love how you documented the process, made it seem so simple even though there is a lot of work involved. I am going to have to try this sometime.

  • Lindsay September 21, 2010 7:34 am

    Wow! That is all I can say, just wow! I just gave you a vote! You can check out my post here: Thanks and Good luck!!

  • September 21, 2010 9:01 am

    Love this. Personal, looks amazing, and what wonderful pictures and instructions. Voted for you on Sunday. Good luck!

  • Julie September 21, 2010 11:54 am

    Fascinating! I wish I had a summer kitchen…

  • Paula September 21, 2010 8:59 pm

    I love Ajvar, and now I know how to make it! Do you know how to make traditional kajmak?

  • Marija September 21, 2010 11:07 pm

    Paula, kajmak is made by collecting milk skin. You need fresh, unprocessed milk, just milked from the cow.

  • farida September 22, 2010 10:22 am

    What a fantastic blog, Marija! I absolutely loved the idea of ajvar. It is something between the eggplant caviar and the hor red pepper spread we make in Azerbaijan, but still different. I am saving the recipe! And voting for you all the way!

  • liisamarja September 22, 2010 11:32 am

    oh-oh-oh, i love ajvar… i have made some at home but the recipe was a lot simpler. also, i made mine of regular bell peppers and they really don't taste like the ones you were using. great pictures!

  • Diana Bauman September 22, 2010 4:43 pm

    Marija, I'm SO glad you posted this. I made Ajvar last year but I adored seeing how your family has been making it for generations! I do have a question, how do you get the jars to seal? Are you using regular canning jars with lids and bands? Does the heat make the lids pop? Thanks so much for this Marija, I ADORE your blog and voted for you!!!

  • riceandwheat September 22, 2010 4:49 pm

    Great post and photos – voted! I'm excited to learn some Serbian recipes from you. Good luck in PFB!

  • Adelina September 22, 2010 10:15 pm

    I am Armenian and we make something similar to this. I am so glad to come across your post!

  • Valérie September 23, 2010 1:28 am

    Délicieusement et magnifiquement bien réalisé… je suis conquiseJe te souhaite un très beau jeudiValérie

  • Life on Nanchang Lu September 23, 2010 7:34 am

    Hi marija!I loved reading every bit of this. So interesting, and beautiful photos. The best part of this PFB is finding wonderful blogs!All the best, Fiona

  • LA / nodecaf September 23, 2010 9:38 am

    Thank you, thank you for this post. I love Ajvar but have only tried to make it a few times, and then it came out a bit watery. With your tips and tricks, (meat grinder – not food processor!), I am sure this years batch will be perfect. I LOVE your blog, it helps keep us Serbs that are scattered world wide connected to our roots. Thank you. (And YES I voted!)

  • Lick My Spoon September 23, 2010 5:38 pm

    this is a beautiful post. it is very thoughtful and delicious :) thank you for sharing. you got my vote!Lick My Spoon

  • Ana Powell September 24, 2010 6:14 am

    Wow, well done.What a great post.Terrific work ♥

  • stefania September 29, 2010 8:18 am

    Bellissimo questo post, grazie :)

  • Bucatareli la borcan September 30, 2010 6:29 am

    I am Romanian and I have just discovered your blog. I am really impressed of it, because you have so interesting recipes and astonishing pictures. I am a fan already. The Romanian version of Ajvar is called ”zacusca”. We usually make it the same way as you, Serbian people, cook it, but sometimes we add mushrooms, beans and even fish.

  • Jessica October 4, 2010 6:24 am

    Mmm, what a lovely post–all your photos are beautiful! We spent this last weekend making Ajvar here in Skopje…now we know it's fall!

  • CakeDesign by MariMilo October 7, 2010 4:32 pm

    volim ajvar i to naravno domaci. Medjutim nissam ga jela gotovo 5 godina.Svakako cu poruciti mami da mi ostavi neku teglu jer ona to svake godine pravi

  • mihailo November 16, 2010 11:07 pm

    my mom makes this using red bell peppers and no egg plant i think its way better without the eggplant,spread on bread top with crumbled feta cheese

  • Natalie Morton April 20, 2011 3:58 pm

    I love Ajvar-my parents are from Macedonia and we make it often! Love you blog as well.

  • Bellatrix November 15, 2011 11:13 am

    Just beautiful! My boyfriend taught me to make Ajvar and I absolutely love it. I would like to get seeds for the traditional variety of pepper used. Do you know of a source of seeds for “the elephant ear” pepper variety? What is the Serbian word for “the elephant ear”? Such a lovely pepper. Thanks for posting such a wonderful blog.

    • Marija November 15, 2011 1:06 pm

      Here is the only link I could find for sale. You could try contacting them and asking for the Latin name.

  • Tatjana January 24, 2012 5:22 pm

    Divno ne moze biti ljepse objasnjeno a fotografije tek veoma fascinantno ,svaka cast .Uradili ste savrsen posao
    Srecno .

    • Marija January 26, 2012 12:47 am

      Hvala Tatjana!

  • Laura February 8, 2012 11:28 am

    I made ajvar this fall. Our traditional (Romanian) recipe also calls for onions, tomatoes or tomato juice and sometimes bay leaves, in addition to the peppers and eggplant. Of course I remember it tasting much better when I live back home, but the ingredients were probably fresher and grown differently. You have a great blog! I enjoy your recipes.

  • Robbie April 15, 2012 1:14 am

    I just bough my first jar of Ajvar……..found it in a fruit shop. It is so delicious and am thinking of ways to use it. Loved the directions on how to make it and will have a go one day soon……..Thank you!

  • Sissi October 11, 2012 6:01 am

    Hi, Marija. You have a wonderful blog! I wanted to thank you very much for this helpful post and very practical tips I used making my very first ajvar this year. I haven’t preserved it (I keep in the fridge) because the batch was rather small, but I will do it next year certainly because it is fabulous. Thank you again!

  • Myriam February 19, 2013 12:51 pm

    Waoouh. I can almost taste it! What a beautiful family affair. Love it! Great pictures and cool blog. Thanks!

    • Marija February 19, 2013 1:42 pm

      Thank you Myriam for the kind words :)

  • Milana May 30, 2013 5:10 pm

    Just found this blog. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes, many of which I could not find anywhere else. I will definately try the ajvar recipe. Also shnenokle – while my Mom was alive, she made it often for me as it is my favorite and now I have the recipe!

    • Marija May 30, 2013 5:20 pm

      i am so happy you found so many recipes you like! Please let me know if you make something how it turned out :)

  • Sondi Hardy September 23, 2013 8:45 pm

    Do you add any other vegetables besides eggplant and red pepper? Any Onion or garlic? Lemon juice?

    • Marija September 24, 2013 10:59 am

      No onion or lemon juice. You might add a few cloves of garlic at the end of cooking just for the taste.

    • Sondi Hardy September 24, 2013 11:01 pm

      Thank you very much for the reply

  • Lenka August 29, 2014 7:05 pm

    This is a wonderful post and very insightful, but I think it should be noted that this is actually pindjur, a variant, and that ajvar is made with just red peppers.

    • Marija August 29, 2014 7:11 pm

      Nope, pinđur is tomatoes and peppers, eggplant might be added also depending on the region. :wink:

  • Jasmin November 6, 2014 10:07 pm

    I love ajvar! It is the most tasteful spread I know of, and I make it each year – no exception… You wrote perfect “how to make ajvar” post…

    • Marija November 6, 2014 10:25 pm

      Thank you Jasmin! I am very happy that you loved it :)

  • Laine June 11, 2015 9:13 pm

    Thankyou for such a wonderful history lesson! My Great, Grandmother & Mother were gardeners & canned (Mayflower English) their “pepper jam” so different but wonderful, I’ve been on a mission to locate it! But I discovered you from watching “The Chew” today, Daphne Oz did a “Forcaccia Roasted Veg Sandwich” with basil pesto on one side & “Ajvar” spread on the other…she explained her Mother-in-Law & Sister-In-Law make “buckets” of it & can. They are Serbian as well…its on Chew website which names it in the sandwich recipe…of course I did my “P” search & I’m ecstatic I found you & your brilliant blog….if I’m not incorrect, “the Elephant Ear Reds” started being in our FL Markets a couple years ago…I so hope they are. THX again too!

  • Karli July 3, 2015 7:04 pm

    My husband and I tried ajvar for the first time last weekend at a Bosnian restaurant, Drina Daisy, in Astoria, Wa. We were looking up recipes the minute we were back in the hotel! Your post not only provides an awesome, authentic recipe to try, but a sense of culture and history to go with it. Beautifully done!

    • Marija July 16, 2015 12:25 pm

      Thank you very much Karli!

      I am very happy you liked ajvar. Hope you will try even more Balkan food, it is delicious! :)

  • Urszula August 19, 2015 12:25 pm

    This year he intends for the first time to do ajvar independently. Your provision enraptured me!

  • Metodij September 16, 2015 12:14 am

    I am actually in the process of making about a years worth of Ajvar as we speak. I’m glad I came across this. We don’t use eggplant, just pepper, but I like it both ways.

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