Ajvar Recipe, Imotski, Croatia

DALMATIAN AJVAR RECIPE

CAPTURED BY 

THE RECIPE HUNTERS

IN CROATIA

The age of renaissance came into being because of technological advancements in every breadth of society. People were no longer forced to preoccupy themselves with surviving and were now allowed time to apply their inherent creativity to more the pleasurable aspects of life, such as music, art, theatre and cuisine. Thus transpired a metamorphosis of our senses…sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. The latter two were realized in food.

 

During the late 15th century explorers were in pursuit of, yes you guessed it, Spices...the holy grail of flavor. So lucrative and expensive during the age of renaissance that only the high elite could afford and enjoy such a luxury. Spices were brought through the perilous silk road from the Orient into Europe. Most famous among the spices was the black peppercorn or “pimienta.” 

 

Did you know that Columbus travelled across the ocean blue in search of spices? 

 

Columbus first stumbled upon the Bell Pepper Capsicum annuum in the West Indies during his first exploration of the new world in 1493. The Spanish dubbed them “Pimiento” after the black peppercorn and very soon after it’s introduction into Spain and Portugal, the Bell Pepper propagated itself through the hands of the Europeans. The Bell Pepper satisfied that craving for flavour, providing varying degrees of sweetness and spice! All throughout Europe the Bell Pepper flourished and was incorporated into each region’s cuisine. 

THE BELL PEPPER

& AJVAR

The Bell Pepper is a member of the Solanaceae, or nightshade family. Bell Peppers are one of the most nutrient rich vegetables; among those are Vitamin A & C, as well as folic acid. Bell Peppers become sweeter as they ripen, and turn from green to shades of yellow, orange and red. 

Before the first frost, bell peppers are harvested in large quantities and preserved to be consumed during the colder winter months. The Balkans in particular, are famous for preserving their peppers as a relish or sauce. Ajvar is a staple that can be found on any dinner table throughout the Balkans. Ajvar is eaten as a relish for meat, a side for fresh chevrè, a sauce for pasta, and an appetizer served with bread and crackers.  We travelled to a village in Imotski, Croatia, where we spent a summer day learning their family's Ajvar Recipe from Ana and her sister-in-law Marija, check it out below!

Makes 1 16 oz Jars.

Note: You can vary the recipe by subsitituting lemon juice for

the vinegar.

 

  1. Wash the Peppers

  2. Remove the green stems from the peppers, cut lengthwise in eights (if peppers are small, cut in forths); gut the inside of seeds and rinse.

  3. Cut the green stems off of the top of the eggplant, remove the skin. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into strips.

  4. In the deep frying pan, add the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, black peppercorn, bay leaves, chili pepper, 1 Tbsp of sunflower oil, and garlic cloves.

  5. Place on the stove over medium heat

  6. When the solvent begins to boil, add half of the peppers and cover. Let the peppers cook until they soften and can easily be pierced with a fork (approx 25 minutes).

  7. At this point remove the peppers from the liquid and set aside in a strainer. If the liquid begins to boil away add more water so that the peppers do not burn.

  8. Repeat step 7 with the second half of peppers.

  9. Add the eggplant to the solvent and let boil until the pulp is soft and yellow. At this point, remove from solvent and strain.

  10. Add one finger worth of vegetable or sunflower oil to the pan until the oil and heat over medium-low.

  11. While the oil is heating, grind the peppers and the eggplant through a meat grinder or tomato miller. Both of these are prefered to a food processor which will chop the eggplant seeds causing a bitter taste. 

  12. Once the oil is heated (it should spit upon adding any water or pepper), add the pepper and eggplant paste. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. 

  13. Keep over medium-low heat stirring occasionally.

  14. Salt to taste and enjoy your Ajvar, Made with Love. If you want to jar the Ajvar and give it to your friends and family, check out canning techniques here.

Recipe for Ajvar

  • 12 Large Red Bell Peppers

  • Small Eggplant

  • 900 mL Water

  • 100 mL of 5% vinegar 

  • 1 tsp. Salt

  • 1 tsp. Sugar or Honey

  • Vegetable or Sunflower Oil

  • Pinch Black Peppercorn

  • 1 Bay Leaf

  • 1-2 Chili Peppers

  • 4 Garlic Cloves

Ingredients for Ajvar

  • Deep Frying Pan or Wok

  • Meat Grinder or Tomato Miller (what you use to make tomoto sauce)

  • Strainer

Equipment for Ajvar

Love tip: If you like spicy feel free to add a jalapeño pepper to the red peppers. If you like sweet, add more vinegar or sugar in step 4.

AJVAR RECIPE BY PHOTOS

Eating Ajvar Recipe, Made with Love, Imotski, Croatia

14.

Salt to taste and enjoy your Ajvar, Made with Love. If you want to jar the Ajvar and give it to your friends and family, check out canning techniques here.

 

Written by The Recipe Hunters:

Leila Elamine and Anthony Morano

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