winter preserves

28-XII-2012 07:56:02

Traditionally, all the fruits and vegetables are seasonal, and to survive with all the vitamins etc, any decent house would stock winter preserves. As each fruit is picked, a variety of jam, pekmez (like jam but no pectin added, just some sugar and maybe lemon slices, and then it simmers until thick), slatko (like pekmez but with lots of sugar until it's almost syrupy) and/or juice are cooked. It's stored in glass jars, usually in a pantry (called špajz in most of the north, word borrowed from german where it means something else).

Vegetables are a different matter. Drying is rarely done, except for plums, which are a traditional Serbian export (but now, due to recolonization, you find argentinian imported dry plums in a grocery), and hot peppers. The rest goes into turšija, i.e. pickles, which is done via various recipes. The most popular thing is sour cabbage, of course. Next in popularity are the pickled cucumbers (which are called sour cucumbers, not pickles), and the recipe is surprisingly identical to what's sold in the US.

Next big thing are the bell peppers - green or red - which are prepared in a variety of ways. Hollowed out and filled with thinly sliced cabbage, then put in jars with some vinegar; fried on a hot plate (traditionally, on a wood stove) and then preserved in marinade of oil, vinegar and garlic; or boiled and ground with eggplant and then cooked into ajvar, pindžur or ljutenica (various similar recipes).

And then there's the mix of all the late fall vegetables - onions, cauliflower, green tomatoes, bell peppers, celery and whatnot, that's just left in salt water (vinegar optional) in a larger vessel, preferrably ceramic or glass, ready to eat in a few days.

Nowadays, some of these have become impractical to do at home, compared with the industrial stuff, which is not as bad as expected, and still not too expensive.