Ajvar (Аjвар in Cyrillic, which is pronounced [ˈajvar]) comes from the Turkish word havyar, which means "salted fish eggs". Sturgeon caviar was popular along the Danube until the end of the 19th century. Supply difficulties led Belgrade restaurants to gradually offer an alternative, red ajvar (or Serbian ajvar).
Ajvar is a traditional Serbian condiment which is mainly based on red pepper, chilli and garlic, sometimes with eggplant or tomatoes. It is traditionally prepared by hand in September and then stored and eaten throughout the year. Ajvar is usually served as a condiment or on bread, but also as an accompaniment, in salads, with pasta, rice and especially with the Serbian burger Pljeskavica as well as Kajmak (a cheese sauce).
It is native to southern Serbia and northern Macedonia. But it is widespread in all the countries of the former Yugoslavia. In fact, Serbian cuisine shares the same culinary bases as other countries in this region. This gastronomy gives pride of place to paprika, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, sauces and spicy minced meats. There is a sweet and a spicy version of ajvar with or without peppers.
There are two other similar preparations, the lutenica a spicier version and the Pindjur essentially based on tomatoes.
For a preparation bowl
Preparation : 30 min - Cooking time : 1-4 hours
6 red peppers
1 chopped clove of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
Squeezed lemon juice
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
Prepare a charcoal fire in your fireplace. Or if you don't have one, heat your oven on a grill at 480F.
Wash the peppers and eggplants thoroughly and dry them.
Preheat the cooking grate or baking tray for about 5 minutes. Oil the grill and then place the peppers on the hot side of the grill.
Turn them over so that their skin is toasted all over and take out the plate as soon as it is about even. This takes about 10-15 minutes on the grill and 40 minutes on the oven.
Transfer peppers to a large bowl, cover with a cloth and let stand until cold enough to handle.
Pierce the skin of the eggplant with a fork along its entire length. Place the eggplant on the cold side of the grill. Cover and cook until the skin darkens and wrinkles for about 15-20 minutes, then turn over for even cooking. Cooking time is 30-40 minutes for both sides, it should be tender when pressed with tongs.
Remove eggplant from grill and let stand until cold enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
Cut off the top of the eggplant and split it lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove the flesh from the eggplant; discard the skin.
Once the peppers are cold, remove their skin, stem and seeds by cutting them in half lengthwise. Place them on a colander so that they drain off their water.
Place the roasted red peppers, eggplant pulp and garlic in a blender. Pulse until coarsely chopped, but do not purée. You can also chop them finely with a knife to keep the pieces of vegetables.
Add very carefully the vinegar to your taste, quarter teaspoon by quarter teaspoon, salt to your taste taking into account that salt increases the taste of the vinegar.
Transfer the sauce to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding olive oil as needed. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and lemon. If the mixture is too much vinegar to your taste, you can rectify this with sugar.
Cool to room temperature then use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
After filling a jar, take a spoon and squeeze the ajvar to the bottom of the jar, making sure there are no air bubbles left in the jar. Air participates in the oxidation and therefore in the degradation of the Avjar. So do not neglect this step and do it carefully for each jar.
You can also put the jars back in a turned off but still hot oven and leave them overnight. A crust will form on the top that is a little black and hardened, which will help the preservation of your freshly prepared Avjar. Remove them and add a little olive oil on top of the crust. Screw the lids on and store the jars in a dark, cool place. Jars can be stored for several months like this.
You don't have to put them in the fridge if the jars are unopened. However, as soon as you open each jar, when you are not eating ajvar, it should be placed in the refrigerator.