Introduction: Ajvar: Balkan Pepper Spread!
There as many ways to make Ajvar as their are mountain valleys in Eastern Europe. Ajvar is originally a Turkish dish. This method comes from Sarajevo. It is delicious on bread, crackers and toast.
The best is to use sweet peppers, aka Cubanelle peppers, Itallian peppers or Banana peppers. The color of the peppers make no difference in taste of Ajvar, but it does make a difference in color.
I grocery bag, approximately 5 pounds of peppers, yields one pint of Ajvar.
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
Wash the peppers, dry them and put them on cookie sheets.
Step 1: Roast the Peppers
Stick the peppers in the oven to roast. When they start to blacken on one side (15 minutes), flip them over and let them finish roasting. They are done when they are a bit dessicated and blackened. Be careful not to burn them!
Step 2: Steam the Skins Off
Put the hot roasted peppers into a pot with a tight-fitting lid to steam the skins off. This can also be done with a plastic bag, but not recommended. The steam escaping from the hot peppers will make the skins come off easily. Keep covered for at least 10-15 minutes, but it makes sense to let them cool down completely, since the next step is peeling!
Step 3: Peel the Pepper Skins/Clean the Seeds
This is probably the most challenging step of the entire process. Skins and seeds need to be separated from the sweet pepper flesh. The most efficient way to do this is to take the seeds out before peeling the pepper. Open the pepper lengthwise, locate strings that seeds are attached to and pull them off. Most seeds should come off this way. Clean the rest using your fingers. Once all the seeds are cleaned off the pepper, peel the skin off.
It takes about 45 minutes to clean 5 pounds of peppers. As you can see on the image, discards constitute almost half of the entire quantity. Drain the juice from the pepper flesh - may be used to add flavor to sauces, over mashed potatoes or in hummus.
Step 4: Discards
Put the skins, stems and seeds in your compost or worm bin, or feed them to chickens (chickens love bell pepper skins!).
Step 5: Stopping Point, If You Want
If you want to make the Ajvar later, put the peppers in a freezer bag and freeze them. When you are ready to make Ajvar, defrost the peppers in a bowl, pouring out the excess liquid.
Step 6: Blend/Process the Peppers to a Mush
Put the peppers in the Blender/Food Processor and turn into a mush.
Step 7: Cook the Ajvar Down
Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, and pour the pepper mush into it. Cook slowly on a low heat, adding more oil. For 5 pounds of peppers, it takes about 2/3 of a cup of oil or more. It takes about 45 minutes to cook the peppers to make Ajvar. You will know it is done because they Ajvar parts like the Red Sea (stays separated). It also changes the color slightly - it turns lighter than original pepper mush. You may add salt, but not necessary.
Step 8: Put in a Jar and Cool
Put the Ajvar into a jar or a tub and let it cool down. Store in the fridge and eat fast. It should keep for about month. Ajvar is enjoyed on bread, toast, and crackers!
Making Ajvar takes time and patience. Enjoy slowly and honor hard work put into making this delightful spread!