Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Lutenitsa - the tastiest Balkan Preserve - Week 15 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project


This week we're dedicating a whole post to Lutenitsa, an incredibly tasty preserve that slightly different variations of are made all over the Balkans. If you successfully grow tomatoes, red peppers and aubergines or live in a region that does and can buy some in from a local food grower, then it's definitely worth the labour of love that it is to make some jars of the special stuff. One of the most important parts of getting the authentic taste is that the peppers are baked.  This can be done in the oven, but traditionally it is done on an outside fire and this adds a smoky quality to the condiment. A local friend popped in telling us emphatically to place a piece of metal on top of our fire to create a grill plate for faster baking. We ended up using both methods to roast our peppers.


Ingredients: (Makes about 12 jars of assorted sizes)

10kg red peppers

5 kg tomatoes

3 large Aubergines

8 medium sized carrots

1 apple

1 cup sunflower oil 

Seasoning - salt, black pepper, ground cumin and a little sugar to taste.


 

Method:

We have found it best to leave 2 full days free to make lutenitsa,  Day one for roasting the peppers and aubergines, peeling them and preparing the jars for preserving, and day two for mincing all the veggies up and cooking the Lutenitsa down.  This really works well, as the roasting process takes a while so it greatly reduces the stress factor in trying to achieve a lot in one day. Having said that, together with the ESC volunteer crew we were able to finish in a day, wrapping up late into the evening around 22.00 but still enjoying the warmth of the fire used to roast the peppers earlier in the day :)  Another tip is to take the freshly roasted peppers immediately from the grill and place them in a covered pot for at least 5 minutes.  Exposure to a little condensation makes them much easier to peel.

Once the peppers and aubergines have been roasted and we have boiled the carrots.  All the veggies and the tomatoes are ready to be minced.  Mince the tomatoes first and place them directly in the main cooking pot, which should be quite big. Start to cook them, stirring well. While you are doing this, your co-pilots can be mincing the peppers, aubergines and carrots ready to add next to the cooking pot. We have used a traditional meat mincing machine in the past but found this year a modern hand held electric blender worked just as well. If you use an electric blender, avoid blending too smoothly, it's nice to have a bit of texture to your lutenitsa, although ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

Using a meat mincer gives a thicker texture. Colour!

Add the minced or blended peppers, aubergines and carrots and cook on a medium heat, stirring all the time. After about an hour cooking add the finely chopped apple and oil. Keep cooking. In around another hour add seasoning to taste.  The Lutenitsa should be reducing well now. The sign that it is ready for jarring is when you can just about make a path through the sauce with your spoon and see the bottom of the pan.  Once you are at this stage, fill your clean and dry jars with the red heaven.  Seal cleanly.  Some folk just turn the jars upside down at this stage, but we always re-boil the sealed jars.  A friend of ours had her whole batch spoiled by missing this step, so submerging your sealed jars in water and bringing it to the boil for 10 mins is reassurance that this shouldn't happen.  And there you have it!



Thanks to Rushar for some of the photos used in this blog. You can check out the volunteer's personal blog here. Join us next week when we'll be showcasing some of the plants we have available this season in the Bionursery.


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