Ajvar (pronounced: /ˈvɑːr/; Cyrillic script: Ajвар, Aйвар) is a condiment made principally from sweet bell peppers and eggplants.[1] The relish became a popular side dish throughout Yugoslavia after World War II and is popular in Southeast Europe.

Ajvar with bread, garlic, pepper and salami
Region or stateBalkans
Main ingredientsCapsicum (bell peppers), oil, salt

Homemade ajvar is made of roasted peppers.[2] Depending on the capsaicin content in bell peppers and the amount of added chili peppers, it can be sweet (traditional), piquant (the most common), or very hot. Ajvar can be consumed as a bread spread or as a side dish. Ajvar has a few variations. One variation contains tomato and eggplant. Another is made with green bell peppers and oregano.

"Homemade Leskovac Ajvar" and "Macedonian Ajvar" are registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization in order to protect their brand names.[3]

Etymology and origin edit

The name ajvar comes from the Turkish word havyar, which means "salted roe, caviar" and shares an etymology with "caviar", coming from the Persian word "xaviyar".[4][5] Before the 20th century, significant local production of caviar occurred on the Danube, with sturgeon swimming from the Black Sea up to Belgrade.[6] Domestic ajvar, meaning "caviar,” used to be a very popular dish in Belgrade homes and restaurants,[7] but the domestic production of caviar became unsteady in the 1890s because of labor disputes. Eventually a special pepper salad was offered as a substitute in Belgrade restaurants under the name "red ajvar" (crveni ajvar) or "Serbian ajvar" (srpski ajvar).[8]

Preparation edit

Ajvar and other pickles in a home larder

Homemade ajvar is made of roasted, minced, and then cooked peppers, while some industrial producers use fresh minced peppers, cooked with sunflower oil afterwards, which leads to a lower quality. Ajvar preparation is somewhat difficult, because it requires considerable manual labour, particularly for peeling the roasted peppers. Traditionally, people prepare it in mid-autumn, when bell peppers are most abundant, and preserve it in glass jars for consumption throughout the year. Anecdotally, most households' stocks do not last until the spring, when fresh vegetables become available, so it is usually enjoyed as a winter food. Often, the whole family or neighbours gather to prepare the bell peppers. The traditional cultivar of pepper used is called roga (i.e. "horned"). Roga is large, red, horn-shaped, with thick flesh and relatively easy to peel. It typically ripens in late September.[citation needed]

To produce ajvar, bell peppers are roasted whole on a plate on an open fire,[9] a plate of wood in a stove, or in an oven. The baked peppers must briefly cool to allow the flesh to separate from the skin. Next, the skin is carefully peeled off and the seeds are removed. The peppers are then ground in a mill or chopped into tiny pieces (this variant is often referred to as pindjur). Finally, the resulting mash is stewed for several hours in large pots. Sunflower oil is added at this stage to condense and reduce the water, and to enhance later preservation. Salt (and sometimes vinegar) is added at the end and the hot mush is poured directly into sterilized glass jars, which are sealed immediately.[citation needed]

Production edit

Commercially made ajvar

Ajvar is produced in most Balkan countries, including Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia. Serbia's reported annual production is 640 tons.[10]

Ajvar is one of the so-called zimnica (winter foods), which include pickled chili peppers, pickled tomatoes, and anything else that can be preserved in a jar just before winter.

See also edit

  • Ljutenica – dish, a similar relish in Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Serbian cuisines
  • Pindjur – relish form, a similar relish in Bosnian, Macedonian, and Serbian cuisines
  • Zacuscă – Romanian-Moldovan dish, a similar relish in Romanian cuisine
  • Kyopolou – Bulgarian-Turkish dish, an eggplant-based relish in Bulgarian and Turkish cuisines
  • Malidzano, a similar relish in Macedonian cuisine
  • Biber salçası – Paste made from peppers or tomato and salt, originating in Turkey, a Turkish paste made from red peppers alone
  • Lecso – Hungarian dish, a similar Hungarian (also made in parts of Slovakia and Serbia) stewed red pepper, onion, and garlic dish
  • List of spreads
  • Achar – Pickled varieties of vegetable and fruit, a similar relish of Indo-European origin in South Asian cuisines

References edit

  1. ^ "How to Make Serbian Vegetarian "Caviar" or Ajvar". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Ajvar (Serbian Roasted Red Pepper Sauce) Recipe". www.seriouseats.com. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  3. ^ "How this traditional Balkan red pepper spread brings the neighbourhood together". Hindustan Times. 2017.
  4. ^ "Havyar".
  5. ^ Etimološki rečnik srpskog jezika I, 2003, s.v. ajvar
  6. ^ Josip Pančić (1860). Pisces Serbiae. p. 33.; Mihailo Petrović (1941). Đerdapski ribolov.
  7. ^ "Belgrade through the ages". 7. 1960: 61, 64. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Dušan J. Popović (1964). Beograd kroz vekove. pp. 93, 215, 241.
  8. ^ Malcolm Burr (1935). Slouch hat. p. 165.; Lovett Fielding Edwards (1954). Introducing Yugoslavia. p. 79.
  9. ^ "Making Ajvar". 16 July 2011. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Vegetable Industry in Serbia" (PDF). Serbia Investment and Export Promotion Agency.

External links edit