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If you want to improve store ajvar (famous Balkan roasted eggplant and roasted red pepper spread) , or you want to make it the easy way, today we'll cover the quickest way to make ajvar without having to do it from scratch. I call it cheat ajvar. 

Cheat Ajvar

  • Author: Balkan Lunch Box
  • Category: Side Dish

Scale

Ingredients

  • AJVAR:
  • 35 jars of store ajvar (approximately 25-ounces + per jar)
  • 35 eggplants (medium to large sized)
  • 23 cups vegetable oil (approximately)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • (Optional) 1 teaspoon salt
  • (Optional) 1-2 chili peppers
  • JARRING:
  • 12 cups vegetable oil
  • EQUIPMENT:
  • Several jars with lids
  • Large pot
  • Foil

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 480°F.
  2. Thoroughly wash, then pat dry whole eggplants. Cover a baking sheet with foil (or the rack itself if you don’t have a baking sheet), and line it with eggplants. Roast for approximately 40-45 minutes, turning them around about halfway (don’t be overly concerned with time, instead, watch that eggplants are roasted, but not burned). When done the eggplants will “raise” their skin, and will have a few brown-black patches. They’ll be soft and moist.
  3. Take out and place in a large bowl. Cover with a plastic bag, and leave to cool.
  4. Peel each eggplant by cutting off the eggplant stem and discarding it. Then use a knife to take off its skin and black dots that formed while roasting while keeping as much meat and seeds in tact as possible.
  5. Transfer to a cutting board and mince, keeping all juices. (Alternatively use a meat grinder.)
  6. Take a large pot that will fit in all ingredients and still have a few empty inches on top. Fill it with oil the thickness of one finger. Warm up the oil until really hot on high, and add eggplant. Stir eggplant in really well, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir frequently.
  7. Bring down the temperature to low and add ajvar from the jars to the pot. Stir well. Cook for the following 1.5-2 hours on low.
  8. The ingredients will essentially be boiling most of the time, and the air bubbles will be coming out. It’s imperative to continue stirring ajvar throughout the entire cooking time, that’s every few minutes, to prevent burning. You will also be adding about 2-3 cups of oil to the pan throughout the cooking process, a few tablespoons at a time (every fifteen minutes or so). Stirring is a tedious process, but if you skip it, your entire effort will be wasted. Basically, as you are stirring ajvar, you are making sure it’s not burning, and you’re adding some oil at regular intervals while stirring.
  9. (If you are adding chilis, mince them and add at the beginning.)
  10. At the very end of cooking, add in sugar, and (optionally) salt. You can taste ajvar to see if it needs more of each, but make sure not to burn yourself.
  11. Meanwhile, heat oven to 250°F. Wash several jars in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Pat dry. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Warm them up for fifteen minutes. This will sterilize them.
  12. Once the jars are hot, and the ajvar is turned off (it’s still extremely hot so be careful) you’ll be transferring hot ajvar to hot jars. Use thick kitchen mittens to pick up jars to protect your hands and fingers. Be very careful while you transfer ajvar into jars. Do jars one by one, and fill each up to the top, leaving the part where the ridges empty (so fill up almost to the top, leaving the top portion empty).
  13. After you’ve filled up a jar, take a spoon, and press ajvar all the way into the jar, making sure there are no air bubbles left in the jar. Air is what makes ajvar go bad, so do not skip this step. Do it meticulously and do it for every jar.
  14. When all the jars have been filled up, place them on a baking sheet and return to the warm, but turned off oven, without lids. It’s best if they’re left overnight, or at least several hours. A crust will form on the top of ajvar in each jar. The crust is basically ajvar that’s hardened and darkened. This will be a thin but hard layer. At this point, take out the jars, pour a few tablespoons of oil on top of the crust in each jar, and screw lids on tightly.
  15. Keep ajvar in a dark and cool place. After you open each jar, keep in the fridge. (As you open a jar of ajvar for the first time, first pour out the oil that was on top, stir the ajvar in the jar, and then use it.)
  16. Ajvar can last several months.

Notes

Ratio: 1 eggplant per 1 (25ounce+) jar of ajvar.
(Optional) Before serving, mince in a garlic clove for an even better taste.
If you’re cooking on a gas stove, be mindful that ajvar make take less time. Look for the deeper orange hue and creaminess. You want to end cooking before it becomes darker.
VARIATIONS:
Gluten-Free: for a gluten-free version ensure you are buying gluten-free ajvar from the store. The remaining ingredients are gluten-free.

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