Found in: Turkish words and phrases
Ajvar is a relish made principally from red bell peppers, with eggplant, garlic and chili pepper. It is predominantly popular in the Balkans. Its origins are in southern Serbia and Republic of Macedonia where it is traditionally homemade. Grocery store ajvar is very popular in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Depending on capsaicin content in bell peppers and the amount of added chili peppers, it can be sweet, piquant (the most common), or very hot.
Ajvar can be consumed as a bread spread, a condiment or in a salad.
The name ajvar comes from the Turkish word havyar, which means "salted roe," and shares an etymology with caviar.
Preparation of ajvar is somewhat difficult, as it involves a great deal of manual labor, especially as regards the peeling of the cooked peppers. Traditionally, it is prepared in mid-autumn, when bell peppers are most abundant, conserved in glass jars, and consumed throughout the year . Often, the whole family or neighbours gather to bake the bell peppers, peel them, and cook them. The principal cultivar of pepper used is called roga it is large, red, horn-shaped, with thick flesh and relatively easy to peel. It typically ripens in late September.
In order to produce ajvar, bell peppers and eggplants are baked whole on a plate on an open fire, a plate of a wood in a stove, or in an oven. The baked peppers must briefly rest in a closed dish, to allow them to cool and to allow the flesh to separate from the skin. Next, the skin is carefully peeled off and seeds removed. The peppers are then ground in a mill or chopped in tiny pieces (this variant is often referred to as pindur). Finally, the mush is stewed for a couple of hours in large pots, with added sunflower oil and garlic, in order to condense and reduce the water, as well as to enhance later conservation. Salt (and sometimes also vinegar) is added at the end and the hot mush is poured directly into glass jars which are immediately sealed.
The best ajvar is produced domestically, as only the manual peeling and seed removal ensures clear taste without slightly bitter influence of the pepper skin. Industrial production is modest; reported annual Serbian production of ajvar is 640 tons.
Ajvar is part of the so-called "zimnica" (winter foods), which include pickled chili peppers, pickled tomatoes, and anything else that can fit in a jar that gets prepared just before winter.
Bakina tajna/Food land, Belgrade, Serbia
Medoprodukt, Tavankut, Serbia
Vipro, Gevgelija, Macedonia
Vitaminka, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Vegafruit, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Vitaminka, Prilep, Macedonia
PIK Becej, Serbia
Droga Kolinska, Slovenia
Zacusca, a similar relish in Romania
Biber salcasi, a Turkish spread made from red peppers alone