Ajvar is a type of relish, made of red bell peppers with garlic. It may also contain eggplant and chilli peppers. It originates in the Serbian cuisine, and was therefore long called ‘Serbian salad’. It became a popular side dish throughout Yugoslavia after World War II and is nowadays popular in the Balkans.
Original homemade ajvar is made of roasted peppers, while some industrial producers use cooked peppers, which leads to a lower quality. Ajvar can be sweet, piquant or very hot. It is consumed as a bread spread or as a side dish.
The preparation of ajvar is sometimes difficult, as it involves a big amount of manual labour, especially when it comes to peeling the roasted peppers. It is traditionally prepared in mid-autumn, conserved in jars and consumed throughout the year. Although it is usually enjoyed as a winter food, because fresh salads emerge in the spring and replace ajvar.
Often the whole families and neighbors gather to bake the bell peppers, peel them and cook them.
The bell pepper and aubergines are roasted on a plate on an open fire, a plate of wood in a stove, or in an oven. The baked peppers rest in a closed dish to cool and to separate the flesh from the skin. Next, the skin and seeds are carefully removed. The peppers are then ground in a mill or chopped in tiny pieces. Finally, the mush is stewed for a couple of hours in large pots, with sunflower oil and garlic added, in order to condense and reduce the water. Salt is added in the end and the hot mush is poured directly into jars which are immediately sealed.