Saturday, April 18, 2015

Seer Torshi -- Persian Pickled Garlic!

This is a case of blogger imitating blogger.  My daughter shared with me a food blog post about pickled garlic:  the traditional slow way (takes about 7 years) and the "quick and dirty" way (takes 3 months to 1 year).  I was intrigued. 

My internet research indicates this is a popular technique for preserving vegetables.  See "Tursu" in Wikipedia:  "The pickled vegetables of the cuisines of many Balkan and Middle East countries.  The word torshi comes from torsch, which means 'sour' in the Iranian languages."  I strongly suspect it is an old, old technique since, when you get down to the basics, it really only needs a clean container, garlic, white vinegar, salt, and honey.  And a lot of time!

The idea is to fill your container with garlic heads or cloves, unpeeled, then surround it with vinegar in which honey and salt have been dissolved.  Put a weight on top to keep the garlic submerged and let the mixture ferment for a week or so.  This softens the garlic and causes it to sink, so you remove the weight, top it off with vinegar, cover it, and let it sit in a cool, dark spot for 1 to 7 years.

This website, Novel Adventures, recounts a story of a person who was offered a taste from the family stash of seer torshi:  "My mother-in-law explained the condiment's origins.  Her grandmother had made the seer torshi forty years earlier, and every time the family ate it, they could feel her presence with them."

Forty years and more!  What a way to remind your family of you long after you are gone.

I decided to try the fast method to seer torshi, as per's recipe.

Method 2:  "Quick and dirty" Seer Torshi (1 pint batch)

4 - 6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 2 pint mason jar
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
That's all, Folks!
  • Split heads into individual cloves but do not peel them.
  • Add garlic and white vinegar to a stainless steel pot and heat uncovered on medium-high until simmering.  Add salt and honey and simmer for an additional 5 mintues.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.  The garlic cloves will have softened somewhat but should still be fairly firm with their skins intact.
  • Pack the garlic cloves into pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar.  Add 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and then fill the jar with the cooled white vinegar mixture, leaving about an inch of headspace.
  • Unlike the traditional method, this garlic pickle should not ferment.  Also as that garlic is pre-cooked, it tends to sink in the brine and shouldn't need to be weighed down.  I imagine you could process the jar at this point to seal it -- I didn't bother.  Store in a cool, dark spot for a minimum of  3 months or up to 1 year.
My Notes

I made just one pint jar of this recipe as I only had 6 heads of garlic.

To sterilize my mason jar, I used the directions from Ready Nutrition:

Microwave Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 280 degrees Fahrenheit or 160 degrees Celsius.  The hot oven will be used to dry the jars once they have been sterilized in the microwave.
  2. Fill the jars halfway with cold water.  Place the jars in the microwave.  Depending on the size of the microwave, more than one jar can be sanitized at the same time.
  3. Heat jars in the microwave on high for around three minutes or until the water boils.   The boiling water will sanitize the inside of the jar.
  4. Place jars upside-down in the oven.  Allow the jars to drain and dry in the oven.  Once the jars have dried and are still hot, they will be ready to be filled with preserves and sealed.  Heating the jars allows them to expand so they will not break when filled with hot preserves.
Once the jar was done in the microwave (and the water definitely boiled as I found it all over the inside of the oven!), it sat in the regular oven until the cloves in vinegar had cooled.  I put the lid and band in the oven just to get them heated and possibly sterilized, too.

You can see a definite change in the garlic cloves before simmering
and after the simmering was through,

I used a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic cloves from the saucepan to the sterilized jar. 

The garlic did not float in the liquid, as the recipe specified.  I used almost all of the liquid in the saucepan to fill the jar.

After that, I sealing the jar with the band and lid.  Then I let it sit on the counter overnight before I put it away in the cupboard while it aged.  About a half hour after I sealed it, I heard a "pop" and noticed that the lid was pulled down -- a vacuum seal had been generated.

Not shaken or stirred
The Verdict

I don't know!  It certainly was easy to prepare.  I really liked not having to peel the garlic.  It didn't take long to simmer and it cooled down quickly enough that I got to bed on time.  I guess we will all have to check back on this blog in three months to a year.  I don't know how long I can actually wait!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lemon Chicken Stew -- North African Cuisine

The book from which this recipe comes is Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World, by Lilia Zaouali.

ISBN 978-0-520-26174-7
However, it is in the chapter on contemporary North African cuisine.  So while it is not terribly historical, it is from a region I wanted to explore.  And it looked good!

The medieval recipes are translated but unredacted and make for some interesting reading.  One I want to try some time soon is on page 65, "Marinated Olives with Thyme" and one I am dubious about trying is on page 64, "Fish Drowned in Grape Juice."  Yes, you take a live fish and immerse it in grape juice so it will "thrash about and swallow the juice until its body is filled with it."

Getting back to what I did do, I present to you (from page 148)

Lemon Chicken Stew

1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 medium (or three small) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 small lemons, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh parsley, leaves only, finely chopped

Moisten the best pieces of the chicken (thighs, wings, and breasts) with a tablespoon of the oil and season them with a pinch of salt, the cinnamon, and half the turmeric and white pepper.

Arrange the potato and onion slices in the bottom of a terrine.  Sprinkle them with salt and the rest of the turmeric and white pepper, and add enough water to cover them completely.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and mix well.  Arrange the chicken pieces on top along with the tomato and lemon slices.

Put the terrine into a preheated medium oven and cook for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken pieces from time to time.  Before serving, sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

My Notes

I used three pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, black pepper instead of white, two potatoes, half of the shown onion, and 1 1/2 of the shown lemons.  The parsley was skipped.

Instead of a terrine I used a round casserole dish.  The recipe did not say to cover the dish, so I didn't.
Filled to the brim and ready to cook
The oven was heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and it took 1 hour and 20 minutes to ensure the meat was cooked through.

I didn't turn the chicken much as the dish was very full and I worried about spilling and splashing.  Just a few times at the end to make sure the meat was cooked thoroughly.

The Verdict

Success!  This was quite good.  The tomatoes and lemons cooked to tender and started melting into the sauce around the meat.  I could taste the lemon juice in the sauce -- it made the sauce "sparkle" in flavor -- and yet the potatoes and onions were still robust enough to make this dish more than just chicken in sauce.

I was glad I sliced the lemons as thinly as I could as they get eaten (rind, white, and pulp) with everything else, adding a nice twist in flavor.  The turmeric makes the sauce an orangey-yellow and that is attractive against the other specks of spices and colors from the tomatoes and lemons.

A beautiful presentation
If I were to do this again, I would put in less water with the vegetables or perhaps use broth instead.  The rounded bottom of the casserole dish fooled me, I think, into putting in more water than I really needed to make a good sauce.  It did taste a little thin on flavor.

I would also use more spices than called for, especially salt.  This says a lot because I don't usually salt my foods.  My guest taster discovered that seasoned salt was a good enhancement and from that, I conclude that increasing the amount of cinnamon and pepper would be the right thing to do.  This could be because of too much water for the sauce but perhaps not.

The stew was perfect served with rice.  I would add a cucumber salad to it next time, too.

Dig down deep to get the onions and potatoes