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"Less messy avjar" or ajvar from the oven

Last year I made ajvar for the first time in my own kitchen and completely alone. Of course, that meant that I also had to clean the ajvar mess alone and that's the experience I don't want to do again. The boiling ajvar was squirting everywhere, messing up half of the kitchen, including the ceiling. I really wasn't in the mood to clean everything again, not after all the pickling and cleaning I did this year, so I've decided to make the ajvar in the oven this year.

I made the small amount of the baked ajvar last year as the testing batch and it turned out my hubby preferred the baked ajvar over the cooked one. The baked ajvar is a bit darker and thicker than the cooked one, but the general taste is the same.

Oven-baked ajvar 2021

Pot cooked ajvar 2020

The ingredients for the oven-baked ajvar were completely the same as the "normal" ajvar:

  • 10 kilos(22lbs) of peppers
  • 3 kilos (6.6lbs)of eggplants
  • 2 spoons(soup spoon) of sugar
  • 2 spoons of salt
  • 0.5 - 0.7 liters (0.13-0.18 gallons) of oil
  • 4 spoons of vinegar
  • garlic powder
  • chili powder (optional)

The beginning of the process is the same as with the pot cooked ajvar. The peppers and eggplants are baked at 180°C (356°F) for 10-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the peppers. Once they are baked, they are placed in the pots and covered to fully cool down. 

After the peppers and eggplants cool down, they are peeled and left to completely drain in the colander. The draining of the peppers can be even better if we freeze the peppers after baking. It's enough to leave them in the freezer for 48h and then leave them in the colander. Once the peppers start defrosting they will let out even more water, making their flesh even drier and the Ajvar will bake easier.

Once the pepper and eggplant flesh is dry we mince it in the blender or meat grinder. The mixture of eggplants and peppers is then placed on the deep oven tray and mixed with oil. At first, I add only 1/3 of the oil and mix it with the mixture and the rest will be added later.

The first time ajvar can be covered with foil that has holes for the steam release, but later on, the mixture needs to be baked without the cover.
The tray is placed in the oven and set to 180°C (356°F) in a fan oven or 200°C (392°F) in a normal oven and baked.

This is the part which I love about oven-made ajvar. You can bake it as long as you like, turn the oven off, and just leave the tray in the oven until the next day when you continue baking it. In total it will take around 4 to 5 hours to bake. I've made it over 3 days. I've baked it for two hours the first day, turned off the oven, and left it in the oven to cool down, continued the next day for another 2 hours, and finished it on the third day.

Every day before cooking I've added 1/3 of oil, and every 20 minutes I've opened the oven and stirred the mixture to prevent the crust from making at the top. Another great thing is that the steam from the cooling of the mixture wets the whole oven, so there was no scrubbing in the end. I've just wiped down the mess ajvar made and that was it. No messy ceilings or burned hands this year.

Once the ajvar was baked enough, I've moved it to the pot(I did it the third morning while the mixture was cold) and added all the spices and the vinegar, and just heated it once more. 
While the mixture was heating up, I've washed the jars and placed them in the oven to sterilize them for 30 minutes at 100°C(212°F). Once the ajvar was hot and the jars sterilized, I've filled them with ajvar, placed the lids, and left them in the hot oven for an hour. After the hour, I've turned off the oven and left the jars in the oven until the next morning.

I got almost the same amount of the oven-baked ajvar as the normal one last year. I'll probably make another round this month if I find more peppers and eggplants.


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