Torshi-e Makhlut

Torshi-e Makhlut
(Recipe adapted from Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij; commentary compliments of the chef. My copy of the cookbook is apparently the “old” Food of Life; I’m not sure if this recipe’s in the “new” edition or not. I highly recommend any cookbook by this woman, though – the instructions are clear, the photos lovely, and your results are almost guaranteed to look like the pictures if you follow the recipes as written. Even if they don’t, they’ll taste great.)

2 large eggplants
2 green peppers
1 lb. carrots
½ lb. turnips
½ head cauliflower
1 lb. pearl onions (you could use regular onions if peeling these is frustrating, but the texture won’t be the same)
5 cloves garlic
½ c. chopped mint leaves (or equivalent dried herb)
½ c. chopped parsley (or equivalent dried herb)
½ c. chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves (or equivalent dried herb)
½ c. chopped basil leaves (or equivalent dried herb)
3-4 quarts wine vinegar
2 T. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 T. gol-par (powdered angelica)
1 tsp. advieh (Iranian allspice; substitute allspice, if unavailable)
3 tsp. siah daneh (Nigella or black caraway seeds – and yes, you CAN use regular caraway seeds, but it’s different)
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1. Prick the eggplants with a fork to prevent bursting and bake on oven rack for 1 hour at 350ºF.

2. Wash green peppers and cut into small pieces. Scrape carrots, wash, and chop fine. Wash turnips and chop. Wash cauliflower and separate into small flowerets. Wash and chop celery. Clean and wash pearl onions. Peel and chop garlic cloves.

3. Wash herbs and drain. Dry thoroughly, then chop.

4. Place baked eggplant on wooden cutting board. Remove and discard skin; chop flesh into small pieces. Sprinkle with salt. Cover with a clean towel and let stand for about an hour.

5. Cook chopped eggplant in 2 c. vinegar over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

6. Place eggplant, 2 quarts vinegar, salt, pepper, gol-par, advieh (or allspice), siah daneh (caraway seeds), cayenne pepper, chopped herbs, garlic, and vegetables in a large bowl. Mix well. Add more vinegar if necessary.

7. Sterilize jars in boiling water. Dry thoroughly with a clean towel. Fill to within ½ inch of the top with the mixture. Sprinkle with salt and fill to the brim with vinegar. Seal the jars.

8. Store in a cool place for at least 10 days before using.

TorshiThis photo was taken in 2006, I think. It was the first time I’d made torshi in over a decade, “because it’s a pain in the ass to make.” It’s actually not – not if you have a good cutting board, a sharp knife, a good five hours, a willingness to use dried herbs instead of insisting on fresh everything (it’s PICKLES – seriously – use dried herbs!) and have a Zen attitude about the whole thing. A food processor can be helpful, but it’s easy to chop the vegetables too fine with it. They’re much better if they’re small but chunky.

When it comes to canning and putting up things in jars, I’m clueless; I do know that the lids should pop down in order to properly seal. As I recall, the mixture needs to be quite warm in order for the jars to seal properly; the cooling liquid sucks the lid down and forms a vacuum. My sister-in-law and I got around he problem of jars that wouldn’t seal on the first try by using a large stock pot for the “bowl” in step 6 and dumping the jars back into it if the seals failed to pop down after about 15 minutes. We heated the stuff up a bit, then tried again. Look, there’s enough vinegar and salt in this stuff that no one’s going to get sick. (In fact, probably no one’s going to get sick if the seals don’t pop in, either. I’m told I suffer from an overabundance of American caution.)

My mother-in-law was convinced we were going to kill everyone in the family the first time we made this. Not for the reasons I thought we were going to – her concerns were metallurgic and chemical, and had nothing to do with food-borne pathogens and fears of botulism. She asked what kind of pot we were using. I said “anodized aluminum,” as in that professional, semi-non-stick, fired-at-2000-degrees, indestructible stuff that costs a fortune and weighs a ton – not just some cheap aluminum pot. She started spouting off nonsense about aluminum and vinegar combining to release deadly toxins. I yelled at my sister-in-law to open the windows, and then realized this was one of those old wives’ tales that might have some basis in reality, but we weren’t going to find out the truth of it first-hand any time soon. But use glass or anodized aluminum. Avoid cheap metal pots and Teflon-coated things, as the vinegar might damage the pots – not because it’s likely to kill you.

My mother-in-law wouldn’t touch that batch of torshi for over a year. Maybe she got the last laugh, though. I hear the longer it sits, the better it tastes. I’m not sure how long is too long, though, so I suggest opening within 2-3 years (assuming the seal’s intact) and using it within 6-12 months of opening it. The recommendation is based only on personal experience and how long I’ve kept the stuff without getting sick or dying. For all I know, it’s like a Twinkie and could last nearly forever. Be sure to refrigerate after opening.

This is an incredible cookbook. I highly recommend it; not only are the instructions clear and easy-to-follow, but the pictures look good enough to eat and show you how the dish should look, when you’re done. Amazingly, they actually do look that way, if you follow the recipes! I got this shortly after I was married, and my husband’s family brags on what a good Persian cook I am. It’s all thanks to these recipes.

Once you understand how it works, you can get a little creative. Not too creative… no, seriously, try different things. I think the original recipe called for celery, but my husband’s not fond of it so I left it out. My daughter likes extra cauliflower, but isn’t too fond of the carrots. I adjust the proportions. The seasoning’s important. That said, last year I forgot the garlic and cayenne, and everybody loved it. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe.

The recipe usually yields about 6 to 12 pints. What you see, above, was a double batch. It’s more fun with a friend – just make sure you make enough to share!

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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