South Lebanon: Cooking up an Aubergine Storm
By: Kamel Jaber
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012
In the coming days, housewives in the South will begin to grill huge amounts of aubergines. They will be of the large black variety, known as ‘globular’ in the South. The aubergines are being prepared to be stored and then used for Baba Ghannouj as part of the winter larder.
“I have been doing this for twenty years. Never have I needed Baba Ghannouj in the winter and not found it. All I have to do is get a jar from the shelf, open it and add the necessary salt, lemon juice, garlic, tahini and olive oil. I serve it as if I had just freshly grilled the aubergine,” says Kamila Dhaher from the town of Kafr Rumman.
She believes that Southern women’s insistence on grilling the aubergine on wood fires is with good reason. “Grilling over a wood fire gives the aubergine a distinctive taste, so tasty, there is nothing like it. And it lasts in storage for a whole year.” She prefers local aubergines above all others, and this is why she plants rows of them in the field near her house. When the fruits reach the optimum size and are fully ripe, “I pick them and begin to grill them on a low fire. When they are perfectly ready, I remove the peel and I put the aubergine with the others in a colander, allowing the water to run through.” After that Kamila beats the mix “until it is sticky, and without adding anything else, I place it in pre-prepared jars. I close them tightly and boil the jars in a large pot, until the air comes out and they become sterilized, to prevent mold and rot.”
The housewife chooses small jars for storing the aubergine. She says that with a small jar, she can use just the required amount of Baba Ghannouj. “With one jar, I can make two medium sized dishes and I don’t have to open a big jar and put it back again because this exposes it to mold and makes it lose some of its flavor. Also, after it’s been opened you can’t store it on a shelf or in a cupboard, it will need to be in a fridge.” She says that she stores about forty 1/2 kilogram jars, and ten or so 1kilogram jars for her own larder. This “is dependent on my own needs. When I boil the jars to get the air out and sterilize them, I do not use Kilner jars, which can cause the aubergine to rot if some air remains inside.”
There is another type of aubergine which can be stored, the thin black aubergine, sometimes known as long, but this has to be frozen. The housewife removes the pulp, washes it well and boils it in water. She then leaves it in a colander. Then “I put them in plastic bags in the freezer. When I need to use them, I take them out and leave them for a while, they become soft and then I stuff them,” concludes Kamila.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.