TFD nation is now comprised of many proud Georgians who have shared and enthusiastically supported my posting of Georgian recipes – as such, I will do a rare double posting of a regional cuisine to thank these loyal readers!
Today, I share the national condiment of Georgia – called Tkemali, it is made from sour plums, herbs, garlic and spices and is the “ketchup” used to flavor many great Georgian recipes. It is exceedingly delicious and is made by devoted Georgians every year in the Spring when the plums are still green (there are also red and yellow Tkemali made in the Summer from ripe plums – that recipe will be posted another time).
It is possible to buy green Tkemali in Russian delis and grocery stores here in the U.S. – one source is here. Should you be so inclined to try and make it at home, you will be rewarded with a truly delicious condiment that you will use on virtually everything (and extra to share with friends and family).
A “cheat” recipe that I’ve come up with that approximates the flavor profile of Tkemali is 1 part A-1 sauce mixed with an equal part of plum, apricot or quince jam – but here, we are going with the full-fledged authentic version! :)
Like most Georgian recipes, this uses several unique spices that I have listed sources for as well as suggested substitutions. I’ve listed the proportions in both metric and imperial units. Georgians would use the mint relative Pennyroyal in making this – you certainly can use it, but recent reports put the safety of this herb in question. I prefer to use Lesser Calamint (source provided) in its place – same taste as Pennyroyal, so no compromise.
Citizens – I hope you will try this just once and become a true convert to the wonders of Georgian cuisine! :) Please note this make a LOT of sauce, you can easily halve the recipe or more if need be.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
Ingredients (to make up to 3.2 liters – 13.5 cups):
3 kilos (a bit over 6 ½ lbs) of green (unripe) sour plums,
1 large whole garlic, minus 2 cloves for spice mixture,
150 grams (about 5 ½ ounces) of fresh green coriander,
240 grams (8 ½ ounces) of fresh dill,
60 grams (a bit over 2 ounces) of fresh Lesser Calamint, Calamintha nepeta (also known as Nepitella) which tastes like the Pennyroyal from the original recipe but has no possible health issues. You can buy it from here
60 grams (a bit over 2 ounces) of Summer Savory
4 green peppers
50-80 grams (1 ¾ ounces – 2 ¾ ounces) of sugar (optional and dependent upon the sourness of the plums),
¾ teaspoon of whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon of fennel seed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of cayenne
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of khmeli – suneli – Use the following dried herbs to make khmeli – suneli:
½ tsp finely ground basil
½ tsp finely ground parsley
½ tsp finely ground dill
½ tsp finely ground coriander
½ tsp finely ground mint
½ tsp finely ground bay leaf
½ tsp finely ground summer savoury
½ tsp finely ground Utskho Suneli, wild blue fenugreek – buy it from here or substitute regular ground fenugreek
½ tsp finely ground marjoram
½ tsp finely ground basil
2 strands of saffron
1/8 tsp cayenne
Preparation: Finely chop the coriander, dill and peppers. Strip the leaves from the Calamint and discard the stalks. Finely chop the leaves. Separate the garlic into cloves. Tie the stalks of the Summer Savory together.
Wash plums and add to a deep pan. Add water until the plums are covered (no more).
Heat on high temperature until the plums are boiled and then reduce temperature to simmer the plums. Add the Summer Savory to the simmering plums.
Continue to simmer the plums until they are soft.
Remove the plums from the pan and add to a bowl and leave to cool. Do not discard the water left in the pan.
Remove all of the water remaining in the pan and add it, together with the Summer Savory, to a separate bowl.
Crush the chopped coriander, Calamint and green peppers together. Crush the garlic cloves separately.
Place a sieve over a deep pan and add the cooled plums. Gradually add the plum water that was saved after boiling the plums and firmly press the plums with a wooden spoon. You may need to use your hands to ensure that all of the pulp and juice is strained through the sieve.
Discard the plum stones once all of the pulp and juice has been strained into the pan.
Add the coriander, Calamint and green pepper mixture, together with the crushed garlic. In a mortar with pestle, pound together the coriander seed, fennel seed, remaining 2 cloves of garlic, cayenne, and salt to make a fine paste, stir to thoroughly mix with herbs, add the khmeli – suneli and then add to plums and heat on a medium temperature.
Taste the sauce and if it is too sour add a little sugar (no more than 80 grams) and stir thoroughly.
When the sauce has boiled, add the chopped dill. Stir to mix thoroughly and boil the sauce for one minute.
Allow the sauce to cool before bottling or storing in glass containers.
Tkemali sauce can be served with meat, poultry and potato dishes.