Citizens – I have posted several recipes from the great country of Georgia in the past, which has one of the world’s finest and most complex cuisines. Sadly, Georgian food is barely known outside of its home country and the former countries of the Eastern Bloc, where Georgian restaurants flourished during the communist era due to its exceptional flavors.
I have dedicated myself to popularizing this magnificent culture and attendant recipes to the world, and this is the latest example. It is an especially pertinent post today given the recent floods that have devastated the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi, killing many residents there. My heart goes out to our many Georgian Citizens here at TFD.
Tkemali is *THE* condiment of Georgia, used like ketchup to season many dishes but with far more sophistication and spice. Tkemali is made from the famous Georgian sour plum, including both red and green varieties. I have previously posted the recipe for the green version made with unripe plums – now that we are entering Summer, it is time to show you the red version made from the ripened fruit.
Traditionally the following ingredients are used besides plums: garlic, pennyroyal, coriander, dill, chili pepper and salt. Tkemali is used for fried or grilled meat, poultry and potato dishes, amongst many others.
Like most Georgian recipes, this uses several unique spices that I have listed sources for as well as suggested substitutions. Georgians use Pennyroyal in making this recipe – 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 – it has the same taste as Pennyroyal, so there is no compromise.
Citizens – my recipe is exacting in its authenticity and I hope you will remember the Georgians who are currently suffering as they rebuild and clean up the flooded city of Tbilisi!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
22 pounds / 10 kilos of red (ripe) Tkemali plums – you want sour plums for this recipe!
¼ cup / 50 grams of Fennel Stalks
4 tsp. / 20 grams of fresh Lesser Calamint, Calamintha nepeta (also known as Nepitella) which tastes like the Pennyroyal from the original recipe. You can buy it from here
1 cup / 200 grams of green flowering coriander
2 ¼ pounds / 1 kilo of garlic,
1 cup / 200 grams of salt,
½ cup / 100 grams of dried coriander (it helps to preserve the sauce if you intend to store it for a long period) or ½ cup / 100 grams of fresh green coriander leaves,
¼ cup / 50 grams of dried hot red pepper
If the plums are especially sour, up to ½ cup / 100 grams of sugar can be added.
Add 2 teaspoons khmeli – suneli herb mix. Use the following dried herbs to make the khmeli – suneli mixture (save the extra for another use):
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 savory
½ tsp finely ground wild blue fenugreek – buy it here or just use regular fenugreek seeds
½ tsp finely ground marjoram
½ tsp finely ground basil
2 strands of saffron
1/8 tsp hot chili pepper flakes
Preparation: Wash the plums and add to a deep pot. Add slightly less than 3
¼ quarts / 3 liters of water. Heat on high temperature until the plums are boiled and then reduce the temperature to simmer the plums. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the plums are soft.
Remove the plums from the pot and add to a bowl. Do not discard the plum water left in the pot.
Transfer the plum water from the pot to a bowl.
Place a sieve over a deep pot and add some of the plums. Firmly press the plums with a wooden spoon.
Gradually add some of the plum water that was saved after boiling the plums and use a gloved hand to squash all of the pulp and juice through the sieve. Discard the plum stones once all of the pulp and juice has been strained into the pot. Add more of the plum water until the consistency is smooth. You may still have some of the plum water left.
Remove the skins from the garlic and grind with a meat grinder. The garlic needs to be finely ground.
Wash the Lesser Calamint and remove the flowers and tiny leaves with your fingers. Crush the flowers and leaves. Do not discard the stalks.
Add the crushed Calamint flowers and leaves, together with the 100 grams of dried coriander or 100 grams of fresh green coriander leaves, ground garlic and 200 grams of salt to a mixing bowl. Add to the pot containing the sieved plums and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Tightly bind together the individual bundles of green flowering coriander, fennel and Calamint stalks with cotton.
Add the bundled green flowering coriander, fennel and Calamint stalks, together with 50 grams of dried hot red pepper to the pot containing the sieved plums. Add the khmeli – suneli.
Push the bundle below the surface of the liquid. Heat on a very low heat for 40 minutes.
If you intend to use the tkemali over a short period, allow it to cool down before bottling. Store in the refrigerator. To keep tkemali for long periods without refrigeration, prepare the bottles by washing thoroughly and leaving until they are completely dry. Half fill a tall pot with water. Add the bottles. Heat on a low to medium temperature for 15 minutes. Place the plastic caps that will be used to seal the bottles in boiling water.
Fill each bottle to the top with hot tkemali sauce and seal immediately with one of the plastic caps that has been boiled and dried. This bottling method allows the tkemali to be stored for long periods in a cool, dark place without the need for refrigeration.