Romanian autumn delights – the traditional vegetable spread ‘zacusca’
Zacuscă is a vegetable spread very popular in Romania but similar spreads are found in other countries throughout Europe. There are tens of versions for this zacusca, some made it with beans, others with fish, zucchini, celery, carrots and apples, honey mushrooms with porcini or simply with eggplants and red peppers.
Here what you’ll need for around 20 jars (400 ml):
2 kg of eggplants;
3 kg of red peppers;
1 kg of chopped onions;
1.5 l tomato sauce;
2 cups of oil;
4 bay leaves;
2 tbsp. of ground black pepper;
Salt (to taste)
The easiest way to do this is to cook vegetable on an open flame (gas stove or grill). Roast the aubergines and the red peppers until soft and well charred on all sides. After the eggplants and peppers have cooled off, remove their peel; if you cooked them well enough the peel should come off easily.
Then place the eggplants in a strainer and let it drain off any excess water. Do the same with the peppers. This may take about a couple of hours or you can leave it through the night.
The next step is to chop the vegetables and the onions; you can also add mushrooms. In a very large pot place the oil and onions (if you choose to add mushrooms, add them now) and sauté for about 5 minutes. If you choose to add mushrooms let them boil down for a little longer.
Carefully add the eggplants and peppers and stir using a wooden spoon. Put in the tomato sauce. Add the salt, black pepper and bay leaves. Cook for about 3 hours over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, (every 10 minutes will be just fine). Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and then fill them with the vegetable spread and leave about an inch from the top and put the lid. You can sterilize them again or you can put them upside-down and let it cool (cover them with a blanket) over night.