In my world, fermenting is definitely an aspect of refining the flavor of fresh products. I love to imitate the aromatic landscapes of national cuisines with spices and herbs for my ferments, or I let myself be inspired and think up new seasoning combinations. Honoring traditions and origins are just as important to me as the taste experience.
If you haven't yet put the cuisines of the Caucasian regions on your plate, especially the flavors of Georgia, which I deeply appreciate, this ferment will give you a first taste of what you've been missing. Spices and fresh herbs play a central role: pepper, blue clover, ombalo, mint, tarragon, parsley, condari, basil, dill and coriander are the stars of the pots and plates.
Georgia, a mountainous country with access to the Black Sea, is one of the oldest settlement areas of mankind. Due to the diverse climatic zones and the resulting variety of cultivated products, a delicious and rich cuisine developed, which was considered the haute cuisine of Soviet cookery. Today it is appreciated by gourmets all over the world.
Fermented plums as sauce base
Tkemali or Tqemali (Georgian ტყემალი; tʼqʼɛmɑlɪ) is a popular Georgian sauce, sometimes called plum ketchup. Fermented plums are also the classic example of wild fermentation of fruit.
- 580 gr. damson plums *
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 fresh red chillis
- some fresh mint leafs
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- ¼ tsp fenugreek
- ½ tsp blue clover
- 2 allspice seeds
- 3% salt brine
- 1 tbsp honey
* that corresponds to about 20 damsons, weighed pitted. You can also use other plums, in Georgia it is common to eat both purple and green plum sauce. They should not be too ripe, though. If the fruit is very ripe, the ferment will tend to sour too much due to the higher fructose content.
The indicated quantities fit into a 0.75 liter jar.
Stone the plums, peel the garlic clove and coarsely grind the spices in a mortar. Cut the chili peppers in half and remove the cap. Make a brine with 300 ml of water and 9 grams of salt and dissolve the honey in it. Put the spices and garlic at the bottom of the jar, then put the pitted plums on top. Somewhere in the middle of the jar place the chili.
Weigh down with 1-2 glass lids from preserving jars or another suitable weight so the plums don't float and then pour the brine. If there too little brine to cover everything, just make some more out of water and salt. There is no need to add more honey. By the way, my brine calculator will be happy to calculate the grams for a 3% salinity with a variable amount of water for you.
Ferment plums for 2-3 weeks
Keep the plums shady, but warm, and let them ferment until the active phase is over. That is, the jar no longer fizzes and bubbles. This takes about 3 weeks. 18° - 22° C is the optimal temperature for this. This ferment can also be allowed to ferment at the warm end of the spectrum, in which case the desired, delicious acidity will form.
Boil down the fermented plums to make plum ketchup
Put the entire contents of the jar, i.e. fermented plums with brine and spices, into a saucepan and simmer for 20-30 minutes to soften the plums. It is important to use all the brine, otherwise the sauce will lack acidity and the taste will not be complete. The consistency may seem a bit runny, we'll take care of that in a later step.
- fresh (or dried) dill
- fresh cilantro
- fresh mint
- freshly ground black pepper
Coarsely chop the dill, coriander and mint. Adjust the seasoning to your liking with the herbs, salt, honey and black pepper. Each herb is optional, so if you don't like fresh cilantro, for example, just leave it out.
Puree, for this purpose a stand mixer or food processor is suitable, and then strain with the finest insert of the food mill or pass through a fine sieve. The resulting puree is slowly reduced over low heat to a creamy consistency and boiled down and portioned into jars or bottles.
Tkemali is traditionally served in Georgia as a cold sauce with potatoes or meat. I also love it a lot on cheese.
If I have won you over with the taste of this fermented plum sauce, you will love my sauerkraut with Georgian herbs as well!