When I first arrived here in Mersin I threw myself into Village life. I helped harvest the nane and maydanoz from the bahçe. I helped make the peynir (which was a story in itself) and I helped my mother in law make the salça.
Making salça (paste) is a bit of a pain in the ass to be honest. It is messy work – so messy – but the end result is rewarding to say the least.
Since my mother in law passed away making the salça is the one thing I continue to do each year as a bit of a celebration of her life. I remember how happy she was that first year with me and my SIL sitting together, covered in flies and literally surrounded by kırmızı biber (red capsicum). I remember my BIL delivering the 100kg of biber that morning and me going “seriously?”. It was a very long day (and half of a very long night) cutting and cleaning the kırmızı biber before making the paste. The next three weeks were spent checking my precious biber that had been mulched to ensure that they dried sufficiently to make the paste and finally salting to ensure perfection.
I have continued with the tradition for the past two years since my MIL’s passing. This year was a little different however. This year my SIL’s family decided to ‘help’ me and so, without my knowledge, set about preparing the biber for me. I was devastated. They don’t get that of course. They were merely being helpful but to me they ruined the one piece of my mother in law that was something I treasured.
The Turk gets so frustrated with me each year and can usually be heard yelling “why don’t you just buy it at Migros?”. Yes it is messy and a little smelly. Yes my clothes are ruined (in fact I have a salça making outfit) which is stained a very attractive red colour and yes the roof top is also stained from an initial overflow of mulched biber but the end result is totally worth the hassle.
Here is a shot of my MIL that first year. She was one happy lady with the end result.
I have been asked for a receipe but I really don’t have a one to provide to you. Like most of my recipes it relies on knowledge handed down by my MIL (or SIL) to me. Basically we get a butt-load of bibers (photo 1) which are then cleaned and cut up (keep the seeds in unless they are seriously rotten). A little old lady will then magically appears with a machine (seriously every year this woman arrives on my doorstep – the biber faerie – as if by magic) and all our bibers (or domates) are put though the machine to mulch them. We then transfer the liquid up to our roof where it is salted and mixed. It will stay in the first receptacle (photo 3) which is basically for pieces of wood with covered in plastic. Once the liquid is partially dried (usually takes about a week) it is swapped into the huge plastic bowls (photo 4) where it stays for 2-3 weeks and is mixed 5 times a day to ensure it doesn’t burn in the sun. 100 kilos of biber make about 15 kilograms of salça which is about 5 containers which, of course, you then give to your numerous family members leaving you with two jars. These will last me 12 months.
A recent incident with an overturned horse cart filled with domates also enabled me to use my salça skills to make some top notch tomato salça. Double high fives for me today! The final salça still to be completed is my hot chillies. They are still drying (a longer process to ensure that they are as spicy as feck) but should be ready next week (if the weather stays warm – which it will after all it is Mersin).
The memory of my MIL will continue to live on in our meals with her salça – also known by me as Nene Salça. It didnt matter what she cooked it was always superb – no doubt thanks to her salça.
Quick addition to this post – for those of you wanting to see my salça pants (also known as village pants) this is the only photo I could find. They are now put away until next year but perhaps a sneaky paparazzi can crack a few shots before my security guards chase them away LMAO! I did learn that day why I should wear long sleeves AND long pants when cutting up the biber. I was literally covered in bites so now I’ve got a very attractive top that in no way matches my pants but works just fine. Thank you to Daughter for showing my how to copy my Instagram photo – I am so computer illiterate. I put this photo on Instagram because I thought it was hilarious. The men sit there drinking their cay while the women work their asses off.
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