We’ve had no electric for the last ten out of fourteen days. It’s practically medieval times here in the Village so with no electric and in an effort to save myself from going bat-shit crazy out of boredom, I’ve slapped on my şalvar, wrapped my hair (to hide the grey no less) and reverted to my less than enthusiastic Turkish Housewife mode.
First job tackled was the salca.
All of you already know that one of my highlights since I moved to Mersin is to make the salca. It reminds me of my wonderful mother-in-law and how she welcomed this somewhat reluctant yabancı gelin into the family and started me on my Turkish life. She taught me that sometimes the old ways are better and if you’re expecting several consecutive days (try several consecutive months) of 38ºC (100ºF) Mediterranean sunshine, then your salca will be much more successful if sun-dried rather than making it in the oven/cooktop.
This year’s salca experience could have ended up being a disaster, but thanks to my sister-in-law, who is nothing if not enterprising, her quick thinking saved the day (and the salca).
My salca story started just fine. I had a shopping list:
250 kilograms kırmızı biber (red capsicum)
100 kg domates (tomatoes)
100 kg acı biber (hot chilli)
That might seem like a lot of capsicum but it never really is.
Excited, I hit the pazar and negotiated in my best Turklish to get a reasonable price, and when that didn’t work The Turk stepped in and got me the best price.
I got cracking-a-lacking on the domates and had them chopped up and blitzed early on Saturday morning so by the time my SIL got home that afternoon I had already carried buckets of mulched domates up to the roof and had poured them into my rather dodgy (but does the job) plastic sheeting/slab. SIL did bring reinforcements for the kırmızı biber (her mother and sister), and thank goodness because without them we could have been there all night. The 100kg of acı biber are a little dicier (no pun intended). We split them into two – 50kg cleaned for salca and 50kg cleaned and cut for drying.
By 8:00 PM everything was sliced, diced, blitzed and shattered (and that was just us).
And then, and to quote the great Annie Lennox, here comes the rain again.
First rain of the season. Yah! NOT!!!
3:00 AM and SIL banged on my door sending My Hurley Dog and me into hysterics. Once I realised we weren’t under attack, I followed her up to the rooftop. There we were in our pyjamas (or in my case my undies and a singlet because it’s still stinking hot here in Mersin) running around in the bucketing rain, trying to save our kırmızı biber from washing away. We MacGyver’ed the shit out of my sun-lounger and some plastic to fashion a make-shift tent and even though the roof resembled a crime scene with the overflow of sauce mixed with rainwater on Sunday morning, our salca and sliced acı biber were saved and able to be returned to their rightful place in the sunshine.
It might have taken a little longer this year to dry out (thanks to said bucketing) but we now have enough tomato paste and capsicum paste to feed an army, or at least feed the family through until next September. I might sound like a typical Türk but I could never go back to store-brought salca now. I mean just look at that kırmızı biber salca (capsicum paste) beautiful dark red colour. Trust me when I say it tastes amazing!
And because I never want to find myself with a pickling emergency I also perfected my pickling this past week. After a few trips to the supermarket and buying out every single bottle of üzüm sirkesi (grape vinegar) they had in stock I pickled the hell out of any vegetable that was lying around including salatakık (cucumber), soğan (onion), havuç (carrot), lahana (cabbage) and yet another 5kg of acı biber. I’m pretty sure we’re sorted for hot chillies to keep us warm on cold winter nights.
And just because I’m Aussie I got a fabulous recipe from a local chef who makes the most amazing pickled beetroot so I was back to the Mezitli pazar last weekend to pick up pancar and yet more vinegar for testing out his recipe. Finally I can get some decent beetroot for my burgers.
Thankfully the electric is now back (and hopefully will stay again for at least a few days).
Finger’s crossed because seriously if I lose my electric again today, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. Seriously! Watch this space!
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