Any Iranian will tell you that a meal is not complete without torshi!
Torshi! Today, I am probably sharing with you the longest recipe I have ever been able to prepare… Long and yet so simple! A year? Seven years? Twenty years? Well, let’s go for 7 years! it’s already really good! Even if it may appear that a 20-year wait could make this recipe… well, orgasmic?
Torshi are vegetables that are pickled in brine from the cuisines of several countries in the Balkans and the Middle East, as well as Arab countries.
They are called torshi (ترشى) in Egypt as well as in Iran, tirşîn or tirsi in Kurdistan, tursu in Turkey, τουρσί or toursi in Greece, turshiya (туршия) in Bulgaria, turšija (туршија) in Bosnia and Croatia, turshi in Serbia, tourchi or tourchou in Armenia, and khamusim (חמוםים) in Israel .
The word torshi comes from the word torsu which itself comes from the word torsh, which means “sour” in Farsi and in Kurdish. In Turkey and in Azerbaijan, it means the same thing but the word is pronounced tursu.
At the beginning of the fall, Iranians prepare a wide variety of torshi according to regional customs and holidays.
Although you could make torshi with many different vegetables, there are 3 recipes that stand out and are the most popular:
– torshi litéh (ترشی لیته): eggplant, carrots and herbs
– torshi badem-joon (ترشی بادمجون): eggplant
– torshi seer (سیر ترشی): garlic
I chose to prepare torshi seer which literally means “garlic preserved in vinegar”.
Torshi seer, in its simplest version, is made with garlic, salt and vinegar. Yes but what kind of vinegar? This can as simple as white vinegar as well as cider vinegar, sweet wine vinegar, malt vinegar, or balsamic vinegar.
If you use white vinegar, you should add honey to the recipe. A mixture of spices or herbs may also be added. For example, you could use cloves, or barberries, these dried berries that Mike used to make his plov from Azerbaijan.
Fermenting the garlic torshi for a long time will help make the garlic melt in your mouth. The garlic should be pickled with its skin, the thinnest that is in contact with the pulp. The garlic and its skin will soften with age. After a few years, you should be able to spread it on a piece of meat, fish or bread. In Iran, they even make sandwiches with it.
After a few weeks, the garlic can sometimes develop a bluish or greenish hue. The change of color is not harmful and is the result of the natural presence of sulfur and enzymes in garlic that react in an acidic environment. The intensity of the hue comes from a wide range of factors, such as the age of the garlic when harvested and the chemistry of the soil. It is completely safe, non-toxic and is not a sign of deterioration. After a few years, the aged garlic cloves can take a uniform brown hue, the same color as balsamic vinegar.
We have immersed ourselves in Persian cuisine for the past few days as we are about to celebrate Nowruz (نوروز), the traditional Persian holiday celebrating the New Year of the Persian calendar (starting with the first day of spring). And garlic holds a very important place among all the traditions of the table of Nowruz.
The main tradition of Nowruz is Haft Sîn (هفت سین, seven “S”), seven objects whose name begins with the letter S or sîn (س) in the Persian alphabet. They are seven specific objects arranged on a table corresponding to the seven creations and the seven immortals protecting them. Every family tries to make the prettiest table of Haft Sin, especially for the spiritual side.
I should give you a very important recommendation: do not make the mistake of preparing a small batch of torshi seer! If you decide to prepare some, then go all in! Otherwise, you will have to make more as you get old, and you may never get a chance to taste them.
So… Let’s meet in 7, 10, or even 20 years!
Happy Nowruz to all our Iranian friends!
- 10 heads garlic (not old and without any germ)
- 3 cups cider vinegar (or red or white wine vinegar, sweet or balsamic vinegar)
- Coarse salt (about 1-½ tablespoon per 1-cup jar)
- 1 tablespoon cloves (or barberries)
Wash the jars thoroughly and rinse them in scalding water for about ten minutes. Let them dry.
Remove the husk from the garlic heads. Keep the thin skin on the garlic cloves. You may separate the cloves or not. Both are perfectly fine.
Place the garlic cloves in the jars and then cover them with the vinegar previously mixed with the coarse salt.
Place clove or barberry on top as desired.
Close the jars tightly.
Label each jar with the date of preparation.
Place the jars in a dark, cool and dry place for at least 1 year, and up to 20 years.
Once opened, torshi seer keeps very well in the refrigerator.