One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my family making Luteniza. The whole family ( parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and more) gets together, everyone participates and the amounts of the spread that are made are enough to make a canning factory jealous. Even though it was a hard work for a young child, I loved the fact that no matter what, everyone stuck around to make this amazing spread. It didn’t matter if you were mad at someone or not getting along with another, everything was forgotten and everyone pitched in.
From washing pounds over pounds of tomatoes, pureeing, roasting peppers and eggplant, peeling carrots and making food for everyone ( you know, eventually everyone is hungry), it is a very authentic, typically Bulgarian experience that will always stay engraved in my mind as one of the most heartwarming memories I have.
Is it because of the experience that everyone in Bulgaria is so fond of Luteniza or because the taste is nothing like anything I’ve tried elsewhere, I can’t say. What I know though is that I love sharing that tradition with my children and we had a great time making it yesterday.
For those who would like to try, you can read further.
5 lbs tomatoes
3.5 lbs red peppers
1 white onion
1 red onion
4 large carrots
10 garlic cloves
2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1. Wash the tomatoes well and cut 1lbs the way you cut for a salad. The other 4 lbs blend on the lower setting of your blender, so it is still chunky, but not too much.
2. Put the tomatoes in a large pot ( I use 12 qt for tamales) to boil on medium-high. You have to stir often ( usually I have one person constantly stirring while the rest of us are preparing the other ingredients)
3. Wash and then roast/grill the peppers. When done, skins and all, blend in a blender. If your blender is not great, peel the skins off. I have a Vitamix and it blends them completely without losing the flavor from the skin.
*Note: You can either grill the peppers or roast them in your oven. I roast them and it is working out fine.
4. In a blender blend the apples until completely smooth then add them to the tomatoes in the pot. Stir well.
5. In a large skillet saute the onions, garlic, carrots and eggplant with the olive oil. Set aside when soft. When cool, blend them in the blender until completely smooth, then add to the tomatoes.
6. Add the salt, pepper and the oil from the sauteed vegetables. Stir well.
7. Stir well the vegetable spread on the stove. It takes 3-4 hours to have the spread thicken. It has to be so thick that you can put it on a piece of bread and not get it soggy. I usually test by taking a small amount of the spread and placing it on a clean, dry plate. If there is a large “watery ring” around the thicker mixture, it’s not done yet.
8. When done, place in clean, dry jars, put screw on lids and turn them with the lids down as shown on the picture. When cool, turn them with the lids up and check if all of them are well closed.
* Note: You can eat the Luteniza immediately. However, if you would like to store it, follow steps 9 and 10.
9. Next day place the jars in a pot of cold water lids up, then boil for 5-7 minutes. Take them out, place them with the lids down and let them cool.
10. When the jars have cooled down, you can turn them with the lids up and store them in a cold, dry place. They can be stored for up to 10 months.