I arrived to Lebanon over a week ago, during the “mouneh” months; pickling and preserving summer produce for the winter months. Preparing the mouneh is a practice that goes back for centuries and is an essential experience of the Middle Eastern kitchen. We pickle and preserve pretty much everything. Alina, my father’s wife, and I have been trying out some traditional recipes and some rather non-traditional recipes.
We’ve been in the mountains making pickles, carrot coffee, batenjan makdous (eggplant that is stuffed and preserved), watermelon jam, kishk (dried yoghurt), dried plums amongst other things.
I spent the first few days of my visit in Ayoun. It lies just beneath mount Saninne and is a five minute drive to Faqra. There is literally no one in sight for miles, except when the Shepperd passes by with his flock. It’s calm, beautiful and relaxing.
There are two faces to Lebanon; the mountain life and the city life. While Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, is very fascinating, it’s like any other city in the world; just that much more chaotic.I find the mountain life to be more fascinating for a number of reasons; the natural beauty, the simplicity of village life, the symbiotic relationship between the farmer and the land, the hosptality of the people, and most importantly the tranquility.
I’ve put together a quick collection of images that capture some of these moments.
500g cucumbers, cornichon preferably (or a variety of vegetables; turnips, carrots, onions…)
about 500ml drinking water ( you may not use all of this)
100ml apple vinegar
1 teaspoon of rock salt
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 hot pepper, sliced lengthwise in half (will yield very spicy results, for less spicy do not slice)
1 liter jar
Dried dill flowers and celery leaves, added to the bottom.
The Nitty Gritty:
Mix the water with the salt and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt is dissolved. You can test for the correct salt amounts by placing an egg into the solution. If the egg floats, you’ve got the right amount of salt. However, the general rule we follow in my household is 1 teaspoon of salt for every half liter. Chill the solution.
Place half the garlic cloves and the bay leaf at the bottom of the jar. If you are adding dill and celery leafs, then add them here.
Place the cucumbers into the jar, vertically, as close to each other as possible.
Once a full circle is reached, add the sliced hot pepper and continue filling with cucumbers.
Add the rest of the garlic.
Cover the jar with the solution , leaving two inches to add the apple vinegar. Then add the vinegar till the cucumbers are completely submerged. the picture below was added after pickles sat for 5 days and were already dug into it, hence the color, texture and packing difference. I took it later on after I realized I missed a picture step.
Cover and let sit in a cool, dry place. The pickles will be ready within 5 days and will preserve indefinately, if they’re not consumed within days, that is.
I have also been out and about, trying to capture more of this country’s beauty. So, stay tuned!