Plum Sauce (Tkemali)

Plum Sauce (Tkemali)

Grilled meats and fish are rarely served plain, since they make such excellent foils for sauce. Georgian sauces offer tremendous variety. Most are prepared from the same fruits, vegetables, and nuts that appear in various guises in other dishes. Plums, blackerries, blackthorn, grapes, pomegranates, tomatoes, and cornelian cherries are all puréed for sauce, as are cilantro, beets, garlic, and spinach. Georgian sauces are characteristically tart; some are piquant as well. An interesting feature of the Georgian sauce repertoire is that the same basic dressing adorns vastly different foods. Thus the nut sauce satsivi is served with meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables alike. Some sauces are so delicious in and of themselves that a common expression goes, "With a Georgian sauce you can swallow nails!"

Tkemali is the universal condiment in Georgia, used much as Americans use ketchup. It is prepared from the small, tart tkemali plum for immediate enjoyment or longterm keeping. Tkemali is meant to provoke the palate. It enlivens chicken and vegetables--such as the famous lobio tkemali) kidney beans in red plum sauce--and is the classic accompaniment to grilled lamb or beef. Tkemali also lends a distinctive flavor to soups and stews.

To make tkemali in America, I recommend using Santa Rosa plums. The finished sauce takes on a luscious shade of pink.

1 1/2 pounds plums (not too sweet or ripe)
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint
1/3 cup finely minced cilantro

Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Place in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Sinuner, covered, for 15 minutes, or until soft.

In a mortar with a pestle, pound together the coriander seed, fennel seed, garlic, cayenne, and salt to make a fine paste.

When the plums are soft, put them through a food mill and return to a clean pan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat, stirring for 3 minutes. Stir in the ground spices and continue cooking until the mixture thickens slightly, another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the mince mint and cilantro and remove from the heat. Pour into a jar while still hot. Either cool to room temperature and keep in the refrigerator, or seal the jar for longer storage.

From: The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia by Darra Goldstein.
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