Fall is the season for many Romanian families to start preparing a good supply of preserves to have to serve over winter. Even though many local manufacturers and retailers now offer pickled products that taste almost as good as grandma’s preserves, there is a custom to keep in making them that many still follow. Here is a round-up of what you can expect to find and taste in Romanian kitchens in the preserves department.
Muraturi is one of the most popular preserves. ‘Murat‘ is the Romanian word for ‘pickled’ and the assorted variety comprises of gogonele (green tomatoes), cucumbers, peppers, cabbage and cauliflower. Each of these vegetables is also pickled separately and researchers of local food habits say that before pepper, bay leaves, mustard or aspirin started being used to help with the preservation process, the main ingredients for the salt-based or vinegar–based pickles were the leaved celery, the chive, garlic, fall apples, carrots and cherry-tree leaves. Almost any vegetable or fruit can be pickled so there are varieties with beet, watermelons, apples, green beans, grapes or mushrooms. Either as a snack or a side dish accompanying the meaty winter foods, muraturi are definitely a food you will encounter while in the country.
Very popular and many times labeled as a student-food is zacusca. Similar to vegetable spreads that can be encountered throughout the Balkans, it is prepared during the fall with eggplant, red peppers, tomato and onions. Some varieties are mushroom-based, and one of the tastier ones is zacusca de ghebe, a type of mushroom known by its Latin name as Armillaria mellea. Ghebe are also used in local kitchens as the base for various stews or are fried with garlic and dill.
Another preserve that is made during the fall is the zarzavat de ciorba (vegetables base for soups). Reminiscent of times when frozen foods (or vegetables) were not an option locally, this is a type of sauce that is added to various soups throughout winter and includes tomatoes, carrots, peppers and celery.
No pantry is complete without the sweets and fall is the season of magiun, a plum jam which received in 2011 the Protected Geographical Status from European Union. It is prepared with very ripe plums and no sugar is added, making it one of the healthiest foods.