I love the old fashion way of leaving and preparing food for later. Although my pantry is not a real one;-like my mother's small,cold room was- but one dedicated kitchen cabinet. But who knows, maybe in the future, I will have that magical space.
For now, lets focus on making the main ingredients of a pantry: preserves.

From time to time my favorite second hand stores, have some precious cookbooks available. I recently got some very valuable ones. In this post I will share;the "wisdom" from "The Mediterranean Pantry" by Aglaia Kremezi and "Preserved"by N. Sandler and J. Acton.


I'll start with the "brain mix:"


In the Mediterranean, it has been strongly believed since the times of the Ancient Greeks that one herb mixture clears the mind and gives strength, and that is one of the reasons why mothers gave it (and still continue to give it) to their children on a piece of toasted bread with a little bit of olive oil and pepper, before school or some important exam. The basic recipe calls for thyme, and that is what is in my Palestinian mix (''from the hills of Palestine'') which I bought in a store called "10000 villages." However A. Kremezi suggests to replace the thyme with savory spice which tastes like a cross between oregano and thyme.

1/2 cup of thyme (or savory)           
1/4 cup sumac
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Grind the mix in a coffee grinder until you get a fine powder or, if you like it more coarse like my Palestinian version, grind it in mortar for some time. Keep it sealed in a jar for up to two months.

Herbes preserved in salt

This mix could keep up almost indefinitely in the refrigerator, and it can be used every time you make good soup or sauce.
As the mix is very salty, omit salt in your recipe if you are using it.
You'll need kitchen scale, ingredients must be measured precisely or it can spoil*.

3 oz/85 g fresh parsley leafs, stems cut off, washed and dried 
3 oz/85 g celery leaves, stems cut off, washed and dried
6 oz/170 g leeks, white part only, sliced
2 1/2 / 70 g sea salt

Place the herbs and a leeks in the food processor until you get a paste. Add salt, mix well.
Pack it in a glass jar. It makes 2 cups of a paste.

*One recipe calls for 1/2 lb (8oz-220g) of parsley, celery, carrot and leek. I recommend it if you like more sweet taste in your soup from a carrot.
TIP: Add 1 tbsp of the paste to every 4 cups of soup or sauce.


This North African hot chilli pepper paste is one of the most popular additions to sauces, stews, soups or dressings of the Eastern cooking. 
With a good olive oil, it can be also served as a great dip with crackers or home made breadsticks.

1/3 cup of Aleppo or some Eastern crushed red pepper
or 8 dried New Mexican chill peppers-stems and seeds removed and soaked into warm water for 15 minutes, dried and crushed
or 1/3 cup red paper flakes mixed with 1 tbsp paprika,
1 garlic clove minced,
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground caraway
2-3 tsp water
1-2 tbsp olive oil

If you have a food processor, mix all the ingredients to get a smooth paste. pack into a small jar and cover with a little bit more olive oil.
It can keep for few month in refrigerator.

Mixed herb incense

This is just some natural way to get that Mediterranean sense in your home. It's very popular around Greece and further, to mix these and some other herbs your way.
I'm more lavender type, but you can focus on some other herbs too.

5 tbsp dried lavender
4 tbsp dried rosemary
3 tbsp dried thyme
3 tbsp dried oregano
5 dried bay leaves, crumbled

Toss all the ingredients with your fingers
Burn teaspoonfuls of the mix, on small, specially treated charcoal tablets (some churches have it). Add herbs to wax also if making some incense candles.
It keep fresh for about 6 month.

(festive Christmas cookies) 

This Umbrian sweet peppered bread got its deep roots in ancient Greek flat sweet bread as described in Athenaeus and other old author's book. It is complex and for that reason served for some special occasions, like Christmas, in Italy.

2/3 cup raisins
2-3 tbsp espresso coffee (or brandy)
1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup almonds, toasted
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
3 ½ oz (100 g)) semisweet chocolate, grated
½ chopped candied orange or tangerine peel
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water
¾ cup grape juice, reduced to ¼ cup
grated nutmeg
grated zest of 1 orange
¼ tsp sea salt
6-10 grindings black pepper
1 cup unbleached white flour
apricot jam, melted
confectioners sugar

Soak the raisins in coffee (or brandy) and little warm water for half an hour, than drain. Preheat oven to 180cC – 350F. Chop together nuts and add raisins, citrus peels and chocolate. Melt honey and 2 tsp water and add in. Stir in grape juice, nutmeg, zest, salt and pepper and flour. Divide dough into 3 balls and shape each piece into 6 “ disk. Place it on a buttered and dusted baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Brush it with melted apricot jam and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool, sprinkle with sugar.
Let mellow for 2-3 days before serving. It keeps for about one month in an airtight container.
Serves 10.

Almond syrup

Almond syrup is related to many traditional and special occasions in Southern Europe and Middle East and is also believed to help new mothers to produce more mother's milk for their babies.

You need for 3 cups of syrup:
1 ½ cups blanched almonds
½ tsp almond extract
4 cups warm water
3 cups sugar

Soak the almonds in 2 cups warm water overnight. Place it in a food processor and mix until you get fine meal. Strain in a cheesecloth. Place solids in a bowl and pour over 1 cup of warm water. Repeat until all the almonds have been used. It should make about 4 cups of almond milk.
In a pot cook for about an hour, almond milk and sugar. When is thick, fill your empty clean bottle with it.
It will keep for about one year.
To serve stir 2-3 tbsp of syrup in a glass of water and ice cubes. Any type of almond liquor can be added too, like Italian “Crema di Mandorla”, that really makes this drink for even more special.


It 's always better to avoid making large quantities of fruit that require longer cooking times and cooked jam would not be homogeneous along with the texture and color.
For cooking, use a large pot, if possible in stainless steel. To prevent the jam to spillover, fill the pot only halfway. It should also only be used a wooden spoon, a slotted spoon to skim the jam.
During cooking, stir continuously with the wooden spoon to prevent the jam will stick to the bottom of the pot and to facilitate evaporation of the liquid.
With the fruits rich in protein (such as strawberries), you must skim the jam. In fact, the natural foam that forms alters the appearance and conservation of jams (which incorporate air). Strawberries and berries should not be immersed in running water but washed carefully one by one to avoid the fruits lose their juice and flavor. 
As a general rule it is essential to work in perfect hygienic conditions both the preparation and the cooking of the fruit, both in the use of appliances. Even the slightest dirt can cause the rapid deterioration of your preparations.
After baking, jams can be flavored with a little of brandy or liqueur of your choice. The addition of brandy or liqueur in small quantities (up to 3 tablespoons) does not affect the gelling process. 
For larger amounts, reduce in proportion to the fruit or fruit juice.
Select the jam jars fitted with a screw-cap (with a protective coating on the inner edge).The texture, the aroma and the natural color of the jam will be retained perfectly. The cellophane sheets do not offer enough protection to secure long-term, although in fact I remember that my mom used them, I would not have you ever made!
The jams and jellies must be prepared in jars perfectly clean: the board must be cleaned before closing the jar.  Keep in a cool and dark place; your jams retain their color and consistency perfectly.
The jam jars initiated should be stored in the refrigerator. Once you open the jars, the solid structure of the jams and jellies is altered and may result in the formation of juice.
The addition of fatty ingredients (nuts or flaked coconut) or other small extras (leaves of mint or lemon balm) after cooking reduces the shelf life of jams.

Easy Plum jam (made in oven or slow cooker)

You can make it in an oven, over the night, or in a slow cooker, for little bit longer.

You'll need:
fresh, ripe and sweet Italian plums
                                            dry plums-prunes (1/10 of amount of fresh plums)
lemon peel-optional
big clay pot or slow cooker
sterilized glass jars

(In one 5l pot or slow cooker, you can make approximately 0,75 to 1 kg of plum jam)

THE OVEN method:

Get your plums very ripe, wash it, chop in bigger pieces and take out pits. Keep few pits aside for later.
In the evening put your plums, dry plums, few pits, sugar and other optional ingredients, in a big and deep dish. I prefer clay, but you can use any that doesn't stick easy. Cover, and put in an oven on 180C for about an hour.

Uncover and stir, lower temperature and put it back for few hour more. Occasionally take out and stir again. Cover tightly and leave over the night to cook on a very low temperature (~100C). Stir in the morning and check if it's thick enough. If not, leave it for longer without completely covering with lid. Rise a temperature again, and check and stir more often until is done.
Take it out and fill your prepared (sterilized) jars. Cover tightly with plastic foil or prepared lids, and leave on a counter to cool. Store in a cold place (fridge) and enjoy all year long!


If you are making a jam in a slow cooker, be ready for two to three days of cooking. With a  checking your cooking couple of times a day, you'll have a perfect jam at the end!
On a first day do the same, like for the oven method, with a lid on, on a stronger slow cooker setting (2). After one day of cooking, leave a lid little bit open and lower a temperature to setting 1, so that water can slowly evaporate. Stir occasionally and after second day of cooking test it, if it has a jam consistency. If it takes more time, continue with cooking until is done. Transfer to jars, as explained previously.

You can test it, if you take out one spoon of hot jam on a cold plate and wait to cool. If it's thick and it doesn't contain water, is ready.

Check your stored jam occasionally for mold. As soon as you discover it, take out that part and part around, the rest of jam will still be good for consuming. Don't take out all the content, but try to consume it faster.
This jam is great on a piece of freshly homemade bread, in crepes or in potato dumplings-"knedle"and in the following recipes.

Quince Jam:

Ingredients :
4 large quinces (after about 1 kg)
1 lb of sugar (less if you prefer not too sweet jam)
water as needed

Preparation :
Peel quinces and put in a deep pot. Cover them with water, and bring to boil over high heat, and then reduce to low heat for about an hour until quinces become soft. Take them out of the water but do not throw the cooking water. Cut quinces into pieces and remove the core. Throw quince pulp to the blender. Transfer the pulp to another pot and I add sugar and a few spoons of reserved cooking water. Cook all that on a low heat for about ½ - 1 hour and at the same time sterilize the jars, the way you prefer. You can just boil them in a pot full of water.
Don’t expect quince jam to be like a regular jam but more like an applesauce.
Dry the jars. Select the caps with the click clack, the vacuum provides a better preservation of the jam. 

Preserved quince with walnuts


2 lb – 1kg washed, cleaned and grated quince
1 - 2 lb sugar
1 cup water
Juice of one lemon
1 lemon sliced
½ cup whole walnuts
2 tbsp amaretto or regular brandy (optional)

Wash and peel quinces, grate them and sprinkle with lemon juice so they don’t go dark.

In a large deep pot combine sugar and water and heat them so it starts boiling. Turn a heat down and let it cook until mix become syrupy.  Then add quince and cook more until whole mass becomes very dense. Add sliced lemon and brandy. Let it cool completely. Add walnuts, mix all and fill previously prepared jars.

Homemade Prunes - Dry plums

Here is how:

Spread your washed and dried plums (unpitted) on a big pan and put it in the oven on a very low temperature, a lowest you can set. Start with 45C-50C. Keep doors of the oven minimally open during this process so that moisture dries out from the fruit easily. Check and turn them occasionally. After couple of hours of drying, when they start to lose their shape, turn the heat up to 60C-70C and continue until ready: elastic but without water coming out of the plumes.
The best way to preserve them is to keep dry fruit in a fabric bags or paper boxes.



 Real Genovesan pesto does not use strong pecorino romano cheese, but only more mild parmegiano regiano, as is with a choice of olive oil, but it really depends on a personal taste.

If you want to make it traditional way, get a good mortar and pestle instead of food processor.

For good pesto you need:

2 cups fresh basil leaves
3 garlic chopped cloves
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1/2-1 tsp salt
black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1/4 cup grated pecorino sardo (mild pecorino version)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Crush basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, salt, pepper by using circular motion until into basil paste. Add cheese. Mix. Add olive oil.
If you cook pasta, use couple of tbsp of cooking water to steer in with pesto, when serving .
Pesto is the best when freshly prepared before serving with pasta.
If you making it in food processor, do not over process cheese.

Moroccan Green Leaf Jam

This Green Leaf Jam belongs to those pesto-type spreads, but lighter, and more sensational! It's easy to make, and compared to all other "old-fashion" preserves, this one could arguably be classified into the gourmet food category.


2 bunches of spinach leaves (250 gr)
3-4 tbs good olive oil
3-4 crushed cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 bunch of parsley
handful of cilantro leafs (to the taste)
handful of good black olives (preferably just in oil- no vinegar)
1 tsp smoked paprika
squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to the taste

Cook spinach in a steamer until soft. Run cold water over and drain well to squeeze out all the excess water. Chop the leafs to very fine, to get almost a paste.
In a pot, heat 3/4 of the olive oil on a mild temperature and add garlic and cumin, to get a nutty aroma. Stir finely chopped olives, parsley, cilantro and paprika. Cook for about a minute, add spinach and cook more on a mild heat all together with stirring, approximately 10 minutes. Season and cool.
Transfer jam in a jar or glass container and cover with lemon juice and some remaining olive oil. 


Ajvar - Balkan's antipasto - vegetable spread

There are many versions and recipes to make a good ajvar, but there are also other popular spread and relish recipes. Lutenica or pinjur/pindzur is a chunkier version of ajvar with some addition of tomatoes.

Ajvar - how to

baked peppers and eggplant, must be peeled and grind

cook ajvar on a stove or in slow cooker for longer

it should look like this when done

( Dana's best recipe - tested )

For a large quantity you will need:

10 kg (22 lb) of red (Hungarian style) peppers
4 kg (9 lb) of eggplant
3 dl (1 cup) vegetable oil (sunflower)
salt (to your taste)
2 tbs sugar
5 cloves of garlic

Sliced eggplants and whole peepers must be baked thoroughly, in an oven or barbecue. The eggplants must be peeled, as well as the peppers (which are de-seeded after that.) On a manual meat grinder, grind the eggplants and peppers together. Then cook all that together, in vegetable oil, in a big pot, it should take about a couple of hours until you get a dense consistency (usually 3-4 hours is needed for the best results.) Season and add garlic, according to the taste, 1/2 hour before it is done. Pour ajvar into warm jars, and place it in the preheated 100C (150 F) oven, close the oven and turn the heat off. Leave the jars open like that over night in the oven. The heat will make a crust on the ajvar, this is usually a good sign that the ajvar will last long. Put the lids over and store in a cold place.

(Small quantity version - tested this year)
You will need:

3 eggplants
30 good red field (Hungarian style) peppers
sterilized jars

Process should be the same, and if you plan to put a vinegar in, do it also at the end of cooking.

Pinjur - (chunky ajvar)                                  
5 red Hungarian peppers baked
3 tomatoes baked in the oven and peeled
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 eggplant baked
1 small hot pepper (to the taste)
olive oil

Chop all the ingredients and put in a pan with a good amount of oil. Cook for about 1 hour 1/2 on a stove top on a very low temperature. Do the same like with ajvar if you are going to preserve it in a jars. Otherwise, if you will consume it in a week, refrigerating will do the job.

Parsley sauce preserve

One more preserve that would be great for any type of meat and is much easier to make than ajvar and remind a little bit to pesto, but because it doesn't have any cheese in it, it is more light and refreshing in taste.

1 parsley branch                                                      
2 onions                                  
4 garlic cloves
2 small hot peppers
8 peppercorns
1 cup (2.5 dl) of olive oil
1 tsp vinegar

Process: Peel onions and garlic and chop very fine with a parsley, or mash in a mortar. Add grounded hot peppers and other ingredients. Pour it in a glass container or bottle and keep closed in a cold place.

Sour kraut or sour cabbage is another important winter food over there and basically there is almost no family that is not preparing it for a winter. It is easy and healthy and I will explain a process soon
Bags of cabbage ready to go home for sour kraut preparation