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Monday 29 November 2021
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Makdous: A Healthy Pickled Delight

Contributing writer: Jameel Dabbagh

A delicious and healthy plate of makdous

An ancient culinary delight, the roots of makdous stem from Syria although it is a beloved staple throughout Levantine and Middle Eastern cuisine. It consists of oil-cured baby eggplants and is traditionally stuffed with a flavorful mix of roasted capsicum (red peppers), walnuts, garlic, salt and olive oil. These ingredients are used in makdous recipes across Lebanon. The Qaa village in the district of Baalbeck is renowned for its makdous which is made from irrigated eggplants in the Masharee al-Qaa agricultural area.

Autumn is considered “makdous season.” The season extends from the end of September into October. A comforting snack, it is prepared mainly in households and by local small-scale producers and local coops. It is eaten for breakfast or dinner and is considered a side dish in many homes across Lebanon and the Levant. Fall is an ideal time to prepare makdous, as it is when small and tender black-colored eggplants are harvested. The season also coincides with when walnuts are harvested and when red peppers are at their ripest. In Lebanon, the two eggplant varieties are locally known as Bou Shawki and El Homsi. Makdous production also plays an important role in improving rural livelihoods and empowering women, as many of the makdous producers in the villages tend to be women who make an income from selling makdous and other mouneh products. In Lebanon, makdous is also an essential part of the mezze spread which is an assortment of finger foods served as an appetizer at restaurants.

Makdous pickled in a jar

Every component of makdous offers various nutritional benefits. The eggplant itself is an excellent source of potassium and fibers. The stuffing of the eggplants comprises a tasty combination of healthy ingredients. Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids making it an essential heart-healthy food. Additionally, capsicums are an excellent source of vitamins A, E, B6 and most importantly are one of the richest dietary sources of essential vitamin C. They also contain many healthy antioxidants that are good for eye health. Moreover, the essential and flavorful ingredient, garlic, is a very good source of manganese and vitamin C, besides several minerals including phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and copper. Garlic compounds can reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, hence lowering the risk of heart disease. Overall, this combination preserved in olive oil constitutes a healthy appetizer when consumed moderately.

Ingredients:
10 kg of baby eggplants
1 kg walnuts
1 garlic bulb
1 kg ground coarse salt
3 kg sweet red capsicum

Preparation:
1. Wash the eggplants and put them in a bag, then put them in a saucepan that contains boiling water. Let the water boil for about five minutes, and then wash them under cold water and cool the eggplants in order to prevent them from blackening.

2. Remove the stems and slit each eggplant with a knife in the middle, then put some of the coarse salt inside the slit and put the eggplant back into a bag and put a weight on it so that it is compressed and drained of water. The compression should last between 24 to 48 hours.

3. To prepare the filling, chop some walnuts, garlic and capsicum. Add coarse and crushed salt (salt according to your preference).

4. Once the eggplant is drained, stuff if it with mixed ingredients and then place the eggplants in clean, pre-sterilized jars.

5. Add oil to fully immerse the eggplants and leave them for 48 hours, if the oil level drops below the eggplant add more oil so that the eggplants remain submerged. Leave them to cure for about two weeks before eating, the longer you marinate them, the more sour they will be.

Ain Loz Coop preparing makdous in the Ain Ata Village, Rachaya District, West Bekaa (photo courtesy of Yasmin Olabi)
Jars full of makdous prepared by the Ain Loz Coop in the Ain Ata Village, Rachaya District, West Bekaa (photo courtesy of Yasmin Olabi)

Best practices for making makdous:

• The size of the eggplant is an important factor, if the eggplant is too big then it will have too many seeds and it will have a bitter taste. There are several varieties to choose from when making makdous: black, purple or even white eggplants.

• When grinding nuts, try to grind roughly so that a coarse texture for the stuffing is achieved.

• It is possible to use vegetable oil only, provided that it is of good quality, but it is preferable to mix olive oil with vegetable oil.

• Do not use olive oil alone because the oil freezes in the winter, which facilitates the entry of air into the product and leads to the formation of bacteria. High temperatures are ideal for the fermentation process.

• The most important factor in properly preserving makdous is extracting as much water from the eggplants as possible.

• The shelf life of makdous is approximately two years.

Tray full of makdous

Where to buy makdous:

The Bekaa Valley:

Rachaya, Bekaa: Ibtisam Barakat
ج.ت النسائية للتصنيع الزراعي – وادي التيم م.م
71-349-410

Kfarmeshki, Bekaa: Rola Fawzi Al Farikh
ج.ت لانتاج الحليب في كفرمشكي وجوارها م.م
03-984-356

Ain Ata, Bekaa: Hanan El Sahili
ج.ت الانتاجية في عين عطا – عين اللوز م.م
76-241-650

Kherbet Qanafar, Bekaa: Lina Saadeh
لقمة وريف
70-671-399

Kherbet Qanafar, Bekaa: Amila Azzam
SME
76-144-202

Khiara, Bekaa: Najla Haidar
خيرات بقاعنا – الانتاجية في الخيارة
70-566-456

Sultan Yaaqoub, Bekaa: Sawsan Abou Salheh
لتصنيع الغذائي في السلطان يعقوب
03-146-118

Sohmor, Bekaa: Zeinab Abbas
الجمعية النساىية للتنمية الاجتماعية
03-498-154

Kamed El Loz, Bekaa: Bassam Taha
نادي كامد اللوز الثقافي
03-875-762

Ksarnaba, Bekka: Rabiaa Dirani
الجمعية التعاونية الانتلجية في قصرنبا و الجوار
70-609-123

Qab Elias, Bekaa: Mohana Haidar
دار فريدة
70-436-090

Bedneyel, Bekaa: Chadia Haidar
SME
76-641 471

Southern Lebanon:

Zawtar, Nabatiyeh: Mohamad Ali Nehme
الجمعيية التعاونية الزراعية النباتات الطبية والعطرية في زوطر الشرقية وجوارها
70-845-194

Deir Mimas, Marjeyoun: Amal Hanna
الجمعية التعاونية لزراعة العضوية وتربية النحل في ديرميماس وجوارها م.م
03-430-597

Rihan, Jezzine: Sahjanan Hassoune
الجمعية التعاونية الزراعية العامة
70-518-826 or 03-721-607




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