In September the AZ8’s (my group) were wrapping up their activities, writing their Peace Corps reports, going to those last minute places, saying goodbyes, and packing. I wasn’t. I’m not leaving yet. I chose to extend until May 2013. Instead of preparing to leave, I prepared for another winter. I took the month of September to bulk up my food supply.

The winter months can be grueling for volunteers as it is very cold and there is less of the “normal” foods we would eat (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.). The winter is full of foods like cabbage, beets, radishes, carrots, and potatoes. Thrilling assortment, right? While tomatoes and other vegetables are sometimes available, they can be triple the price. What Azerbaijanis do (and what many Americans used to do) is can vegetables. This is what I did. My host mom and her sister-in-law taught me to can.

Here is my inventory:

6 kilos of tomatoes makes 6 large jars
4 kilos of peppers makes almost 2 large jars
1.5 kilos of hot peppers makes 4 .75 ml bottles
3.5 kilos of apples makes 2 500 ml jars of apple sauce
3 kilos of eggplants makes 3 500 ml jars of baba ghanoush
2 kilos of tomatoes makes 2 500 ml jars of tomato sauce

The process is pretty much the same. You prepare the vegetable, put garlic and dried greens inside with the vegetable, add salt, pour water, and then boil for more than an hour. Boiling is also how I sealed the apple sauce, baba ghanoush, and tomato sauce.

Since the winter time has begun, I opened my first jar the other day to eat some tomatoes and peppers. What I’ve remembered is that I don’t like “tursh” (Azeri for sour) vegetables. That canning smell, that canning taste… ewwww. I didn’t like to eat them when I was with my host family. I avoid eating the tursh food when I’m guesting. While Azerbaijanis may love it, I just can’t do it. I thought I would use these vegetables to cook with. That dramatically changed the taste of my food. I got to find a way to make these tomatoes and peppers taste not tursh!