Finally, a chance to join Lasang Pinoy, a food blog event dedicated to Filipino fare. I've been keeping an eye out for the latest round's announcement for the longest time. The anniversary theme 'Cooking for Heroes' inspired me to haul myself out of my sick bed, plied with endless cups of salabat and some serious antibiotics, I get on to work in the kitchen. We are talking about our Philippine national heroes here after all. In my own little way, from the heart of my own little kitchen,I shall honour them.
Admittedly, though, my knowledge of Philippine history is a tad rusty. I can rattle off names considered to be 'heroes' but hardly know their story in detail. General Emilio Aguinaldo's is one name I remember well from childhood visits to Biak na Bato, a series of caves in San Miguel ,Bulacan (where both of my parents were born) which the early revolutionaries against the Spaniards used as a place of refuge. The caves later on served as the headquarters of the Philippine revolutionary government. Emilio Aguinaldo became the president of the First Philippine Republic and continued to fight for Philippine independence through to the American occupation.
Thinking of a dish fit for a revolutionary and statesman, the best I thought I could offer is a bottle of atsara. During the days of the revolution, freshly-cooked meals would have been hard to come by. I imagined that dried meat or fish and the occasional produce foraged from the mountains would have been the staple. At Biak na Bato, one of the bigger caves, from memory, is called Bahay Paniki- for the millions of bats that used to inhabit the structure. I dread to think that barbecued 'panikis' were eaten regularly but they would have been a good source of protein for the freedom-fighters. A sweet, sour and refreshing helping of atsara would have made the fighters' meager meals a lot more enjoyable.
Personally, I believe atsara complements a LOT of dishes. From the humble tuyo (dried salted fish) to the special fiesta dishes like lechon (whole roasted pig) and anything fried in between. This relish of green papaya has many variations. When I researched recipes, I found that some people enjoy them as simple as possible with just papaya and carrots while some throw in pineapple or cabbage in the mix. My atsara is similar to those made by an aunt and what I've had from Bulacan- a mix of papaya, carrots, peppers and raisins.
I made half of the batch for immediate consumption, simply pouring the pickling solution over the vegetables in a jar and then refrigerating. The other half, I will be giving away as gifts so I 'pasteurised' in pickling jars with pop lids.
800 g green papaya, grated or julienned
2 medium carrots, grated
1 onion, grated
1 medium red capsicum (pepper), julienned
1 medium green capsicum, julienned
1 c raisins
2 Tbsp salt
2 1/2 c white vinegar
2 c sugar
1 inch piece ginger, julienned
2 cloves garlic sliced thinly
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
In a large bowl, mix the grated green papaya with the salt. Cover with cling film and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Meanwhile, the syrup can be prepared by boiling the vinegar and sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, mix in the ginger, garlic and black pepper and let simmer for a further 5 minutes.
When ready, rinse the papaya well. Squeeze as much of the water out as possible by placing the rinsed papaya in a large piece of muslin and wringing it hard. Mix in the rest of the vegetables.
Put the vegetable mix into sterilized jars. Pour in the syrup and remove bubbles by pushing the vegetables down with the back of a spoon. Put lid on jar.
If for immediate consumption, the jar can be put in the fridge and it should last for a week.
If 'preserving', put the jars in a cauldron of lukewarm water, making sure the water level is around 2cm above the jar lids. Bring to a boil and leave on a rolling boil for around 30minutes. Leave the bottles in the cauldron, with water, until completely cool. The pop lids should be flat, meaning a vacuum has been created. Otherwise, repeat the pasteurisation process. This pasteurised atsara should be good in the jar for a couple of months. Refrigerate upon opening.
*Updated 14 Nov
The batch of atsara was well-received by my first guinea pigs:-)
They will definitely make it to this year's Christmas hamper. I am sending this jar over to Zlamushka to put under her tree, as part of the festive event that is 'A Spoonful of Christmas'.