What Is Makdous?

Dan Harkins

In Lebanon, the process of mouneh is how farmers pickle, season and preserve a variety of harvest vegetables. Makdous is the method of stuffing immature eggplants with a mixture of nuts, peppers and spices before they undergo the mouneh process of a long soak in olive oil. These methods allow vegetables to last until harvest time rolls around again.

Large quantities of olive oil are used to pickle and preserve makdous.
Large quantities of olive oil are used to pickle and preserve makdous.

Many people think of the fully ripened version of aubergine when considering using eggplant. The level of maturity for makdous should be fat and purple, but just about the length of an adult finger. These are cleaned in boiling water for about 10 minutes, then fully drained. This blanches the vegetables and helps them to soften later in the pickling process, though the juvenile aubergine should hold a pleasant crunch for a year at least.

Many people store jars of makdous in the refrigerator.
Many people store jars of makdous in the refrigerator.

After being laid in a row and lightly pressed, many will leave the vegetable out overnight before starting on the filling. Before final jarring, the filling is made, composed of a range of local ingredients. Crushed walnuts, sun-dried peppers, minced garlic and even pomegranate seeds are mixed with some salt, coriander and olive oil in a bowl. Then each aubergine is slit along the side and stuffed with the filling. The peppers are left out when no spiciness is wanted, and some prefer even a simpler filling of just peppers, salt, walnuts and olive oil.

The makdous goes standing up into the jars after construction is finished. The Dirty Kitchen Secrets Web site shows how each layer in the jars can be divided by sliced peppers for added heat, and how the jars can be rigged upside-down to drain even more liquid for a whole day. The last step involves pouring olive oil over the makdous, sealing the jars, and waiting.

Many advise waiting at least five days for the flavors in the jar to fully meld. Some cooking Web sites claim that the contents can keep for up to one year and that refrigeration is not necessary after the jars have been opened. A lot of people do store their jars in the refrigerator though, particularly after they have been opened.

Makdous is served with a little of its olive oil in a bowl, often along with some form of flat bread. It is a customary amuse-bouche — a free pre-meal table offering, throughout the Middle Eastern countries of the Mediterranean region in 2011. Instead of just eating bread while waiting for meals, diners have pita and the aesthetically distinct makdous to hold their interests.

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