Rachel Hogrogian’s Tutumov Rechel (Pumpkin preserves)

Recipe Corner: Rachel Hogrogian’s Tutumov Rechel

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“Armenian cuisine is as varied as the Near East and the areas the Armenians came from.” This is the first line of the late Rachel (Ansoorian) Hogrogian’s The Armenian Cookbook published in 1971. “There is midia dolma (stuffed mussels), a specialty from Constantinople; keshkeg and pacha, the hearty meals eaten in the mountains around Erzinjan; and lahmajoon, a meat pie that is very special when made by the people of Aintab (or Antep). There is a natural overlapping with Turkish, Greek, Persian and Arabic foods.”

In her seminal cookbook, Rachel showcases her family’s long journey and history of survival, and their collection of traditional Armenian recipes in their incredible flavors and varieties — from appetizers and rich soups to succulent meat, fish, lamb, and poultry dishes, to grains and vegetables, and desserts that are the perfect climax to any meal. Rachel was born on the island of Cyprus, where her parents had emigrated from their native Aintab, Turkey. Other family members were from the Erzurum area (Erzinjan and Chmishgezek), and Aleppo. Her family lived in Cyprus from the late 1890’s until 1910, when they eventually emigrated to Union City, New Jersey when she was a child. Like many Armenians who were forced to leave their homes because of the Armenian Genocide, Rachel’s family and relatives could bring little with them but their love and preservation of their region’s food, music, and history.

Liza Boyajian

The Armenian Cookbook was lovingly written by my grandmother and illustrated by my two-time Caldecott Medal-winning aunt, Nonny Hogrogian, a renowned illustrator of children’s books,” says Liza Boyajian, Rachel’s granddaughter. “I was about 10 years old when my dear grandmother decided to create this essential cookbook that includes an Armenian food glossary, menus, and index. It was a labor of love to write down and record these old family recipes. We spent an entire year tasting and testing these classic recipes, as she tried figuring out how much ‘a pinch of this and a pinch of that’ was. My grandmother made attainable many of those splendid breads and pastries that may have seemed too great a challenge to the intermediate baker. The lahmajoon made by the Aintabtsees (people of Aintab) is unsurpassable, as you will see, and you have never tasted keshkeg as good as the keshkeg from Erzinjan which she also included.”

Out of print since 1980, Liza self-published The Armenian Cookbook in 2014 on Amazon to keep her grandmother’s recipes accessible for new readers. “Republishing my grandmother’s cookbook was a way to keep her recipes alive for future generations — it’s my own personal Armenian cooking bible. Her cookbook serves as a great introduction to classical Armenian dishes, with a little family history thrown in, too. My grandmother was a very talented home cook who used large amounts of butter when cooking. I don’t think many people were too worried about cholesterol in 1971. But she would never substitute margarine when making her Armenian desserts and pastries. Her cookbook reminds me of the times we shared together tasting each of the recipes that have been passed down for generations — like my grandmother’s Tutumov Rechel filled with real pumpkin goodness.”

Ingredients:

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6 pounds pumpkin (ask for Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, see Note)

Pickling lime*

Water

10 cups sugar

2 sticks cinnamon

8 cloves

Juice of 1 large lemon

 

Preparation:

Cut pumpkin into 1/4-inch slices. Remove the seeds and the skin. Cut each slice into 3-inch pieces.

Dissolve lime in a gallon of water in a large bowl. Add pumpkin pieces to the bowl, and let them soak in the lime water overnight. The following day, drain pumpkin, wash the pieces in cold running water, and drain again.

Combine sugar with 5 quarts of water in a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil, add the pumpkin, and cook for 3 hours. Add cinnamon and cloves, and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Add lemon juice and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, until syrup is thick and pumpkin is clear. Pour preserve into sterilized jars, and store in the refrigerator.

(Note: The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (sometimes called a Cinderella pumpkin), is related to butternut squash, and has been favored for its smooth texture, long storage capabilities, and for its use in pumpkin pie. The name is a nod to the squash’s growing region along the eastern seaboard, and its unique shape which resembles a cheese wheel.)

*Pickling lime is a white chemical powder used in older pickle recipes to add crispness to the finished product. It works by introducing calcium into the pectin of the food to be pickled. Pickling lime works well for this purpose, but it’s no longer recommended because use of this chemical can lead to botulism in the finished pickles; several cases have been reported. (See substitutes at: https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-pickling-lime-what-s-a-safer-substitute-1389134 or at https://www.tasteofbeirut.com/pumpkin-jam-cubes-mrabba-etta-al-yakteen/)

 

Makes 2 quarts.

ORDER TODAY: The Armenian Cookbook Paperback, June 25, 2014, first published in 1971 by Rachel Hogrogian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian. Go to: https://www.amazon.com/Armenian-Cookbook-Rachel-Hogrogian/dp/149738706X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544203693&sr=8-1&keywords=the+armenian+cookbook

“Armenian cuisine is a far better thing than the bit of pilaf or stuffed grape leaves that the casual diner in Near Eastern restaurants has timidly sampled. And here it is in all its dazzling variety — piquant appetizers to stir the taste buds; good, rich soups to nourish the soul; succulent meat, fish and poultry dishes for hearty entrees; exciting different combinations of grains and vegetables. Rachel Hogrogian has made attainable those splendid breads and pastries that may have seemed too great a challenge to the intermediate baker. And her meltingly delicious desserts will be the perfect climax to any meal.”

References:

https://www.facebook.com/TheArmenianCookbook/

https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheArmenianCookbook/photos/?ref=page_internal

https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheArmenianCookbook/videos/?ref=page_internal

https://www.houshamadyan.org/mapottomanempire/vilayet-of-bitlispaghesh/kaza-of-moush/local-characteristics/cuisine.html

https://www.facebook.com/armenianinternationalcuisinesandmore/posts/2712471975449702

https://festival.si.edu/blog/what-is-armenian-food-depends-who-you-ask

https://www.languagesoftheworld.info/uncategorized/national-cuisines-south-caucasus-melting-pot-mediterranean-persian-central-asian-influences.html

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