Plum Sauce (Tkemali)
Grilled meats and fish are rarely served plain, since they make such
excellent foils for sauce. Georgian sauces offer tremendous variety. Most
are prepared from the same fruits, vegetables, and nuts that appear in
various guises in other dishes. Plums, blackerries, blackthorn, grapes,
pomegranates, tomatoes, and cornelian cherries are all puréed for sauce, as
are cilantro, beets, garlic, and spinach. Georgian sauces are
characteristically tart; some are piquant as well. An interesting feature
of the Georgian sauce repertoire is that the same basic dressing adorns
vastly different foods. Thus the nut sauce satsivi is served with meat,
poultry, fish, and vegetables alike. Some sauces are so delicious in and of
themselves that a common expression goes, "With a Georgian sauce you can
Tkemali is the universal condiment in Georgia, used much as Americans use
ketchup. It is prepared from the small, tart tkemali plum for immediate
enjoyment or longterm keeping. Tkemali is meant to provoke the palate. It
enlivens chicken and vegetables--such as the famous lobio tkemali) kidney
beans in red plum sauce--and is the classic accompaniment to grilled lamb
or beef. Tkemali also lends a distinctive flavor to soups and stews.
To make tkemali in America, I recommend using Santa Rosa plums. The
finished sauce takes on a luscious shade of pink.
1 1/2 pounds plums (not too sweet or ripe)
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint
1/3 cup finely minced cilantro
Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Place in a saucepan with the
water and bring to a boil. Sinuner, covered, for 15 minutes, or until soft.
In a mortar with a pestle, pound together the coriander seed, fennel seed,
garlic, cayenne, and salt to make a fine paste.
When the plums are soft, put them through a food mill and return to a clean
pan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat, stirring for 3 minutes.
Stir in the ground spices and continue cooking until the mixture thickens
slightly, another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the mince mint and cilantro and
remove from the heat. Pour into a jar while still hot. Either cool to room
temperature and keep in the refrigerator, or seal the jar for longer
From: The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the
Republic of Georgia by Darra Goldstein.