THINGS I LIKE: Mickey's "Puttler Jelly"

When I  was growing up, my mother, Mickey Holder, made a delicious smokey, chopped eggplant dish that we ate with toast or crackers. We called the dish "Puttler Jelly". Why it was called "Puttler Jelly"  was not clear to me but I ate it with great enjoyment. As I grew older, I became aware that chopped eggplant dishes were eaten all over the world, eg., Baba Ghanouj, chopped eggplant mixed with tahini (sesame seed paste) and seasonings was ubiquitous all over the Middle East. I have eaten Baba Ghanouj in ethnic Syrian - American, Lebanese - American and Greek - American restaurants and loved them all. In Greek restaurants the dish is called "melitzanosalata". In Turkey, where I ate it in Istanbul, the dish is called "patlican salatsi." In France, a similar dish is made, called "eggplant caviar" with olive oil substituting for the tahini. Many other European countries, including Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia, Armenia and Greece, to name just a few, prepare similar dishes. When I decided to write about my mother's "Puttler Jelly", I did a little research on this kind of dish and discovered that in Rumanian it is called "patlagele vinete". Is this where "Puttler Jelly" came from; a mispronouncing of the the Romanian "patlagele? There is not, to my knowledge, any Rumanian connection in my family tree. To my mother, this would not have mattered. She incorporated recipes into her family cooking from anyone with whom she had contact if she thought her family would enjoy them.; her "tomato sauce" recipe, for example, which is  still being made by the third generation of  our family, came from the  Carvel family (Caravelli when they got off the boat from Italy, as children). With more looking, I found that the word for eggplant in Yiddish is "patlejan". Since grandparents on both sides of my family and my parents, as well, spoke Yiddish this, more likely, is the root source from which the mispronounced  term, "Puttler Jelly" derived. Whatever is really the case, I still make Mickey's "Puttler Jelly" and it has been enjoyed by all who taste it. The recipe follows:


 I call this a recipe but it is only, in reality, a guideline since I was  told what went into its making but with no specific amounts of each ingredient given. The final product will be unique to the person preparing the dish but I have given some "starting points" and will leave the taste of the finished dish  to the palate of each preparer.


2  eggplants
1 large onion, small dice
minced fresh garlic - to taste
red wine vinegar or lemon juice - to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
extra virgin olive oil


Heat oven to 450F.
Cut eggplants in half and place, cut side down, on a sheet pan.
Roast until the skin is charred and the flesh is soft and fully cooked.
Allow to cool and, discarding the skin,  scoop out eggplant flesh into a food processor.*  Don't worry if a few "charred" parts of the skin are still attached. This gives a further smokey taste to the dish.
Add onion and garlic.
Pulse a couple of times adding olive oil until a coarse puree is formed.
Mix in small amounts of vinegar or lemon juice plus salt and pepper, tasting after each addition until the mixture has a creamy texture with the  balance of garlic, salt, acid and smoke that suites your palate.

* if you do not have a food processor, the eggplant can be mashed with a fork and the other ingredients added, as above.

Serve as a dip with wedges of pita, plain or toasted, or spread on crackers.