The production of abgora in Azerbaijan dates back to very ancient times: the first written information about this product was found in the 12th century poem “Seven Beauties” by Nizami Ganjavi. Despite its ancient history, the production of abgora and its use in the kitchen have been somewhat forgotten.
It is mainly produced and sold at the markets in the Absheron area by the people who grow grape vines in their backyard. Some companies also produce it in certain regions of Azerbaijan, but since only one litre of abgora is obtained from a whole bucket of grapes, the production costs are high.
To produce the traditional condiment, grapes must be harvested unripened, between the 1st and 3rd of August. The bunches are collected, and the berries separated and washed several times. According to ancestral tradition, the grapes are then to be crushed with a stone. If the product was prepared in large quantities, the grapes would have been placed in a stone cavity and then crushed. Nowadays the grapes are often crushed with a stone in a copper or aluminium pot and then the liquid is filtered through a sieve into a glass container. The resulting liquid is collected in a jar, where it is slightly diluted and then filtered into smaller glass containers. The abgora is then left in a sunny area exposed to the sun for sterilisation. In the past, glass jars were buried in hot sand. The opening of the glass jar must not be sealed because a gas is formed while it is under the heat of the sunlight and if the containers were closed, the gases inside it would react in the same way as popping a bottle of champagne when it comes out violently. The glass jar is therefore closed only with a cloth and only once the cooking process is completed is it sealed well and stored in a cool place.
The abgora has a sour taste and a colour that can vary from white to red, depending on the type of grape used. When exposed to heat, the product becomes reddish.
Abgora is recommended to treat inflammation of the respiratory tract, anaemia, bronchial asthma, metabolic disorders, insomnia, kidney problems and liver disease. Even alopecia can be treated with abgora. Above all, it promotes the digestion of the rather fatty foods which are typical of Azerbaijani cuisine. It is mainly used on fried vegetables with pilaf and, if there is no yoghurt, it can also be used as a substitute on kebabs. If it is added to the meat while cooking the kebab, it increases its softness.