Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dried barberry jam

While everyone is trying to capture the essence of citrus fruits and preserve it for the months to come with marmalades and jams, I am trying to capture the essence of barberries and the Middle East with a different kind of jam. One made with the dried fruit rather than the fresh —impossible to find fresh barberries here anyway—, that’s different than anything else I have ever tasted.




Quite sharp, intensely fruity and tangy, zingy and a bit sour and tart to the point where you think you can’t handle it, but then the sweetness kicks in to reassure your palate and bring balance. Flavored with saffron, cinnamon and cardamom, and sweetened by Demerara sugar which has a caramel sweetness that deepens the flavor of the jam, and having a lot of texture with a mixture of plump little barberries and wrinkly, crinkly ones.


It reminds me a bit of pomegranate molasses in terms of the effect it has on the palate, therefore, I think it would be great in stews, like a Persian stew, with this jam added instead of the pomegranate molasses.




It’s a jam not for the faint-hearted, nor for those who crave absolute sweetness, but for those who dream of a flavor combination that’s lively and unusual.




It’s the kind of jam that you’d thinly spread on top of a heavily buttered piece of toast to mellow out the tart, acidic tang of the jam, and one that I deeply enjoy paired with foie gras (duck or goose liver pâté) as its fattiness cuts through the sharpness of the jam (combo pictured in the photos below), or with pork rillettes (rough, rustic kind of pâté) and various charcuterie, or served as a side to seared, crispy-skinned duck breast, or a luscious duck leg confit.









Dried barberry jam
Slightly adapted from Sweet Middle East by Anissa Helou

It’s best if you keep it for 2-3 days in the fridge before you try it; the spices will have time to give more flavor to the jam and the sharpness of the fruit will mellow out a little bit.

Barberries are a very traditional Iranian dried fruit that’s acidic, quite tart and a tiny bit sweet. And if you want to use your barberries in more recipes, here is another one for Kuku sabzi, a Persian herb omelette with feta.




Yield: 1 large-ish jar

Ingredients
200 g dried barberries
380 ml unsweetened, pure apple juice
4 green cardamom pods, crushed lightly
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of saffron threads
170 g Demerara sugar


Preparation
Rinse the barberries well under cold running water and place them in a large glass bowl. Add the apple juice and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and let the barberries soak in the apples juice for 14-15 hours.

In a large saucepan, add the barberries and the apple juice, cardamom pods, saffron and the cinnamon stick, and place over a high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a heatproof spatula, and then add the sugar, without stopping stirring. Let boil for 4 minutes, still stirring constantly and then remove from the heat. Take out carefully the cinnamon stick and discard it and pour the jam into a sterilized glass jar (read here on how to sterilize glass jars). Put on the lid and turn the jar upside down.


Allow to cool completely and then store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days before opening and tasting it.

You can keep it in the fridge unopened for up to 3 months. Once opened, it keeps for 1 to 1½ month in the fridge.




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