مرباMoraba-ye Zoghal Akhteh (cornelian cherry jam) recipe was a last minute decision as I was through simply eating a handful of these different shades of red tangy oval-shaped fresh summer fruit. Cornelian cherry has many health benefits and depending on their ripeness their taste ranges from slightly bitter to tart and tart-sweet. With only a bowl of zoghal akhteh left on the kitchen table I decided to make jam and I'm happy to say that the jam turned out great. Although, lavashak-e zoghal akhteh (fruit roll-up) still remains to be my favorite way of eating this amazing fruit.
If I had a zoghal akhteh tree in my backyard I would spread out a malafeh (bed sheet) or a sofreh (tablecloth) under the tree and shake the branches vigorously and gather all the fruits but this small batch of fruits were picked from a Cornelian cherry tree on a public property in a New York area. I only learned its English name when I posted a photo of zoghal akhteh on my Facebook page and thanks to my lovely FB page fans I found out its correct name. Let's hope that in the future fruit growers and producers make this delicious fruit readily available at farmers' markets here so we wouldn't have to hang from tree branches in parks and busy streets in front of curious passersby. In the meantime, I enjoyed this rare find and although cornelian cherries are hard to find and are not available everywhere I would like to share this jam recipe with you all. For me, zoghal akhteh is reminiscent of those hot summers in Tehran with all the best snacks and sour fruits such as walnuts in brine, faloodeh, goojeh sabz (green sour plums), shahtoot (mulberry), and plump dried zoghal akhteh to name a few.
I tried to remove the pits prior to cooking but the Cornelian cherry pit is hard to dislodge. I thought of all the women that I had seen throughout my young life in Iran who patiently sat around a sofreh and meticulously prepared fruits and vegetables for jams and pickles which back then seemed like a pointless waste of time. In recent years, I am paying more attention to how I cook and especially over the past three and a half years of blogging maintaining the authenticity of recipes has become increasingly important for me and the long ingredient list or the length of time it takes to cook is no longer overwhelming. However, after removing some of the pits with a small sharp knife, I decided to take a less tedious and a much quicker approach of partially cooking the cherries and removing the pits. My mother would always prepare the sugar syrup in advance and add it to the jam during the cooking process. However, since I had already pre-cooked the cherries I decided to add the sugar directly to the pot to avoid the jam being too runny. If you would like to use the traditional method of using the sugar syrup, add a cup of water to 2 cups of sugar in a small pot, bring to a boil on medium heat, stir to dissolve the sugar fully and simmer till it thickens.
Moraba-ye Zoghal Akhteh - Cornelian Cherry Jam
4 cups Cornelian cherries, picked over and washed
2 cups sugar, amount of sugar can be adjusted to your liking, (I prefer it on the tart side).
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons rose water
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
4 cups water
- Place the cherries in a non-reactive heavy-bottomed pot. Add about 4 cups of water, bring to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Don't leave the boiling jam unattended. Stir frequently and remove any foam if necessary.
- Place a mesh colander into a large glass bowl. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the content into the colander.
- Mash the cornelian cherries with a potato masher or put them through a food mill and remove the pits.
- Return strained liquid back into the pot, add juice of a lime, sugar, cardamom powder and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Let the mixture boil for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat, add rose water, simmer on medium-low heat for 20-30 minuets or until it thickens.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Pour the jam into a clean glass jar and refrigerate.
By~Molana Jalal Ad-din Rumi
I wish I could translate the above poem, "Man che Danam" (How do I know), but I'm afraid the result would be less than ideal and it wouldn't convey Rumi's message fully and would only be a watered-down version.