Sunday, November 3, 2013

Warm Memories of Summer in a Jam Jar of Cantaloupe:

  Mrabbat Batteekh

مربة بطيخ

A bowlful of aromatic succulent sunshine for a gloomy wintry day.   

In Iraq this jam is exclusively homemade, and I am not aware that it is made anywhere else. People start making it towards the end of summer while the sun has not lost its intensity yet. After the jam is done boiling, it is usually taken up to the flat roof of the house, and is spread in kind of large shallow containers. A cover of thin muslin cloth is used to keep the jam clean from dust and flies. After a week or so under the heat of the sum the jam will thicken, with syrup like honey and chunks of preserved fruit delightfully sweet and chewy. Like this, the jam will keep for a very long time even without refrigeration.   

The following recipe does not require the jam to mature on the roof top, which is good news, but make sure the cantaloupe pulp is firm and not on the mushy side, so that the fruit stays chunky.
1 pound cataloupe pulp
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup walnut halves
3 cardamom pods 
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cut cantaloupe into chunks, layer with sugar and walnut in a heavy medium pot, add the cardamom pods, and set aside overnight.

Cook on medium-low heat, stirring gently to let sugar dissolve completely, skim as needed. Let jam boil gently until syrup is thick and cantaloupe is translucent, about 30 minutes. Add lemon juice in the last 5 minutes. Test for doneness by putting a drop of the syrup on a dry and cold dish. If you tilt the dish and the drop does not go flat but keeps its domed shape, then jam is ready. Let it cool off completely, and put in a jar. Refrigerate and use as needed.

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