Balang Moraba | Persian Citron Jam — A Guest Post!

balang moraba Jam Persian citron marmalade cetrade

Balang, the eccentric Citrus | As Photographed by The Unmanly Chef

What in the word is this odd looking creature? Well, in Farsi we know this eccentric species of citrus fruit by the name of bālang and in Iran, chiefly in the northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, a delicious jam called morabbā-ye bālang is made from the ripe fruit. People also preserve and pickle this quirky citrus. (Edited to add: Or, as Andrea calls them: the ugly ducklings of the citrus world!)

When I was traveling in Iran, I did have encounters of a tasty kind with the balang jam at the home of a friend, and it was also widely available in the markets — particularly in shomal (the Caspian sea northern provinces of Iran.)

young Iranian men laughing store shomal  food blog Iranian cooking jam moraba

Friendly dudes in a shomali store. Pix snapped by moi during awesome road trip w/friends.

I wanted to share the balang jam recipe, but alas, I’ve never made it myself and my own maman joon has never done so either. But as good luck would have it I recently made the delightful acquaintance of a fellow Iranian-American who has a wonderful food blog (you should totally check it out!) who offered to share his step-by-step recipe for making balang jam (plus a bonus recipe for making an easy and delicious balang citronade) by way of a guest post. What a gift! And with that, I will present to you:

The Unmanly Chef!

Unmanly Chef Persian food blogger

Hi everyone. The Fig & Quince team have been kind enough to allow me to write a guest post. I am the Unmanly Chef and I have my own food blog that I’ve started. Follow me on Twitter @theunmanlychef and “Like” me on Facebook.

I am an Iranian-American from the East coast who loves to cook. I’m a male, and while I was growing up I was often teased by my family members. They would razz me by saying my wife and kids would be so lucky because I was already such a good homemaker. But I took that all in stride and did not let that prevent me from doing what I love, which is cooking!

I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. My earliest experiences cooking were sitting on the counter with my mom watching her cook. I would spend countless summer days sitting in my Grandmother’s kitchen (my Maman Joon) peeling garlic or cutting green beans for “Loobia Polow.”

As I’ve grown up, I have seen the power food can have in bringing people together. In the Iranian-American culture, food is a key catalyst for almost every family event. It brings everyone together to laugh, eat, and more importantly, have a good a time.
(Side note, it is unwise to host Iranians and not have a good meal planned, we like to eat, I’m just saying.)

What I have for you today, is a traditional Iranian preserve or “Moraba” that not many people get to experience. It’s a Citron preserve or “Moraba Balang”.  So a quick backstory on the Citron is that it looks like a humongous lemon. It sort of tastes like one too, it’s extremely sour/slightly bitter. Which I’m sure has you saying, “GEE CAN’T WAIT TO EAT THIS!” But hear me out, if done properly this is one of the best preserves you can have with some bread and butter.

Moraba in Iranian cuisine is a staple for Iranian breakfasts. It’s always served with some bread and butter. I can always remember it being on our breakfast table. You can rest assured that in my Maman Joon’s fridge at any point in time we’re a zillion glass jars holding some sort of “Moraba.” I first experienced Citron preserve through my Grandfather who would make this for us and bring it with him when he would visit from Iran or California. They don’t traditionally have them on the east coast, so whenever he would bring some, it would be a huge treat. When done right, it should have a sweet and mild lemon flavor to it.

Now this recipe takes a couple days to fully come into fruition. So it requires some patience.

 

Ingredients graphic icon illustration black and white
1 Citron
6 Cups of Sugar

Direction graphic icon illustration black and white

First, peel the Citron. I would recommend by peeling it longitudinally so you have several large pieces. Cut these pieces into chunks.balang-moraba-Persian-citron-jam-cetrade-food-1

Then soak these pieces in warm water for a day. Drain the water from the Citron pieces, press on the pieces to push more of the juice/water out of them. Drain that.
balang moraba Jam Persian citron marmalade cetrade

Now boil them in a pot of water. Once the white part of the peels begins to turn translucent, pour out the water and pull the pieces out and put them in a bowl. Soak these pieces in warm water for few hours. Pour this water out and press again on the peels to press the juice/water out.

balang moraba Jam Persian citron marmalade cetrade

This is all done to reduce the bitterness in the Citron. The more you are willing to endure the less bitter it will be.

I would say do this process 2-3 times.balang moraba Jam Persian citron marmalade cetrade
Once the Citron pieces are ready, place them in a pot of water, pour 6 cups of sugar into the pot of water. Stir so the sugar dissolves into the water, bring it to a boil and allow it to cook for 2-3 hours. Once the water/sugar mixture becomes thick and syrupy you can take it off the burner. Allow your preserve to cool and store it some glass jars.balang moraba Jam Persian citron marmalade cetrade
* By the way, you could also use the citron (cut into chunks) to make a citronade. I just squeezed all the juice out of them, strained the seeds/pulp and made quasi-lemonade with them. It’s bitter so you need to add more sugar. I also threw in some strawberries to bring out some more flavors. *

Editor’s note: I’m mighty curious to know what The Unmanly Chef’s storing in that jar in the background!

Persian citron citronade with strawberries

Whoa, look at this pitcher of balang citronade. It looks great and sure to hit the spot on a hot summer day. Also, might I add: nice leafy backyard you’ve got there Unmanly Chef. 😉

Thank you for writing a wonderful guest post, Unmanly Chef, and everyone, go and turn your eccentric-looking centric citrus into delicious moraba and citronade; and be sure to check out Unmanly Chef’s wonderful blog.

ps All the photographs (unless noted otherwise) are by The Unmanly Chef.
.

Eat it. Enjoy it. And noosheh joon!

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40 thoughts on “Balang Moraba | Persian Citron Jam — A Guest Post!

  1. I have heard of this fruit but never tasted. I a big fan of jams, marmalades or preserves so this sounds wonderful to me. I also love the citronade. Looking forward to more from “the unmanly chef” following his blog and trying out his recipes, Great guest post, thanks Azita.

    • it’s one of those weird looking things that I’m intrigued by and yet afraid to experiment with. But I do like this recipe! You make awesome jams, so you’ll do this justice if you do make it. Thanks for visiting Suzanne!

  2. I remember that my hotel in Tabriz only had rose jam and carrot jam. Rose jam I already knew from Turkey – but carrot I found strange. But wen I tried it, it was actually very good!

  3. Thanks Unmanly Chef. This jam reminds me of my childhood and going to the Caspian sea and the smell of the trees. Love your blog.

    • What a lovely way of putting it. Next time I post to this recipe on social media, I’ll quote you! It’s the best copy to use with it! 🙂

  4. it’s a shame we typically eat so few citrus fruits when there is clearly such a vast variety. i’ve had store-bought moraba-balang before, but making it at home sounds like such a fun project!

    • Tannaz jan, so lovely of you to visit and comment and I hope you do make your own homemade moraba and if you do, share the results! 🙂

  5. Beautiful post. It seems to change color a bit like when quince is cooked. This really looks amazing. I can totally see why you’d be pining for this#

    • you’re right! it’s odd looking like the quince and blushes and changes color when cooked just like the quince

  6. I’ve only ever seen citron candied and used in Italian confectionary. This is new to me, I like learning about new things. Yhanks Azita for the introduction to the Inmanly Chef

    • Dear Sandra, yes, that’s what Google told me as well, that in the West citron is used only in confectionary. Would be interested to know which Italian confections specifically?

      • I’ve bought it candied and used it to give a lemony tang to panaforte (Sienna bread) it seems to be a constant in traditional panatonne, and I’ve certainly seen it in torrone (nougat) and cassata, those truly distinctive memorable Italian sweet treats

      • yes, of course, I’ve indeed tasted it in panatonne. the names of these Italian pastries is making me hungry though, ha ha

  7. Wow, what an amazing fruit. Scary, yet impressive at the same time… a little like how I felt coming across my giant zucchini in the garden last fall! I’ve never seen these in Australia, but next time I do, I’ll know exactly what to do with it! Lovely to learn something new today. 🙂

    • Giant zucchini! The stuff of fairy tales, ha ha 😉 Always love seeing you pop up around her dear Margot joon! 🙂

    • Yes, so I’m hearing, Liz. As LadyRedSpecs commented that it’s used in Italian sweets like panaforte (Sienna bread), traditional panatonne, and torrone (nougat) and cassata … Those all sound yummy too!

    • Speaking of mysterous fruits, have you seen the one called Buddha’s hands? Now that one … that one is truly mysterious and scary!!!

    • I’m really keen on making the citronade as well. I’m grateful to The Unmanly Chef for a most interesting recipe!

  8. What a great looking fruit! I’m just trying to imagine the taste. I love anything sour and lemons so I’m sure I would love these! They both look delicious!

  9. That was awesome. I LOVE Balang moraba & I’m ALWAYS in search of a good one. Thank you. I remember my Grand ma also used to make it but she would also somehow, some where in the process ad lime/auhak to it which I never really understood that. All I remember that it was a delicious, crunchry, & yummy majoon as you mentioned specially with butter & toasts which I never wanted it to finish.

  10. I remember that some months ago I left on your blog a comment saying that the most exciting thing about blogging is to meet new people and learning from their own differences, I’d like to repeat this again if you don’t mind. I’ve never heard about this fruit, I bet its jam has to be very good, lemon favour is always welcome in my mouth! :)))

  11. Azita joon it’s been wayyyy too long since I had morabaye balang! Your blog always reminds me of food I adored but have forgotten about completely !… I’m sending this to all my friends, thanks for your lovely post!! x

    • I’m so happy that liked this guest post! The Unmanly Chef’s recipe is wonderful! And oh yeah: Food and memories!

  12. I hope manly man will read answer.
    I am looking for balang and eggplant jam which is done with pickling lime. Any idea whats the measurements?
    TY

    • Dear Arment,
      The very manly man Unmanly Chef can be found on twitter @theunmanlychef or you can leave a comment on his blog: http://theunmanlychef.com/ I’m certain he’d be delighted to hear from you and would be most helpful in answering your questions. Please do go and visit him. And thank you so much for reading here and hope you will continue to do so! -azita

  13. BTW anybody knows how to do Citrus jam(balang) that comes crunchy? I am thinking maybe leave chunks in a pickling lime water over night?

    • Dear Armen, I think you just answered your question! Please do let me know if you try it this way and how it turns out. And by the way you made mouth water by the mention of kareh va balang moraba! Vai vai vai!

      Thank you for visiting and commenting!

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