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.)
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!
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.
6 Cups of Sugar
First, peel the Citron. I would recommend by peeling it longitudinally so you have several large pieces. Cut these pieces into chunks.
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.
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.
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.
* 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!
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. 😉
ps All the photographs (unless noted otherwise) are by The Unmanly Chef.
Eat it. Enjoy it. And noosheh joon!