Cornelian Cherry 3 ways | Sharbat + Moraba + Marmalade

The other day I shared the foraging tale of Cornelian cherry (zoghal akhteh) — a cranberry-lookalike savored in many countries but left to the birds & foragers in the U.S. The delightfully tart yet sweetly floral Cornelian cherry is very popular in Iran as a fresh fruit snack – a treat that is sometimes enjoyed sprinkled with salt.

Cornelian cherry is a fruit that also lends itself quite nicely to being preserved. The simple pickle recipe (torshi ‘ye zogahl akhte) is where I left it off the last time, but because of its pretty color, pleasant scent and unique flavor, zoghal akhteh is favored for making sharbats and moraba and marmalades as well. The recipes follow below, but first, here’s a glossary of what may be unfamiliar terms:

Sharbat is a Persian type of syrup (floral, herbal, or fruit based; or a combination thereof) made in a number of flavors with various gorgeous colors, that is diluted with cold water and savored as a refreshing thirst-quenching drink. During summer in Iran, making bottles of various types of sharbats is a long-held tradition of good housekeeping; and offering guests a tall glass of aromatic, colorful sharbat to ward off the heat of the summer is an expected trademark of up-to-par hospitality.

Give me a sun, I care not how hot, and sherbet, I care not how cool, and my Heaven is as easily made as your Persian’s. — Lord Byron ,1813

The sharbat made with Cornelian cherry comes out a very pretty and bright red color;  naturally and beautifully fragrant. The first batch I made was my very first experience partaking of this sharbat and it was a pleasant revelation. I can say with candor that I would like to partake of it again.  And again.

Moraba is basically nothing more than good old-fashioned jam. Persian jam-making’s major points of distinction from its Western counterparts being: an inclination towards using fruits whole or in big chunks whenever possible; a more eclectic selection of things that are turned into jams (i.e. watermelon rind or flower blossoms); and the potential use of ingredients such as rosewater, cardamom and cloves.

Cornelian cherry jam is tasty and the extra syrup made in the process of its creation can be turned into a sharbat – a good culinary shortcut and windfall! The downside is that since the pit to flesh ratio of Cornelian cherry is high (kind of like an olive) and it is nearly impossible to pit this fruit without destroying its delicate flesh, this jam is made with un-pitted fruit.

If spitting out pits isn’t your idea of a merry jam, you may want to give Cornelian cherry’s marmalade a go instead. I used (and slightly revised) a recipe from Turmeric & Saffron‘s stellar Persian food blog and ended up with a pleasantly tart and delicious marmalade-type of spread with a very appealing color.

In conclusion …

Cornelian cherry is not a fruit you’ll see in the markets, true, but just in case you ever find yourself with a bounty of its harvest and would like to know what to do with it aside from enjoying it as a vitamin-packed fresh fruit snack, I do give the thumbs up for the effortless pickled Cornelian cherry (torshi ‘ye zoghal akhteh) and heartily recommend the pretty and fragrant sharbat ‘eh zoghal akhteh as well.  Equally enthusiastically, I endorse the well-worth-the-effort marmalade –  it is basically like a novel version of cranberry sauce – I’m saving some of my stash to serve at Thanksgiving.

The jam (moraba‘ye zoghal akhteh)  … I hesitate to recommend this to the world-at-large — primarily because the pits do pose a problem to some, but hasten to add that personally, I enjoyed spoonfuls of it as a satisfactory treat for sweet-tooth cravings; and a jar of jam that I took to a family dinner was polished off with enthusiastic mutterings and positive relish as a dessert.

Cornelian Cherry Jam & Sharbat (sharbat va moraba ‘ye zoghal akhteh)


2 cups Cornelian Cherries (washed and dried)

4 cups sugar

2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder

juice of 1 small lemon

  1. Bring sugar and water to a gentle boil (small bubbles) on medium heat & boil thus for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the berries, bring the mixture back to another small-bubble boil, and boil thus for 10 minutes (if berries are somewhat ripe) and for only 3-5 minutes (if the berries are ripe and soft.) A minute before taking the pot off the heat add the ground cardamom and lemon juice; stir to mix.
  3. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool. With a slotted spoon, transfer berries to sterilized airtight jars, adding just enough syrup to slightly cover the berries. (Use the leftover syrup to make sharbat as instructed below.) Seal the jar and store in a cool, dark place.
For the sharbat:

  1. Bring the remaining syrup in the pot to a slow boil and boil thus for 15 minutes, until syrup somewhat thickens. (Sharbat  is not supposed to be very thick or sticky; also it thickens a good bit once it cools off.)
  2. Remove pot from stove. Once syrup has cooled, filter through a sieve into a sterilized airtight bottle or jar. Refrigerate.
  3. For individual servings, pour 1/4 cup or more of the syrup in a tall glass; add a few ice cubes; and dilute with iced water to taste, stirring with a spoon to mix. (Add more syrup for deeper color and extra sweetness if so desired.) Enjoy!


Cornelian Cherry Marmalade (marmalad ‘eh zoghal akhteh)


2 cups Cornelian Cherries (washed and dried; over-ripe ones would be perfect)

2 cups water

1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup which made it decidedly tart, which I like.)

a pinch of ground cardamom

juice of 1 lime

  1. Combine zoghal akhteh and 2 cups of water and gently boil for 15-20 minutes, until berries are nice and soft.
  2. Remove from heat.  Once cooled, strain contents into a mesh colander placed above a bowl and use a wooden spoon to crush the berries and push as much of the mashed berries as possible into the bowl through the colander. (Or, use a food mill and remove the pits.) Either way, you should end up with a pit-less puree of Cornelian cherries.
  3. In a pot, combine the puree with sugar, lime juice, and cardamom and bring to a small-bubble boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and boil for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Once cool, transfer to a sterilized air-tight jar and refrigerate.

Note:  For best results use berries that are as uniform in size, color and ripeness as possible; applicable to all recipes, including making the pickled Cornelian cherries.



Noosh ‘eh jaan!

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Comments (32)

  • apuginthekitchen 6 years ago Reply

    Oh if the jam sounds heavenly, I love the sharbat, it’s amazing, no more than amazing really, anyway it’s REALLY DELICIOUS!!! I think the cornelian cherry is similar to the sour cherry in flavor, a little more floral and I love it. Before a few weeks ago I had never heard of nor tasted one of those sweet/tart little cherries. Thank you for that, I do love broadening my horizons especially regarding food. Your photo’s are amazing, and I do love finding out more about the Persian food culture.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you! sour cherry + floral is the best way to describe it, you’re right! I’m so glad that you got to sample the sharbat. Next year I’ll forage so as to make enough to really share it properly

  • johnnysenough hepburn 6 years ago Reply

    Wondering if keeping the fruit in tact would add more flavour, like clafoutis is made in France. Problem for me is I’d either be choking or spitting the pips at others. Such are my table manners! Oh, not to be a klutz.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Hi Johnny. I’m too tired to do it right now but making mental note to Google clafoutis … meanwhile imagining a dinner table scene where participants spit out the Cornelian cherries at each other is amusing me to no end. Table manners be damned! ; )

  • lizzygoodthings 6 years ago Reply

    Azita, I love each and every one of your posts. I’d like to invite you to join my Food Writers Tribe on Triberr. Would you be interested? Please let me know Thank you xox

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Lizzy, I’d be honored is my immediate and delighted reaction. I’ll follow up via email – possibly at the pace of snail mail!

  • I love the color, it is such a wonderful hue 🙂
    There is a very similar cherry here but the fruit is more round than elongated. I love the jam made out of it but you are right about the pits.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    wonder what those cherries you mention are called, hmmm. as for pits: they are not the pits! they can be fun to (politely) spit out ha ha
    also always happy to hear from you! : )

  • Fae's Twist & Tango 6 years ago Reply

    Well done, Azita! So much to learn from you. 😀

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Fae, honestly, it was a learning experience for me as well, but it was one of those fun experiences : )

  • parisaskitchen 6 years ago Reply

    This looks phenomenal Azita! I honestly didnt know what zoghal akhte is called in English! 😆 I’ll try to find them in Melbourne, can’t wait to try your marmalade recipe! 😉

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    I didn’t either, it was Google to the rescue! And I find both the Persian and English names of this fruit to be quite odd as well a mouthful. Don’t you think so as well? I hope you’ll find them in Melbourne. The season is tail end of summer … as a helpful hint! 😉 & Thank you Parisa jan for visiting & commenting.

  • Queen Sashy 6 years ago Reply

    I just cannot forget the sharbat you brough to Suzanne’s gathering. My grandma too used to make the cornelian cherry jam, she would make a couple of jars only and keep it for her special cookies. -Aleksandra

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Aleksandra, so happy to have you visiting this blog. I love this little vignette about your grandmother. Thank you for sharing the story. Your grandmother’s special cookies sound awesome! Talent runs deep in your family.

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  • laurasmess 6 years ago Reply

    Oh, I am so jealous that I haven’t had the opportunity to try the sharbat. If I lived closer I’d be running around to your house right now Azita! I’m loving the journey of learning more about Persian food and culture. I’m trying to soak it up like a sponge so that it’ll infuse into most of the food that I make… I’m very much obsessed with Middle Eastern flavours (as you know!!). Thanks for this gorgeous post. For some reason your posts haven’t been showing up in my reader so I’m a bit annoyed. Oh well, all the more to read right now!!! xxx

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  • Mattheew 4 years ago Reply

    I’ve picked and processed about 30lbs of these berries this year, so here’s a few observations: if you pick them while still quite firm (even though completely red) they CAN be effectively pitted with an ordinary olive/cherry pitting tool prior to cooking. This results in a much greater yield of pulp than if you cook them first. If you want to maximize the amount of pure juice, first cook the berries (with or without putting them first), then squeeze them about 1/2 cup at a time in a river. Squeeze gently at first, and what comes out is pretty much pure juice. Then continue squeezing harder (over a separate bowl) and you’ll get pulp….(but there will still be lots of pulp leftover, mixed with pits if you didn’t pit them first). You can effectively separate a lot more pulp from the seeds by hand- rubbing through a coarse strainer (with holes that are fairly large but still too small for the seeds to go through.

    Fig & Quince 4 years ago Reply

    Hi Mattheew, wow! Thank you for sharing the wonderfully helpful tips of your hands on research! Really appreciate it!

  • Valerie 2 years ago Reply

    Is that jam recipe really accurate? 4cups sugar with only 2cups water?? I would think that 1part sugar to 1part water would be more typical of a syrup recipe.

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