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
- Bring sugar and water to a gentle boil (small bubbles) on medium heat & boil thus for 5 minutes.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.)
- Remove pot from stove. Once syrup has cooled, filter through a sieve into a sterilized airtight bottle or jar. Refrigerate.
- 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
- Combine zoghal akhteh and 2 cups of water and gently boil for 15-20 minutes, until berries are nice and soft.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!