In the past few months I have entered a new phase. I discovered canning and home food preservation. Yes, its economic, and I get to enjoy seasonal produce at its peak for a little while longer, and yes, its efficient, as I like things to be. But that’s not it. With my tendency to keep things, gather and collect objects, recipes and memories… canning has become a valuable tool enabling me to carry on collecting memories through food like the unexpected batch of fragrant sweet tomatoes given to me in the middle of winter, or the bag of lemons that made their way from a distant relative’s lemon tree. Rather then enjoying them here and now, canning allows me to extend the flavour of the memory just a little bit longer. Now my fridge is filled with a surprising tangy banana chutney, canned tomatoes, a confit of fresh garlic and pickled lemons, each labelled with a memory of a time and a place.
This week I added to my collection a wonderful aubergine jam. That’s right. Last week I went to Mahne Yuda, a rather pricy picturesque market in Jerusalem. I headed beyond the main passages and behind the stalls to a particular stand that sells vegetables from the west bank. That’s code for truly local and seasonal produce, with vegetables that look like they used to when I was growing up, awkward, imperfect and bursting with flavour and aroma.
I took home a bag of aubergines the shape of miniature light bulbs, covered in a glistening dark skin. Determined to preserve this gift to myself (much much cheaper then shoes).
Commonly served during the mimuna on a freshly fried Mufletta the flavour of the aubergine comes through, infused with the spices and absorbed with the sugar. This is lush on toast, a warm buttery pastry, or as a topping for yogurt. I even served it on top of a homemade vanilla ice cream with crushed salted caramel peanuts. That worked rather well to put it mildly.
Based on a recipe by Erez Komarovsky
2 medium sized aubergines or 8 baby aubergines
2 cups water
1 ½ cup unrefined cane sugar
1 Tsp cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 Anise star
1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice
Remove the aubergine’s stalk, but leave the tip in tact, which acts as a handle for easy grip.
Using a fork prick the entire aubergine skin.
Place the aubergines in a medium sized saucepan, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Cook for 5 minutes, remove and drain the aubergines.
In a separate saucepan combine the sugar and spices. Add the aubergines and cook on a low heat until you reach the desired consistency, about 2-3 hours.
Put a saucer in the freezer and sterilize a jar: Wash a glass jar with the lid and soak in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Set out to dry upside down on a clean kitchen towel.
Take the saucer out of the freezer, and put a drop of jam on it. Tilt the saucer, and see if the jam is set. If not, let it boil for another minute, then test again until you've reached the desired consistency.
Stir in the lemon juice.
Pour the jam into the jar until full, wipe carefully if there was any spillage and close the lid tightly. Let cool to room temperature upside-down on the counter, then store in a cool and dark place for a few months.