Eating Jewish: Coconut Jam
Nothing says summer to me like coconut; whatever form it comes in, its taste and smell evoke a beautiful summer day with the warmth of the summer sun on my skin (it also reminds me of a coconut suntan lotion I loved the smell of as a kid and which happens to be my first memory of its smell) Needless to say, I have always loved coconut and I will eat it in almost any dish, whether it is sweet or savory. I can never eat just one coconut macaroon and I can easily finish a big container of coconut yogurt on my own. The use of coconut milk in savory dishes such as curries and soups is also something I simply can’t get enough of either. So whenever I’m looking through a cookbook and see coconut in the title of a recipe, I can’t help but stop to take note of the dish. A few days ago I happened to be looking through The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan and I came across a recipe for coconut jam in her chapter about breakfast and brunch fare. I had never had anything like this or even thought of making jam with coconut, but it sounded delicious and I knew I had to make it.
I’ve always been intimated by the process of making jam because of the amount of time it usually takes, and all the equipment that is necessary. However, this recipe is so simple that I know I’ll be making it over and over again. It does require a little planning because the orange-blossom water and some of the cold water has to be mixed with the shredded coconut and left to rest for a few hours so that coconut absorbs the liquid, taking on the flavor of the orange-blossom water and becoming fluffy. Yet once this is done, it’s then simply a matter of warming up the rest of the water, the sugar and the lemon juice until it forms a syrup and then adding the coconut to the pot until it become translucent. This part takes about 20 minutes and once the jam has cooled the chopped almonds can be added in. This is a delicious jam that I would be delightful on some warm toast or on a plain scone. I also really enjoyed eating this for breakfast mixed with some thick plain yogurt. The coconut is definitely the star of this jam but the orange-blossom water, which can be found at any Middle Eastern store, adds light citrus and floral notes that compliment the sweetness of the coconut. The chopped almonds also add a slightly crunchy texture that is not usually found in jams.
This jam comes from the Egyptian Jewish community who normally made it on Passover. It could also be made for Rosh Hashanah, at which time it’s white color represents purity and a wish for that in the coming year. Yet, no matter when you choose to make this jam (I think it should be made as often as possible), I hope it can also evoke sunshine and warmth for you.
From Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon orange-blossom water
10 tablespoons cold water
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
¼ blanched almonds, chopped into small pieces
1. Place the coconut in a bowl and sprinkle with the orange-blossom water and 4 tablespoons of the cold water.
2. Fluff the coconut with your fingers and leave overnight to absorb the moisture. The coconut will swell and become soft.
3. Put the sugar, lemon, juice, and the remaining 6 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for approximately 10 minutes until a thick syrup forms (you should be able to coat the back of a spoon with it).
4. Add the softened coconut to the heated syrup, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
5. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the coconut heats and becomes translucent, this should take about 2 or 3 minutes. Allow the jam to cool, and stir in the almonds. Transfer to jars and refrigerate. It will last several weeks in the fridge.