I have a few cups of baby carrots on hand and was going hmm….that and a real craving for some thing sweet. Voila! I have found this little gem of a recipe. A period way to turn a salty veggie (in my mind carrots need to be slathered in butter and salt to be yummy) into a sweet treat.
Historically speaking carrots could be preserved by either drying or turning into jam with out loosing to much nutritionally while still retaining a vitamin and caloric necessity, but this is probably one of the sweetest ways to preserve carrots…ever.
It is necessary to select fresh, red carrots, to wash them, clean them and cut them as thinly as possible. Put them in a ceramic pot, add a little bit of honey, and cover them with water. Cook them until they are soft, then strain off the water with a sieve and add a quantity of skimmed honey equal to that of the carrots. Mix in seasonings chosen from among pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cubeb, spikenard, mace, galangal, aloe wood (aquilaria aqullocha), saffron and musk. Cook to thicken the carrot jam…Pour into a glass Jar and consume as needed.
*Note: Wild carrots were considered very pungent and not particularly edible though good for medicinal purposes. (Staug, pp. 44). In the medieval Middle East, there were many varieties, the two main being distinguished by their color, either yellow or red (some times purple) (victoryseeds). The red were considered more edible as the yellow were woody in hardness of the main stalk. A similar but not completely the same type of red carrot can be found in today’s farmers market marked as “heirlooms”.
Zaouali, pp. 135.
2 C carrots 1 C honey 1 pinch saffron
1/4 tsp ea of ground pepper corn, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, mace cinnamon
1/4 tsp anise seed
I have a couple of choices of carrot types in the summer when the farmers markets are open, giving me the choice between either a red or even a yellow variety of carrot, and not just the ubiquitous orange type. My choice is far more limited during the winter and due to my narrow choice in the winter when I did this recipe, I used what was on hand.
I took 2 cups of modern day baby carrots (or regular orange carrots if available) and sliced them in the “matchstick” style. I did matchstick as the carrots, in period, were quartered with the inner core removed to take out the woody taste, which leads me to believe that to cut them thin matchstick is an excellent choice. However slicing thinnly in 1/2 circles after the carrot was cored could have happened just as easily.
The next step after cutting the carrots into thin slices is to place them in a shallow casserole dish covering with water and adding 2 Tbs of honey. The recipe says to just add a little bit of honey and cover them with water. I figured 2 Tbs is enough to still give the carrots a little sweetness while cooking them in water.
Unfortunately the honey is lost in the picture. This is to just give an idea on the carrot:water ratio which is to put in just enough water to cover the carrots.
Cook until the carrots are soft.
Now I judge soft carrots to be when I can stick a fork in them easily. These were really tender after cooking for about 45 minutes at 400. Keep an eye on the carrots though, your oven may be hotter or cooler and either scorched or undercooked carrots are not good.
Once the carrots are soft, drain the water and honey.
Period honey was a bit more “raw”, with wax and bees parts so required cooking prior to using skimming of the foam which contained the extra unwanted bits. Modern honey is usually cleaned of inclusions so skimming is not necessary. With that not if the honey used is from the store pour the remaining cup of honey onto the carrots. If the honey is freshly drawn from a hive, start by cooking all of it in a large container, skimming off any froth that develops.
Once the carrots and honey have been combined in a pot add the ground spices and saffron.
The honey may not look like enough, you want just enough to cover with out submerging. The honey will thicken and reduce, so what was 2 cups of carrots and honey will coalesce into about a cup of jam.
Add the spices and start to cook the honey and carrots on the stove till thickened. I would suggest to stir the mixture together and taste how the spices flavor the honey and carrots. The fresher the spices the better the out come. The mixture of spices suggested by the original recipe is very good though I added a couple of extra myself and did not add a couple due to availability.
This batch took 3 heating sessions. I didn’t want to scorch the honey or carrots, so I would heat the mixture till it boiled then allow to cool. The first two times the mixture was not thick enough which means either I didn’t heat the mixture enough, allow enough time to boil, or I added to much honey to my batch or a combination of the three. The flavor is not ruined if the jam has to be heated more then once, so don’t worry if the honey hasn’t condensed enough the first time.
Once the jam is cool, spoon into a glass jar, securing the lid tightly. As you can see the 2 cups of carrots have reduced to about one cup of jam here. I used a recycled jam jar with a screw on lid. Period containers would have been of glass but the lid would have been the type to fit onto the top and not a screw top.
I have to admit a little bread and a spoon to scoop the jam on to and you are in a spicy sweet carrot heaven!