When I smell wood smoke from the neighborhood chimneys and the rain clouds open to finally release the much needed rain, I know it’s time to get to work with the summer’s bounty. This means many a Portuguese cozinha will become a haven for Portuguese doces such as jams, jellies, marmelada!
The sticky, sweet, gem colored jars are usually just called doces, a word that means sweets, but is a catchall term for fruit turned sugar laden preserves. They can also be found under compota, geleia, conservas (though this is used mostly for canned fish such as sardines), and preservas. The original preserve is rooted in the thick, autumn colored paste that is marmelada. While sounding very similar to the citrus heavy orange marmalade, this jam is actually made from quinces, or marmelos, which is where it acquired its name.
Marmelada was prepared as a way to preserve ripe marmelos for the rest of the year by cooking them down along with an abundance of honey or sugar into a dark reddish-orange substance, and then stored. Later this technique was applied to other fruits to make a variety of jams and jellies based on what was harvested so that the flavor of that particular season year round could be saved for later in the year.
Traipsing about the Portuguese country side, you may be inclined to buy some sweet homemade preserves. A variety of produce can be found throughout the country, but some places are well known for one or two in particular. In Fundão, in the Castelo Branco area, they are known for everything vibrant cherry. The Algarve has their seed speckled doce de figo (fig jam), while sandy textured pêra rocha (rocha pears) are celebrated in all forms, including jam, at the Feira Nacional da Pêra Rocha in Bombarral.
You may be interested in how you can make some Portuguese jam from the comfort of your own home. In most of the recipes I’ve seen or heard of, all you really need in a Portuguese jam is quite a bit of sugar, a little water and your favorite seasonal fruit. Thanks to Portugal having a wonderfully moderate Mediterranean climate, produce is collected year round. Just choose a seasonal fruit you have in abundance such as oranges (winter), pumpkin (autumn), strawberries (spring), or tomatoes (summer) and you’ll have the main ingredient to begin your jam or jelly making adventure.
In my case it’s the sweet, yet somehow, savory richness of summer tomatoes with a hint of cinnamon spice that I love to spread on warm bread or toast. Just a perfect bite to enjoy on a chilly autumn day while watching the brightly colored leaves fall amongst the rain drops!
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