Happy Chinese New Year and welcome to the rabbit!
On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone (wiki). The celebrations actually last 15 days which begin on the day of the New Moon.
The year of the rabbit, which starts Feb 3rd 2011, predicts a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves, a time to focus on home, family, friends and security. By surrounding yourself with a peaceful environment you will be able to deal calmly with issues or problems that may cross your path. Sounds good?
I am symbolically celebrating with friends in Chinatown this coming Saturday night. I can’t wait it should be a really fun night. Now for this post I wanted to stay with the theme and one of my ‘should have blogged a WAY long time ago’ ideas fits perfectly as I will introduce you to an exotic fruit which claims its origins in China: the Jujube.
I first discovered this fruit on a trip to Chinatown with my fellow food blogger and friend Claudia. I was the lead this time for our foodie day and I chose lunch and a bit of shopping in Chinatown to start. I took Claudia to Mon Nam for the 3 service duck special, then a bit of Chinese grocery shopping, followed by a trip to Monkland village for candies, cupcakes and the awesome Monkland Gourmet Cuisine cooking store. Please read Claudia’s post of our outing over at her blog Foodessa, she writes beautifully and I cannot top her description of our wonderful day.
But I digress, let’s get back to topic here, the Jujube. I love going to ethnic groceries store, buying an unknown produce and then researching it. The jujube was my victim this time around. I found them at this time in their fresh state but they go bad very quick unless you dry them properly. Fresh, the jujube has a bit of an apple look and taste, dried it resembles more a date. The jujube is actually nicknamed the Chinese Date and it is often marked as a date in the Asian grocery store.
Chinese traditional medicine claims this fruit has the power to alleviate stress and can help sore throats. As a food this fruit has been served as a sweet snack or in teas. Wine can even be made from jujubes. Finally jujubes is claimed to help people fall in love and is a sign of fertility.
The jujube originates from China and has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. Of course today it is grown in various parts of the world. When ripe the fruit is about the size of a plum and is yellowish green with mahogany spots. The pictures above indicate prime fresh ripeness, late summer to early fall. The flesh is crisp and white and tastes a little like an apple. In the middle you will mind a single hard stone. As mentioned before, they remains fresh a week max and then turn to mush.
In there dried state (see pics below) they will last indefinitely. I bought these again in Chinatown about a month later. You will find two forms or dried jujubes: dried on the tree or picked fresh and treated with sulfur as a preservative. Obviously this is not indicated when you buy it, but good to know. I did find a recipe here on how to dry them yourself naturally.
Since I had a bag full of these dried beauties I wanted to make them the star of a recipe…no small feat to find let me tell you. Finally I settled on this Jujube Cake recipe. A really easy and quick recipe to prepare, the result is a nice dense and chewy cake, like a date cake a bit, but lighter and fruitier.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 cups dried, minced jujube
- 1 cup water
Bring these to a boil then set aside to cool
- 2 cups wheat flour (I used white AP flour)
- 1 teaspoonful baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoonful salt
Sift these together then add to the above mixture. Bake at 325° F until toothpick comes out clean (sorry don’t remember how long it took, 20 ish min?)