STRAWBERRY MARMITE: ORIGINAL RECIPE
This original recipe for Strawberry Marmite has been vetted by the bon vivant extraordinaire and unabashed Anglophile Mike Devonshire. As a board member of New York's notoriously exacting Landmarks Commission, I knew he'd be a true protector of the old and authentic. Following are his tasting notes:
"Aware of the yeast extract origins of English marmite, I expected a serious 'tang' when I took a spoonful of the strawberry concoction. I also expected a bit of cloying strawberry, balanced with a dose of some sweetener. Got the tang, but not the sweetness, a pleasant surprise. By the spoonful, the Strawberry Marmite provides tang with body – like coffee from a French press. Instead of the strawberry coming through, which might have been an odd note, the yeasting process has given this stuff a hint of toasty fig, which is a delight.
Later I tried it on a croissant (probably considered by the English to be the anti-marmite accompaniment). The combination is superb – the mild acidity of the marmite a perfect contrapunto to the buttery sweetness of the croissant. Perfect pair.
I like this stuff."
Here's the back story on this voyage of culinary discovery. Faced with nine pounds of frozen strawberries I thought a slow reduction and thickening that would require less sugar than a standard jam recipe would yield something new. Indeed it did, the fresh, summery berry flavor deepening and darkening into a new level of complexity and richness. Almost figgy, as Sir Michael points out.
Things couldn't have been easier, really. Into the slow cooker went the fruit, some sugar and lemon juice for a 24-hour endurance ride. That's all there is to it.
What began as a bright, sparkling mountain of reddest-red strawberries metamorphosed into a Dickensian spread, easy imagined gracing the breakfast trays of Jarndyce and Jarndyce as they toiled ceaselessly to unravel the fate of Lady Dedlock's "Bleak House."
Anyway, the strawberry base flavors could still be detected underneath the heavier cooked caramel overlay. My stinginess with the sugar kept the results from being jammy or a straight-forward fruit butter. No, this is serious stuff. Not for the children – unless they're the Edward Gorey-reading type.
But what to call it? Thank goodness for Wikipedia. Original British marmite is a sticky, dark, salty/savoury paste made from yeast extract. Hmm… that's not quite what I had on my hands. But look! In the marmite canon there's a New Zealand variation, which brings marmite into greener pastures with the addition of sweetness and caramel flavor. Lighter, and more American-friendly. Eureka! My strawberry adventure birthed a fruit-based, New Zealand-style marmite. Go Kiwis!
9 pounds strawberries
5 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Toss the fruit, sugar and lemon in the vessel of a large slow cooker and let sit for four hours or so, to allow the sugar to break down the fruit a bit and release some of their juices.
Then turn the cooker to the high setting and cook for 24 hours. Give it a stir every time you pass through the kitchen, scraping up anything sticking to the bottom or sides of the vessel.
Ladle into hot sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Note: nine pounds of strawberries yielded six half-pint jars.
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