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JAMS, JELLIES, AND PRESERVES

If the ancients did indeed know about pectic fermen- tation (pectin makes the process of jelling possible), they did not make the most of it. In fact, they only applied it to quinces, which are actually rich in pectin; when they are cooked with an acid (like vinegar in diamelon), jelling takes place almost automatically. C. Anne Wilson, in The Book of Marmalade, explains that the ancients preferred fruit “in their fresh, uncooked state to fruit preserved in wine, syrup, vinegar, or honey.” Quinces were an excep- tion, because, if not totally ripe, they remained hard even in honey. It was to avoid that risk that quinces were pre- cooked. This led to the discovery of pectic fermentation. “The high pectic content of some other sharp fruits may never have been discovered because there was no incen- tive to precook them in honey. So quinces remained un- challenged in the field of the pectin-jellied conserve.”

Another Fruit Jam

There is another jam in Greco-Roman medieval litera- ture: diaoporon or medicamentum ex pomis, which is at the same time an antidiarrheic and good for digestion. Vari- ous fruits (apples, pears, pomegranates, and especially quinces) are cooked in honey, sapa, and must (the pulp and

skins of grapes)—“donec omnia quae indita sunt liquata in

unitatem quadam coeant”—until all ingredients have been reduced to a uniform mass, according to Celsius, a Ro- man physician of the first century C.E. As for Columella, he indicated that diaoporon must be cooked—“donec cras- samen in modum fecis existat”—until it has reached the con- sistency of feces. This is in fact what it looks like when it has been cooked in that manner. Its flavor, however, is not unpleasant, as Celsius experienced (“id gustu non insuave est”). This is a rather surprising comment for Celsius, since he wrote at the beginning of his treatise, De Medicina, that “all condita are unserviceable for two reasons, because more is taken owing to their sweetness, and even what is mod- erate is still digested with some difficulty.”

Fruit and Honey Syrups

The ancients also knew of other fruit and honey pre- serves. Criton, a Greek physician who lived at the be- ginning of the first century C.E., created diaroion, the forerunner of grenadine. It is made of pomegranate juice, cooked until it has reached the consistency of lime (gloiou pachos), honey, and, optionally, drugs such as myrrh. Di- aroion is particularly appropriate in the treatment of mouth ailments.

Then, there is the blackberry-based diamoron, a fa- mous remedy created by Heras (a contemporary of Criton), which is still mentioned in modern pharma- copoeias. It is prepared in the same way as diaroion and has the same therapeutic effects. It has also been found to be effective in treating gum inflammation.

Nougat and Marzipan

The ancients paved the way for honey and dried-fruit preserves with almonds as the main ingredient. This mix-

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

ture eventually gave birth to marzipan and nougat, and the Arabs (see below) developed the manufacturing tech- nique.

At the end of the fifth century B.C.E., the Hippo- cratic Corpus—in fact, just a few parts were written by Hippocrates himself—gives an interesting formula to cure pleurisy. The ingredients are honey (with an emol- lient effect on the throat), scilla (a bulbous herb useful as an expectorant), and almonds (with well-known cough-suppressing properties). The recipe is as follows: “Cut scilla bulbs into slices and cook them in water; when they have boiled, tip the water; pour water again and cook the scilla again until it looks mushy and well cooked); crush it in equal pieces, add roasted cumin, white sesame, fresh almonds; crush all these substances in honey.” This may be the forerunner of marzipan.

As for Galen, he suggested a cough mixture made of sweet almonds and honey with other dried fruit such as pine kernels (which also have cough-suppressing properties), grilled flaxseeds, flag, and tragacanth gum (which have the same therapeutic effects). A modern version is to cook the mixture and let it cool down under a weight. The result is a delicious candy tasting like the famous black nougat from Provence served at Christmastime.

The Arab Contribution

It was not until Arab times (in the times of the Caliphate of Baghdad, more particularly the Abbasid dynasty) that there was some progress in the sciences. It should be noted, however, that much of the confectionery tech- nology attributed to the Arabs was in fact developed in Sassanian Persia and known to the Byzantine Greeks. Further, sugar was not much used in the Near East un- til a system of irrigation could be developed and a source of wood could be found for processing it.

First, the Arabs introduced sugar in medicines and in cooking. Sugar diluted in water yielded a new confec- tion called sharab in Arab and syrupus in Latin. Sugar syrup was used to manufacture various preserves and

sweetmeats, more particularly sharab al-fawaki (syrupus de

fructibus), an updated version of diaroion and diamoron in which Arabs replaced honey with sugar and used various comfits and sweetmeats such as fudge, tatty, and marsh- mallow.

Moreover, the Arabs went deeper into the subject of pectic fermentation. They created the first marmalades of citrus fruit; most of them, however, were candied in honey, not in sugar: an example is the lemon marmalade of Avicenna (980–1037). (Islamic traditions often use honey over any other form of sugar although they were one of the first to have sugar.)

In Spain, the Arabs developed the traditional fruit pastes (see above) by creating new varieties with roses, violets, orange peels, kernels, and green walnuts (well known in Byzantine Armenia). They were also made with

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