Date Conserve (Assembling a Cheeseboard, Part II)

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by Heather Harris-Brady

Conserve is one of those old-fashioned things that populate Victorian and early 20th century cookbooks. Definitions vary, but to me what makes a conserve different from a jam is that a conserve often includes nuts. I’ve changed the preparation (there’s no canning involved) and also included a few different spices to liven things up.

I am not a big fan of dates, but I think this is fantastic, especially with blue cheese.  It is also a good keeper, and for longer storage I like to freeze it up on one-cup portions. Just pull it out a few hours before your guests arrive and you’re good to go.

Date Walnut Conserve, Makes about three cups

One 10-oz container pitted, dried dates

2 c. sugar

1 T. lemon juice

1 c. water

1 t. freshly ground cloves

1 t. freshly ground cardamon

1 t. vanilla

1 c. walnuts

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Cover the dates with water and boil gently until they are tender.

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Drain them and chop them up when they are cool.

Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the chopped dates.

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Boil until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (about 234 degrees on a candy thermometer).

Remove it from heat. Add the vanilla, spices and the walnuts. Let it cool to room temperature. Beat until it becomes creamy and thick.

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Spread it into a lightly greased pan and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. After a few days the flavors will blend together more so you may want to consider making this ahead of time.

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Here you can see the date conserve on the right. The salted caramel pepitas, in the dish on the left, are up next!

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