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
Cover the dates with water and boil gently until they are tender.
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.
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.
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.
Here you can see the date conserve on the right. The salted caramel pepitas, in the dish on the left, are up next!