What is it with marrows? People seem to love them or hate them. I have one gardening/cookery book which takes hatred of the beautiful beasts to extremes ‘I have never seen a marrow in a top restaurant’ (good reason not to go to one then) and ‘I challenge any reader to send me a marrow recipe devised by a top chef’ (good reason not to bother with top chefs then). I persevere with this particular book because it has other useful recipes. But how could anyone hate these beauties?
Here pictured with some of its smaller, cuter, but less awesome, cousins, the courgettes.
You can see which side of the love/hate divide I fall on. I love marrows because they are extreme – they grow almost before your eyes, and keep on growing, even in a coldish, wettish, northish facing garden in Edinburgh – if you can get them past the seedling stage they seem to be immune to slugs (that’s because the slugs have read about the top chef thing and avoid them) – and you can make completely mad recipes with them.
So this week’s joy was to try ‘Mock Preserved Ginger’ from a different cookery book that I inherited from an old family friend. When she died earlier this year, her family brought a huge selection of her books along to her memorial service and asked us to help ourselves. Both my friend and her late husband were amazing cooks. Keeping and using one of their recipe books seemed an appropriate way to remember them. So I brought home her copy of Making your own preserves by Jane and Rob Avery, (Prism Press 1981). The book has several marrow recipes and I couldn’t resist this one. There’s something very 19th century about ‘mock’ anything – the idea that you can make something posh without the expensive ingredients (aha maybe that’s why the top chefs don’t do it). Anyway, here’s the recipe:
Mock Preserved Ginger
- 1 Medium sized marrow (that’s a how long is a piece of string measurement but you have to do your best)
- 1lb sugar
- 1/pt water
- 1oz root ginger
- Peel the marrow and cut into large cubes
- Peel the ginger
- Put the sugar and the water in a pan and bring to the boil, continue boiling until it makes a thick syrup
- Add the cubes of marrow and the piece of ginger
- Remove from the heat when the marrow has turned clear
- Leave overnight in a covered basin
- Next day, strain off the juice and bring to the boil until it turns syruppy again
- Add the marrow and simmer for one hour
- Repeat from stage 6
- Pour into warmed jars and seal.
It was a bit of a faff – all this leaving overnight and repeating – but I followed it more or less diligently. I think it worked – the scrapings from the pan certainly tasted good. but the marrow more or less disintegrated, turning the whole thing into jam and not really mock anything. I think the boiling for an hour bit was extreme. I asked an assistant for an opinion ‘It tastes of marrow.. and ginger .. and sugar’. Hmm. We’ll try it as jam but next time I might just follow the rather more straightforward (bung it all in a pan and cook it) marrow jam recipe instead.
In the meantime, the next best thing to do with marrow is to make marrow chutney – see here for a recipe. I’ll keep growing marrows no matter what the top chefs say and, when we open up the jars and try the jam/mock ginger, I’ll think of of our dear friends.