Mobraba ye Beh is Persian quince preserves. Quince is a fragrant fruit from the apple and pear family with a firm, pale yellow flesh. The beautiful reddish color that you see in the picture is the result of cooking the quince in sugar and water and then steeping it for 2-3 hours. Quince is “beh” in Farsi, and “hay va” in Azeri. The quince tree flowers in late spring with light pink blossoms, and the fuzzy knobby fruit starts ripening in early fall. Quince is not readily available in regular supermarkets and you will have to diligently look for it in specialty grocery stores late September through January and February. The ripe fruit will have a yellow green to yellow color, kind of similar to different shades of golden delicious apples but with a fine fuzz. The yellow fruits are sweeter and more fragrant.
Quince is not a well known fruit in the States, and those familiar with it use it in cooking only. When the quince tree is grown in dry and warmer climates with plenty of sunny days, it produces delicious and fragrant fruit that is actually sweet and tasty, uncooked. Once you smell the ripe quince you will always remember it, like I do from my childhood growing up in Iran. I also remember the unique way that we used to eat it; my siblings and I placed the unpeeled quince inside the door frame and closed the door on it. This cracked open the fruit and its sweet juice started running down the side of the door. This was fun, it made the quince tender and juicy, and it was a lot easier than cutting through the tough fruit! I still enjoy a slice or two of the uncooked quince whenever I use it for one of my recipes.
Moraba ye Beh is a delightful culinary wonder. The fruit is high in pectin and this makes it very suitable for preserves. When the sliced or grated quince is steeped in a plain sugar and water syrup, this spongy fruit transforms into a smooth and translucent delicacy. Its pale yellow flesh takes different shades of pale to deep orange, depending on how long your steep it. The large core houses several brown seeds, or “beh dooneh” as we call it in Farsi. These seeds are dried in Iran and have many medicinal uses. When the dried seeds are soaked in hot water they give off a thick gel that coats and soothes the throat, as a remedy for coughs due to a cold. When I cook and steep the slices of quince, I include the middle section of the core with seeds. This gives an almost marmalade like texture to my Moraba ye Beh. The core is discarded before storing the preserves.
When selecting quince, look for the fragrant yellow fruit with smooth skin and minimal fuzz. As tough as this knobby fruit seems, its thin skin gets bruised rather easily with superficial brown scratch marks that don’t affect the flesh. Avoid green quince since it will be too sour and will not ripen by time. The slightly greenish yellow quince ripens to a yellower color if you leave it in a sunny spot at room temperature for a few days. Soft brown spots or wrinkled skin mean the fruit is old and will not taste good.
Being able to preserve the nature’s beautiful seasonal fruits to be enjoyed in the months to come is something extraordinary. This is especially true for Moraba ye Beh which is only available a few weeks of the year. Depending on personal preference, some cooks might add orange or lemon peel, vanilla beans, star anise, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, or cardamom pods when they are steeping the quince. I on the other hand love quince just the way it is and prefer to preserve its natural flavor and fragrance without adding any extra flavoring.
The following pictures are to illustrate certain key steps. Please read the entire printable recipe for the detailed instructions.
To preserve the vibrant color and marmalade like texture, store this jam in the refrigerator for up to a year. Enjoy Morab ye Beh with feta cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, or butter on toasted bread (Persian flat bread sangak is pictured here). This Persian favorite jam is believed to help with the digestion of food and it is usually served at dinner parties in Iran. I also serve it as a delightful topping over Shir Berenj or ice cream.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Steeping time 2½ to 3 hours.
- 3 medium quince (about 1 ½ pounds)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, (divided)
- 2 cups cold water
- Peel the quince, place on a sturdy surface and use a large knife to cut through the fruit. Remove the large core and set it aside. The quince seeds add flavor and make the syrup gelatinous and marmalade like after refrigeration. See notes.
- The flesh around the core is fibrous and will remain tough after cooking; this area needs to be dug out with the tip of a paring knife.
- Cut the quince into into ¼ inch thick slices.
- Add the quince slices, the reserved cores, ½ cup of sugar and 2 cups cold water to a deep 3-Qt saucepan with a tight lid. Swirl the saucepan a few times to get the sugar mixed in.
- Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Continue cooking for 7-9 minutes, or until the pieces are fork tender. This time will vary depending on the ripeness and texture of your fruit. To test, you should be able to cut through a cooked slice with the side of a fork without any firm center. Undercooked slices will result in a firm jam and overcooking will make the slices to fall apart and lose their shape; the jam will still taste good.
- Gently stir the remaining 1 cup sugar into the syrup and bring it to another boil over medium heat.
- Reduce the heat to the mark between low and medium low, maintaining a simmer. Cover the lid with a damkesh or a kitchen towel and cover the saucepan tightly. Keep simmering for 2½ to 3 hours. Check the color once after 2½ hours, and if needed continue for another 30 minutes or so, until you get the desired color.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Discard the cores. Transfer the moraba to clean and dry jars.
- Allow the preserves to cool completely in the refrigerator before covering them with a tight lid. Once cool, the syrup will have a marmalade consistency.
- To preserve its vibrant color and marmalade consistency store Moraba ye Beh in the refrigerator for up to a year.
**The syrup in this moraba becomes thick and marmalade like; if you prefer a lighter syrup, you may increase the water to 2½ cups.