Strawberry tree jam (Marmellata di corbezzoli)

corbezzolo Irish strawberry tree fruit

I didn’t notice it at first, the skinny tree with dark leaves in our shared garden at our new home in Settignano, in the hills above Florence. I was too taken by the green vines hanging like a curtain over our entrance, keeping the house cool in the humid Florentine summer. But now that it’s autumn and the the leaves still left on the vines have turned a shade of rose champagne, that skinny green tree is sporting bright vermillion fruit, like fuzzy cherries or red christmas balls. A gust of wind easily blows them to the ground, where they squash like over ripe persimmons.

corbezzoli at Canto del Maggio

Corbezzoli, in Italian, are called Irish Strawberry trees in English. The whole plant is useful in the kitchen, from the leaves, which can be dried and taken as tea (used, apparently, as an anti-inflammatory). The wood is prized for the stove, as cooking over corbezzolo wood can lend good flavour to whatever you’re grilling. The berries are an interesting fruit that are used in jam and liqueurs and taste of something wild and ancient. Soft and mellow, with a flavour that’s hard to put my finger on — a little like jujubes, which, like corbezzoli, grow all over Tuscany too.

Cooked into jam, the flavour and colour is remarkably reminiscent of quince. And, like quince jam, it’s wonderful on its own but really shines when served with cheese. I first tasted it this way when visiting my friend Simona Quirini in her beautiful garden at her family’s restaurant, Canto del Maggio — they have a proper kitchen garden complete with vegetables, fig trees, olive trees, wild herbs like myrtle, calamint and fennel and a hedge of strawberry trees, bursting with fruit.

Her jam was divine — the colour of caramel, ever so slightly grainy, as Simona likes to leave the seeds for texture, not too sweet and quince-like. She served it with a nutty pecorino cheese and I could have eaten just that all day long. She kindly sent me home not only with the recipe, but with two kilograms of corbezzoli, which we delicately pulled off the trees.

corbezzoli strawberry tree jamcorbezzlo jam

Simona’s strawberry tree jam
Marmellata di Corbezzolo di Simona

For every kilo of corbezzoli, you need 500 grams of raw sugar.

If you like, some lemon zest can go in here too. Rinse the corbezzoli well then put them in a large pot and cook them over medium heat until they are so soft that they begin to turn into a puree, when stirred, about 15 minutes. Stir, so that they don’t stick. [If you want a smoother jam, you can pass the cooked, soft fruit through a sieve or food mill at this point].

Add the sugar and the lemon zest, if using, then cook again, turning up the heat slightly until it bubbles and turns glossy. This fruit is high in pectin so it will set quite quickly. Use the saucer test to check regularly — a tiny blob of jam on a frozen saucer should quickly tell you the jam is ready when it looks set and the surface ‘wrinkles’ when poked.

Place in sterilised jars (filled to 1.5 cm from the top) and seal the jars by boiling them in a wide saucepan for 10 minutes. Let cool completely before storing.

strawberry tree jam

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Comments

5 Responses to “Strawberry tree jam (Marmellata di corbezzoli)”
  1. confitures says:

    excellente recette ! I’ll try this next year in Autumn when I’ll be in the Maremma ! Thank you so much Emiko !

  2. Mary says:

    Wow, what a cool ingredient! and your photography is beautiful!

  3. Kelly says:

    It looks really tasty and the photos are beautiful!

  4. could I use jujube fruit instead of corbezzoli (which Ive never seen here) in the same proportions for jam. Does jam last long and does it have to stay in fridge?

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