Banana Preserves (Doce de Banana): An instructive culinary experiment.

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I spent many years of my life enjoying all types of fruit preserves in Brazil (e.g. cashew, guava, pineapple, green papaya, lemon, orange, etc).

One of my favorites is banana preserves (doce de banana).  There is something distinctly comforting about it that I do not even know how to explain.

Although I have eaten it countless times, this will be my first time making this preserves.

There are several ways of preparing it, with resultant differences in the color and texture of the finished product.  I wish that I had a recipe of my own already worked out or better yet, that my Grandma Socorro were still alive to explain to me exactly how to make it.

I found all kind of recipes for doce de banana preserves in books and also online.  Judging from the odd ratios in their ingredients and especially from their vague directions, it quickly became clear that I would have to come up with a recipe of my own.

So I have decided to make 6 different test batches:

- Two made with ripe, regular bananas, one of which I am cooking with dark brown sugar and the other with granulated sugar. Both will be cooked slow in a large heavy-bottomed aluminum pan.  One covered and the other uncovered.

- Four made with plantains (two with green plantains and two with ripe plantains).  I have also divided up these batches and am cooking two with light brown sugar and two with granulated sugar.  All four will be cooked slow in a heavy-bottomed aluminum pan. Two uncovered and two covered.

Yes, my kitchen looks and also smells like a lab. :)

Of course, I will let you know the results soon…

(several hours later)

The most characteristic features of a traditional doce de banana  are: a dark red color (mahogany) and bananas that hold their shape well, besides being sweet and syrupy.

The results of my experiment were as follows:

** The secret to the mahogany color is still a mystery to me.  If red wine or red food coloring are not used, I am guessing that the only way to achieve this color is with a very ripe banana, cooked slow,  perhaps in a copper pan with white granulated sugar.  As you know, I made 2 batches with regular, ripe bananas, 2 with green plantains, and 2 with ripe plantains, cooked slow in a heavy-bottomed aluminum pan, using different types of sugar in each, and none of them produced the mahogany color.  Actually, after cooking, the batches made with brown sugar turned brown and the ones made with white sugar showed a pale yellow color.

** Tastewise, I do prefer the ones made with brown sugar better.

** Regardless of whether the pot was covered or not, the ripe, regular bananas did not hold their shape.  Since this was a big batch, I transformed it  in a modern version of the traditional compote, the texture of which is more like a spread.  I enhanced its color and flavor by adding cocoa powder, sweetened condensed milk, and roasted cashew nuts… What I did I end up with?  A magnificent banana-chocolate spread.  I ate it with toast…  Oh, so yummy!

** The batches made with plantains (both green and ripe) held their shape, as I had suspected, but didn’t show the mahogany color at all.  As you can see in the first image above, the batches prepared using brown sugar resulted in a caramel color.  Those made with granulated sugar showed a light brown color.

 ** Tastewise, I cannot recommend green plantains for making the preserves.  Even when very well cooked,  the result tastes a bit raw and presents a hard texture.

If you have a copper pot, you can try the traditional recipe below to see if the customary mahogany color is achieved.  Good luck!

Well, even without the characteristic color,  I do hope you enjoy both the modern and traditional versions of this Brazilian treat as much I do.

 Banana Preserves

(Modern Version: A Spread)

Yield: About 4 cups

Segment: Brazilian Cuisine

Ingredients:

10 large ripe, regular bananas, sliced crosswise**

20 fl.oz (600 ml) water

23 ouces (650 grams) dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A dash of cloves

Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

1/4 cup good quality baking cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (For both a vegetarian and dairy-free version, omit this ingredient)

1/3 cup non-salty cashew nuts, roasted and chopped

** Texture: Spread. The banana is going to break down anyway so the thickness of the slices is not important.

Directions:

In a large, heavy-bottom aluminum pot, mix water, sugar, the spices, and the lime or lemon juice.  Peel the bananas, remove the stringy bits, and slice them.  Place them into the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Then, stir gently and reduce heat. Let cook uncovered over low heat until bananas are brown, soft, and the sauce is almost fully evaporated (about 2-1/2 hours for this quantity of bananas).  Let cool down for about 20 minutes and then incorporate the cocoa powder, the condensed milk, and the nuts, stirring constantly until well combined.  Cook again over low heat for 10 additional minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let the preserves cool down completely before storing in a sterilized, dry, and sealed glass jar.  Refrigerate.  It can be spread on toast, or used as a base for making chocolate-banana ice cream or cake.

Note: Consum these preserves within one week.

Banana Preserves

(Traditional Version)

Yield: About 3 cups

Segment: Brazilian Cuisine

Ingredients:

4 very ripe plantains, peeled, stringy bits removed, and  sliced  0.75 in thick (1 cm) crosswise

8.2 ounces (250 grams) light brown sugar (if making the compote in a copper pan, use  white granulated sugar to see if the mahogany color is achieved)

13.5 fl.oz (400 ml) water

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 cloves

Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

Directions:

Place the sliced plantains,  sugar, water, the spices, and the lime or lemon juice in a large, heavy-bottom aluminum pot over medium-low heat.  Agitate the pot to mix everything.  Let cook uncovered over medium-low heat until bananas are brown and soft  (approximately  1  hour for this quantity of plantains).

Let the compote cool down completely before storing in a sterilized, dry, and sealed glass jar.  Remove the cloves and refrigerate.  It can be eaten by itself, with a hint of heavy whipping cream on top, with toast, or used as a topping for ice creams, pancakes and waffles.

Note: Consum these preserves within one week.

You might also like:

Upside Down Banana Cake

Breaded Deep-Fried Bananas

TopHat Bananas

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Receita em Português:

Doce de Banana

(Versão Moderna)

Rendimento: Aproximadamente 4 xícaras de chá

Ingredientes:

10 bananas grandes maduras mas firmes, cortadas em rodelas

600 ml de água

650 gramas de açúcar mascavo

1/4 colher de chá de canela em pó

Uma pitada de cravo-da-índia em pó

Suco de 1/2 limão

1/4 xícara de chocolate em pó

1/2 xícara de leite condensado (para uma versão vegetariana e sem lactose, omita este ingrediente)

1/3 xícara de castanha de caju, torrada e picada

Modo de preparo:

Coloque a água, o açúcar, a canela, o cravo e o suco de limão em uma panela funda. Descasque as bananas, retire os fiapos e rodele. Ponha as rodelas de banana na panela e deixe levantar fervura sobre fogo moderadamente alto. Depois disso, mexa e reduza o fogo. Deixe cozinhar destampado em fogo baixo até que as bananas fiquem marrons, cozidas e o caldo tenha evaporado quase que por completo (levará aproximadamente 2-1/2 horas para essa quantidade de banana). Deixe o doce esfriar por uns 20 minutos e depois misture o chocolate em pó, o leite condensado e a castanha de caju picada, mexendo bem até que estes 3 últimos ingredientes se incomporem bem ao doce. Leve novamente ao fogo baixo por uns 10 minutos, mexendo de vez em quando. Deixe esfriar completamente antes de tampar.

Conserve o doce tampado em um vidro esterilizado e seco. Refrigere. Pode ser servido com torrada ou ser usado de base para fazer um sorvete de banana com chocolate ou bolo de banana.

Doce de Banana

(Versão Traditional)

Rendimento: Aproximadamente 3 xícaras de chá

Ingredientes:

4 bananas da terra maduras (descascadas, fiapos retirados e fatiadas em rodelas de 1 cm)

250 gramas de açúcar mascavo (use açúcar branco granulado, se estiver fazendo o doce em um tacho de cobre para ver se a cor avermelhada é atingida)

400 ml de água

1/4 colher de chá de canela em pó

6 cravos da Índia

Suco de 1/2 limão

Modo de Preparo:

Ponha as bananas fatiadas, o açúcar, a água, a canela, os cravos e o suco de limão numa panela de alumínio de fundo grosso. Agite a panela para misturar os ingredientes. Deixe cozinhar em fogo baixo por aproximadamente 1 hora (para essa quantidade de banana) ou até que as bananas estejam cozidas e com uma cor de caramelo.

Deixe o doce esfriar completamente antes de pôr em vidros esterilizados, secos, e tampados. Retire os cravos e refrigere. Pode ser comido com torrada, com uma fatia de queijo, com creme de leite ou ainda com sorvetes.

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