Candied pumpkin

January 4, 2014  •  Category: ,


This pumpkin jam reminds me of my grandmother, Nabiha Aftimos, who lived in a world that had not succumbed to speed obsession, cell phone dependency or internet. Whatever she made in the kitchen took time, and it was fine and natural by her. She used to make these types of sweets with bitter orange peels or kumquats rather than pumpkin.

 I plucked the recipe from Chef Marlene Mattar‘s , one of my favorite Lebanese chefs for her serious and rigorous work. She says that this was served to visitors in the olden days with coffee. Most Lebanese homes now have a bowl filled with chocolate candies instead. 

The technique used here is still practiced (mainly in rural areas) throughout Lebanon; it consists in dunking the cubes of pumpkin (or apples) in a water and quicklime solution overnight. The pumpkin cubes are then rinsed and cleaned off; this is to keep the cubes solid while cooking them in syrup. 

One option  is to add diced bits of these pumpkin cubes to a basic pumpkin bread, just for fun and a little pumpkin chewy taste.

I halved the recipe and reduced the sugar.

  • INGREDIENTS: 35 pieces
  • To soak the pumpkin cubes: 1 cup pickling lime and 6 cups water
  • 1 lb pumpkin cubes, about 2″ in width (peeled)
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp citric acid (sold in all Middle-Eastern stores in the spice section)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 sliver of lemon peel about 3″ long
  • 3 pebbles of mastic, ground up till powdery with a teaspoon of sugar (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons of orange blossom water OR a couple sprigs of fragrant geranium leaves

1. In a large bowl, pour the pickling lime and water and stir to dissolve; let it sit for 15 minutes, then add the pumpkin cubes; stir again, and set it aside for 12 hours, stirring one more time. After that time, scoop up the pumpkin pieces and rinse them thoroughly.

2. Make the syrup: In a large pot over medium-high heat, pour the water, sugar and citric acid and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes, lemon juice and lemon juice and simmer for about one hour over medium heat until the syrup thickens. Add the geranium leaves towards the last minutes of cooking if using, or the orange blossom water or the mastic powder. Either one of these will add more aroma to the jam and it is not necessary to use all three (the recipe calls for all of them, I tried all and found that each cancelled out the other)

3. Transfer the jam into sterilized jars, seal and cool. Serve cold. 

NOTE: Mrs. Mattar suggests serving these with almonds or pine nuts, previously soaked in water for 30 minutes if desired. She also suggests using other flavorings such as a teaspoon of anise seeds or a few cloves in the syrup. 

 NOTEPickling lime aka keless in Lebanon is easy to find here in general stores; in the US it is apparently found in Latino markets and called “Cal” or food-grade Calcium Hydroxide ( used for processing corn prior to making masa, for tortillas or tamales). Thank you Jane Elspeth for the info!dup la'teen jam


29 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Emily says:

    BEAUTIFUL Joumana! My MIL brought some of these from Homs to Ohio this past spring, and I always wondered how to replicate it! Thank you for sharing, I’m so excited to make these!!

  2. Gabi says:

    Finally I can give something in return for all the wonderful information I get from your blog. You can get pickling lime at the pharmacist’s if you ask for calciumhydroxid. In countries where it isn’t common to use it for food, they may give you a suspicious look and a NO. Then you can try at a pet shop where they offer accessories for saltwater aquariums. If the label says ‘chemically pure’ or something like that, then it is the right stuff. It is also sold under the name of Kalkwasser.

    I have a very similar recipe from Cyprus for preserving walnuts and got the suspicious pharmacist look :-). Of course the powder is a powerful agent and you have to handle and especially store it the right way.

  3. Sam says:

    Awesome, my all time favorite preserve/candy. Yum, yum!

  4. Belinda @zomppa says:

    Pumpkins jam is not something you see everyday – so sweet!

  5. Shay says:

    In the US, you can get pickling lime in the supermarket. It’s with the other canning supplies, so it’s usually put out in midsummer.

    My late mother in law’s recipe for sweet cucumber pickles calls for lime; my husband makes a big batch every year for his brothers and sisters.

  6. Shay says:

    I should have added that I live in a rural area where people still have gardens and do a lot of pickling and canning. It’s possible that pickling lime is not easy to find in cities, but in the South and the Midwest most major supermarket chains still carry it.

  7. Suzanne says:

    Joumana, what kind of pumpkin do you think works best? There are so many….
    Would appreciate your thoughts

    • Joumana says:

      @Suzanne: You are so right! I tend to like the ones that display two colors on the outside. I am going to ask Bass Semaan is a big expert on fruit and veggies and will let you know. Here is what he said: I have used the common pumpkin variety used for Halloween decoration. It is not known for cooking, because of of the tough flesh, but it can turn into a crispy and sweet pumpkin sticks. You can experiment with other varieties, but the softer types may not turn into the crispy pumpkin sticks.

  8. E. Nassar says:

    This works really well with butternut squash. Choose one with a long and thick “neck” makes it easier to handle and cut to neat cubes as well.

  9. Providence says:

    Ugh, I wish I saw this recipe a month ago… I grew a huge Atlantic giant pumpkin, and didn’t know what to do with it, so I gave it away. Anyway, I’ll have a good reason to grow a new one next year 😉
    As for calcium hydroxide, I can find it in my brewery supply store. I’m not so confident the one sold in pet shops is food-grade.

  10. Elena says:

    Joumana, isn’t pickling lime give the unpleasant “soapy” aftertaste to pumpkin cubes ( as in pretzels)?
    I want to try this sweet recipe.
    Ivy in her blog Kopiaste recommend to add a little aroma to such sweets with leafs of lemon -scented geranium.

    • Joumana says:

      @Elena: I did not notice a soapy aftertaste. In Lebanon, sweets such as these, as well as jams, are sometimes flavored with geranium; since ours was still green and fragrant I used a few twigs. I just think that the mastic was redundant here.

  11. Rania Zoghaib says:

    Hi jomana can u plz tell me is pickling lime and kiless (in arabic) are the same

  12. Jamile shirazi says:

    Hi Joumana, can I use lime for candid eggplant? I remember my grandma in Lebanon use to make these gems and they were so delicious. She would dry them on cloth lined staw trays and roll them in powder sugar daily until they are completely dried. The reason I ask if I can use it for that is because these little eggplants were kind of crunchy when you bite into them. If you have a recipe for these on hand i would really appreciate it if you can share it. Thank you in advance for your help

    • Joumana says:

      @Jamile: Yes, you can certainly use pickling lime to make candied eggplant. I have a recipe from a book I have not tested. I will be making these soon and will post about it. I am waiting to see the little long eggplants in the market. Here is the untested recipe, and it does not use any lime; get 20 small eggplants, peeled and pricked on both sides. Boil in a pot for 3 minutes, then drain and cool. Cover the eggplants with one cup of sugar syrup and wait till they absorb it. then add another cup of syrup, a few cloves and simmer for 40 minutes till syrup thickens (over very low heat). When serving them, cut them into quarters (cooled and bathed in syrup)

  13. christina guirguis says:

    Pickling lime can be found at ACE hardware in the US, but not all locations, so call before you go. I’m making this recipe today and playing Fairouz. Missing Beirut!

  14. akkad says:

    hello ….everyone i thought kels is white powder….then some one mentioned saltwater for aquarium…..i went and got it ……it looks like coarse salt and taste like it……did i have the right kels ………?????? thanks

    • Joumana says:

      @akkad: No the keles is more like a powder, not coarse, fine. I believe it is called lime in the US and you will find it in some Latino markets as well, or online.

  15. Daniel Gray says:

    I just made this, and it is delicious, but after bottling I am seeing white sediment forming in the jars… I soaked in cal solution over night and rinsed the pumpkin multiple times very well….. but it would seem there was somehow still some there 🙁 I assume as long as I keep it in the fridge it will be ok right? But not on the shelf?

  16. joumana says:

    @Daniel Gray: I am going to do some research to find the real reason for this. I am assuming it is because of the sugar crystallization (nothing to do with the cal solution). I would keep it in the fridge anyhow, just to be safe.

  17. Sima says:

    Thanks for sharing the recipe, i was searching for keles in the US grocery stores with no luck, i finally found Mrs wedge pickling lime that i guess (after reading your note) will work !

  18. Chaker Andeel says:

    Calcium Chloride can also be found in stores selling cheese making supplies

  19. Penny Falck says:

    When I was little my Nona used to get all the children around the dinning room table and we would string grapefruit rind She would do it like this recipe. You can used other rinds too. The older people used to serve it with Turkish coffee to their friends who visited. Nice to see it’s still being made

  20. Patricia Dilley says:

    Tis that time of year for pumpkin dishes and I want to try this recipe. Pickling lime is easy to find, but I wonder about using what is known here as pickling crisp.(Calcium chloride). In dishes that depend on acidity for preservation it is felt to be safer—but I am not sure that is an issue with the jam cubes. When used in other recipe’s it avoids the long soaking in the lime. Since pumpkin is abundant I may try both methods of crisping up the pumpkin.
    My Syrian friends told me that they remember the pumpkin being cut into long fingers that they could fish out of the jar with their fingers! what a treat!

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